Scension Dance Day Exeter Cathedral

Scension Dance Day at Exeter Cathedral


Photo: Chris Nash

Scension willow inner form.jpg

Scension (ending=beginning)

Ambiguity is part of the natural state of things. An ending can also be a beginning. When something dies, it creates space for others to grow. When the great oak tree falls, it spawns space and light for a thousand seedlings.

I am curious about the natural process of renewal. Exeter Cathedral provides a wonderful space to explore this. At ground level, we see tombs and effigies, stone-cold memories of lives from previous centuries. Gazing upwards, the soaring arches point to the heavens and hint at a connection between the known physical world and the more ethereal spirit world. Scension experiments with forms floating, falling and rising. Ascension. Descension. Scension.

The Scension installation draws on Cathedral imagery as well as my work exploring the figure in space, to show something of the life-death-life cycle.  Seeming to float in the arches, we see willowy shrouded figures. Are these effigies rising? Angels falling? Freed shrouds blowing in the wind? On the ground, we see a 5-metre organic willow structure. Is this a meteorite whooshing down to earth? An organic coffin encasing something that used to be? A flame erasing what was before? A larva hatching and reaching for the light?  What do you see?

I am intrigued as to how sculptural themes can move across different media, giving people a chance to access them through eyes, ears, touch, movement, conversation, etc. As part of this experiment, I’m excited to be partnering with an emerging composer and vibrant dance company in an outreach programme.

Asteria #1 #2 #3, goddess of falling stars

Scension – a poem

Dis - integration
Life springs from loss 
Ascension balances descension
Echoing the rhythms of breath
Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale
Collectively gasping a wind
Gaia breathes in and discharges
Expanding and contracting
Exploring and retreating
Like tides on the shore
And waves within tides
Sometimes, amidst the roar, it can be hard to hear 
Hard to hear self
I get lost, lose direction
I stumble
Feel alone
But look around
Look up
Explore a new perspective from below
When the oak tree falls, it spawns space and light for new growth
Death and decay: the seedbed for life
A shoots emerges
A new beginning
Reaching for the light
Self-doubt gnaws away 
But is overwhelmed by the sun's warmth 
I take power from the sun
I will rise again
And again 
And tomorrow again


Scension Dance Day in Exeter Cathedral - Saturday 17 July 2021


On Scension Dance Day, Sat 17th July 2021, we'll see a diverse range of dancers (young, elderly, classical, contemporary) each perform for 4-9 minutes inside Exeter Cathedral.  The ‘stage’ will be the stone floor inside the West door, 8 metres x 7.5 metres, with a thin rubber/vinyl covering. 


I’ve commissioned Fionn Connolly to compose a dramatic dance track, echoing the theme of rising and falling – click the link below to hear a taster.  Each dance group will be able to perform their Scension response twice.  Additionally, they will have the option to perform a separate piece of their own (5 mins max). Performances might be filmed and edited for sharing online.


Who is the team behind this?

Sculptor Martin Staniforth, choreographer Daisy Harrison and composer Fionn Connolly.

N.B. On Scension Dance Day, dancers will have free entry to the Cathedral, however all other visitors will need to pay the standard admission charge of £5. You can book timed tickets from the Cathedral's website here.  Audience numbers will need be limited.

Scension dance clipFONN
00:00 / 01:12

Scension is an integrated creative project that explores building hope and resilience. It is inspired by the thought that what is now will come to pass… and that an ending can be a new beginning.  



Scension sculptures, named after asteroids


Diameter:  about 44 km

Description:  a Main Belt asteroid. The Maria family (also known as Roma) is a collisional asteroid family (formed from one impact) and consists of thousands of stony (silicate) asteroids.

Discoverer:  French astronomer Henri Joseph Perrotin on January 10, 1877.  Its orbit was computed by Antonio Abetti, and the asteroid was named after his sister.

Scension 101955_Benuu


Diameter: 490 metres

Description: a primitive rubble-pile asteroid, formed in the first 10 million years of our solar system’s history over 4.5 billion years ago. Up to 40% is empty space. It is a rare active asteroid, sending out streams of particles. Its high carbon content creates a surface that reflects only 4% of the light that hits it. The Earth reflects about 30%. Potentially hazardous, between the years 2175 and 2199, the chance that it will impact Earth is 1-in-2,700.

Discoverer: NASA-funded Lincoln Near-Earth Asteroid Research team on 11 Sep 1999. It was named by Michael Puzio who suggested that parts of the spacecraft, on NASA’s mission to the asteroid, resembled the neck and wings of Bennu, the ancient Egyptian deity linked with the Sun, creation and rebirth.



Diameter:  almost 60 km

Description:  a large Themistian asteroid, found in the outer portion of the asteroid belt, orbiting the Sun mostly between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. The Themis family was formed by the break-up of a larger parent body about a billion years ago.  It is probably formed from primitive carbonaceous material.

Discoverer:  Johann Palisa, in Vienna, on 9 February 1882 and named after the daughter of Austro-Hungarian explorer Graf Wilczek.


Diameter:  about 17 km

Description:  a background asteroid from the central region of the asteroid belt.  It orbits the Sun every 4 years and 8 months (1,697 days).

Discoverer:  American astronomer Norman Thomas, on 15 February 1983, at Lowell's Anderson Mesa Station, near Flagstaff, Arizona, USA. It was named after his grandson.

Scension is related to the multi-platform Resurgo creative project