In these often fraught times we’re living through, building connections with individuals and communities is not only desirable but can prove to be a lifesaver.
When you watch Every Map Has A Scale (Chapter 2) and Sinder, two new films conceived by Dundee Rep and Scottish Dance Theatre’s associate directors Jess Thorpe and Tashi Gore, the c-word comes through loud and clear.
“Community has always been a huge part of how we live as humans and can be found in almost all aspects of our lives,” insists Jess.
The voices of Dundee women
“We are (mostly) social beings and we need each other in all sorts of ways. The pandemic separated us physically and I think that reminded us of why we are so important to each other and why community is so integral to our health and wellbeing.”
Sinder (a Scots verb effectively meaning ‘to be separated’) is a document of the past 18 months through the eyes, voices and stories of more than 30 women across Dundee.
These include the Rep’s Emily Winter, Irene Macdougall and Ann Louise Ross.
All of the subjects have diverse experiences which sum up two calendar years when no one truly had a handle on what anyone was meant to be doing, with advice coming from all sides and mixed messages the order of the day.
Art is about being human
“I felt scared and overwhelmed a lot of the time,” admits Jess who had moved through to Dundee from Glasgow (Tashi made the exact same journey) just prior to the first lockdown.
“This said, I also felt very clear about what mattered to me most and why the work that we do – engage creatively with our communities and share stories about the things that affect us – felt so very important and urgent to the times we are living in.
“Art is the practice of being human. It is communication and reflection and the attempt to share personal and universal truths from our own perspective; to help us understand the world a little more and to process our place within it.
“I guess that kept me going even in moments where I felt unsure. I just really wanted to work against any feelings of isolation and towards connection through art and creativity.
“Leaning into what I knew really did help me with the things I didn’t and in time helped us all to settle.”
Every Map Has A Scale (Chapter 2) is a more directly dance-based piece with a professional dancer teaming up with a non-professional to create a mini-film (made in various locations from a garden trampoline to the beach) that also strikes at the heart of our need to feel a strong sense of belonging.
Before the project was underway, the dancers spent time considering who they would like to partner with, whether it was a person they had something in common with, or a complete stranger.
“Many of the dancers are not from Dundee and were really looking to connect with the city and to build a community outwith their existing circles,” recalls Jess.
“They approached their partners to collaborate in all sorts of ways: Jessie put a note through her neighbour Tina’s door; Bonni was introduced to Rose by a mutual friend; Kieran made a new friend in the city and asked him if he’d like to dance together.
“They all came together in ways that made most sense to them.”
Both films have their light moments but the serious thread going through is that we all need something to latch onto when times are tough.
For Jess Thorpe, who was effectively a stranger in a strange town when Covid hit, it was art, creativity and a passion to have women’s voices heard that helped give her a focus.
“As a piece, Sinder is an attempt to record and hold women’s experiences in a very specific time in our collective experience.
“We wanted to create a herstory, to make sure local women were heard and that the detail was remembered. It was a very healing process for all of us to hear those women’s stories and relate them to our own.”
- Every Map Has A Scale (Chapter 2) and Sinder are available to view free online via dundeerep.co.uk until Friday, December 31.