LIFT UP YOUR HEARTS: thoughts on the CID project and the new exhibition, the opening event at Poplar Union, and what might come next…

‘Lift up your hearts ‘ this echo of my church-going days, now long gone, reverberated in my mind as I left Poplar Union on Saturday.

It was wonderful to be back in person,  to see old friends and make new ones, to exchange what felt like a very important hug or two and to enjoy the artwork that makes up the latest exhibition, Who we are now, and then... I loved the artists’ emphasis on hands. This made me think of the way our hands reach out to each other – I was reminded of how our Zoom sessions finished with us touching the edges of our screens with our fingers, the nearest we could get to the circle where we clasp each others’ hands at the end of a class. It was a particularly emotional experience to see the four films made so far in our homes, the first with its focus on Anne’s feet and the last, with the extra dimension of words from Jaka and images of me stepping out onto the balcony and looking up, reaching towards the sky. 

These two images pinpoint for me what is so special and powerful about the CID project. Rather than denying or glossing over the depredations of Parkinson’s, the films in particular followed through on the encouragement to notice that we worked on in the online sessions – we were observed and represented carefully but with compassion, even tenderness. So that we are helped to make the choice first to see ourselves as we ‘really’ are – but also to recognise that our ‘unglamorous’ feet and knobbly knuckles, our lined faces and stooped shoulders are not the whole picture. We can choose to ‘lift up our hearts’ to joy and, more than this, to possibility. In her programme notes on Akram Khan’s Creature, Ruth Little suggests that the work ‘makes space for us to ponder who we are and what we might be becoming’. How exciting is this?! To refuse to accept that the cage door is closing or that what we are now is somehow the finished product. 

So the question we were left with was what direction we wished to see the project taking from now. I’d like to echo a suggestion of further ensemble work, with an emphasis on sharing equally with each other, dancers and artists alike, what we have in common – our vulnerability and our strength. I’d like to think there will be space to explore the potential for growth, for becoming, through the interplay of words, movement and music. I’d like there to be space too to explore together the darker side of difficult emotions.

On Saturday I made the rather grand claim that the CID project is in a way about learning to live; I stand by this. In our shared exploration of what we have in common, we are in the process of learning to love ourselves and each other.

Kate Swindlehurst