Our dance students spent the third week of their intensive with Thomas Kampe working on Feldenkrais and Contact improv.
Thomas Kampe (PhD) lives in London and trained as a dancer at Laban centre and at Middlesex University, UK. He has worked internationally as performer, performance-maker and educator for more than 30 years. Choreographic collaborations have included works with Liz Aggiss, Carol Brown, Rosemary Lee and an extensive exchange with theatre-director Julia Pascal. He currently works as Senior Lecturer for Movement for Actors at Bath Spa University. He is a practitioner of the Feldenkrais Method ® which forms a foundation for his teaching, research and artistic practice. He has taught choreographic processes in University settings since the late 1980’s.
Thomas‘ international teaching has included residencies in various venues including: K3-Choreographic Centre Hamburg, Germany; Independent Dance London, tanzquartier Vienna, Austria; TanzFabrik Berlin; Somatische Akademie Berlin; National Dance Academy Quito, Ecuador; Budapest Improvisation Festival, Hungary; Madrid Contact Improvisation Festival, Spain; Freiburg Contact Festival, Germany; Göttingen CMC Festival, Germany; Ouro Preto Winter Festival, Brasil; Tamalpa Institute of Korea. Thomas has taught and directed internationally in Higher Education for more than 25 years including work at UCLA Los Angeles; The Rambert School of Contemporary Dance and Ballet; University of Bedfordshire; University of Chichester, UK; Limerick University, Ireland; The School for New Dance Development Amsterdam; Ewha Women’s University Seoul, Korea; University of Hamburg, Germany; Central School for Speech and Drama; Rose Bruford College; Queen Mary University; East 15 Acting School; Academia dell’ Arte Arezzo; De Montford University; Oxford St John’s University; University of Brighton; University of Auckland; Queensland University of Technology; Korean National University of The Arts; Jerusalem Academy of Dance and Music, Israel.
We sat down with Thomas to hear about his time with our students and perspective on teaching and making dance.
You’ve been here before during our semester program, how do you feel the experience compares?
It’s a similar experience. In the past I’ve been teaching also a lot of the acting students, and hoping between student groups in the day and now I’ve got one group intensively for six hours. I can see they’re tired, it’s intensive, and it’s a small group, it’s a smaller group than I’ve had before. We’ve had a bit more one to one experience, a more personalized dialogue in terms of what everyone is doing, what they want to do. Maybe sometimes the students feel a bit intimidated by this too because they’re just vulnerable amongst each other and the teacher, but you know, there are moments when it’s just really excellent and superb what the students are doing, and to a great depth of inquiry, and then there are times when they’re losing focus, but there’s nowhere to hide. The small group is a bit of a microscope, so that’s potentially sometimes a bit hard for the students.
It was great to have the jam yesterday working with a mixed group, and I could see that the dancers were enjoying working with the theatre people and the dancers then felt on their home ground, you know moving free. As usual, it’s exciting to be here. It’s nice to meet other colleagues, which is perhaps more so now then when I’m here during the semester, where everyone has more to do.This is a bit more guest teachers being around, and a bit more time for playing. That’s enjoyable I’ve met some lovely people, and I’m looking forward to hearing abit more about them and sharing more with them. It’s nice to have the intensive time with the dancers, six hours over five days, so we’re still pacing it so it doesn’t get so exhausting, and I can build every day on what i’ve done the day before and can make it intensive and hopefully rewarding learning experience and artistic experience. It’s more of immersion in a process than at times when I have them only for four hours of the whole week. This demands a greater stamina and I think we’re developing a bigger stamina and in depth inquiry.
Has anything surprised you about the students, in your time with them so far?
It’s interesting to see that the students are at different levels of ability and learning, you know, some of the students, they’re not saturated yet, but they might feel that they are, and that sometimes gets a bit in the way, but over the time I think the levels are evening out, maybe because we have that time. So it’s that the students who are maybe less physically experienced catch up with the others who are more experienced. The ones who’ve graduated already and then we’ve got students in their first year. It’s nice to see the eagerness of the more beginners. I think what’s clear is that they’ve worked here already for a couple of weeks, they love working together as an ensemble. They’d rather do things in a group than in a solo, so that was a surprise. So I think how do I bring the ensemble back. They seem to feel comfortable in their little cohort. Even thought I said it’s kind of vulnerable and exposing to be in such a small group, they are a good group as a group. They support each other.
Is there a main focus of your Contact Improv and Feldenkrais work that you hope the students take away from this intensive?
Well it’s not really contact improv it’s about Using somatic information and feldenkrais info as a resource for creation, how do you heighten your experience. Feeling your feet and your pelvis and ribs, and we’re kind of going up, We’re working from the legs up into the pelvis into the back into the rips into the spine into the skull. We have daily topics and we’re exploring mobilizing and connecting in these particular body areas in such a way that the students access their own authority. Their way of moving is initiated by their own intention rather than cliched moves that they’ve learned in front of a mirror by a teacher. It’s learning to self direct. It’s about the autonomous, creative student and that as a resource. Somatic autonomy, if you wish. That bodiness, but that self attitude as a resource to be a maker. So we were Combining these Feldenkrais explorations on our own and with partners where people interact with each other through touch. We’re combining them with improvisation and also with compositional tasks. It’s about learning to generate choreographic material from sensation and embodied experience rather than set styles or big ideas
What is your favorite thing about working and living at the villa?
The beautiful ambience, last night doing the jam in the outdoor studio and having the incredible environment around. That’s just so important that we’re in this extraordinary luxurious and exuberant Italian world, so that’s very exciting. On top of that it’s a very open and friendly and familiar place of people mingling and exchanging.
If you could describe what dance is to you in few sentences, what you would say?
It’s a playful embodied activity that goes beyond being a functional human being. It allows us to explore and engage with us as poetic embodied beings. It can create a world for us that stands outside the rules of capitalist engagement with consumption, competition, gender, ways of being in the world, and domination. It’s a wonderful alternative world we can learn from. From being in touch with our natural selves or a cultural self that stands outside of dominant culture.