Tuesday, 27 January 2015 16:37
The year 2015 has well and truly begun and so too my BBC Performing Arts Fund Fellowship at South East Dance. I have announced a number of times how incredible this opportunity is for me as a disabled artist and how excited I am at being a part of such a supportive team. Fifteen years into the 21st Century I look back at how far I have come in a considerably short space of time since “Millennium Fever” swept the globe and we all thought we were going to see Jesus from afar and then self-combust. I think we thought we would be living in a world reminiscent of Blade Runner.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think we thought (or at least, I thought) we might be a little further on in our discussions around dance, disability and aesthetics. The feeling of still having so far to go struck me when participating in the Dance and the Disabled Body symposium last November. Although interesting discussions were had, as a disabled artist it did worry me; it worried me, because the conversations were not at all dissimilar to those I was having about dance and disability fifteen years before.
Language played a part, perceiving the disabled body played a part, as did the notion that “disability dance” in 2014 was at a “tipping point”. I struggled with this as much then as I do now. Setting the expletive “disabled dance” to one side – some leaders in the art form mistakenly regarding it as a genre unto its own - we have the “tipping point”.
I would like to propose that it has well and truly tipped. The founding of Candoco Dance Company by Celeste Dandeker and Adam Benjamin in 1991, the hosting of the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, not to mention its legacy in the establishment of the Unlimited Festival. These events have all occurred, yet some believe we are still on this metaphorical verge. What cultural shift needs to happen for dance as an art form to include disability in its fabric? What needs to happen for disabled artists to join me down here and feel like they have tipped? Let’s start by doing the biggest plié of your lives and jump. It’s brilliant down here.
Image by Hugo Glendinning
Monday, 26 January 2015 09:27
*Continues from Experimental Encounters by Ratna Bibi.
Friday 5th December
I was looking forward to learning about how the project has developed over the week and getting a sneak preview of the work-in-progress.
As I approached the studio, there was a person attending to another person on the floor in the recovery position. Two people came out of the adjoining office and as they passed the person on the floor, they looked concerned but continued walking. Given the location, I thought it was first aid training and continued on my way. Later in the studio, we discussed how people react to the unexpected, what is appropriate behaviour in public space, our responsibility in the case of an emergency and what stops us from reacting/participating.
Discussion took form and evolved as we discussed impermanence of everyday life, the monster that is the technology and the unpredictability of the weather. All of which fuelled our imagination with fear; fear of helplessness, fear of being controlled and fear of the unknown. It’s amazing witnessing how fear takes form in our mind before changing into physical sensation.
Julian shared with us his process and progress to date and further exploration of thoughts, ideas and challenges. This was followed by discussion surrounding public reaction in public spaces; what motivated people to interact, intervene and indeed lack of response too. This made me recollect my experience as a volunteer during the public performance of One Morning in May by Noëmi Lakmaier.
On an extremely hot May day, it took Noëmi 7 hours to travel 1 mile on her hands and knees from Toynbee Studios in Tower Hamlets to the City of London. A slow and exhausting test of physical and mental endurance, Noëmi experiences a whole variety of human reaction: confusion, curiosity, pity, disgust, abuse, respect, admiration, kindness and generosity.
Exploring our relationship with our surroundings and challenging our perception of self and the other in contemporary society, Noëmi challenged the public to witness, react and ignore what clearly was a very challenging scenario. It was fascinating to witness human reaction to the live performance but without knowledge, context or understanding. People’s reaction was often instinctive, impulsive and reactive to the location, activity and perception.
Tuesday, 06 January 2015 10:56
I was fortunate to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse of Julian Hetzels latest work-in-progress: a 'Sharing' of thoughts and ideas, with an invited audience, to give shape to the mass of possibilities characteristic of early-stage work. Even with the best of plans Art; Life; Relationships; the Weather – all find their own form, and are subject to...well, who knows! Often we try to use the past to predict the future – there's always the need to pin the future down – sometimes at the expense of the present. As we made our way along the corridor to the dance studio we came across a man lying on the floor. Collapsed? Unconscious? Drunk? It was unexpected. Questions were immediately triggered; a response required. What was one's responsibility? How was the situation to be assessed, or dealt with? We were assured all was in hand, so continued to make our way to....
Enlightenment in the Dance Studio
We had just witnessed the 1st Enlightenment: the interactive element of Sculpting Fear the very title of which encompasses the tension of opposing forces. Fear: the stuff of rapid heartbeats; sweat (hot or cold); the jellification of limbs – fluid; in flux; changeable; hard to capture or fully define, yet the desire here is to confront uncertainty using questions and responses to create meaning around the unknowable, and in this way sculpt the materiality of fear. Or, be open to observe all the permutations of the situation; our responses, and that of others, all of which, like clouds, are constantly subject to change.
When we step out of the accepted predictability of our own domains we expect a certain amount of predicatability in the everydayness of what's out there. But, what are we to make of one body found lying down in the street? One cloud in the sky is a clear day; several clouds might signify an impending storm. Would a series of bodies imply an epidemic? A trail of victims? If the body was of a policeman / sex worker / senior citizen – would our attitudes be any different? Is there a hierachy of caring? How much are we influenced by what we 'read' into the situation? What do we make (sculpt?) out of clothing? Status? Age? Race? This is what Julian would like (us) to find out.....
RUN – HIDE - TELL
Now for the 2nd Enlightenment: the unpredictable Dance of Life. Each of us saw the same thing unfold, but what did we see exactly? Air being blown into a canopy of black plastic against a hum of ambient sound, yes, but Anaias Nin said: We dont see things as they are, we see things as we are'. Now a world of possibilities opens up; now we might see a tired stormcloud; a struggling soul reluctant to leave this earth; a cancerous lung, or womb; apprehension. It appears there are people 'under the covers'. What are they hiding from?
Here Julian has 'caught them redhanded'.
As it was in the beginning....
From the darkness of the womb; to the darkness of earth: the cycle of life turns; we end as we begin. We had talked of unpredctability; uncertainty, the unknown; of questions and projections; technology; symbology, community; the apocalypse, and psychopolitics; of unrest, and tempests. It was time to wrap the evening up; wrap ourselves up, and head for home.
I had entered the building with others, but left the studio on my own, emerging from the lift in a place I didn't recognize: disorientated, a little panicked: feeling trapped. I heard voices - another studio. I popped my head in and, shamefaced, asked for directions. The exit was just to my left, leading into a sidestreet, not the way I'd come. I was apprehensive. Shady figures shifted in the background, bodies settling under a concrete staircase. And this chap, laid back in his hi-visibility jacket shielding his eyes from the light; under the watchful eye of his guardian angel.
Or was there some other story?
Image and Blog post by Ms.Merized. Read her blog here.
Monday, 22 December 2014 10:07
Sunday 30th November 2014, 4pm, Brighton Dome Studio Theatre
A hum of anticipation suspends in the air as the auditorium is filled to full capacity. A table covered in a white table cloth and chairs surrounding it, quietly awaits the moment that the first of six companies of older dancers reveal to its captive audience why they deserve a place on todays stages. Amongst family members, dance enthusiasts and myself, previous choreographer for Three Score Dance Company, James Finnemore also supports the celebration.
Taking part in the event were six older generation dance companies from across England and Holland, who were invited by host Three Score Dance Company to celebrate what they had achieved and what they had to offer within the contemporary dance industry. Although all of the companies performing had in common that they were all made up of older dancers, each company was able to bring something different to their performance, making the programming of the event successful. Laughing one moment as the dancers from Retired Not Tired created humorous tableaus of an Edwardian afternoon tea party, to moments where you could hear a pin drop as the audience held their breath watching a mesmerising duet between a blind performer and her fellow dancer from Het Gezelschap (The Company), the dancers were able to take the audience on a captivating, unpredictable journey.
Being lucky enough to watch some of the companies in rehearsal, I also gained a more personal insight into how much joy companies like these generate for those involved. Talking to Three Score Dance Company member Gus Watcham, she told me of how she initially got involved with the company by accident when she was asked to participate in the audition for a suitable rehearsal director. She enjoyed it so much that she auditioned herself, “I just couldn’t wait for the phone to ring, because I was drawn to it immediately” she said. As I watched, rehearsal director Jason Keenan-Smith rehearse Three Score Dance Company’s work ‘Alone Together’ choreographed by Keenan- Smith, I could not help but have a constant smile on my face. The rehearsal was both carried out with a sense of fun and support but also a seriousness that any other professional rehearsal would have. A memorable moment was when Keenan-Smith asked dancer Chris Connor to stand by his shoes and all of the company members burst into an improvised song singing “Stand by your Shoes” a reference to ‘Stand by Your Man’ originally sang by Tammy Wynette in 1968. Their enthusiasm for life and dance was infectious.
So is there a place for older dance companies within the professional dance industry?
After witnessing the sophistication of choreography and performance presented on stage today, I would say 100 per cent yes and in fact that these performers deserve if anything a bigger stage, which there is clearly an audience for. Talking to dancer and co-founder of Three Score Dance Company Saskia Heriz, she told me that the day was about acknowledging where they had got to at that moment, “when we all started none of us were trained dancers at all and we had to learn right from the beginning and we now have six pieces”. Although having only been together for three years, unlike some of the other companies like Company of Elders who have been together for over twenty five years, Three Score Dance Company, along with the other five companies proved that it is never too late to start dancing and perhaps you should never stop. “Now is the time when older people can express themselves more.” said Three Score Dance Company member Michael Munday.
Asking Watcham why she thought the event was important, she told me that“It is slightly dangerous around older people dancing because the first thing, which I am just as guilty of thinking is, ‘oh isn’t this nice for them, they can do some dancing’, but actually we want to move people. Events like these are important so people can see how older people are just getting on with it. We are old but we are ambitious and we want to get better at what we do”.
The lyrics of Regina Spector’s song ‘Apres Moi', used in the titled piece of the same name, performed by Three Score Dance Company and choreographed by Yael Flexer, ‘I must go on Standing’ as the dancers played with falling and exchanges of weight is something I agree with, we must ensure that performances and companies like these continue. These companies do not only bring something special to the stage, they also create work which both the old and young can learn from. Being so inspired and moved by what I witnessed, I hope that these companies are still running when I am older and would recommend that everyone goes to see these companies in action.
Company of Elders,
Counterpoint Dance Company,
Moving Memory Company,
Retired Not Tired,
Three Score Dance Company
Images by Zoe Manders.
Thursday, 18 December 2014 12:48
On 3 December 2014, six local 'audience ambassadors' were invited to experience a taster of a brand new piece of work that artist Julian Hetzel and dramaturg Miguel Melgares had started creating only that week. Here's what they thought...
Monday, 15 December 2014 11:11
The following blog post is written by Ratna Ribi, sharing her experiences as an Audience Ambassador for our Experimental Encounters project. Read more about Experimental Encounters here: www.southeastdance.org.uk/for-audiences/for-audiences.html
Wednesday 26th November
The first meeting
Being familiar with South East Dance and their work, I was delighted to be selected to be a audience ambassador for the Experimental Encounters project, working with Julian Hetzel.
Our first meeting was a lovely evening made up of creativity, good food and great company. There was lots of excitement surrounding participation, expectation and the unknown. With no prior knowledge, we were open minded and happy to go with the flow. We briefly introduced ourselves and discussed project themes and ideas.
The evening ended with the group attending Hetain Patel’s fantastic solo performance American Boy at Brighton Dome. To my delight, there was post performance Q&A where I asked Hetain to talk about collaboration as a solo artists/performer.
Audience ambassadors with South East Dance staff and artists Julian Hetzel and Miguel Angel Melgares
Friday 28th November
The second meeting
Following the very pleasant first audience ambassador meeting, I was looking forward to re-grouping, learning more about the project and participating.
We started by re-introducing ourselves, this time with a bit more information and realised how diverse a group we are - crucial in ensuring that the project has a wide variety of experience, perception and feedback.
Julian then told us about the project; how it came about, its current state and future aspiration and development plans, all of which are very interesting. I personally found the collaborative process fascinating especially given the numbers of agencies, partners, countries and individuals involved. This reflected Hetain Patel’s experience of the importance of collaboration, especially within solo work (on Wednesday after the American Boy performance, I asked Hetain to talk about collaboration as a solo artist/performer) .
Julian then shared with the group his research on fear, space, place and reaction from both the general public as well as authorities. This ensured a lively discussion, which was followed by the audience ambassadors sharing their knowledge and experience of fear in Brighton as well as marking specific locations on the map. The general consensus was to avoid the ‘Stag and Hens’ areas as highlighted in The Brighton Line by Sean Sims, who used the iconic imagery of Henry Beck’s London Underground map to create a cultural guide to Brighton.
The Brighton Line by Sean Sims
*Read Ratna's next blog entry, The final 2014 audience ambassador get together by Ratna Bibi.
Monday, 08 December 2014 12:07
Blood-curdling screams. Flashes of lightning. Murder most horrible. Mark Bruce Company’s interpretation of Bram Stoker’s classic Dracula nails the gothic horror genre, no holds barred.
In the final performance of an impressive 15-venue autumn tour, I witness the bold choreographic style of Bruce’s choreography for the first time. He is unafraid of strong balletic influence and time-honoured modern dance techniques, his love of the traditional conveyed in simplistic set transitions and bags of mime. This may not be for everyone, but for Dracula – published initially in 1897 - it works.
In its opening moments, Dracula (portrayed exquisitely by Jonathan Goddard) gives a pensive solo, playing with the possibility of his dark potential. He squirms and ripples now and again, between slow lunges and light leaps. A story begins to unfold before us, as wolf-like beasts present our protagonist with a stolen baby; a grieving, begging mother appears, and he refuses her plea.
As the plot continues, more characters from Jonathan Harker’s diaries are introduced. We witness Jonathan and Minas’ romance unfolding in a gentle duet (the aptly cast Wayne Parsons and Eleanor Duval), and more light relief in the form of the coquettish Lucy Westenra’s proposal scene (a charismatic, committed performance by Kristin McGuire). Nicholas Cass-Beggs surprises us all as the Lord who eventually wins her heart with his song – and he really can sing.
But after Jonathan Harker’s graphic and gory transformation from human to vampire, we leave any note of joy from the first half behind, and the performance takes a darker turn. As the score becomes discordant, Dracula’s powers become unavoidable, his charms possessing our two female leads. Goddard’s duet with McGuire is particularly strong and sexy. He courts her with lifts and lunges, gliding embraces, before biting down when she is at her most vulnerable. The stage quickly becomes a bloodbath, with near every character doomed to a vampire’s fate.
Not only does the theatrical choreography embrace the gothic magnificently, but the design for Dracula is flawless. Dorothee Brodruck has crammed into the show’s 100 minutes more costumes than you can shake a string of garlic at. Her black horses – upright performers dressed in leather with chains across their chest and humungous, horrifically inexpressive horse headpieces – are a stroke of genius. Not to mention the elegant fur stoles and distressed nightdresses, whizzing us right back to the 19th century, as well as gory make-up features which appear before our very eyes. Add to this Phil Eddolls’ elaborately detailed iron gate, both transformative as a set and complementary of Guy Hoare’s strong evocative lighting, and you are in production heaven (or hell, as the case may be).
Despite a rather slow, dissolving ending to Dracula’s reign, Bruce’s production leaves us feeling we have witnessed, as one audience member exclaimed, something both ‘magical and horrifying’. Dracula is a well-crafted medley of physical theatre, voice and puppetry, with the addition of very watchable contemporary dance, and without unnecessary abstraction from the original plot. I would see Bruce’s work again.
Written by Charlotte Constable - connect with Charlotte on Twitter @Charlotte_KC
Images by Colin Hawkins
Wednesday, 03 December 2014 10:26
A show that bends the boundaries of dance theatre. Visceral and energetic contemporary dance is combined with subtle movements and song all of which speak a thousand words. Mark Bruce brings gothic terror back on to the British stage with a beautiful ugliness.
This bitter sweet tale is told through stunningly choreographed dancers, whom are bewildering in their facial expressions and carry sentiment with every glimpse. Jonathon Goddard puts on a jaw-dropping performance as his eyes pierce the souls of the audience, and give us an insight into what is a genuinely fearsome world for the infamous Count Dracula. This inner conflict is sensitively served to us as a main course, with a side dish of assault on our senses. As an audience member, be prepared to be taken through a journey that touches the heart, pierces the ears and fogs the vision.
The staging and set alike, attend to the energy of the performance. Dancers interact with iron cast gates by climbing, crucifying and breaking through the back drop. Scurrying rats are mechanically set off, smoke seeps through the gaps between front row seats and performers take the physical shape of creatures of the night.
Amongst all this darkness, we are exposed to inclinations of humanity. Love, lust and longing are all thematically hinted at. Equally, this performance provokes the imagination and sanctions the audience to resolve their own cathartic responses. My only criticism would be the sluggish scene transitions which distracts from the striking illusion that is, Dracula's playground.
The run continues on Wednesday 3rd and Thursday 4th 2014 December at The Old Market, Hove: www.theoldmarket.com/shows/dracula/
Written by Sumair Hussain 02/12/14 - connect with Sumair on Twitter @SumairTheatre
Images by Colin Hawkins
Friday, 28 November 2014 14:49
The chaos of life is everywhere! Jasmin Vardimon Company’s Park reminded us of this at their performance at the Brighton Dome on the 21st of November ’14 which was bursting with cheeky metaphors and dark undertones. Although this piece was originally created in 2004, it still resonated with us the audience and effortlessly tackled themes of ownership, bullying and love within the UK.
Within the first two minutes of the performance, I was transported back to my own 2004 self. The piece was able to recall a naivety in me that I had not experienced in a long time when seeing a dance work. I was in awe of the strength and stamina of the dancers! Their bodies flew through space in a way that is iconic to Vardimon’s work but also manages to shock the audience every time it is presented. Having studied a lot of her work but never seen it live, I could not believe the strength of every single company member, they had an outstanding technical ability and power that allowed them to smoothly negotiate the set design with ease, whether it was climbing up, jumping over or swinging around, they always managed to perform with confidence.
The musical score of the piece did well to compliment the exciting relationships and complex choreography. It felt as though the sound had not come a long way from the 2004 version which, in my opinion, actually helped us to sit firmly within the world of the piece. There were no mobile phones, there was no dubstep and there was no twitter. It was glorious!
The relationships that shifted and developed throughout the piece were incredibly well showcased through Vardimon’s choreography. The movement was risk taking and energetic (as has come to be expected from Vardimon’s work) but also the contact work had an intense complexity that enabled the audience to look directly into the world of the characters and their feelings towards each other. This was expertly complimented by speech, as the characters seemed to choose precise moments to use voice when the movement would not fully communicate their intentions.
Interestingly, I found that some of the concepts that fed into the piece and kept it alive were shown fairly subtly, and the audience in the stalls could have missed them. This was a shame as these images may have helped to bring cohesion to the piece. However the performance as a whole was powerful, fresh and inspiring. It offered an accessibility that allowed the audience to create their own distinctive interpretations of the work so that every experience was unique. This is a must see performance!
Image © Ben Harries
Thursday, 06 November 2014 15:50
Last Friday, 31st October, we had the chance to “sneak a peek” the most recent work of The Urban Playground Team, STEAM, a co-production with South East Dance and Pavilion Dance South West and supported by the Arts Council England and the National Railway Museum.
The full show will be released next year and one thing we can be sure is that the audience would have not hesitated to see more.
It is not an easy task to mix different types of body language in one show only: it is risky, it can be a disaster; but it can also be absolutely amazing. From parkour (also known as free running) to contemporary and urban dance, without forgetting physical theatre, The Urban Playground Team innovates performance as you have never seen before and with a good dose of humour.
In the beginning, Alister O’loughlin, co-founder of the team, introduced the show after a warm up game. Alister called it a “game of cooperation”, where an increasingly bigger group of dancers/traceurs/actors/participants share the same space. It made a parallelism with the chaos of the London underground or any other busy public transport during rush hour. This game gave an idea of the multiple physical and abstract exploration opportunities the metallic structure had, but did not prepare the audience to what was about to happen.
Inspired by the Wild West films, STEAM [Work-in-progress] combined risky stunts with slow-motion scenes and visual narratives. We were rapidly reported to somewhere in the old west, when a gang assaults a locomotive at almost-full speed and gets caught up in a fight. Moving around metallic barrels – the structure that simulates the loco and where all the show develops – the team creates cinematographic storytelling choreography between the lyrical, the tragic and the comedy.
If we take a look back at the example of some dance forms, such as Latin rhythms (Tango, Sevillanas, and others), or religious/ritualistic dances, as African tribal dances or oriental expressions, like the Sufi whirling, just to randomly name a few, we can notice that, certainly some more than others, have been placed from outdoors to indoors, borrowed by the streets to the stages. If on the one hand it seems to miss out the dance’s roots, its primarily focus and essence, on the other hand it is a way of showcasing dance genres in other places than its original ones, and where audiences in no other way would have access to it. The Urban Playground Team (UPGTeam) – which has as a member Malik Diouf, a co-creator of parkour - brings the art of parkour closer to audiences, not only through site-specific performances, but also through workshops, in order to engage with local communities. After all, what does parkour mean but overcoming barriers – be them physical or socio-cultural?
The UPGTeam has proven it is possible to bring parkour indoors and in not a less-overwhelming way than outdoors (consider the previous shows Run This Town (2013) or A Day in Life (2012), for example). The idea of STEAM, however, is to build a site-specific performance that adapts to different sets, whether indoors or outdoors (as it happened, for example, with The Inner City (2013)). The full show will be composed by micro-choreographies inspired by the silent films of Buster Keaton, Agatha Christie’s novels, James Bond’s stunts, the workers of Sovient Avant Garde, and the heartbreak of the First World War. This makes the show adaptable to different contexts, as well as to different audiences. Furthermore, as if it was not innovative enough, the show will include participants of the workshops UPGTeam promotes during the tour.
The UPGTeam creates a real sense of participation in community, team work and share of experiences, making the audience feel part of the show’s creative process, and not only spectators of it – and out of that they really create something new and worthy to support.
Images © Maria Palma Teixeira.
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- • Bollywood fun at Brighton Oasis Project – by Rowena Price
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- • An Audience Insight... by Sheila Sanderson
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- • Kent Dance Mix is all over... can't wait 'till next year! By Louise Costelloe
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- • Rehearsals in full swing at Milton Keynes. By Kathryn Evans
- • Big Dance Day at The Arc, Caterham. By Kathryn Evans
- • Cathy Waller choreographs for Most Wanted Crew for the Hampshire Torch Relay. By Kathryn Evans
- • The Arch of Starch interview - Big Dance launch. By Kathryn Evans
- • The Caucus Race rehearsals in Oxford. By Kathryn Evans
- • A familiar face is a new audience member at Big Dance 2012 events in Hastings. By Rowena Price
- • Hofesh Shechter at Helenswood School in Hastings for Big Dance 2012. By Kathryn Evans
- • Brighton Dance Collective rehearse with Jason Keenan-Smith for the BBC big dance Exchange. By Kathryn Evans
- • Big Dance 2012 South East England