Difference and inclusivity are important themes within Soma. We have chosen to work with the notion of difference and how each participant brings their own experience of reality, perception and body, which offers new insight into our experiences and understandings.
“What stayed with me was the joy, the utter, utter joy I had. It was like being a little child and being allowed to run around like a lunatic and physically express that joy.”– Participant
We like the idea that there is no wrong or right way to experience Soma and there is no fixed piece of choreography or set script to deliver to you. Whilst there is a score for the performance we want to be open to respond to and be part of what occurs in the moment, to celebrate the differences between us and the ways in which difference can create a more diverse collaboration.
The work is underpinned by an ethic of care and trust, accessed through the tools and practices of the dancers. At every step of the experience, each participant has the support and agency to go on the journey that they themselves choose to undertake.
“The dancers were very generous, very kind. Mine was just incredibly generous and a very caring woman and that came across very quickly. There was an openness, so I felt quite safe with her.”– Participant
In developing Soma onward from its prototype Figuring in 2018, we have taken further steps to explore individual experience and how that is shared. We have been working closely with visually impaired (VI) participant and dancer Holly Thomas to understand her experience of VR, supported by an Ideas Exchange fund from the Brigstow Institute and through this initiative we have been working with Ute Leonards, Professor of Neuropsychology at the University of Bristol, to further explore and understand Holly’s experience.
“To actually to be able to visually see this kind of movement and this depth of this object in space and then to be able to manipulate and see it coming towards and away from me and around me, I just thought that was amazing.”– Holly Thomas
Holly Thomas’ positive experience with Soma suggests that carefully crafted immersive experiences combining dance-somatic practices and VR technologies will bring fundamental new insights into the mechanisms underlying embodied experiences for people with VI. Holly’s feedback revealed that the usual distracting flashing lights and light disturbances were reduced or disappeared, allowing Holly to visually experience depth and three dimensionality within the virtual space enhancing her embodied experience and movement responses within the space. Another visually-impaired participant experienced Soma and in her feedback she spoke about a diminished sense of her everyday experience of visual disturbances, and that the reduced and interactive visual input of the VR environment enhanced tactile sensations, the feeling of space, and induced an overall sensation of calmness.
“Those kind of subtle understandings about how you feel about your body felt very calming.”– Participant
As part of our on-going work around diversity and inclusivity, we are also collaborating with Dr Helen Bould, Clinical Lecturer in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry with clinical and research experience of working with young people with eating disorders; Dr Ian Penton-Voak, Professor of experimental psychology with research experience in how people with and without eating disorders perceive their bodies; and Dr Lucy Biddle, a qualitative researcher with extensive expertise in carrying out sensitive interviews such as exploring suicidal behaviour with adolescents and young adults.
If this relates to your own research or related project please do get in touch
Get in touch
We would love to hear from those wishing to participate in Soma as well as businesses and organisations interested in experiencing the project within their own spaces.