Glimpsing Air Pockets is a multi-sensory dance theatre production in collaboration with children and young people from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children, Edinburgh. Christina Liddell began working in partnership with the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity from September 2016 to offer dance sessions to children and young people within the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. In consultation with physiotherapists, her remit assists in the recuperation of the children’s physical and emotional well-being by providing creative movement and dance. Christina had no idea what profound impact the children and young people would have on her own perspective on life. Glimpsing Air Pockets has been created as a poetic response from these many beautiful encounters. The Fountain caught up with to Christina to discuss the production in more detail.

TF: You are very much involved in Gilmpsing Air Pockets, can you elaborate on what it is? 

Glimpsing Air Pockets is an immersive, multi-sensory dance theatre production, which has been a wonderful collaboration with Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity.  It is a beautiful piece based on the saying “You can’t stop birds flying over your head, but you can definitely prevent them from building a nest in your hair”. It’s a vivid statement, which was shared with me long ago and has remained with me throughout my childhood and adolescent years: clouding thoughts will come over you, but you can prevent them from nesting and settling. When speaking to people about Glimpsing Air Pockets, I was surprised that it is a saying that many hadn’t heard of – I think I presumed it was something very well known. 

The creative process of Glimpsing Air Pockets was incredibly exciting. Along with a highly skilled team of artists from various art forms – Mona Kastell, Hannah Myers, Dl Sound and Video, Greg Sinclair, Tao-Anas Le Thanh and Simon M Scott – the creation of the work involved many children and young people from the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. We held a number of creative workshops during the first half of 2019, to bring to life their very own creative contributions. These can be seen and experienced by the audience in this immersive performance in the choreography, set, filmography, soundscape and interactive design.

TF: How did you come to be involved in this project?

From as young as twelve years old, I knew that I wanted to work within the arts in a hospital setting. I had no idea how to even begin to go about doing this, but after a significant personal encounter when I was younger, I aspired to one day engage in this kind of work. In 2016, a partnership became available between Dance Base and the Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, who were seeking a dance artist to offer dance sessions as an art form complimentary to physiotherapy treatment the children and young people received in hospital. It comes as no surprise that I was elated when I was approached by Dance Base to pursue this working relationship. 

I maybe didn’t realise it at the time, but on reflection, I think at that point in my personal life, there was a nest which had been forming and settling on my head (and it didn’t help in the slightest that I myself was adding to this nest myself in many ways). Small, fleeting thoughts began to pile up and fester, to the point where they had become all-consuming and I struggled to see beyond what was right in front of me.

When I began working with these children and young people, I had no idea the profound impact that they would have on my life, nor how inspired I would be by those I met. The only way I can think of describing it is as a tangible sense of the children and young people helping my eyes to be opened anew. I became aware that what I was experiencing was just a small part of a much, much greater picture. This life affirming experience brought to me the compelling vision of producing and choreographing a production, which encompassed this life changing encounter through dance.

TF: And what is your background Christina?

I am an independent dance artist, maker and teacher based in Scotland. I specialise in a combination of performance, arts-and-health and inclusive dance practices.  Amongst many professional collaborations, a couple of my favourite productions I have performed in were Janis Claxton’s award-winning “POP-UP Duets (fragments of love)” and a beautiful production by Magdalena Schamberger called “Curious Shoes”, a collaborative performance for people living with dementia, which toured across Scotland and Shropshire earlier this year.

Within the arts-and-health sector, I co-lead creative sessions for Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland and work at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children. I seek to assist with recuperation of health and wellbeing through creativity, humour and artistic interaction and I am passionate in ensuring that the work I deliver is greatly steered as a response to the individuals I come alongside. It’s all about allowing others to flourish, as we find joy together in movement and expression!

TF: You have two dates in the calendar with this performance, are there more of this type we can look forward to? 

Although there aren’t currently any more dates booked in for Glimpsing Air Pockets, I am very open to the prospect of this being shared again with a wider audience in the future. To ensure you have a chance to experience this beautiful work, do come along to the remaining public performance on 29 October at Central Hall, 7.30pm, before it is taken as a special remaining performance to the hospital in November.

TF: What next are you working on after Glimpsing Air Pockets

A wonderful group I work with in connection with Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity, Step Out and I are working towards our Christmas dance performances for All Wrapped Up. It’s a wonderful event which celebrates all the incredible things of Edinburgh Children’s Hospital Charity. Additionally, it will be another joyful experience to return as a clockwork ballerina for the Royal Hospital for Sick Children’s Christmas Advent Calendar this year, which is all happening throughout December. 

I’ve always found the life of a freelance dance artist, maker and teacher incredibly rich and diverse  – you never quite know what is next on the cards, which is something I always find quite exciting!

Photos courtesy of Maria Falconer and Simon M Scott

Glimpsing Air Pockets is on Tuesday 29 Oct, 7.30pm, Central Hall, 2 West Tollcross, Edinburgh, EH3 9BP