Coping with Change | Amy

Amy reflects on this year full of change, with personal anecdotes from what has been a very strange and unpredictable year...

ID: A black and white photo of Hannah Sampson and Amy Butler, the both look to their left, Amy has a big grin.

Do not let the title of this blog put you off, I know it sounds like a self-help ad, but it is actually just some personal anecdotes from the last year. Ones that I hope will bring you cheer and make you ponder changes that have happened in your own life and maybe encourage you to view these with some semblance of humour.

Yes, 2020 has been fairly bleak and yes, the world is going to end (at some point for sure) and yes, we are still leaving the EU but... maybe if we try hard enough, we can find some positives out of the bizarre morbidity that was 2020. I am certainly going to try.

Here are three experiences that initially felt awful but ended up being quite joyful and on reflection make me laugh and be thankful in equal measure.

My first story starts in a pokey, hot, top floor flat in London at the peak of lock down. Me and my partner Tom had no outdoor space to use and I was doing all my dance teaching and choreography in one space whilst he was also trying to compose music in this space. We ended up nicknaming our spare room (which is basically a cupboard) ‘the cave’ which is where Tom spent most of his time. To add to this the whole building was surrounded by scaffolding so due to this giving easy access from the outside, we were encouraged to keep all windows and doors locked. Welcome to a prison (formerly Amy and Tom’s home).

But....the scaffolding ended up being our saviour, it provided access to the roof!!!!! Now, this may not have been within the rules of our rental contract and would most definitely be frowned upon by health and safety experts… but once we discovered the benefits of the scaffolding, we spent many an afternoon eating, drinking and doing yoga up on the roof. One of my favourite moments was celebrating my birthday with my brother and Tom (no-one else was allowed) with many beers and impromptu dancing. (WARNING- climbing up and down scaffolding whilst under the influence is not recommended!)

ID: A black and white photo of Amy laying one the floor, eyes closed.

Now I reflect on my period of morning sickness. Again, I am contained in the small living space discussed above whilst taking and delivering many many dance and yoga classes. In the following experience there was very little pleasure at the time (I would go so far as to say none at all) but when I picture the situation now it makes me laugh out loud. For those that have had morning sickness you will know that it can be quite debilitating. Well, I was of the thinking that it is a natural phenomena and therefore I should just suck it up and carry on. This I managed to do, to a point…

It was on one particular icky morning that I had a moment of giving up and thank God I was in my own home with a couch perfectly situated out of view of the camera. I was participating in a delightful class facilitated by Thomas Goodwin when my nausea hit a new level. I will not go into detail but there were waves, and no amount of swallowing was going to help. Zoom then revealed to me its full potential. I didn’t even have time to switch my video off (but luckily, I was muted) and I simply flopped on the couch out of shot and proceeded to make very primal groaning sounds, unbeknownst to anyone else. There was also some swearing and writhing involved. Call my sense of humour dark but when I conjure this image now it does make me smile; in the foreground a screen containing lots of happy dancing bodies and in the background a possessed woman looking to be in much distress! Hilarious!

My final story still makes me feel incredibly sad but at the same time hugely thankful and I could not reflect on 2020 without mentioning him. He was an incredible presence in my life, and I will continue to mourn his passing long into the years to come. As you all know we lost Dave this year and I could go on about him for pages, but this is not the story. The story starts in Paris just before the second wave of Covid hit in October. I was there as part of a team putting on a two-week run of Akram Khan’s Chotto Xenos at the Theatre de la Ville. It was quite a stressful time I am not going to lie. I was six months pregnant; Paris was slowly going back into lock down, we had a Covid scare in the company, there were protests and a terrorist attack. Not the delights that Paris usually has to offer.

And then, one evening before the show I get a call from Lucy telling me of Dave’s passing. I’m broken. Of course, I can’t help but cry, but I do this briefly as I have to get the show on, and this is what I do.

I compartmentalise my mind and do the job. Sitting next to me as I watch the show is a dear friend who makes up part of the touring team. I feel him comforting me even though there is no contact. He is telling me it is ok, ok to let myself feel what I need to feel. At the end of the show there is a beautiful and moving sequence: the fallen soldier takes his last movements to the exquisite ‘Requiem’ by Mozart and then the hand of God enters, the spirit rises, and you see the soldier walk off and fade away. At the same time, I feel my baby kicking inside me and it is now that the tears come. And I let them.

 It was so very poignant, and it felt like the perfect place to express this raw emotion for my dear, dear friend. Even in death he manages to hog the limelight!! I feel truly grateful to have had Dave in my life and to have been able to put on a beautiful show in the face of much adversity.

ID: A photo of Amy and Dave sat side by side, Amy is laughing and Dave pulls a face.

I reckon if you think hard enough you will find some positives out of the last year, but having said this ‘roll on 2021’!

- Amy


As we continue to process the passing of Dave Toole, we are helping his family to collect donations in his name. This fund will grant a bursary to support future generations of disabled dance and theatre artists. Please head to bit.ly/DaveTooleDonate if you would like to contribute.
All funds collected will be donated to Unlimited, who has kindly agreed to distribute to beneficiaries according to how much we raise. How many artists gets supported depends on how much we raise, so please do share this to anyone who might like to help. Thank you for your support and your generosity.

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