Archives can be very INSPIRATIONAL

Annie French, a part-time student in her final year on the BA in Creative Practice at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) specialising in textile design, spent a day looking at archive material with Jane Fowler, the Laban Archivist, earlier this year. Inspired by Rudolf Laban life story and dance notation scores she created these beautifully designed and embroidered epaulets which reflect the movement score of a ‘forward ocho’, which is an Argentine Tango step .

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Detail of the epaulets.
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Annie gives us some more background information on her project and how she came to be inspired by Rudolf Laban;

‘In year 4, I was inspired by music and movement through a local dance class that I was attending.  Having two left feet my actual dancing did not improve but I was fascinated by the energy that could be created by dance.  Looking at the work of Michael Kinder (1917-2009), a visual artist who applied mathematical rules to his work, made me think about the rules of dance. Not having a background in dance, it was by chance that I asked a colleague Anjie Taylor who is the Artistic Director of Qdos Creates, a charity that offers community workshops and performances.  She trained in dance using Labanotation in Yorkshire, Anjie recommend some books, and I was hooked.

As part of a study tour to New York earlier this year, to visit various design studios, I made an appointment to visit the Dance Notation Bureau (DNB) where they opened up their archive for me to look at some of the original dance scores, old photographs of Rudolf Laban and his students. They also introduced me to the work of Jean Kirsten, a visual artist who has been creating work in conjunction with the Laban Guild. They also loved the initial samples of embroidery that I had been working on, which they have kindly shown on their face book page.

Having researched Laban’s family background and his journey to the UK, and finding out that the Art of Movement School was started in Manchester, was enough for me to be so inspired by his work to use my research for my final piece of work last year.  The idea came from his Father being in the military, and wanting his son to have a career in the military.  Using notation, I machine embroidered the designs into epaulets and used typical military colours which hopefully express this.’

Here are a couple of photos from Annie’s studio work. Photographs by Aly Jackson.

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The final artwork was exhibited in the 2016 Unit X exhibition in Manchester and is now on display within the library & archive here at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London.

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Overlapping with Annie’s display the Laban archive hung three introduction panels ‘Treasures from the archive’, aimed at new students and staff  providing a tempting snap shot of the fantastic collections the Laban archive holds for their use.

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It seems that Annie got a lot out of her visits to a number of archives; working with their archivists and their collections. She says she is planning to write her dissertation on how the use of archive material can inspire artists to create art.

Having  Annie’s new piece of work and the archive panels on show at same time created a satisfying duality. The old inspiring the new and the new animating the old. Thank you Annie.