A unique new live artwork, inspired by Nan Shepherd’s masterpiece, The Living Mountain, opens today in the Cairngorms, bringing together dance, song and a guided walk within Scotland’s dramatic 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 landscape. Written in the 1940s during the Second World War, the Aberdeen writer’s book remained unpublished until 1977 and has recently been championed by luminaries of nature writing, including Robert Macfarlane.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.
The project also celebrates the Scottish Sculpture Workshops' 40th anniversary.
Each Into The Mountain performance is open to just 30 audience members, who will be led in small walking groups 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 Söör) 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."