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100s of women create artwork in Cairngorm mountains inspired by Nan Shepherd's Into the Mountain
Simone Kenyon, Into The Mountain (2019). Courtesy of the artist and Scottish Sculpture Workshop. Photo by Lucy Cash.

GLENFESHIE.- A unique new live artwork, inspired by Nan Shepherd’s masterpiece, The Living Mountain, brings together dance, song and a guided walk within Scotland’s dramatic Cairngorm mountains.

Into The Mountain, the first project of its kind, has been developed over the past six years by artist and choreographer Simone Kenyon, in collaboration with hundreds of women who live and work in the Cairngorm Mountain Range.

At the project’s heart is The Living Mountain, Nan Shepherd’s celebrated book charting her own journeys into the harsh yet beautiful Cairngorm Mountain Range. Written in the 1940s during the Second World War, the Aberdeen writer’s book remained unpublished until 1977, and has recently been championed by luminaries of nature writing, including Robert Macfarlane. Indeed, her most famous quote ‘It’s a grand thing to get leave to live’, appears on the Scottish 5 note – and another line ‘I have walked out of my body and into the mountain’ is evocative of the guiding principles in this project.

Each Into The Mountain performance is open to just 30 audience members, whom will be led in small walking groups (offering a short, mid and long-range route) through Glenfeshie (an area vividly described by Shepherd in The Living Mountain). The groups will converge within the landscape at which point they will witness a choreographed performance by five dancers (Jo Hellier, Claricia Parinussa, Caroline Reagh, Keren Smail and Petra Sr) moving in collaboration with the mountain ecology. Their performance will be accompanied by a vocal score composed by artist Hanna Tuulikki, which will be performed by the Into The Mountain choir, made up of women local to the Cairngorms and led by vocalist Lucy Duncombe.

“Typically mountaineering is an adrenaline-fuelled activity that seeks to conquer heights and overcome the challenges of difficult terrain,” says Simone Kenyon. “Nan’s writing proposes an entirely different approach, attempting to collaborate with the changing conditions of the variable mountain landscape and offering ecstatic revelations about how being with the mountain alters her state of being. Within her writing, she took a more-than-human perspective and let the mountains teach her through close observation and listening. In her observations, Nan allows us to see the daily nature of the extraordinary, all things upon which this project draws upon.”

As she meticulously developed the concept for Into The Mountain, Kenyon held numerous talks and workshops and collaborated closely with the many women who have personal relationships with the Cairngorms, to explore how they navigate, encounter, embody and exist within this unique landscape. From exploring the landscape with local Eco-psychologist, Margaret Kerr, site visits with Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Adviser with Mountaineering Scotland and embodied, attentive walks with Jean Langhorne; to leading movement workshops in Glenfeshie for dance practitioners (in partnership with Dance North), Simone’s collaborative approach uniquely brings together voices and experiences from varied disciplines and backgrounds. Through this project, Kenyon with collaborator Jo Hellier has also led 8 sensory workshops with schools local to the Cairngorms which will form an Education Pack to be distributed by the Cairngorms National Park Authority, geared at helping young people engage with their surrounding environments.

Sam Trotman, Director of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop, says “’Into the Mountain’ is an innovative project that is prescient in its approach, In collaboration with women who live in the Cairngorms, Kenyon has spent years learning with and coming to know these mountain environments. Her embodied methods place the natural ecology as a central collaborator, in turn supporting a shift in how we can encounter the mountains.”

Into The Mountain is commissioned by Scottish Sculpture Workshop and co-commissioned by Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA), City Moves Dance Agency, Dance North Scotland and Tramway. The project is also supported by Mountaineering Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council and Creative Scotland. Into The Mountain takes place in Glenfeshie, with thanks to Wildlands Ltd.

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