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Dance Camp East: Unbounded Space

We have recently returned from Dance Camp East and are currently attempting to re-acclimatise after nine days of outdoor living. Nine glorious days of sunshine, music, dancing, crafting and cooking, with newly found friends, in a field in Suffolk.

Dance Camp is a unique experience, and one that challenges preconceptions on every level. The ordinary and everyday tasks of daily life become strangely magnified and distorted as they take on a new significance.

On arrival at the camp layers of oneself (worn for protection in the outside world) are gradually peeled away, dissolved or discarded. Residents slowly begin to expose their fragile inner-selves through intimate conversations, singing, chanting, dancing, or any other preferred method of self expression.

Food preparation becomes an adventure over an open fire, or in a clay oven. A cardboard box, some tinfoil and a sheet of glass transform into a solar oven for baking chocolate brownies in the sun and every night a different corner of the globe is visited for dinner.

At midnight the usual sounds of night time suburbia; the hum of traffic, police sirens, barking dogs and passing drunks are replaced by a different soundtrack – one of live music that ebbs and flows as wandering troubadours play for a while by each campfire.  Conventionally post midnight music is irritating and thoughtless, but here it becomes the essence of dance camp and a mental adjustment reclassifies it as a celebratory lullaby.

The sound track is almost constant – fading, changing tempo, switching continents and decades. The acoustics are eclectic and impulsive as you gradually tune in to a sound wave that penetrates your soul and reminds you of everyone you’ve ever met, and everyone you’ve ever been.

I found silence only once. It was 5am and the sun was slowly rising over the camp. As I wandered around the field studying the makeshift kitchens, compost loos, sinks, showers and the outdoor bath, I was struck by how completely the boundaries had dissolved between the outside environment and traditional indoor spaces.

Dance Camp East blogpost

As a modernist at heart I am naturally drawn to light, airy, internal spaces, with glass walls and panoramic views, but as I walked around these makeshift temporary dwellings and structures I  began to question my faith in the authority of modernist architecture.

  • Are the inhabitants of ‘modern’ shiny white spaces, simply placed in domestic quarantine?
  • In a culture of sanitised order do we become the passive voyeurs of an unclean and natural world outside?
  • By erecting glass partitions between inside and out do our internal spaces become isolation booths with culture and nature effectively, and permanently, divided?
Temporary structures at Dance Camp East

Life on camp is one of harmonious anarchy. All boundaries are dissolved: clean/dirty, personal/social, inside/outside, and the architectural structures on site reflect this transgressive fluidity.

As I write this post a Dance Camp soundtrack is still playing in my head- and all my doors and windows are open to the big, beautiful, world outside.

This blog post is a link in a circle of blogs called Sisterhood Stories. You can read the next link by Kay here.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. What an interesting blog. I like bright airy spaces and modern buidlings but you asked some wonderful questions that made me think!

  2. I love how you write Sue! That must have been quite the experience, I’m more of an introvert and I have to remind (and force) myself to take some of the layers off more often 🙂

    1. Thank you Isabelle! I have to force myself too…it’s not easy for me either – but it’s very liberating to remove your ego sometimes 🙂

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