Soundwalk Into Wellbeing

February 7, 2018

DSCF4220Salamanda Tandem’s ‘Soundwalks into Wellbeing’, are a series of outdoor site specific performances, with radio headphones. Tailor-made for each season, and taking place in our local city park, right opposite Salamanda Tandem’s home in West Bridgford, Nottingham. Designed by soundartists, wellbeing practitioners and seldom heard carers, who collaborate together to develop their own wellbeing, and that of others, to address the challenges of isolation, stress, disability and poor health.

“Once out in the park the performance begins; the sound of birds, the wind in the trees, children at play, the rain, whatever we find, be it soft warm grass, the cold crisp earth of winter, a discarded ball or the common grey squirrel ferreting around. Responding to what the season and each day brings, and the moment. As such resources come into relief, individuals are enveloped in a world of sound and nature.

Invited to be absorbed in total concentration for the 1hr duration, audiences move from passive recipients, to ‘actors’ and ‘inventors’ as senses are awakened to the environment unfolding. The work utilizes local free resources; the sound and presence of nature, walking, movement, air and breath. Drones, loops, and sine waves are generated live from these natural resources, together with live tabla, and a singer/audio describer who guides audiences to become generators of the performance itself.

This project is part of ‘White Cane’, a series of touring sensory art works developed by a team of blind, visually impaired and sighted musicians who lead audiences into a fascinating world of sonic vision. Supported by Notts CC & Arts Council G4A funding.

Events every season: For Winter catch here


Film Commissioned by People Dancing UK

On Tour in 2016 with a Composer/Curator award from Sound and Music.

“Salamanda Tandem was formed out of a passion to do something about inequality, and about art, by being a catalyst for ‘attitudinal change’.

Take movement; ‘Movement is life’ it is the domain of everyone.  Movement is vibration, vibration is sound, sound is inside us and all around us.

In walking, sitting, lying down, in being still, in performance, in playing, out there on the streets, in the squares, at home, with people of all ages, and in the spaces between.

We’ve come up with a ‘Dance’ that realises this sort of potential, a non-divisive ‘Dance’ led by visually impaired people. We’re not ‘perfect’ bodies, we’re interesting bodies yes, but even when our not so perfect bodies are older, we’re still dancing, still sounding the space, still interacting with people. Because the people want to enter this space, it’s inclusive.

In a world dominated by sight and movement memory, fashion, transient beauty, bigger, higher, and faster; what happens when a visually impaired, blind, deafblind or profoundly disabled people takes a lead?

We find a new dance, a humanitarian growing form practiced between 2 or more people on an equal basis.

Looking into the core of ourselves and our society, we’ve always asked questions of who or what has status, who or what is beautiful. We’ve always looked into the art and money we make or don’t make, into what we perceive as valuable, and there our practice begins. The work begins in our own practice and we make it happen in synergy with others, in sustainable co-operation. In that moment when we’re really there in it, our anxieties dissolve and we know it isn’t relevant what we are out in the world.

So to make art, music and movement interesting it has to be inclusive, it requires us to inhabit and notice the moment to be awake to that.

These sorts of questions have taken Salamanda Tandem into ‘politics’, and the arenas of policy making, advocacy, training, professional education, and research, to yoga, person-centered ways of interacting, and to the heart of our practice and performance. To be a catalyst for attitudinal change, we’ve developed new forms and structures to enable hidden voices to be heard and audiences to expand, from passive recipients to become creators. A belief in equality and it’s enactment. We think of this as attitudinal change,  it requires us to re-distribute power, re-configure what we do, how we think and how we behave. For example; in White Cane, blind and VIP performers become both choreographer and composer as the sound and movement of the long cane user form the cornerstone of the work. In Quarry-os-sion audio description is the art.

Salamanda Tandem’s politic means that each person’s contribution is made possible within a holistic social, environmental, cultural and economic context. And touch, music, the human voice, embodied experience and all the senses are essential ingredients in the process of making our performance”


Salamanda Tandem: UK Tour 2016 – 2018

White Cane: “a unique experience of ‘sonic vision'”


Photo: Geoffrey Fielding

White Cane received one of the prestigious composer curator awards from Sound and Music to develop a new series of site specific performances touring nationally. Then an arts council grant to actually go on tour!

An intriguingly novel way for audiences wearing radio headsets to re-imagine city centre spaces all around the UK, White Cane starts from the vantage point of a visually impaired long cane user’s movement; we hear the ground underneath our feet, sense the shift of air between the buildings, and play with the world around with sung audio description as our guide in performance.

White Cane is the latest in a series of performances that Salamanda Tandem has created in collaboration with blind and visually impaired performers exploring perceptions of the world through movement, touch, sound and presence.

White Cane was originally commissioned by Ludus Festival Leeds July 2014, as the 3rd in a trilogy of new sensory art works started in 2013. Read here.
Current A5 heightG0020115
Photo Geoffrey Fielding Performer: Takashi Kikuchi

Listen to a short sample of music from White Cane here:

Iyengar Yoga UK celebrations for International Yoga Day. Photo Geoffrey Fielding

This week we met for a board meeting and something significant happened, we realised we were all Yoga practitioners! And of course so was my father Lewis Jones who was instrumental in Salamanda Tandem’s vision of space inside the body to house the world. Then too, in listing our talented and wonderful associate artists, who essentially are my family I noticed that 80% of those practice or teach yoga. Then I realised that 50% of our artist team are disabled people; sensory experts with a unique perception of things.

To quote an audience member’s comment on experiencing one of our latest performance works:

“A deeply spiritual experience,  A ‘mystery’ in the true and ancient meaning of the word”

Something is going on…. something is going right…

For some 12 years now Iyengar Yoga, a very special form of rigorous yoga practice, has formed one of the foundation stones of our mental and physical development.

house5 house3

Back in 2002 when I became qualified as an Iyengar yoga teacher we realised that Yoga could help support the physical and mental health of everyone, so we instituted it as a free weekly class for all our associate artists, admin staff, photographers, musicians, dancers etc. We took it on tour with us, and then began to spread outwards into our local community. We now have a small studio at Salamanda Tandem’s base, soon expanding next door, and we teach around 55 students a week in 4 weekly classes, run monthly workshops just round the corner, and lead retreats in the beautiful landscapes of Snowdonia and South Derbyshire for students from all over the country.

Yoga Practice, Creativity, Art, Nature and Humanity are all one.

Yoga can also be very misunderstood too, it’s as old as the hills but in the west we tend to think of it as some new exercise trend. This week on radio 4 we heard a report on posture; on on the release of chemicals that support feelings of positivity when we stand up straight, then conversely what happens when we collapse. Today we have the science to tell us all this is true, yesterday our ancestors just had their own somatic experience.

Visit our dedicated yoga website and blog if you are interested in joining us for a class, workshop, retreat or just want to read and know a bit more

Urdhva Mukha Svanasana img-8079              Supta Virasana img-8119

2014-10-02 10.35.13

Look out for Salamanda Tandem ‘s short film ‘Can’t Stop me Shining’ selected by Oska Bright for a national tour of screenings, showing 8 films made by and in collaboration with learning disabled people. This week the tour premieres at Nottingham’s very own Broadway Cinema. ‘Can’t Stop Me Shining’ is Salamanda Tandem’s contribution, a film made by Nathan Campbell, myself and Kevin Hodgetts and celebrates artistic collaboration with learning disabled people. It’s filmed at 38 Laurie Avenue the home of Salamanda Tandem for 21 years
Thursday 2nd October 2014, Broadway Cinema tickets £3
Friday 3rd October, Level Centre
Get it in your diary and book your tickets now!

Hear an excerpt from our current Touring Performance: “White Cane”

“I happened to be rushing on my way to work, and became so completely captivated by the music that I returned in my lunch break. From the moment I put my radio headphones on I felt transformed, and I noticed this place where I come everyday so very differently. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!”

Victoria Gardens, Leeds City Center. Ludus Festival. FREE

  • June 20th Morning workshop 10 – 12 and afternoon Performances
  • June 21st Ludus Thinks Discussion
  • June 22nd morning workshop 11- 1pm and afternoon performances


Takashi Kikushi one of Salamanda Tandem’s performance team.

Photograph: Geoffrey Fielding

Salamanda Tandem’s White Cane for Victoria Gardens in Leeds City Centre is designed to generate creative dialogue between visually impaired, blind and sighted people, both as performers, and audience. It places the blind and visually impaired person’s experience as central to the aesthetic of the work and it’s process. The piece takes local community performers and an audience of passers by on a journey led by visually impaired performers Mickel Smithen and Takashi Kikuchi who use their long white canes to transmit the world as seen, heard and felt through the rolling ball of the cane as it explores the ground. The long white cane becomes a creative medium, an acoustic source for ‘sounding movement’ and shapes the possibility of blind and visually impaired people as choreographers.“

Long-cane performers build up a deep connection with their environment, acting as guides to their sensory world, in an unfolding dialogue between performers and public. A team of visually impaired performers explores the square and environs using their long white canes. The cane’s ball moves across the ground, picking up bumps, cracks, grooves, levels and nuances. It feeds back sensory information through the hands and bodies of the performers. As they tune into their environs, patterns of movement emerge and the performance emerges. Co-composers Duncan Chapman and Isabel Jones pick up the fascinating sound of the ball and send via radio signal to audience headsets. On the way, that sound is mixed with live sung audio description, the sound of Takashi playing his viola, vibration and touch signals”


Salamanda Tandem 2014: Audience and performer listen through radio headsets


Isabel Jones audio describes Mickel Smithen’s Journey

Salamanda Tandem’s Touchstone at Corby Cube 2014. Commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art

Co-composers Isabel Jones and Duncan Chapman

Photo: Geoffrey Fielding

One of the key aspects of White Cane is audio description (AD), this will be transmitted through radio headsets to the general public by co-composers Isabel Jones and Duncan Chapman. Audio description (AD) has recently become available via digital TV, and the major TV channels are now legally obliged to provide it on 20% of their programmes. But it is a complex, challenging, and largely undeveloped form, which can enhance enjoyment (or not) in live performance. Since the very early days of Salamanda Tandem, (est. 1989) we have been exploring this, considering how audio description in rehearsal and performance can make it possible for blind or visually Impaired people to take the leap from passive recipients, to being active creators in the process of making performance. The role of co-director and blind person Lewis Jones was key here for us and we were able to embed the principle very early on in: Smell of The Blue 1992, Subvision 1994, BodyCam 1996, Eye Behind the Eye 1999, Via Crucis 2004 and Touch Talk 2005. Often AD separates visually impaired and blind people from the rest of the audience, transmitting an entirely different experience to them, in White Cane we consider this and explore how performers and audience whether blind, visually impaired or sighted could take the same journey in sound.


Mickel Smithen leads an audience through Corby Cube  commissioned by Fermynwoods Contemporary Art

The Question of Barriers – Mickel Smithen

“I have worked with Salamanda Tandem as an associate artist for 8 years, and have been involved as a performer in 13 site specific performances so far. In the work we do at Salamanda Tandem, audio description is so closely embedded it has become part of the art work itself and the process. It’s not just meant as a special thing for VIP’s, it is for everyone and it enables me to take a lead in the work. It shows how visually impaired people (VIP’s) can educate others and how we can make a contribution to the art itself”

The Question of Equity – Isabel Jones

My father Lewis Jones was a deafblind man and a Welshman who lived in Nottingham for most of his life. He was one of three blind brothers and the co-founder of Salamanda Tandem in 1989. Sadly he died last year. Our work together was profound, and explored the meeting between his inner world of synesthesia and my work as a choreographer, composer and director. Our work together not only influenced me and Salamanda Tandem but also the growth of somatic practice and the field of dance and disabled people internationally.

Central for my father Lewis Jones and I in founding Salamanda Tandem, and in directing ‘Eye Contact’ a company of blind, visually impaired and sighted dancers from 1992 – 2006, was to raise the question of ‘equity’. Blind and visually impaired people become accustomed to the idea of being watched by sighted people without reciprocation. Looking could even be understood as a form of touching without the socially unacceptable problems associated with physical contact. ‘Do Not Touch’. A blind person can neither, look or touch in return. Vision is above all other senses the most dominant in society, and it goes for dance too, where accessibility for VIP audiences is rare. For participation too, in an art form where high status is placed in training upon the ability to learn movement via imitation from what we ‘see’ and only a small faction use somatic methods. In such a climate, leadership for people where sight is not their dominant sense, relies on a paradigm shift from inside the artform itself.In our latest works Ad Astra made a the finale of an international symposium in Estonia 2013, and our Touchstone solo exhibition and performances 2013 and 2014, we took this a step further in devising a duet between 2 visually impaired dancers: Mickel Smithen and Indra Slavena who performed independently without sighted partners. Another innovation came through sound where one of the dancers Indra spoke directly to fellow performers guiding them live through ‘a small dance’ as she had heard Lewis do in SubVision 1994.


Now in our latest work White Cane

One of my most important childhood experiences was of observing my father’s extraordinary sensitivity to touch, in handling his white cane and in the flow of movement that followed his mind as he handled a stone or utilitarian object like a cup. It was clear to see the connection between inner mind and outward gesture and I found such beauty and integrity in it.

On the other hand, where external visual references are dominant, it is easy to become disconnected. Bombarded with visual information we can just ‘tune out’. This becomes a particular challenge for visual artists and the medium of ‘dance performance’ in particular. In trying to get an audience to ‘tune in’, the choreographer trains their dancers to dance ‘faster, higher and stronger’, leading us towards an often stilted process of rehearsing which can leave us feeling empty too. A body that doesn’t fit the mold is made redundant from such a process; certainly there is no place for a child, non-dancer, disabled, older person or office worker here. Music, sound, then audio description if it exists are put into service for the dance and rarely developed as an integral part of the work. To my mind, these are terrible losses for the field of performance, and a desire to do something about that has become a constant theme in my work over the last 25 years.


Salamanda Tandem: essentially


I’m not the first to discover that if we can focus performance away from the notion of ‘rehearsal’ and more towards ‘spontaneous’ or ‘lived experience’ and be ‘in the moment’ now, we are somewhere closer to bringing audiences and performers together in mutual appreciation. Performance becomes like ‘real life’ and ‘real life’ like performance and we get closer to the very purpose of it. Where the inner imagination meets outer experience is the holy grail of the performer, and ultimately what makes us want to witness it.

One way in which I have particularly set out to achieve this is by making site-specific events for buildings and spaces where people are unaccustomed to seeing performance. This can helpfully change expectations and bring to light the potential for new things happening moment by moment. In White Cane we take to the fascinating Victoria Gardens a big busy place in front of the library, town hall and art gallery

A theatre or concert hall with its traditional arrangement of seats and stage, require the art work, performer and audience to behave in a certain way; any change from that needs significant effort, whereas in site specific work spontaneity is in the nature of the beast, we simply have to accommodate the possibility. This could happen with light, architecture, people, sound or movement, so if the aesthetic and compositional structure is designed to accommodate that, then each and every performance is significantly different, which keeps the work fresh and energetic which is what I find fascinating.

We want to create a work at that involves our audience as part of the performance using sung/spoken audio description and movement, exploring how the ‘onlooker’ as audience or choreographer, meets the ‘looked upon’ as performer or participant. The key to generating a space where both enter the creative frame, leaders/ followers exchange roles meeting through deep sensing, and a kind of mutual gaze supported by sound.

Catch this at

Touchstone Exhibition Rufford

September 18, 2013

Salamanda Tandem UK

Touchstone Exhibition 24th September – 13th October 2013

2013-09-23 14.34.34

Salamanda Tandem Exhibition Rufford Gallery, Rufford Craft Centre, Nottinghamshire

22nd September 14.00-16.00 Private view and live performance

We would like to invite you to our opening performance and solo exhibition of Salamanda Tandem’s work, featuring photographs by company photographer and Osteopath Geoffrey Fielding, digital images by Richard Hughes, as well as new music and film from our latest work in Estonia and in the new fascinating building of Corby Cube. The exhibition explores the powerful influence of touch, sonic vision, and environs in our work and the deep collaboration between blind, visually impaired and sighted artists that lies behind Salamanda Tandem’s work and its philosophy.

2013-09-23 14.48.10
The exhibition includes work made for: Astra Building Tallinn Estonia, Corby Cube, Bretton Hall, Hadley Learning Community, The Water Tower, Shaw’s Quarry Wirksworth, Church Of The Holy Sepulcre Northampton, Lincoln Cathedral, Leicester Cathedral and Nottingham Contemporary. Some examples pictured below.

Bretton-47                                Triptych-3-2

15 stripy Julie clear                                Triptych-3

Maria in box      inky blue


Dancers Julie Hood, Karen Mok, Maria and Isabel Jones. Photo: Kate Haughton

Live Performance given 22nd September 2.30pm

Click on link below for information

%d bloggers like this: