Extending Practice: Choreography & Sustainability Workshop Reflections

This post comes from Creative Carbon Scotland

In September CCS co-hosted a one day workshop with choreographers, Claire Pencak and Saffy Setohy, and writer/researcher Wallace Heim. One month on, we collectively reflect on learning points for further development.

The initial aim of the workshop was to explore how choreographic practices might contribute to environmental movements and sustainability. We organised the day through a series of exercises, creating a number of in-roads into the subject:

  • Initial discussion of the terms sustainability and choreography
  • A movement session led by Saffy and Claire in the North Kelvin Meadow: a contested community green space in North/West Glasgow
  • Group discussion shaped by propositions by Wallace
  • A short choreographic score-writing exercise

Movement Session

Claire described how the use of the session outside in the North Kelvin Meadow brought the group into more familiar territory as movement practitioners.


Group discussions

We held short group discussions in response to four key propositions set by Wallace to consider the ways in which choreographic practices specifically operate and how they intersect with questions of sustainability.


Questions about the body: how do ideas about sustainability affect or change perceptions and ideas about the human body, the body in motion, and the body as inter-related with the living and non-living others, inter-related with ideas, technologies, and human social systems. How do practices do this, without proposing a pre-cultural, isolated or essential view of the human body.

Questions about sense: how do we ‘sense’ sustainability, sense being both with the senses, and to make sense of something, to make it make sense collectively. What is touched, what are the surfaces of our relations? How can we make sense of that experience? How does this relate to choreographic practice?

Questions about friction: sustainability isn’t a smoothly managed plan, or something that only exists for the comfort and endurance of humans. There are fragmentations, gaps, frustrations, imbalances of power and justice, conflicts. How can choreographic practices work with these tensions? Or hold the tensions that arise?

Questions about how to ‘place’ the human in relation to a world of other beings and entities which are not simply there to be perceived, but themselves have agencies, motivations and force? How might these placings relate to sustainability?

Initial responses to Wallace’s provocations included:

  • The body can be used as a proxy for sustainability, as a system with finite capacities. Conversely, dance offers plenty of examples of non-sustainable practice, it can be about ‘pushing the body to its limit’ which creates a particular aesthetic.
  • The employment of multiple senses within choreographic practices have the potential to ‘embody’ and bring to the fore of our perception the often abstract or distant seeming realities of sustainability and climate change;
  • The forms of cooperative leadership that are used within choreographic work could be applied to and explored within other, non-arts contexts.


Wallace provided some further reflections on the movement session and following group discussions:

As a side note, see Chris Fremantle’s recent blog on Tim Ingold’s lecture ‘The Sustainability of Everything’ for further consideration of how the arts are ideally placed to work with the complexity of questions concerning sustainability.

Score-writing exercise

We gave the last part of the day over to making individual scores that in some way reflected on some of the themes and thinking over the day. Claire highlighted the value of the score in the way it suggests ways to proceed:

Sadly there wasn’t time to try out the scores, that will be for future development.






Saffy provided some final reflections on the day:

Thank you to everyone who participated in the workshop and to the Work Room for supporting the event. If you would like to get involved in our continued work in this area please email Gemma.lawrence@creativecarbonscotland.com.

Find out more about our regular events connecting arts and sustainability on our Green Tease page.

The post Extending Practice: Choreography & Sustainability Workshop Reflections appeared first on Creative Carbon Scotland.


Creative Carbon Scotland is a partnership of arts organisations working to put culture at the heart of a sustainable Scotland. We believe cultural and creative organisations have a significant influencing power to help shape a sustainable Scotland for the 21st century.

In 2011 we worked with partners Festivals Edinburgh, the Federation of Scottish Threatre and Scottish Contemporary Art Network to support over thirty arts organisations to operate more sustainably.

We are now building on these achievements and working with over 70 cultural organisations across Scotland in various key areas including carbon management, behavioural change and advocacy for sustainable practice in the arts.

Our work with cultural organisations is the first step towards a wider change. Cultural organisations can influence public behaviour and attitudes about climate change through:

Changing their own behaviour;
Communicating with their audiences;
Engaging the public’s emotions, values and ideas.

Go to Creative Carbon Scotland

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