Leverhulme Artist-in-Residence: Carolyn Deby


citysited / time / site / body-based choreographies


Recipient of a Leverhulme Trust Award to be Artist-in-Residence (2011/12) at UCL Urban Laboratory, Carolyn Deby is an artist/choreographer whose site-based performance work examines the lived experience of humans – situating the human body/psyche within landscape. Since 1999, she has focused on the ‘urban’ and expanded notions of ‘landscape’ – investigating how humans and the ‘urban’ are implicated in current/historical systems/reconstitutions of ‘nature’.


Carolyn works internationally, using the name sirenscrossing, making ‘time-based, audience experiences’ or ‘choreographies’ to be experienced by groups or individuals. The work features various combinations of sensory inputs/restrictions, different sites, contrasts of scale and distance, audience/performer movement, verbal/written text, recorded video/sound scores. It engages individuals within ordinary places, seeking to implicate the fabric of their everyday lives in the devised experience. It explores through performance practice in different urban settings, what it is to exist as a 'human' in relation to 'nature', within the 'urban context'. Carolyn’s objective is to investigate the interaction of human, natural, and urban ideas/actions/inputs over time/space in order to reveal a new understanding of how our everyday existence unfolds. The use of place has often centered on exploring and revealing the psychogeographic topography of specific urban environments.


During this residency, Carolyn will use choreographic methodologies to examine the Urban Laboratory itself – seeking to create meaning by making connections between the physical, geographic, intellectual and incidental trajectories of its academic research themes and the real people and urban places implicated in that research. She will filter her findings through the lens of her own current research project, rivercities.


rivercities is an international, collaborative performance research project, with participants from Canada, UK and Sweden. The research focuses on several human settlements situated on three different rivers: the Yukon River (Canadian arctic); the river Göta älv (Sweden); and the River Lea (London/East of England). The project has been supported by Canada Council for the Arts; the Yukon Arts Centre, and the Klondike Institute of Arts and Culture (Yukon, Canada); Trinity Laban (London); and the Dance Centre (Vancouver); Pustervik, Producentbyrån, and Danscentrum Väst (Göteborg, Sweden); Västra Götalandsregionen Danskontoret (Swedish Arts Council).


rivercities will consider how local humans are involved in the earth’s hydrologic system. What is the river’s relationship to the fluids coursing through our bodies? How is this circulation connected to the flows in our everyday lives? How has the city reconstituted or redesigned nature and are we therefore also spiritually/physically/intellectually altered too? What are the global interactions and how can any of this be performed?

rivercities considers water as it is actively, constantly being exchanged with the environment and other living things around us. rivercities also looks beyond the cellular level, to the trajectories of hydrologic interchange within each city’s immediate urban environment, and surrounding natural environments – and at the socio-political dimension of human/urban interaction with the rivers.


sirenscrossing projects:

rivercities (2009 to present – UK/Canada/Sweden); imbolc {in the belly} (2008 – Vancouver 2010 Cultural Olympiad); palimpsest (2006 – Laban, London); city:skinned (2006 – Dancing on the Edge, Vancouver); memory dances (2003 – Vancouver); city:skinned (2002 – The Place, London); Memory Dances – The Place (2001); Jerwood Stairworks – Wapping Project London (2001); Container Gardening – Chisenhale Dance Space (2000 + 2001); Trace and Flight – Royal Festival Hall + Stoke Newington Festival (2000). During 2007–2009, Carolyn was choreographic mentor to Pia Nordin and Victoria Alarik on The Harbour Project (Göteborg, Sweden).


Carolyn also works as a sessional and guest lecturer on BA (Honours) degree programmes at University of East London, London Contemporary Dance School, Trinity Laban, Chichester University, Dartington College (now University College Falmouth). She has lectured on her site practice and on professional development for dance artists at The Place, Queen Mary University of London, the Dance Centre (Vancouver), Dance4 (Nottingham), Birmingham DanceXchange, Yorkshire Dance, the Royal Festival Hall, London Arts Board. She holds a BFA Contemporary Dance from Simon Fraser University (Vancouver, Canada), and completed two years of a four-year BFA Visual Arts degree at University of Regina (Canada).











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Friday, 10th July 2020
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Last updated: 21st April 2020