Cromford Mills is delighted to exhibit ‘The Machinery’, an audio-visual installation capturing the earliest known machine dance. The dance, performed by Caroline Radcliffe and captured by film maker Jon Harrison, is augmented with the sounds of a 21st century call centre, created by Sarah Angliss. Come and be immersed in the repetitive sounds and movements, and consider afresh your own relationship to technology in the workplace.
Feeling inspired to learn the dance? Caroline Radcliffe will be leading a family-friendly workshop on Tuesday 26th October, 3-4pm, in the marquee at Cromford Mills. All are welcome! Places are limited, please book your free ticket here: www.wegottickets.com/event/527173/
‘The Machinery’ is a ‘heel-and-toe’ clog dance passed on to Caroline Radcliffe by clog dancer, Pat Tracey. Mill workers tapped their feet in time to the rhythms of the cotton machinery while they operated the machines with their hands. They developed these rhythmic patterns and steps into dances which they shared with their families and communities. ‘The Machinery’ copies the mechanical components and actions of the cotton machines through the dance’s steps.
These machines were mainly operated by women and children; by imitating the machines, they found a way to combat the mental and physical constraints of repetitive factory labour and to literally dance with the machines.
‘The Machinery’ is the earliest form of machine dance we know, predating the Futurist dances of the early-twentieth century by over a hundred years. Taken back to its original solo context – one dancer, alone with the machines – ‘The Machinery’ reflects the individual’s relationship with work and technology.
Caroline Radcliffe says: “After a year in which our working lives have changed beyond recognition, The Machinery takes on an uncanny resemblance to the now familiar home ‘zoom meeting’. When John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx commented on the relationship of technologies to the worker they could hardly have foreseen the point we are at in 2021. Far from just being a dance imitating machinery, the steps speak to us now – as they did to the nineteenth-century factory workers who devised them – about our ability to be creative in the face of adversity.
‘The Machinery’ was conceived as an original piece of contemporary theatre; the primary aim was to recontextualise clog dancing for a contemporary audience. It could be seen as a dance about technology or as a comment on our post-industrial age. The performance was awarded a Quake contemporary dance festival award in 2008 and in 2018 The Machinery received Arts Council England and Heritage Lottery Funding and funding from the University of Birmingham to develop the work with digital film maker, Jon Harrison, into an audio-visual, immersive art installation. It has since been displayed at Belper North Mill, and now comes to Cromford Mills.