Water, water, everywhere was the cry of the ancient submariner, but you don’t have to be at sea to realise water is indeed everywhere.
It’s in the land, in the air, it’s in us! It’s hard to believe our human bodies are two-thirds water… so thank goodness for bones, otherwise we’d all be blubbering around like jellyfish!
We drink water, we wash in it, we swim in it. We save it, we harness it, we even waste it.
I went to see ‘Bodies of Water’ at the James Milne Institute in Findhorn at the first showing of its Scotland tour, as it seeks to delve deeper into our bodily relationship with water.
Teasing the sense of touch first, we got to turn a lump of clay into a vessel capable of holding water, and in the fullness of time, maybe a day, maybe a week, they would be dry enough to use to carry water but for now we’d use the dried pots of a former ‘era’. As previous ‘potters’ had made bowls which had now dried, we left ours for the benefit of those to come next.
Almost as a symbol of recycling and a nod to the oldest relic of mankind, we created bowls to hold ‘bodies’ of water, so simple yet so important as a scalable container for portioning the life-giving element.
Not a drop to drink?
Yet having dried out to form a solid container, the porous clay claimed back a drop from each of us as it was being passed around the room from bowl to bowl, water being consumed back into the earth, only to be evaporated, oh so slowly with no life, no purpose, except to bring strangers together for the first time.
Porosity sucks water in without exception, it is perhaps its reason for being that it must seek every nook and cranny to find life to nurture, to make dry wet and when it finds none, it turns to gas and regenerates itself for a new search. Water is constantly moving, cycling, regenerating, our bodies just a vehicle to move from one place to another, in search of a never-to-be-found place.
Then, as the lights dimmed, it was the turn for the eyes and ears, a manifold variety of impervious containers diffracting light from a single source. Water was switched between short fat bowls to long thin flutes, and the aural range was punctuated soft ambient sounds of lapping and splashing coming from the depths below. It was actually coming from the sound system, but I was in a world of my own by this time, contemplating the difference between a drip and a drop.
As the dancer Saffy Setohy rose from the floor, I was reminded of the classical composition Aquarium, as she dueted with a droplet which danced willingly along her hand, driven only by gravity in search of porosity, round the back of her neck and down the other arm. It’s a dance which is fluid, the pun fully intended as the dancer plunges head over heels into the big body of water that was the James Milne Institute for that hour.
It is a venue which has wood paneling up to shoulder height, and probably by luck rather than design it is painted blue, and the kind of blue that you would find in a swimming pool, and it wasn’t hard to imagine yourself sitting at the side of a pool watching Saffy rolling and swaying around the body of water like a discarded piece of chiffon, no resistance, no direction, no coming up for air.
I do hope the other venues have such a sensory aid.
But while a large pool allows for such freedom of movement, the dance turns inside out.
Saffy is now gripped and encased by a ‘sac’ of water, a powerful monster with no limbs, bringing her ultimately to the ground and under its control. It reminds me water is both beautiful and dangerous at the same time.
Ballet on the beach
In a balletic finale, we are separated from the dance floor by a line of coarse salt crystals, a linear mark across the floor like the upper reaches of the tidal cycle.
Saffy, almost cringingly, grinds the salt into the floor and she steps forcefully around the perimeter. It is only a matter of time before water will claim the salt and so what better way of celebrating anything that has but a short time to live, than with a dance.
Seeing, hearing and feeling the soles of Saffy’s feet grind the salt into the beach the floor has now become, makes you just want to take your socks off and feel it yourself… and it’s close enough to do that.
Bodies of Water debuted at Findhorn and is now touring Scotland.