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Esme Whitehead/ Sea In Me

The work I make explores the duality between water and bodies. I turn to water as a place of comfort and security, while also serving as a place of transition and movement. Having recently experienced feelings of displacement and uprooting, water has offered solace. The flow of the river and the roll of the waves are movements that frequently occur through my mind while discussing my work. I think of the river’s slow trail out to its mouth – it is bodily and human-like. I frequently refer to this movement again and frame it within the world of dance and theatre. Water becomes body and body becomes water. I see the two as completely linked. I cannot watch water without thinking of dance, and I cannot see a body dance without thinking of water and its fluidity. I see swimming as a performance, greeting the water and how the body moves throughout it – both must work together in harmony. For me, the performance acts as a communication for things that I struggle to communicate. When I am around water, I feel a huge presence. It moves all around my body and I feel as though I am about to burst with it. The line between my body’s movements and the waves becomes increasingly blurred - both seep into each other and begin a conversation with one another. Growing up by the sea, I feel a deeply personal connection to water. It offers me a place of solitude and healing, reflecting on this time through my ‘internal landscape’. I feel connected to the landscape, seeing a river through my body, flowing with memories and histories and sensations. As part of an ongoing body of work, I work with my oldest friend who feels like an extension of my own body. Rowan, my friend, is a dancer. I watched her body move across stages and in rehearsal rooms, she communicated with me and audiences in a way I did not understand. Suddenly her personality shifted, and I was watching her in a completely different light. During a visit to Loch Lomond, we respond to the water, live actions reflecting those of the soft waves. Rowan feels like a part of me, our connection being 12 years long. I instruct her to move a certain way, she understands. Movements change, flow and adapt. We dance for 6 hours. The sun shifts in the sky, gliding across Rowan’s face, to her hair to her back. The sun tells the time for us, each movement of light acting as a new act. A new beginning for each set of movements. The work I make exists within an imagined space, a space for contemplation and reflection. Exploring this through moving image and poetry, I refer to historical and contemporary dancers and embed it within the land. Alongside this, the writing I produce explores my own relationship with home, the sea and rivers - which in turn refers to my period of transition. 'Sometimes, I feel like the river is picking up its pace. It rolls over rocks and pours over and over and over. I clutch to the basket with both hands, and it sways, the waves pushing it up and dragging it back down. My belongings are sparse. They are fluid; moving from place to place, and person to person. I do not go to the sea as much anymore; I no longer feel like it is mine. I still think of it fondly. Remembering the taste of salt on my lips after the water has dried Hair dried and crisp, body calm I go to the Thames, knowing it will eventually seep out to the sea, imagining what it will carry with it

when it goes. ever changing ever shapeshifting ever adapting'


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