Mhairi Allan – Notebooks Residency

Artist in Residence

Mhairi Allan – Notebooks Residency

Part of the Barn's Phosphorescence festival, in partnership with Dancelive.

Image By Jeni Reid 4

Image credit: Jeni Reid

Mhairi Allan – Notebooks Residency

In the lead up to the festival Phosphorescence, as part of Dancelive, Mhairi was invited to spend three days in residence at the Barn on movement research which was interrupted by the pandemic. Explorations on her work ‘Listening to Birds’ (working title) began in 2018 and considers themes of loss, transition and repair. Added with her own experience over the past year and a half dealing with the aftermath of covid as a nurse and the consequences of getting the virus; Mhairi now has Long Covid.

Gathering her notebooks from 2018, she collected pieces of the text that illuminated her lived experience as a nurse and performer, how it felt, how she moved through and from these experiences to find spaces of repair to source scores for movement.

How does she navigate from this additional place of loss, the loss of her movement identity?

"I arrived in the space cautious and with little expectations of how my three days would be shaped or what would emerge. But I found joy and sustenance as I moved in this special place, slowly re-connecting with my body, sharing conversations, moving and writing in the theatre and in the quiet rhythms of the wild gardens. It was a place to experience the sensations of touch on my skin, my body and the ground under my feet. These landscapes were an ideal context, a familiar space or ‘home’ for me to be and to work in and I moved in response to and was guided by these different surroundings for my research and my needs.

During my time at the Barn I was fortunate to collaborate with visual artist and photographer, Jeni Reid. She introduced me to ‘wool’, its fragility, resilience and its memory. I explored the sensations and textures of the wool, shaping words and ideas to explore in movement. ‘Saddening’ of the wool and ‘exhaust baths’, (methods used for dyeing) resonated with me and my own feelings of loss of my physicality as a dancer. But as Jeni explained, the properties of wool allow it to change its shape in response to certain stimuli but it also ‘remembers’ to return to its original shape. How poignant and positive image for a movement artist….

Touching the landscape and to be touched by and around and immersed in it was an opportunity for physical and creative nourishment and repair and a chance to listen with care. It was an occasion to explore, to be curious and to find something new and remind me why I dance." Mhairi Allan

Image By Jeni Reid 2

Image credit: Jeni Reid

Who is Mhairi Allan?

I am an Aberdeen based, interdisciplinary movement artist. I have experience devising and making community and professional work as an independent dance artist and as part of creative teams involved in the conception, development and production of work. Many years of creative exploration in movement improvisation has been enriched and inspired by collaborating with other artists and mediums from adult and children’s theatre, music, text and the visual arts. My movement research continues to explore the different narratives and textures of human nature, the fragility of the human condition always in pursuit of a sincere and human expression and the sense of going on a journey. Personal narratives are crucial to my work and my working process involves discovering images and movement ideas from the dancers own life experiences.

I have an MA in Dance Studies from University of Surrey and am also a trained nurse. I am also a 500hr Hatha Yoga teacher and trained with Yoga Scotland.