Propellor is a cross-genre ensemble with an ambitious vision.

Soloists, writers and ensemble players have come together from a diverse range of backgrounds to create immersive live experiences through combined art forms.

Body of Water at Lakeside Arts

We're so excited to be able to share this dance film with you! Body of Water was created for Loom at Nottingham's Lakeside Arts in collaboration with Dance4 and dancer/choreographer Heather Birley.


JM: You've worked with musicians before, what does collaborating with a different art form bring to your own creative process?

HB: I think a really exciting playfulness can be found when working with an art form one is not formally educated in; it unlocks in me the ability to explore and discover with no presumptions or expectations. Also, I appreciate the conversations and questions and decision making and not knowings that people bring to my practice and, that I can bring to theirs. I find great fulfilment in sharing energy in a space with other artists.

JM: You came to see Loom performed ahead of starting to work on this new dance for Nottingham Lakeside Arts, what were your first impressions of the piece?

HB: I would say I more ‘experienced’ Loom than saw. It felt such a performance that activated so many sensations. I remember moving, moving quite a bit, I wanted to move. This excited me massively.

JM: You created three distinct qualities for the dance, can you describe how you came to these?

HB: They evolved with time. I was looking at the elements of water - hydrogen and oxygen - which we’d been discussing when together in Birmingham. I took hydrogen, oxygen and water as 3 separate things and began to work with each one intensely. I realised 3 different states of mind and body. I explored and created strictness within the states to enable repeatable improvisation.

JM: The outcome of the collaboration shifted focus from performing live to creating a dance film, how did this affect your preparation?

HB: At the time, the movement I was working on was still fairly loose and open and I was struggling to make strict choices. Shifting to make a film forced me to make these creative decisions and, by solidifying my ideas I found a greater confidence in my work.

JM: Sort of two in one... What was the filming process like for you? I (Jack) used a lot of improvisation when we were working together, feeling that this approach was both pragmatic given time constraints, but more importantly that it would be a good way to allow the two elements to blend, and create a genuine collaboration. How did this work for you?

HB: I really enjoyed the filming process. It was quite an intense few hours, in which an energetic and inspiring atmosphere was created between the three of us. Improvisation is often my preferred way of working and, I think it allows for instant conversation to happen between artistic practices, in real time.

JM: The film has become a third creative element and some of the final musical material will remain free from written rhythmical constraints to allow players to respond again directly to your movement on camera - the way we worked during filming and rehearsal... What has it been like to let go of that final element and trust that it will work?

HB: Difficult. Its hard to let go. But, its exciting. It will be different every time. As with every work, I have derived certain emotions and ideas but, ultimately each audience member will respond to it in their own unique ways, and thats great!

JM: How would you sum up working on this project, and has it/will it have any affect on you as a performer in the future?

HB: No artistic practice is easy, thats the joy of it. This project has definitely challenged me practically and creatively. And, although I often felt very alone in the dance studio it was reassuring to know that there was another half to it; your music. I will take away with me ideas of adaptability.

Heather Birley's contribution to the performance of Loom in Nottingham was supported by Dance4 and Nottingham Lakeside Arts.


Working on the dance film with Heather Birley has been a really lovely collaborative experience. After an initial rehearsal in Birmingham where we workshopped lots of different movement ideas using improvisation based on elements of Loom, Heather would then send video updates on the three prepared states of dance she was working on. We were thinking about water on a molecular level and the way that it responds in different environments, these updates kept the writing process spinning as well, with new ideas forming, batting suggestions back and forth.

The Nottinghamshire born poet D.H. Lawrence wrote that “Water is H2O, hydrogen two parts, oxygen one, but there is also a third thing, that makes it water and nobody knows what that is.” This third thing seems to me to inhabit the same liminal space as improvisation and so we approached filming the three states Heather had prepared using focussed improvisation around three given qualities in the dance and music which have subsequently been edited together by Robin Beatty, Propellor's guitarist and visual designer - this film, like the rest of Loom's visual language has been created to work in a circular screen format.

The final stage has been reordering the musical ideas from the filming day so that it can be used to respond live to this new edit - a process of collaboration and writing that has allowed the outcome to stay in flux, moving, changing and adapting in response to a fused combination of creative elements.

Clarinet - Jack McNeill

Cello - Clare O'Connell

Dance and choreography - Heather Birley

Camera and editing - Robin Beatty

Audio recorded in isolation, edited by Cameron Malcolm, mixed and mastered by Calum Malcolm. All rights reserved.