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Dawn Summerlin

Material Agency

Website / Social media: www.instagram.com/perceptivebeautyuk


The costume is the ‘text’; the choreographic dialogue to this dance performance.


Dawn Summerlin has a background in artistic direction and production design at Yorkshire and Granada TV. She has worked on several period and contemporary dramas and short films over a period of fifteen years. Alongside freelance design work, Dawn is also a qualified teacher and associate tutor covering a range of design subjects. Currently, Dawn is working at Edge Hill University in Lancashire, wherein she supports the performing arts department students with their theatre and visual design concepts, in set design, props, costume, and character make-up. Her teaching and research-based practices at the university are in scenographic costume, character and SFX make-up, and anatomical studies. As a previously trained ceramicist she has revisited the material porcelain, and created as part of her MA research, wearable male and female costumes for a choreographed live and recorded dance performance Perceptive Fragility, 2015. Within her field of costume research, the perception of such costumes has revealed not only a clear shift of control but an intriguing kinesthetic relationship between the porcelain material, and the dancing bodies sensorial responses.

TITLE: Perceptive fragility

Perceptive fragility seeks to investigate the performance potency, using only the natural rhythmic soundscapes produced by the moving porcelain on the dancer’s bodies. During the development of the original piece Perceptive fragility, 2015, the dancers demonstrated an intense choreographic dialogue in response to the physical and emotional demands of the costume. We created a filmed sequence, followed by a live 45-minute choreographed dance piece, responding to a number of soft and provocative music tracks.
The very first encounter of costuming the dancers in the porcelain costumes was most significant, apart from the shocking cold and restricted confinement it implored, it was the sounds of the costume, which were  dramatic and intimidating. This range of sounds I would like to record, overlay, repeat, to create the music by which Perceptive Fragility II and the range of dance movements will be governed.
As noted previously, the significance to which the noises controlled the movement, feeling ‘possessed’ by the porcelain, the dancers were never fully comfortable with what each sound represented, was that a more familiar scraping noise or a detrimental cracking – breaking noise?

Through observing these sounds a new demeanor evolved. The critical praxis between the fragility of the material combined with moving closely on the dancer’s skin, heightened the element of impending danger. In addition, it evolved into a courtship, a softer reverie woven out of intimate actions and a form of expression that was genteel and kinaesthetically driven. These sounds were challenging the dancer’s ability to learn and retain the information, by its psychophysical interruptions. A significant insight at this point was the continuous conversation they were having with the material, aside from the usual discipline of having to listen to their bodies, they had this additional attention demand to retain, listening and having to be aware of what it was trying to say. It was inspirational to witness this unexpected revelation of the costume, their individual creativity and self-expression being stifled, whilst adopting a new pleasure in the power of its language.


Dawn Summerlin, Fragments of Form, documentation of a performance, 2015
Performer: Michelle Man, Nathan Clark
Foto: Dawn Summerlin

Dawn Summerlin, Fragments of Form, documentation of a performance, 2015
Choreography / Performance: Michelle Man
Foto: Helen Newall

Dawn Summerlin, Perceptive fragility, 2015, film recording, approx. 7:00
Cinematographer: Dawn Summerlin
Lighting Designer: Murray Smoker
Sound Designer: Dave Forrest
Music: Ascension by Wojciech Kilar
Performers: Michelle Man, Nathan Clark