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Probe in rehearsal for Running On Empty. Image © Zoe Manders

Blog

Claire Cunningham in Brighton Festival

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 10:01

Written by Claire Cunningham

Give Me a Reason to Live Claire Cunningham

The inspiration for Give Me a Reason to Live came from a collection of Bosch drawings of beggars in which all beggars were 'cripples'. It was speculated that they might have been symbols of greed for Bosch. This idea, of the disabled being seen as greedy seemed frighteningly current to what I am witnessing now in the UK -the increase of hate crime against disabled people, the drift of the media into labelling disabled people as scroungers and the shocking tactics of the governments supposed 'welfare reform' that is judging and destroying the lives of many disabled individuals.

The idea of disabled people as symbols of 'greed' therefore became of interest to me, and reminded me of the shift in society in Germany in late 30's when the Aktion T4 programme was created, labelling disabled people as 'useless eaters'...a waste of food. It seems whenever the economy is seen to be in crisis, or we are told it is, then the notion to 'kill the weak' surfaces.

For more information about Claire in Brighton Festival: http://theoldmarket.com/shows/give-reason-live/ 

Image from Give Me a Reason to Live © Ben Nienhuis.

 

The Dance Manifesto

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 09:54

Written by Erin Brown-John

The Dance Manifesto 2015

On Monday 23 February Dance UK presented the 2015 Dance Manifesto to Parliament with a fun, social dance class led by Strictly Come Dancing stars Jenny Thomas and Robin Windsor and attended by guests including the Minister for Culture, the Hon Ed Vaizey MP.

The Dance Manifesto was written to help you explain why dance is important to politicians who don't know anything about dance. Please take a moment to download the Dance Manifesto and send it to your local MP candidates to let them know that dance is important to you!

Watch for Dance UK's updated 5-year strategy for dance this coming July!

https://www.danceuk.org/campaigning/past-campaigns/dance-manifesto/

Image © Elliott Franks.

 

Q&A with Dan Daw

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 09:51

Dan Daw

Name: Dan Daw

Job Title: Self-producing Independent Dance Artist & emerging Artistic Director

Relationship to South East Dance (SED): SED/BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellow

If you were Prime Minister, what is the first thing you would change?

It's make or break in the lead up to the next election. The first thing I would do is have all residents of the UK pool their funds (corporations will not be exempt). These funds from the public would be distributed so that every person receives £1M and the remaining goes to paying off the nation's debt. What people then do with their "Once More With Feeling" fund is up to them.

What did you want to be when you were growing up?

I really wanted to be a doctor.

What is your earliest memory of dance?

Sitting watching my mother rehearse her routines under the choreographic eye of my grandmother at the Whyalla Calisthenics Club.

What does dance mean to you now?

Dance is a series of attempts.

What do you wish you had more time to do?

Spend time with those I love most.

What trait do you most admire in others?

People who keep their cool.

What has been your greatest achievement?

Moving to the UK.

What is your biggest fear?

Sitting up in the gods at the ROH – the vertigo is out of this world.

What would your super power be?

Teleporting.

What is your favourite word?

Twelve – it sounds like a verb.

If you were a historic political leader, who would you be and why?

One of the bad ones, I guess. There's no point wishing I was say Nelson Mandela who did a better job than I ever could. It would be about going back and undoing the political mistakes in history.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?

To be kind.

Where would you most like to be right now?

I'm pretty happy with where I am.

What is the best thing about an election?

The people standing united.

What is the worst thing about an election?

Politicians.

Image © Graham Adey.

 

Dancing Through Difficult Times: What our leaders can learn from the studio and how somatic awareness might develop the dance sector

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 09:48

Dance Rites

Written by Tessa Howell

These are changing and challenging times within the dance sector. Increasing uncertainty is upon us and artists and organisations are under substantial pressure to deliver and disseminate their work widely. We need to be bold and brilliant yet remain resilient in these times of risk; to both break creative boundaries and simultaneously secure financial backing that can create self-sustaining structures. It's no small ask. How can we best equip the dance sector's leaders to take on these challenges?

We tend to see dance and leadership within the sector as diversely differing disciplines. Dance is generally seen as relevant within the studio and as being the body based area; leadership generally being located at a desk, leaning towards being led exclusively by the mind.

What happens if we bring the wisdom that we learn in the dance studio back into the skill-set of the sector's leaders?

Dance Rites

There are great parallels that leadership can learn from the principles that are so pertinent on the dance floor:

Both require a willingness to be moved in new ways. For sure there's an art to following those pre-determined steps- to learning someone else's repertoire; yet where the work get juiciest is where artists engage deeply in those issues that matter most to them, creating work that is personally pertinent, following those internal threads of inspiration related to an inner imperative to express. It's often the same with the up and coming arts organisations that succeed in these times of relative financial scarcity – they are unfailing led by someone who has a deep passion for action in a particular area. An internal drive to create movement in the world seems to be the part that matters most.

Both areas need to acknowledge the importance of developing a solid core. Yes that daily technique class really is fundamental to the way that we move as dancers. And yes, that regular team check-in in relation to our project aims, business planning and projected figures is fundamental to our long term ability to develop work in the world. We need to trust that our organisations are fit for purpose. This will take up some substantial time everyday, so let's not get frustrated by seeing this as something other than an important part of the process that permits us the space to create. The discipline of form is so necessary for developing any kind of creative freedom.

Both areas require an awareness of the physical space around them to inform the work. We create work in a cultural context; we need to cultivate the ability to creatively engage with what is already out there in order to make something new, and to learn wisdom from what has been done before and use it to create something of value for the dance sector.

In both areas risk really is important- that creative hunch as to how a particular sequence of events might come together- what needs to be shaved away, which areas might need to develop better bridging. Our bodies can act as a kind of reference book within decision making in relation to risk- really listening to that gut sense alongside all of the relevant fact and figures.

Both areas require a willingness to trust in partners, to be willing to lean in and see what new actions can be co-created from working together. This ability to cooperate with others, dancers or organisations, requires awareness of our own actions; that we can have an impact, that the direction we are moving in when we meet matters. Leaders need to keep present to the knowledge of their inner physical state. To be based within the body as well as the brain. To know their strengths and their weaknesses and how it will impact those around them.

Somatics and embodied awareness are fast growing fields in the areas of leadership development. Even organisations such as the US army are looking to develop body based stress reduction techniques, such as centering into the core of the body in the face of adversity. Developing an awareness of the impact of our personal response patterns under pressure is a key area of awareness for leaders in these times of change.

The concept of embodied leadership development is derived from somatic coaching- an approach that brings the body forward as an ally in professional development. It is based on the premise that the mind and body are inextricably linked: to develop one, you must cultivate the other- and therefore learning through movement is a powerful way to bring about change. A great deal of the effect we have on others is carried by our physical presence. The way we move though life is literally the way we that we have an impact, so leaders can use this body based awareness to cultivate aspects of their career development.

We can learn to develop our embodied leadership- to literally look at how we move through space and how we might cultivate those physical qualities that take us towards performing at our best. Leaders can practice movement patterns that will permeate and impact their professional lives- perhaps by cultivating more directness; by developing a lighter touch; or by learning to have a broader field of awareness as they move towards the different options in front of them.

Perhaps we could phrase it as looking less at the specific responsibilities and more about cultivating our own respond-ability as a skill set that will serve us in the face of the sectors changing challenges.

Dance Rites

Let the dance sector's leaders keep referring back to those studio basics: to developing a strong core that sustains, so that those creative impulses can arise; to making each movement meaningful, purpose-filled and passionate; to having solid self-awareness and to using somatic principles for professional development. May we move through these shared cultural spaces aware of our impact on those around us- interacting, inter-relating yet ultimately independent in our individual ambitions.

The difference between the technically excellent dancers and those ones who most shine through on stage, seems to be the ones that really bring something of themselves through- they pour their passion, heart and soul into performing. We need our leaders to do the same- to be embodied in their awareness, as well as intellectually effective. If our leaders keep learning from, and listening into their somatic skill-set it will serve us all well.

Ultimately, hopefully our leaders are moving towards creating work and organisations that inspire and enliven- that leave those who interact with their work and within their structures changed for the better in some way. Not just entertained but engaged; ideally moved, motivated and mobilised towards some kind of shared vision.

Images from Rites of Passage 2014-15 © Natasha Bidgood.

 

Snap Shot – chosen by Hagit Yakira

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 09:46

Snap Shot Air Hunger

Let me start with an anecdote:

It's November, it's morning, I am in the tube. The carriage is almost empty but a woman is sitting in front of me. I don't pay much attention to her, as I am reading a book, but at some point I realize that something is going on. I look, in hesitation, as I don't want her to see me looking. And I see her breathing heavily. At first I think she is crying, but she isn't, she is having difficulties breathing. She is closing her eyes, holding her hands together, and breathing fast and heavy. I am alert! And now I am watching!

I see her open her eyes, move in her chair, put her bag on the floor, then pick it up again and put in on her knees, she then opens it and take a bottle of water, but changes her mind and puts the bottle back in the bag and closes her eyes again. She tries to breath. She opens her eyes and I can see she is panicking – I am panicking too. I can't stop watching, and I am thinking whether I need to offer help. I decide to wait.

She takes her scarf off, then her coat, and all that time she breathes heavily and quickly – so quickly. She closes her eyes again and tries to control her breath. She bites her lips, she tightens her hands on her knees, she sticks the two feet on the floor and rocks her head back and forth back and forth. She does it for what seems like a very long time. I realize I hardly breathe myself.

All of sudden, surprisingly and for no reason, she calms down, she breathes normally, she open her eyes, she looks relived, she starts crying. I am crying too.

I realize I witnessed a woman having a panic attack, or what some people call, anxiety attack, or as they call it lately – an episode of air hunger.

The duet Air Hunger came from a need to explore the experience of having difficulties with breathing and of the intensity of needing air. For many months I researched and collected personal stories and images; I asked people to share what the notion of having no air, of breathing, and of air hunger means to them. I wanted to hear what people have to say about it, the visual memories of their experience.

I got some amazing stories, very moving and very personal ones. Stories of experiencing drowning, of holding the breath while bungee-jumping, the first breath of a baby just born, the last breath of an old man and many about the sense of air in between two people; air and intimacy became one.

I chose to make a duet with the beautiful performers Sophie Arstall and Kiraly Saint Claire, and with the wonderful musician Domenico Angarano, and for a few weeks during the summer and autumn of 2014 we created the duet. The process, just like the piece, was intense, emotional and exposing. I asked Sophie and Kiraly to explore many moments of vulnerability and intimacy. For many hours a day they improvised different ways of contact, of breathing together, of holding each other's breath, of fighting, surrendering, feeling exhausted, and mostly getting out of breath.

I have chosen this image for the blog because it captures a real emotional moment, and I find it intense in a beautiful way (I actually often see intensity as beautiful). Takako Hasegawa took the powerful image in one of our rehearsals; Takako has an amazing ability to document emotions, sensation and experiences.

____________

Air Hunger was commissioned by Respond (2014) a collaboration between Yorkshire Dance, the University of Leeds, Breakfast Creatives and Liz Lerman. Together they developed a new digital adaptation of Liz Lerman's renowned Critical Response Process. Six digital pitches were posted online at www.respondto.org and the public were invited to vote for two that they would like to see commissioned. Over 800 people from around the world voted, and selected Robbie Synge's Douglas and Hagit Yakira's Air Hunger.

We will be starting (or starting again) to perform the piece in 2016. It will be a part of double bill evening, alongside a new piece we will be researching in the summer.

We are having an intimate and informal sharing of Air Hunger on the 5th June for a limited number of invites only. However, watch this space for upcoming shows very soon.

In the meantime you can see us in our autumn term, performing: ...in the middle with you around the UK: Leeds, Bath, London, Exeter, Walsall, and more.

For more information please visit our website:

www.hagityakira.com 

Image from Air Hunger by Hagit Yakira © Takako Hasegawa.

 

A Call to Arms for Creativity

Wednesday, 06 May 2015 09:42

Creative Industries

Written by Sara John, Head of Policy, Creative Industries Federation

The Creative Industries Federation, launched in November 2014, is the national membership organisation for all the UK's arts, creative industries and cultural education. We have over 200 founder supporters, including Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company and Sadler's Wells.

Worth £76.9bn a year, the creative industries are amongst the UK's largest and fastest growing sectors. The Federation acts as a powerful single voice for members from across all the arts and creative organisations, from visual and performing arts to architecture and design, publishing and film, music and fashion, broadcasting and digital media, advertising, crafts, computer games and more. We bring together private sector and publicly funded cultural organisations, individual artists, companies large and small, think tanks, trade associations and education bodies from all around the country. Each of our members has different experiences and goals; but each shares a crucial common cause in championing great art and promoting creative success in this country and around the world.

Together we form a cultural and creative ecosystem.

It is time for the UK's creative community to take control of our own destiny and work more closely together. This is why we were formed, and why we already have over 500 members. Led by chairman Sir John Sorrell and chief executive John Kampfner, with a board and advisory council drawn from a wide cross-section of creative interests, the Federation is becoming the organisation around which the creative world is coalescing. With our series of roadshows around the country, the political events we have hosted and the further events and initiatives we have planned to benefit members, we represent the whole picture.

Being independent of government gives us the freedom to be critical where necessary and to hold policy makers to account, but we receive no public money, so whether we succeed or fail depends on getting people involved and signed up as members.

We have a very ambitious goal to place arts, cultural education and creative industries right at the heart of the policy agenda, and to make sure that we pack more of a punch. For those of us who are lucky enough to live a rich cultural life, we understand that art, dance, drama, music and other forms of creativity are incredibly valuable, but too many people in policy circles see the arts as good to have but not essential.

The UK debate around cultural education is a case in point. If educational and research priorities are focused too narrowly on STEM - science, technology, engineering and maths - without the "A" for arts, we will be poorer as a society, as emotional, imaginative, creative beings, but also, importantly, in economic terms.

STEAM - including the arts and art integration - should be fundamental to our effort to reinvent our schools, our communities and our nation. We have been relatively slow as a country to recognise this. Several years ago US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, "The arts can no longer be treated as a frill ... Arts education is essential to stimulating the creativity and innovation that will prove critical for young Americans competing in a global economy." He is right. Innovation is not only about science and technology. Art not only enriches the senses...it drives the economy too, and we should not be shy of talking about this.

On 13th May we will be launching our Creative Education Agenda, hosted and supported by the Institution of Civil Engineers. The "E" in STEM needs the "A" in arts, it seems, as much as we do. The event will highlight the need for creative arts and science together, showcasing the contribution of crafts to robotics and music to bioinformatics. Now is not the time to cut arts investment!

And investing in the arts is good business too. The 2015 Warwick Commission Report "Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth" highlighted the fact that the proportion of public spending on the arts, culture and heritage is only around 0.3% of total public spend. The 2013 Centre for Economy and Business Research (Cebr) Report "The contribution of the arts and culture to the national economy" noted that every £1 of public money invested in the arts has an income multiplier of more than £3, so this relatively modest public investment in the arts is money very well spent and can be a catalyst for economic regeneration.

Creative Industries

The Federation will always make the case for strong public funding alongside entrepreneurialism and investment. Public funding is a key part of the mix. But we are also trying to do the best we can in times of austerity to look at alternative funding and finance as well, and later in the year will produce a guide for members about how to access all sources of available investment, both public and private.

There are many other points on our agenda, from working to improve funding and programmes for skills and training to addressing the problems of the high costs for artists of finding space to work. There is so much to do, and we need your help.

Tell us your stories. We want to hear about your triumphs, your challenges, your ups and downs. We want to hear how you combine talent, imagination, technical expertise, modest amounts of investment, and hard graft for long hours to create magical forms of artistic expression. And we will tell these inspirational stories to government and the wider world, weaving them into a tapestry too powerful for even the most dogged philistine to ignore!

There are many ways to get involved. Become a member. Be part of the action.

Images © Ian Watts.

 

The Dance Space vision by Charlotte Vincent

Monday, 27 April 2015 11:23

Good Evening

I am Charlotte Vincent, Artistic Director of Vincent Dance Theatre, a middle scale ensemble that makes and tours collaboratively made performance work, with movement, scenography and live music at its core. VDT aim to make work that moves people and makes them think. This year we celebrate 21 Years of making and touring original work.

Charlotte Vincent

That’s 21 years of researching and developing and creating and conceptualising and producing and directing and employing and contracting and collaborating and writing and choreographing and distilling and dancing and designing and editing and composing and traveling and exchanging and exporting and distributing and flying and talking and talking and talking and sharing and post show discussing and recovering and reading and reviewing and engaging and teaching and facilitating and leading and encouraging and participating and mentoring and organising and marketing and filming and digitising and documenting and fundraising and evaluating and curating and –

trying
and flying
and falling
and failing
and getting back up
and getting back in the van
and getting a grip of what’s new and what’s needed and what’s not

And in all this moving about in the studio
All this moving across the globe and across this country
A need emerges for an anchor, a home, a local place, a place to return to.

A place of stillness and reflection
A place where risk is encouraged and failure understood
A place for activity and activism
A place for determination and ambition and vision
A place where forms are challenged and needs are met
A place of doing and dreaming and witnessing and building and sharing And sometimes not sharing at all.
A place for inclusion and integration and interrogation and for mixing it all up

A private space
A public space
An accessible space
A meeting place
A place of connection and collaboration
A place of development and research

A place for learning through doing and playing and being rigorous and being stupid and searching for that thing, that seed, that moment in a process where you just know you are onto something. A place to keep going.

Yes - a place to move and be moved.

A place for the young and the old and black and white and those with special needs and disabilities, for school leavers and college graduates and post graduates and for those who have come to the UK to find some kind of peace or feel part of something unique or colourful.

For those who have been in trouble who want to make changes and those who don’t have much but want to share what they do have.

A place for people who want to join in.

A meeting place
An open space
A place of connection
A place for trying things out
And poking things about
For getting fit and
For having a laugh
A place for passing knowledge on

A place for our community
A place for the community
A place that keeps artists here
And a place to emerge from
A place that values the least expected outcomes
A work place
Here by the sea.

A place that looks in and looks out
Beyond the borders of this town
Or this region
Or this country

A serious home for dance
That place we’ve just been.
That space could work well for all of us
Here by the sea.

Charlotte Vincent

Images by Zoe Manders

 

Pact with Pointlessness - Written by Katie Dale-Everett

Friday, 24 April 2015 08:49

‘Pact with Pointlessness’ by Wendy Houstoun
Brighton Dome Studio Theatre
Tuesday 14th April 2015, 8pm.

What do you expect when you are told that you are going to see a work called ‘Pact with Pointlessness’? A random assortment of comical nonsense? Clowning on stage? A work which will be enjoyable in the moment but forgotten later? Insert movement artist Wendy Houston into the mix and you receive an intelligently thought through and powerful work throughout which you will be laughing out loud in one moment and then reflecting upon your own life in the next. 

pwp1

Starting with the drawn out choreographed movement of over the top coloured lights, projection of the words ‘Pact with Pointlessness’ and funfair music, the audience is immediately hit with a sense of futility. Entering the stage wearing black tracksuits and a t-shirt, Houstoun continues this theme by running around a microphone stand multiple times and it is refreshing to see an older, female dancer holding the stage alone. Taking her audience on a journey of reflection, we witness not only dance but poetry, film projection, quotes and comedy, each episodic section able to stand alone within its own right, but together creating a constant sense of moving forward, something which Houstoun suggests is the only thing we can do in this pointless world which is taking us further and further towards our death.

Within the final scene, Houstoun’s recognition of the pointlessness of a life in which we are constantly trying to ‘keep everything up in the air’ hits strongly home as she reduces humanity to different parts of the human body. It could be argued that she even reduces her own art form, a form in which she says offers her the chance to be in a constant state of rediscovery through repetition is pointless as it is a construction that will only ever be ephemeral.

pwp2

Although I had heard of Houstoun many times before, I had never been fortunate enough to attend her work. As an artist I found her performance committed and invested; the audience knowing that of course she is performing a repetition of something which she has done many times before, yet her performance still maintains the ‘innocence of the first act’ (Trisha Brown).

Contrary to the theme of pointlessness running throughout the evenings work, ‘Pact with Pointlessness’ is an important piece of work made to celebrate Houstoun’s long standing as an important figure within contemporary performance. Taking up the position of South East Dance’s ‘Established Artist Fellow’, for this year, the work forms part of the celebration of Houstoun’s thirty five years as an established movement/theatre maker within contemporary theatre.

To conclude, for me this work is a must see not only for those interested in dance, but a work to be seen by comedy lovers, theatre makers and poetry artists. So in answer to the question is this work pointless? I would argue not at all, in fact I think it stands as a highly regarded work, which I will continue to think about for a long while yet.

Written by Katie Dale-Everett

Images © Hugo Glendinning

 

Audience Ambassador blogs after seeing Michael Clark Company at Brighton Dome.

Friday, 24 April 2015 08:44

By Sally Deakin:
Animal /Vegetable/Mineral- was a slowly burning tightly bonded Catherine Wheel-the twists and turns of the body were deceptively simple and smoothly controlled with occasional fizzing at unexpected moments. The spaces and between the dancers and their limbs became the dynamics and the music sometimes opposed sometimes sympathised with the choreography and the T-Rex ending gave the vintage touch – BUT - where was that shock? The bare buttocks? The startling rethink of dance that caught all unawares in the past? Perhaps it called for a post-performance talk to hear the interesting back story?

By Lisa Sang:
Dance, Politics, and Bach

An ‘audience ambassador’
I like The Arts, in all its cultural and historic diversity, but I have always had a suspicion that something more is happening than meets the eye, especially when it comes to more contemporary/ abstract forms. Consciously or unconsciously I try to make sense of it all, but lacking a strong ‘language’, I get slightly uncomfortable and that makes me less likely to choose to go to an event. When you can’t speak clearly about something, how can you communicate it/communicate with it? With dance, for example, traditional classical and modern ballet feels more straightforward: there is a clear narrative, very defined male and female role and costume, sublime technique, set patterns. I know what to expect and what is expected of me as observer, it is comfortable. It can also be exclusive.

Has anything changed in my understanding after taking part in the South East Dance Audience Ambassador Scheme, which began with meeting choreographer/maker Julian Hetzel, followed by an exposure to the work of choreographer Michael Clark?

Meeting Julian and Miguel shifted my perspective, I began to see dance not in isolation from the rest of social life, but as an intrinsic part of it. It was subtle and difficult to unpick at first, but I was finding a way in, often through conversations with more knowledgeable others as well as completely non-dance others. Although I had been used to other art forms being discussed in terms of how they may reflect, expand, or enable the understanding of ideas, dance was for me a pure aesthetic, somehow outside this dialogue.
Did this insight help interpret Michael Clark and his choreography? I’ll get to that in a bit, but firstly I have to say I was blown away by the experience of seeing ‘Animal, Vegetable, Mineral’. I know my fellow ambassadors felt the same way, as we left the theatre we were all animated by what we had seen. The performance was exciting, visceral, intense, and beautiful. Everything fitted together into an exacting whole: music, lighting, costume, movement – each aspect adding to the other – it became more than the sum of its parts (as wonderful as these were in themselves). We had read, and seen films and videos of, Michael Clark’s biography and choreography - from the early 1980’s ‘bad boy of British ballet’, defiant and confrontational; through his exploration of Diaghilev and Stravinsky; to his revisiting his roots in a mature style. By the way (a little aside here) ‘Mature’, ‘he has matured’, ‘he has come of age’, are all comments I read about this work. It struck a horrible chord with me having recently come of age (described as ‘mature’, with ‘wisdom’, whatever that means). Mature feels like a pejorative term – equated with ‘past it’, sold out. Michael Clark is anything but…he has become tempered steel, still fresh sharp, cutting edge…and wonderfully human. If you get a chance, go and see it.

How would I describe Michael Clarke’s choreography? A kaleidoscope of movement forms - classical ballet, modern ballet, contemporary, even folk dance. It seemed as if he was showing us all these forms in order to reveal their nature and, in the mix, to let something new emerge. There was a satisfying dissonance to it. And when I watched the videos I heard Baroque music. His use of two polarised forms of dance – smooth modern classical and jagged punk – felt like the dance equivalent of a musical ‘suspension’. (This is where one voice holds a note and the other voice moves to the note next to it, and then the first voice slightly leans towards the second before pulling away again). Hearing the point at which the two voices just about rub together creates an almost physical sensation, like an electrostatic charge (or trying to catch an elusive aroma).
“I can see when something makes sense physically and I can feel it, you don’t forget what it feels like to dance…” Michael Clark says being interviewed about being choreographer not dancer. This really translates into the dancers bodies: the technique displayed was as exact and exacting as any I had seen on the classical stage, but deep mastery of technique has also allowed the Company to simultaneously break free of its rules and forms by introducing the very different punk element. I would imagine this is really challenging for a dancer. The choreography explores the boundaries, makes us see and feel the limitations and the possibilities of dance. Then he takes it a bit further – small, economical gestures, opening and closing a hand, brought into focus. Magic.

And so to politics (small ‘p’). ‘The past is another country’ but people in their 20s and 30s who did not experience the anti-establishment, anarchic force that was Punk can still hear and see it in the work of Michael Clark and the music of the Fall (Mark E Smith), and Scritti Politi (but I can relax a bit with them). At the time Margaret Thatcher was embarking on a mission to change British Society by challenging the established order, from Unions to the Civil Service (whether this was a good move or not will depend on your point of view). Punk seemed a much-needed counterpoint, giving a real focus to opposition, even though it was a very loose amorphic thing – not a ‘movement’, but a collection of activities that ordinary people were voicing, independent largely of established social structures. While the Conservative Government was busy cutting funding to Arts bodies, Michael Clark was asking whether they were relevant in this form: the crucial difference was that he was not challenging society’s need for them, nor the need for artistic expression itself. A Cultural Guerrilla.
In ‘Animal, Vegetable, Mineral’ there is a fierce individuality and independence on show, keeping the challenge alive and kicking. Even if we look at gender, we can see the political principles at work. Male and female dancers are given largely similar costume and step, there is little discrimination on gender lines. Again, this reminds me how far we have come from the misogyny and homophobia rampant in the social structures of the 1970s and 1980s. I like to be reminded that challenging the norm is quite enlivening, inside this 60 year-old body is a ‘bad’ girl still waiting in the wings.

I knew nothing of this when I took part in a half-day workshop Michael Clark’s company ran in Brighton before their Dome performance. Three of the Company had given up rehearsal time to work with a group of older people, some from the Three Score Dance Company. There I met at first hand some of the movements I saw on stage, my body inhabited a different space, my mind experienced a different challenge. The workshop used part from a choreographed piece devised for a group of 50 members of the public, untrained and all shapes and sizes, who danced with the Company in the Tate Modern Turbine Hall in 2011. The intent behind this was the hope the event would become ‘a positive virus’ as the dancers took out their experience to friends and networks. Giving untrained dancers a similar experience of movement and performance to that which professional dancers experience feels very much part of the democratic impulse, one that is positive and inclusive: building new networks and new patterns of working together. It is also fun. If any of you reading this blog are my age (wise-mature, invisible), I would urge you to look up Three Score Dance Company and join up.

And so to Bach. Glen Gould (a pianist I would describe as erudite punk, if punk is an attitude) says of JS Bach that he was not so much ahead of his time as outside it. “Bach, you see, was music’s greatest non-conformist, and one of the supreme examples of that independence of the artistic conscience”. Society needs artists like JS Bach, Stravinsky, bands like The Fall, choreographers like Michael Clark, to allow us to explore the boundaries of the established order so that we can choose, for ourselves, where we place ourselves.

 

Circus Street Retrospective

Monday, 30 March 2015 09:54

Dancer at Circus Street

Image from Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance © Zoe Manders

We had an absolute blast programming at Circus Street Market and almost 15,000 people encountered the work that took place there. We have gathered the impressions and memories of a handful of people who engaged with the space, to celebrate the variety and the vibrancy of everything that took place as we anticipate the future.

Click here to check out some pictures, memories and anecdotes from the past two years.

We would love to hear any of your own memories of the space via Facebook or Twitter #SEDdancespaceissue


 

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Generating Exceptional Experiences in Dance

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Head Office
South East Dance
28 Kensington Street
Brighton
BN1 4AJ

T + 44 (0) 1273 696844
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Studios
South East Dance Studios
39 Egerton Avenue
Hextable
Kent BR8 7LG

T + 44 (0) 1322 618618
F + 44 (0) 1322 618600
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OrganisationsSouth East Dance Ltd is a company registered in England and 
Wales. Registered Company No. 3434501. Registered Charity 
No 1064900/00. Copyright © South East Dance 2012

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