"Fantastic!" - Philip Meersman, Director of Brussels Poetry Festival

"a beautiful chaos" - Scott Thurston, Reader in English & Creative Writing (Salford University)

Reading Movement is an extended solo treatment of John Hall's "Reading (il)legible Pages" ("On the Page", Performance Research: Vol. 9; No.2, June 2004) by Camilla Nelson. This 25 minute performance physically and sonically disrupts, extends and transforms the act of reading. The reading body is so often stilled and silenced. This work offers the body a chance to move, to be seen and heard, to be liberated from the social restriction of normalised reading behaviours. This solo has grown out of an intense period of collaboration with the Palestinian dancer, Khaled Barghouthi (2015-2016), mentoring from Maja Jantar, Katrina Brown & Suzanne Scott (2016-2017) and a series of specialist sound & movement language workshops (The World is Sound, 15 days exploring voice in relation to movement, March 2017; a 6 day workshop with physical theatre group OBRA & poet Lucy Burnett, June 2018). The draft script of “Reading Movement” was long-listed for The Leslie Scalapino Award for Innovative Women Performance Writers in 2016. Following a residency at Op-Weule in Belgium, organised by the ever generous Philip Meersman, Reading Movement had its first airing as a solo work-in-progress at the Bath Fringe Festival before the final piece premiered at Brussels International Poetry Festival to enthusiastic acclaim.

A Review of Reading Movement: A Work-in-Progress by Camilla Nelson for the Embodied Cartographies exhibition, curated by Fay Stevens for Bath Festival Fringe, 5 June 2017.

"The programme was a folded blank sheet with only a title, typed in capitals and pasted on the front.  We were to read into this what we wanted.  At times, I wanted to read the book the performer, Camilla, held: the thin bound book from which she drew a slowly escalating scattering of sounds.  They were sounds that began as rasped breath, a kind of death rattle; then became a retching effort that wracked her black-and-white skirted body.  

But first she lay huddled over its secrets under a square-snow fall of torn pages dropped from a wide-brimmed hat. She rolled up and over, restlessly reading along the way, as you might if studying something with the potential to overwhelm you. Something that resisted you. The sounds - not so much primal as unschooled – began to reverberate in my solar plexus with the unsettlement of sickness. Some elicited in me the nervous humour that madness might.  

Her dulled eyes went from the page to some far-sighted invisible screen that may have been blank.  We sat circled in a small, white-washed chapel with a scuffed old oak floor. Outside, wind-blown June rains soaked bushes and darkened the grave stones. When she came to standing, her body waved as if caught by the wind. Into the mutter of sounds fell a few recognizable words resolving her anguish. Maybe the audience, like me, were relieved. 

Afterwards, I did not ask to see the book. I was moved and needed to move. On wet Walcot Street under buffeted umbrellas my companion and I spoke only briefly but felt those hard-won words in our bodies. My friend considered how words are captured like wool on barbed wire fences.  I thought of the grey maps on the chapel walls with countour lines thickened and blurred into lost human forms. Walking for words, reading words, reading movement."

Reviewed by Sara Firman (poet & artist)

A bit about the work...

This work grew out of a 5 minute improvisation with Palestinian dancer, Khaled Barghouthi, produced as part of the Secret Hotel Landscape Dialogues Summer Lab in Mols Bjerge (Denmark, 2015). The texts used in the initial performance (see video above right) were 'Body, Space Image' eds. Miranda Tufnell and Chris Crickmay, 'Invisible Things' by David Harradineand Synne Behrndt and 'At the Intersection Between Art and Research' eds. Carsten Friberg & Rose Parekh-Gaihede, with Bruce Barton, pp. 80-83 (this is the text that is being read aloud, the other two are being used as elbow supports). The film was made by Sohar Villegas. In 2015 we received a grant from the Artists' International Development Fund to develop the work in England (March 2016) & Belgium (Oct 2016) and in 2016 the European Cultural Foundation awarded Reading Movement a STEP Beyond grant to fund Camilla's travel to Palestine. This allowed Khaled & Camilla to perform a collaborative work-in-progress at Ramallah Contemporary Dance Festival on 17th April 2016. Since then the work has evolved into a solo performance supported by a residency at Op-Weule (Brussels, Belgium), kindly organised by Philip Meersman (where the top left video was filmed) and again as a work-in-progress at Fringe Arts Bath (2017) by invitation of Fay Stevens. Reading Movement premiered at the Palais Royale for Brussels Poetry Festival (2017). The UK premiere was hosted by S.T.R.E.A.M (A Series of Transdisciplinary Rituals and Experiments in Art and Music, 7-9th Sep, 2018) and a further performance was commissioned for VITAL SIGNS (Salford University, 28-30th Oct, 2018) with accompanying workshops.