Opening to Collaboration

Opening to Collaboration The Snakes & Ladders of Learning New Leaf, Old Leaf The Nest Le Salon

New Leaf, Old Leaf

When artists bring their skills, past experience and understandings to new environments, previous attitudes and approaches may no longer be so relevant. New attitudes and approaches can grow as we re-evaluate our practice in the context of mental health and wellbeing.

The visual text featured on this page is by Katrina Rank, a dance artist and choreographer, was written in response to an exercise in which artists were asked to reflect on beliefs or attitudes that might no longer be useful in this new practice context.

Activity devised by Rosalie Hastwell for the Artist Training Program.


New Leaf, Old Leaf is a simple group activity that draws on a well-known metaphor for change. When artists enter into new forms of collaborative and interdisciplinary practice they can find themselves shedding old ways of viewing their practice and of their identity as artists. Exciting new forms of practice and new ways of seeing themselves as artists begin to emerge.

Questions for Reflection

Old Leaf
Are there any aspects of your practice and your identity that seem to be becoming less relevant?

New Leaf
Are there any fresh or newly emerging aspects of your practice or your view of yourself as an artist?

Artists’ Responses

Here is a selection of responses by artists in the Artists Training Program to these questions:

Before starting to work with community I was identifying only as a dancer and then as a choreographer. Through community work there is a change happening slowly and I am becoming an artist in all sorts of ways.

I’ve had to let go of my fear of school and teachers; I’ve been doing that through building my confidence in new ways of working collaboratively.

I’m trying to leave anger behind when confronted with 15-yr-olds’ anger in schools, and smile and laugh instead of getting angry back. It’s reaffirming when I listen to their creativity.

It’s important to me that I let go of not valuing myself as a professional artist and embrace my value as an artist.

For me it’s been about leaving my job as a teacher and reclaiming my original motive, as a creative artist again – not being subsumed by the system.

I’m letting go of being so committed to perfecting my practical skills as an artist and in future looking at the deeper, philosophical aspects of art.

I’ve always seen meetings in schools as banal and a deadener of creativity. My new leaf is to see if I can instead approach meetings with the potential to be creative and playful.

I’m understanding that hope is not enough, it needs to be sustained by structure. I’m searching for a holistic approach that does not focus just on meetings and structures, but creative things that make those structures work.

Letting go of having to be centre stage. In the future I will be happy to be part of a group and genuinely work with other people.

Dance artist and choreographer Katrina Rank created the lovely illustrated response to this exercise, reproduced below.

Leaf Writing

Katrina’s poem reads:

Step L, R, roll, dive

Bodies in space

Shaping space

Shaping each other.

Broad brushstrokes.

Scores that open endlessly to possibilities and


of imagination.

I am my body, my movement.

Don’t ask me to step Left

step Right

Ask me to soar, glide, rage, shimmer, stumble, collapse, grate, swing. And then see what happens. I will happen. Trust me. Trust yourself. Play. Don’t worry if it’s not kosher, recognisable as dance, theatre, movement. It will be true, honest, Art. You will find your way home to joy.