collaboration with jaka skapin

Since 2016, Dancing with Parkinson’s main artistic collaborator has been musician and vocal artist Jaka Skapin. Jaka is a Slovenian composer, conductor and community music artist based in London and has been a regular collaborator for the Dancing with Parkinson’s programme, bringing a wealth of artistic inspiration.

Danielle and Jaka recently worked together with the St. Joseph’s Hospice Dancing with Parkinson’s Hackney group on a music and dance project which we’ve named, branches. Branches began with discussion, story finding and generation of ideas around a theme; which then evolved through improvised dance activities into a story inspired by the dancers themselves. With input from incredible music and poetry specialists were were able to weave a dance narrative which derived from the physical and improvised responses as a starting point and then found their way into a new musical composition written and recorded with the dancers.

Here Jaka explains the process of devising new music with the dancers:

Branches is a collaborative composition that was created through a process of dance and music improvisation. We really wanted to hear, listen, and involve the dancers as much as possible so we devised a series of exercises that allowed us to discuss topics with the starting point of the new year. This evolved from the input of the dancers into discussion such as what it means to evolve, transition and experience a literal or metaphorical storm as people and communities.

With the help of guest pianist Yohan Kebede and singer-songwriter Giulia Grispino we created musical and lyrical segments that were later recorded in an impromptu studio session and added to the final track.

The lyrics “and the cracking of branches, the cracking of bones uprooted, the unknown world” anchor the message in juxtaposition to the groove and feel of the piece which strongly relate to some of the dancer’s cultural background - Ghanaian, Jamaican, Antiguan… In this sense, the music has a strong African and Latin American influence with a European twist. In order to portray the raw, rhythmical and cyclical human experience I only used the sounds of my own voice which hopefully accumulate to an organic, heartfelt and nuanced listening experience.

Special thanks goes to Martin Merenyi, the mixing engineer, Sara Pozin, my studio assistant and Briony Greenhill, without whom this piece would not end up sounding anywhere close to what you’ll be hearing tomorrow!
— Jaka Skapin, Dancing with Parkinson's music director
Our dancers in sound recording with Jaka Skapin - photography Sara Pozin

Our dancers in sound recording with Jaka Skapin
- photography Sara Pozin

Our makeshift recording studio in a treatment room at St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney

Our makeshift recording studio in a treatment room at St. Joseph’s Hospice, Hackney

Continuing with the collaborative nature of this project we worked with filmmaker Pavel Radu (ROPO Films) and partner organisation Poplar Union, to direct a dance and music film to share our work.

Our film will be launched tomorrow to mark World Parkinson’s Awareness Day, to demonstrate the powerful impact of art making and performance for people with Parkinson’s, and to make visible, the Parkinson’s body, the ownership and contribution to this process, and the artistry of people with Parkinson’s on this day of reflection and visibility for the condition…