Our City Danced!

Over the weekend of Saturday 21st & Sunday 22nd July we held our first Our City Dances festival, celebrating the projects we’ve been working on with our friends and partners across Tarner and Queens Park ward in Brighton as we move toward opening doors to The Dance Space in early 2020.

And how we danced!

We spent day one with our hosts at Tarner Park when temperatures ramped up the mercury to tropical carnival levels; perfect for the curtain raiser of Azontobeats giving us the full Ghanaian experience of a high energy dance work out.  Casson and Friends combed the park for dance moves to weave into the days finale The Dance We Made, gathering some sharp moves from the Audio Active crew including a particularly slick arrangement from Rag‘n’Bone man.  We wrote poetry with Dean Atta and lost abandon with dance group Tantrum and their associates in action, mini Tantrum. Streetfunk versed us in krumping and popping while Flexer & Sandiland confused and surprised passers by with their installation Trip Hazard.

Highpoints from Sunday included Fan Dance Theatre beguiling us with a stunning performance The State of Us at Brighton Youth Centre.  Three Score Dance partnered with Ceyda Tanc Dance to bring Tarner Park to a standstill with their generationally and culturally rich performance ‘Kusak’. Little ones got up close with nature in the company of Second Hand Dance and their production of Grass and then got to join a Wild Rumpus workshop at Tarner Children’s Centre.  We enjoyed a heart-stopping adrenalin rush from Brighton company TRIBE// and their performance Still I Rise, opened by the prodigious talents of members of South East Dance’s Place Partnership Programme.  Zoielogic’s spectacular man-meets-car show, Ride, stopped traffic at Victoria Gardens and brought the festival to a close with a resounding visual fanfare.

And by all accounts you seemed to love it!  ‘Awesome’, ‘Amazing’, ‘Lovely day, fantastic family vibe’, ‘Best day ever’, were just some of your comments.

Our City Dances is part of The Welcome Project, a three year lead-in programme of community based, participatory and interactive creative dance sessions introducing the people of Brighton and Hove to our new home for dance, The Dance Space.  Next year, Our City Dances will be back; bigger, bolder and badder.  We can’t wait to invite you back.

To get involved in The Welcome Project, follow us (twitter, facebook, Instagram) and sign up to our mailing list here 

© Zoe Manders
Our City Danced!

Walking The Streets As A Space Invader by Kay Channon

As a PhD Student following the practice as research model (PAR), I find myself exploring the significance of in between spaces very frequently. My research focuses on my own experiences of walking with my wheelchair. I often refer to this process as walking without footprints. I’m finding it fascinating that my own creative practice as a Performer, Poet and Writer is becoming more influenced by moments and events that take place when I am not formally working or researching, on my way to performances, or whilst I’m away from a campus environment, in hospital, or on a train to give a few examples. Often walking is regarded as a transitional activity, we walk to get from one destination to another. We focus on getting there, we want to get there quickly, and when we tell others about the day’s events, we focus on the function of the destination rather than the logistics of actually ‘getting there’.

As someone who was born premature, I rely on carers, family members, doctors, and medication to live my daily life. Traveling to new places can often present access issues and logistical difficulties. Therefore, the process of walking in order to ‘get there’ often requires a lot of careful planning and consideration. Sometimes a more refined google or website search reveals a certain event is not accessible to me and I have to accept this and move on. Whenever this happens, I’m reminded of Gertrude Stein’s provocation, ‘There is no there there’ as my computer mouse slowly moves towards the red ‘x’ at the corner of the laptop browser window.

Therefore, to be invited to Trailing Identity by South East Dance in April 2018, was not only a breath of fresh air for me, but a welcome break from the stress of having to scope out and sort out access requirements for myself. Everything I needed would be available and taxis booked, all I had to do was turn up with a warm heart, open mind, and be ready to meet some new people.

There were so many poignant moments that happened during the day, more than I could ever express in one single blogpost, but I’m going to focus on one unexpected, transitional moment that has stuck with me and is continuing to inform my artistic practice even now.

Throughout the day participants were required to move between several different venues in the Brighton area. Picture a multi-coloured huddle meandering along the uneven pavements, purposeful yet vibrant. With many pairs of feet and many sets of wheels sliding seamlessly through the streets. The huddle reaches a pedestrian crossing, patiently standing in the shadow of the stoic red man. Enter in the space invader, a middle-aged woman pushing her bike across the crossing.

The encounter went something like this…’I’m sorry, I know there’s a lot of you but could I get past?’ Naturally, I broke formation, walking with my chair in reverse so that she could pass by. It took me a couple of minutes to realise that I had just witnessed an embodied mirror image of my own experience of walking the streets as a space invader. The woman pushing her bike had unknowingly played the role I commonly adopt when walking through spaces that are dominated by those who use bipedalism (two feet) to walk. The woman with her bike felt awkward, may be even intimidated by our presence and the way we were structured in space. She didn’t make eye contact with us and the bike caught on an uneven part of the pavement as she tried to rush past us, her head and heart clearly set on her destination.

As she passed, I felt a surge of empowerment and happiness that myself and this wonderful group of radical, energetic, artistic bodies, had disrupted the status quo. We were seen, we were strong, undeniably and unapologetically ‘there’. This moment, alongside the scheduled performance events of the day, made me reconsider the positioning of my own body in space, how does it perform? How would I like it to perform? How do I want my body to talk and what do I want it to say?

In my role as a Poet, my practice is driven by the words that I write and say. Until I experienced Trailing Identity, my primary focus had been the types of text which could be generated when I consciously and physically walk the busy streets or quiet country lanes. However, I’m now also investigating the unspoken processes of walking without footprints and how I can bring these into performance using other forms outside of linguistics. In her book Wanderlust, (2014) Rebecca Solnit describes walking as a ‘continuous experience’, like a piece of fabric woven together. The more I read her work the more I realise that when exploring a process like walking, the research takes place in a continuum with my own body inside the inevitable progression of time. The in between spaces are just as important as the predetermined or anticipated destinations. We must try to capture these.

It is my hope that exploring these transitional moments will add a new dimension to my work as a Poet and Performer. After all, standing in front of a microphone whilst reciting a poem can sometimes be very daunting. It can be very difficult to get people to listen to you. But if you walk the streets as a proud, purposeful space invader, nobody can ignore you.

About:

Kay Channon is a Performer, Poet, Writer, and PhD Student based in Chichester (West Sussex). Her debut poetry collection The Dark Side of Light was published by Bardic Media in February 2017 and is available through Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dark-Side-Light-Kay-Channon/dp/0993069517/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1528315046&sr=1-2&keywords=the+dark+side+of+light

She is currently focusing on her experiences of walking in nature using her wheelchair as part of her Doctoral research. Some of her more recent poems have been published online by the London Progressive Journal: http://londonprogressivejournal.com/user/view/6712

You can follow her progress on Twitter at @KayChannon.

© Kay Channon
Walking The Streets As A Space Invader by Kay Channon

Candoco at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts: A guest blog by Sarah Watson and Lisa Wolfe

Candoco Dance Company. Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Weds 18 May 2018. Part of South East Dance’s undisciplined micro-festival

Talking about Candoco.

Sarah Watson, Chair of Carousel, visual artist and reviewer went to see Candoco with Lisa Wolfe, marketing manager at Carousel, freelance producer and reviewer. This is the conversation they had before, between and after the show.

Before (a pre-show conversation)
It felt like the first day of summer. They sat on the grass outside the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts with dancers wearing Candoco track-suit tops; most were smoking. “I really like the visual story they sent out” said Sarah, starting the conversation. “Some people relate better to visuals than to words.” Lisa agreed but said she doesn’t like to know too much about what she is about to see before she sees it, but she did want to hear the pre-show talk chaired by Luke Pell. There they learned that Candoco will soon be 30. “I am bit late as this is the first time I’ve seen them. Better late than never!” said Sarah. They also heard that the two pieces they were about to see are from the company repertoire. Hetain Patel’s piece, Let's Talk About Dis was made in 2014 with a different set of dancers; now new dancers speak and perform their words. They wondered what difference that would make.

In Between (an interval conversation)
They watched Jasmeen Godder’s Face In from seats where the captions were clearly visible, behind a row of wheelchair users. Lisa and Sarah both see a lot of performance by and for people with all kinds of disability and are always pleased to see differently abled people in the audience, in a highly accessible venue to boot.

Sarah put on and took off her noise-blocking headphones as the music moved from high drones through indie, retro and techno. The sound track punctuated the action on stage in which dancers, dressed in colourful sporty gear did “very contemporary dance moves” (in Sarah’s view) which pitched them in and out of relationships. Both found the choreography playful and liked how it boldly exploited the potential of each body. Lisa wrote in her notebook “…they seem on the edge of madness, in a state of shock - like West Street on a Saturday night.” They agreed on this and found all the dancers were impressive, but for Sarah whilst they were all watchable, no-one stood out for charisma. “It didn’t bust my giggles” she said. Lisa loved that phrase and will probably steal it. The lighting they both found less interesting. “It needed more visual glue, something to bring it all together” said Sarah. Lisa thought it was a bit like an action painting, with the bright colours, the splatter of dancers around the stage, the duos and solos dropped here and there. She liked how costumes were used to change body shape. “Ben Wright said it was psychedelic” said Sarah “but I didn’t get that. I thought it needed tidying up.” Lisa was happy with the randomness of Face In, but missed an emotional pull.

After (a post–show conversation)
Well, this was a different bag of chips altogether. From the first few minutes of Hetain Patel’s Let's Talk About Dis Sarah’s giggles had properly busted. “I know what that sign means” Sarah said gleefully “this is very rude.”

Sarah and Lisa found they agreed on just about everything. That the lighting design, by Jackie Shemesh, created mood; that the stage picture was very clear, with a performance area marked out and a row of chairs at the back. They found the themes of the piece easy to digest. “It made me feel happy” said Sarah, “I liked the games they were playing.” Lisa said she enjoyed the subtlety and subversion of gesture and text, how they dissected disability, inclusivity, diversity and all those other things that are still concerns four years after the piece was made. “It’s very carefully choreographed and calibrated, playing with translating and trust” she said, rather pompously. Sarah got more to the point saying “I got the message.” 

Written by Lisa Wolfe with Sarah Watson.

 

Carousel offers learning-disabled artists a route into a full creative life through training, production and events. Brighton based for 34 years, it works in film, music, digital, visual arts and performance.

Sarah and Lisa often share the dance floor at Carousel’s Blue Camel Club and one day will make a dance piece together. Read Sarah’s review of Candoco at www.creativemindsproject.org.uk

Find out more about Carousel, including the Blue Camel Club for learning- disabled people who love to dance, at www.carousel.org.uk

© Paul Mansfield (Top) & Peter Chrisp (Bottom)
Candoco at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts: A guest blog by Sarah Watson and Lisa Wolfe

The Red Line Sessions with Luke Pell and Lou Cope

We’re about to launch the second season of our Red Line sessions with our guest dramaturg Luke Pell; a series of four podcasts exploring the process behind making work, building concept and choreographic narrative.  Over the next four weeks, Luke will take turns with our resident dramaturg, Lou Cope, to share their respective approaches, the challenges they typically come up against and their methodologies for resolution. The series will culminate with the opportunity to join in a live chat with Luke Pell on our Facebook Group to ask burning questions or comment on the content. The next live chat will be on Thursday 7 June. Join the Facebook Forum to make sure you don’t miss it.

We’ve a bank of four previous podcasts resident on our professional development forum, The Red Line, essential listening for makers, doers and those with a generic interest. You can download all the podcasts here and listen to them whilst walking the dog, doing your washing or for inspiration in the studio. The next podcast will be released on Tuesday 8 May. Luke Pell will be in conversation with legends Caroline BowditchClaire Cunningham and Robert Softley Gale.

The Red Line Sessions with Luke Pell and Lou Cope

Not another Privacy Updates email…

Don’t leave us this way

We can’t survive, can’t stay alive

Without your love…….don’t leave us this way….

We know, you’re fed up with those four letters that keep appearing in the email title of your inbox; GDPR, as much as we are!!! General Data Protection Regulation comes into force on Friday 25 May and every organisation that holds your personal data is required to demonstrate receipt of consent or a legitimate interest to contact you. At the risk of causing you even greater data management fatigue, we wanted to let you know that we’ll be contacting you in the near future with a request to respond to our call for consent. If we don’t hear back, we will have to lose you from our mailing list; we’ll be heartbroken and your inbox will be bereft of inspiring and fascinating news about South East Dance performances, artist development opportunities and chances to participate in our community events. Let’s not let that happen! Look out for our GDPR email inviting you to sign up and stay in touch!  We love you!

© Annavan Kooij
Not another Privacy Updates email…

Barbie dolls, Rage Against the Machine and ketchup: Q&A with Jan Martens

Jan Martens is one of Europe’s most exciting choreographers known for his exploration of contemporary social dynamics through perceptive humour and by poking a mischievous finger at controversy.  His recent works Sweat Baby Sweat (2011), Victor (2013),The dog days are over (2014) and The Common People (2016) have been received with international critical acclaim.  He closed undisciplined one if his earlier works, Ode to the Attempt (a solo for meself).

We asked Jan to take five and share his thoughts (and some of his incredible energy).

Q: How did you become interested in choreography?
A: By seeing works by two Belgians. As Long as the World Needs a Warrior’s Soul by Fabre when I was 16 which completely blew me over; it was crazy, hardcore, sexy, graphic, loud, and without shame. It was the first work of contemporary performing arts I’d ever seen and I was completely won over. There was ketchup, chocolate, Barbie dolls, naked people, a shower on stage, Rage Against the Machine...
So in my research around performing arts, I figured out that contemporary dance was a thing and that it meant you could earn money by dancing. Which really provoked a short-circuit in my brain, it seemed so absurd.  And in my research I bumped into a video of FASE by ROSAS. Violin phase it was. W A A A U W. There was like no clear dramatic input by the performers, it was pure form and mathematics but it had such a huge emotional impact. That was really a new experience. So it was really started by FASE. Thank you Anne-Teresa!

Q: What excites you about the art-form at this current time?
A: Well there’s so much talking and information spreading going on. We meet less and less in real life, and more and more on the web. I’m even typing down these answers on your questions not knowing how you look like or how your voice sounds. So I think dance is really raising possibilities to come together and to witness and experience physical contact and intimacy. I think as a society we don’t understand the full consequences of digitisation. Don’t get me wrong, sitting in a cave and eating raw meat and making drawings on the rocks is not where I wanna go back to, but allowing time for togetherness and making contact with each other is something which I wish to happen more. And I think DANCE is the ideal art form to make that happen.

Q: In Ode to the Attempt you reveal your character and history in a series of snapshots around your motivations. That seems a huge territory to cover. Was the work epic to develop or was it sparked by an epiphany in reductionism?
A: No it wasn’t epic at all! Before the creation of this work I had been making a lot of portraits: of people, of relationships, of communities. And then there was this idea about making a portrait of an artist, and fuel it with my own biographic elements. So it became an auto portrait which I think became a portrait of my generation. It sounds big indeed, but actually I was just questioning myself how could I bare myself in half an hour? How could an audience get to know me better, even understand me, while at the same time talking about a creative process, making it more graspable what we as artists do, what we question, how we work. Like all the other works, it is an attempt to make the gap between audience and artist smaller. We are all born with a vagina or a dick or sometimes we have it both. But actually we are all the same. 

Q: Do you think it’s possible to be truly honest about ourselves or do we instinctively apply filters?
A: That’s a big one. I think we do apply filters, but maybe applying filters is typically human and so very honest. It’s like a kind of survival instinct maybe. 
Maybe let’s look closer at a clear example: when I go to the gym and it’s full of these guys whose pecs are bigger than my head, then I start to walk a bit wider and make sure my gayness is not showing off. Cause I’m afraid they will yell FAGGOT at me under the shower or drown me in the toilet. 
But in the end I don’t think it really matters if we put filters or not. I think being aware of when u are putting them is the most important.
I think this was quite a truly honest answer.

Q: Who is your greatest hero?
A: Oh my god. Am I going to write: my mom? Yes. My greatest hero is my mom. 
My mom and Virginia Woolf.  

Q: Here’s a random one.  Mars tourism; yes or no? 
A: That’s a definitely no. It’s now already very hard to turn down my ecologic footprint and I’m pretty happy with the earth: it has cities, oceans, woods, people and the UK. It’s pretty the UK. Really pretty.

© Phile Deprez
Barbie dolls, Rage Against the Machine and ketchup: Q&A with Jan Martens

Dance to Health: spotlight on Angela Conlon, our lead dance artist for Oxfordshire

Dance to Health is a pioneering older people’s falls prevention programme run by Aesop (Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose) which South East Dance is partnering in, along with NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group. The sessions have been delivered in centres across Oxford for over four months now. 

The programme combines evidence based exercise with the creativity and energy of dance. In addition to building strength and balance, the scheme significantly impacts older people’s lives by reducing social isolation, creating opportunities to build friendships and by supporting mental well-being. Angela Conlon, Co-Founder of Dance Active, a not-for-profit dance collective, is our go-to dance artist who has been delivering Dance to Health sessions at the Bullingdon and Barton community centres in Headington as well as selecting other dance artists to deliver the programme.

Angela trained at Roehampton Institute gaining a BA in Dance Studies, attended Graham & Cunningham Dance Studios as well as performing at the Judson Church while in New York. Angela has carved a career in Arts Management which has included working as Strategic Director of Wiltshire Dancing and leading on a new initiative at Witney Community Hospital Creating with Care. In 2007 Angela developed a project with the Institute for the Care of Older People, undertaking research into the impact of dance on Dementia which clearly evidenced the cognitive and physical benefits of sequential movement in an interactive environment. 

Currently, Angela’s working on A Million Memories – the journey we are now on, an interactive performance project that is raising awareness of early onset Dementia which will premiere at the Cornerstone Arts Centre, Didcot in September this year. Of Dance to Health, Angela says:

“I find the work I do very rewarding, I love meeting new people and hearing their stories, and through this type of practice, we encourage social interactions with some participants creating strong lasting friendships and we all come away feeling that we have danced.” 

Thank you Angela, we’re blessed to have you on the team!

© Angela Conlon
Dance to Health: spotlight on Angela Conlon, our lead dance artist for Oxfordshire

Building The Dance Space

It’s begun!  On Wednesday 18th April, construction on The Dance Space commenced with our acting Chair of South East Dance Trustees, Judith Hibberd, joining Brighton and Hove Councillor Warren Morgan and Deputy Director of U+I construction, Richard Upton, in breaking ground on the site’s footprint.  Circus Street has been transformed over the last six months with the neighbouring student accommodation and residential home blocks reaching full height (or ‘topping out’ in building fraternity speak) and a true sense of how the overall development is becoming ever more apparent.

The Dance Space will sit at the fore of the site, adjacent to a public square that will be used for events, performances and break out classes.  It will meet the highest environmental standards with Biomass heating, rainwater harvesting and a green roof just some of the many ecological features of the building. As a vital new addition to the cultural infrastructure of Brighton, we expect to welcome around 50,000 visitors through the doors in the first year. 

Jamie Watton, CEO of South East Dance, said “This is a landmark moment for us. It signals the next chapter in our vision to make The Dance Space a unique space for artists, as well as a resource for local people from all walks of life to cultivate a passion for dance. We are so grateful to all those who have supported South East Dance to see this project through”.

© U+I
Building The Dance Space

undisciplined

Our inaugural micro-festival undisciplined took place over three dizzying days of performance, discussion and sharings, across city-wide locations and venues and to sold-out audiences. The theme of identity was central to the festival, exploring and testing our preconceived ideas about gender, ethnicity and sexuality, about our strengths and vulnerabilities and laying bare in the raw.   

High points included:  Attenborough Centre for the Contemporary Arts at capacity with a fully inclusive audience disquieted by Yasmeen Godder’s tender yet brutal Face in and charmed by Hetain Patel’s gentle reappraisal of perspectives in Let’s Talk about Dis. Trailing Identity offered attendees a journey of a day. Literally. Brave and challenging performances by Amy Bell Tombo(y)la, Colin Poole and Charlie Morrissey White Charlie and Project O’s immersive piece X concluding with a crescendo of a group hum, provoking vigorous debate. Project O at The Old Market disarming audiences with their two hour durational work Voodoo that takes the audience on a spiritual journey of reckoning; a mesmerising experience juxtaposing audience with performer. Eleanor Sikorski versing us with her best ever cusses in Comebacks I thought of Later while Jan Martens’ Ode to the Attempt made us laugh, shed a tear and ache in sheer admiration at his windmilling body parts.

© Mark Alesky
undisciplined
© Katarzyna Perlak and Jack Barraclough
© Hugo Glendinning

Jack Bould: Reflecting on my first month at South East Dance…

So I've been here at South East Dance for over a month now and I feel an introductory blog/insight into how it is going is needed:  I am constantly reassuring work colleagues that I am enjoying life here and settling in well, but I reckon this will be the nail on the head for any remaining doubters.

I joined South East Dance on the 11th of January this year with the ambition to learn new skills and the qualities required for digital marketing, and to utilise my own ability to expand South East Dance's growth of their social media profiles and sites.  30+ days into my job here and I've learned so many new skills whilst enjoying my time here thoroughly. I am able to use my knowledge of social media and it's varied audiences as well as my creativity to conjure new ideas to enhance South East Dance's profile, which is what I love doing. Is it different to any other jobs I've had in the past? Yes of course, I'm a very sporty person and so sitting on a chair next to a computer and a desk (I have to admit that the chair is very comfortable) is very different but honestly, the varied jobs I do on a daily basis keep me comfortable and entertained which is great because there's that saying that office jobs and being glued to a desk is lifeless, and I feel that the "Office job" that I do completely belittles that statement.

As I mentioned, I get up to a lot of varied work, it's never the same on any day, which is great. If you had to put a label on what I do, I suppose that would be that I help to oversee South East Dance's social media accounts and sites, look at detailed analytics to see how we're gaining and losing audiences and to see how we can always look to expand and improve in this area. I work closely with the Digital Creative, Benjamin Anker, learning how to design and create newsletters and to keep up-to-date with uploading to our social media accounts daily so that our audience will always know what events are happening and so on. It’s great to work alongside Benji as he's extremely talented at his job and is always looking to push me in the right direction with improving myself. Not only this, Benji has made it very easy for me to settle down and so it makes me feel comfortable and free to use my creativity at work. I very much look forward to learning more from Benji and to continue to work alongside him in the future.

At the moment I'm currently focusing on the growth of our new Facebook group, The Red Line. So far we have over 270 members but I aim to increase that by quite a bit. Lots of other dance organisations I have contacted are keen to help with this.  Happy days!

A question that does dwell in my head is, what I would want to see change at South East Dance, that I can help make happen? I definitely want to push a lot of our attention towards building a highly followed YouTube account as I feel videos are much more popular with digital audiences than posts on Facebook and Twitter. A video can say so much to a viewer, as all they have to do is watch and listen whereas dated posts and such can easily be missed by audiences. Furthermore, YouTube is huge in size and in trend now whereas Facebook seems to becoming less popular and starting to slip in terms of interest and audiences. So, I'd like to implement change to our YouTube channel and to really grow it, we're doing well on Facebook and Twitter anyway so I’d rather focus on an area I can contribute to really improving.  

To summarise, on how things are going and what I do: they're going great, I'm not bored, I enjoy coming to work and the free, constant tea is obviously sweet... It's free tea, my inner British-self comes out and thrives in it.

Jack Bould: Reflecting on my first month at South East Dance…

Isobel’s Arts Award Gold Journey

Arts Award offers children and young people a journey of personal, creative discovery; the results of which continue to echo through all aspects of their lives for years to come. 

With a focus on independent working and entrepreneurialism, Arts Award encourages young people to not only seek new opportunities but create their own. South East Dance Producer, Community & Participation, Rose Kigwana, reflects on the Arts Award journey of Isobel, who undertook her Gold Arts Award whilst also training to become an Arts Award advisor:

In 2017, Isobel joined South East Dance as a Placement Student for 9 months. She is studying a BA Hons Degree in Dance at University of Surrey and was keen to join us. The aim of her placement was to gain some professional work experience. As a young person, Isobel has had a significant impact on South East Dance as an organisation and on our artistic programme and the artists and participants we support and work with.

When she arrived at our offices, Isobel had many skills and experiences she wanted to develop so we worked out an ambitious work plan for her placement. South East Dance had just started to work on a new partnership programme with Artswork as the Surrey, East & West Sussex representative for the South East Arts Award Leadership Network. As part of this programme, she trained to become an Arts Award Advisor. We also decided together that she would do her Arts Award Gold with myself as her advisor. Her placement required her to plan and deliver a project and to set herself learning and development goals so we both felt Gold could work well.

Having years of experience with Arts Award but never having delivered Gold I relished and was slightly daunted by the challenge, and Isobel took the challenge in her stride. She extended her own arts practice by learning and then throwing herself headfirst into Dramaturgy and working with young professional artist Katie Dale-Everett to develop her new live dance piece. Half way through we both had the wobbles about aspects of the Gold Arts Award so we had a bit of support along the way from Trinity and other Arts Award Leadership Network members. 

Isobel supported a group of girls to achieve their Explore Arts Award, which included work on South East Dance’s Men & Girls project with Fevered Sleep (pictured, photographer Matthew Andrews)

For her leadership project Isobel designed and planned a young ambassadors project with 10 children and young people aged 8-14, giving them opportunities to explore the arts, be creative, work with professional artists, meet the quirky Artistic Director, Miguel Iglesias of Danza Contemporánea de Cuba and review his amazing triple bill dance performance at Brighton Dome. They all got their Arts Award Explore as a result and the moderator stated that Isobel’s project and her role as an advisor was exemplary. He also congratulated Isobel and myself on her Gold portfolio which became a case study on Trinity College, London’s Arts Award website. In addition to this, Isobel supported a group of 17 talented 12-15 year olds to gain Arts Award Bronze.

Without Isobel and her endless passion and commitment, South East Dance would not have got their first 28 Arts Awards in 2017.

This blog post was originally posted on the artswork website

© Rose Kigwana
Isobel’s Arts Award Gold Journey

Dramaturg in Residence: Collaborate Artists 2018

We are really excited to announce this year’s Collaborate Artists. We were overwhelmed to receive over 70 applications from amazing Artists and choosing the final 9 was a tough decision for the panel. Collaborate is part of our hugely successful Dramaturg in Residence programme, headed by dramaturg extraordinaire Lou Cope. This year Martin Hargreaves and Luke Pell will be working alongside Lou to deliver this programme. Two of our successful recipients are working with independent dramaturgs Miranda Laurence and Ella Hickson. Collaborate offers Artists time to work with one of our dramaturgs, or one of their own choice, to provide in-depth creative support whilst making new work.

Our successful Collaborate Artists for 2018 are:

Janine Harrington

Rachel Birch-Lawson

Rob Clark

Jane Mason

Christopher Matthews

Eddie Ladd

Johanna Nuutinen

Joan Cleville

Ella Mesma

Please keep an eye on The Red Line for updates from these Artists during the process and join in with the conversation about Collaborate and other aspects of our Dramaturg in Residence programme on our Facebook group: www.facebook.com/groups/SEDTheRedLine 

© Raphael Klatzko
Dramaturg in Residence: Collaborate Artists 2018

Q&A with Luke Pell

Luke Pell, our guest dramaturg, will be delivering eight online offerings over the next few months, discursive sessions that explore his approach to the craft of dramaturgy, threads of thinking that run throughout the work and the ways he collaborates with different artists and organisations as a dramaturg, that will be available on The Red Line, from mid February. 

We ask him to take 10 minutes out and tell us a bit more about himself.

 

What or who inspired you to become involved in performance?

I think my response to this kind of question changes every time I think about it… more and more I think I about who inspires me to stay involved in or become involved in performance in new ways. As someone who works as a dramaturg that’s the artists I work with and the worlds they are working in and importantly some of the people they have worked with or alongside - their distinct performance heritages and evolving practices. 

Of late that includes communities of dance, performance and choreographic artists I’ve been introduced to in Berlin - Peter Pleyer, Michiel Keuper, Maria Scaroni, Pondeorsa, Ruairi Donovan - in San Francisco - Jess Curtis, Keith Hennessy - in Sweden and Denmark - Martin Forsberg, Dinis Machado, Sindri Runudde, Tove Sahlin, Eleanor Bauer, Siriol Joyner - and back at home in Scotland a whole host of independents - Roanne Dods, Diane Torr, Adrian Howells, Anna Krzystek, Caroline Bowditch, Claire Cunningham, Nic Green, Simone Kenyon, Lucy Suggate, Robbie Synge, Janice Parker, Buzzcut - and throughout UK the independent dance, quiet activist, queer and live art scenes…the questions all of these folks are asking, they ways they are working, wondering about the ‘it’, the ‘why,’ for ‘who’ and ‘how’ we do it differently. 

In the beginning for me, it was the meeting of different worlds I was part of. Before I worked in performance, I worked in fashion for a while as a model…there was something about ‘performing’ the body, identity, and transformation that interested me and - at that time - gender that troubled me, that rubbed up with being a queer person and the alternative social and club scenes I was growing in as a younger person. 

These worlds started to blend for me when I danced and performed as part of a few club nights, someone then - later in life - asked if I’d ever thought about performance/performing… so I ended up going to university as a mature student, in Winchester, to study Contemporary Performance really focusing on ‘making’ in what was a very interdisciplinary training.  There I met some wonderful practicing artists who taught as part of the programme - Olu Taiwo, Sacah Lee, Suna Imre, Synne Berhndt, Alex Hoare, Suzy Wilson (Clod Ensemble), Lone Twin - who were all huge influences on my practice as a young artist, as was David Harradine (Fevered Sleep) who taught there and has since become a lifelong mentor, friend and colleague. 

Not long after that, my time at Candoco and the artists I met whilst working with the company further activated my understanding and involvement in performance. Folks like Frank Bock, Simon Vincenzi, Lea Anderson, Fin Walker, Athina Vahla, Kate Marsh, Catherine Long, Lucy Cash, Sarah Michelson, Emilyn Claid, Wendy Houstoun and Nigel Charnock.

 

How did you come across Dramaturgy?

Whilst I was at university in Winchester. It was something we were introduced to by Synne Berhndt that became a foundation to our thinking and approach to making work as young artists/students. Cathy Turner also joined that teaching team in my final year, so I think I was exposed to experienced dramaturgs, dramaturgical thinking and attentions there, at a time where the idea of working with dramaturgs was still fairly emergent in the UK dance world. 

 

Do you apply a process or a methodology to delivering your dramaturgical work?

I’ll talk about this more in the upcoming sessions… but for now… Yes, and No. I definitely have core questions, strategies, tasks and ways in which I come back to or draw from work over the years when working with artists, most of which are to do with reflection, attention, noticing, connecting, teasing out and being concerned with a wider weave more broadly, where dance and choreography meets or might meet with other worlds. But, at the heart for me is intuition and responsiveness. To work with an artists practice and process, to understand or come to understand the ‘logics’ of a project, process or practice, an artists performance heritage and where a work or moment in practice might sit as part of that - and then to respond to what’s emerging.

 

Have you ever had a particularly tricky time working on a piece and was there a particular lesson you learnt along the way?

Yeah, there have definitely been moments when I didn’t do what I just described above at the first point of entering a project.  When I wasn’t listening closely enough to an artist, to what was happening in the room, in that particular context with those people. I hadn’t garnered enough understanding of where things were at and so was trying to help a project go somewhere I thought would be interesting, rather than unpicking and following what the artists interest was...  This was a really notable moment for me in better understanding and clarifying what I think my role and responsibility as a dramaturg is - to work with artists to make the work they want to…and often to discover what that is with them.

 

We understand you’re currently in New York.  What are you up to over there?

I’m currently Associate Artist with Dance Base in Edinburgh and they and my mentor Bush Hartshorn have supported me to come to the American Realness festival, to see work here, meet with other artists and colleagues as part of my ongoing research and development. I came five years ago, just after leaving Candoco and was really excited, challenged, invigorated and moved by what I encountered, so I’m approaching it as an opportunity to reflect on the five years since, to bump into other performance inspirations and influences I’ve not seen for a while - I just saw Lois Weaver who also really evolved my interest and understanding of performance when I took my Masters and some other colleagues from around the world - and to feel forward, into what might be or need to be coming next. 

Jess Curtis and Claire Cunningham are also presenting their duet The Way You Look (at me) Tonight as part of the programme, which I was dramaturg for. It’s really wonderful to be able to come and be here and experience how that work is now, two years since making it, here in this context. Often as a dramaturg I can be involved in projects during their creation and then, once they are out in the world not get to check in on how they are evolving in person, which actually feels really important, particularly when a work appears in many different kinds of cultural, political and dance contexts.

 

Favourite place?

I’m not a singular kind of thinker or person… so today at this moment in life there's a few that come to mind - Dungeness, Leith, Cove Park, The Isle of Eigg, Berlin, Cork, Williamsburg

 

Marmite.  Yes or no? 

Always.

© Luke Pell
Q&A with Luke Pell

South East Dance shortlist for U.Dance Lift Off Dance Festival 2018

U. Dance 2018, the national annual youth dance festival will be taking place at Snape Maltings in Suffolk this year and South East Dance have been busy managing the call-out for submissions by youth and school groups across the south east region. In partnership with South Hill Park in Berkshire, we’ll be holding the regional heats on April 22nd, which will feature as part of their annual Lift Off Dance Festival.  From those shortlisted, the winning group will then go on to join other regional qualifiers to attend U.Dance 2018, a showcase of the nation’s rising young talent where participants will attend classes, workshops, careers sessions and social activities during a three and half day residential.

As ever, the calibre of dance pieces we’ve received, both in terms of choreographic artistry and technical skill, has been spectacular.  Groups from across Kent, Oxfordshire, Sussex and Berkshire, representing a diversity of cultural dance styles and featuring disabled and non-disabled dancers aged between 11 – 19 years old, display a maturity and conceptual sophistication beyond their years. 

A taste of those we’re looking forward to seeing at Lift Off include Drishti Dance, a ten member 11 – 15 year old company who weave classical Indian Kathak with contemporary dance in their mesmerizing piece ‘Rhythm Incessant’, and Young Anjali; a five piece 13 – 19 year old youth group whose learning disabilities bring an utterly unique energy to their piece ‘Doors’ which investigates the spaces between spaces, particularly those within the soul.

Book tickets for Lift Off, U.Dance 2018 Regional Final here.

© Brian Slater
South East Dance shortlist for U.Dance Lift Off Dance Festival 2018

South East Dance present undisciplined

We’ve had a long-held ambition to create a platform that attracts artists who have something powerful to say and say it in a powerful way. So we are hugely excited to present undisciplined, a micro-festival celebrating contemporary performance with a choreographic edge that will take place in venues and meeting points across Brighton from Wednesday 18 – Friday 20 April. 

undisciplined brings together some of the UK’s brightest talent, kicking off at the Attenborough Centre with a double bill from Candoco featuring Hetain Patel’s Let’s Talk About Dis and Yasmeen Godders Face In; both critically acclaimed pieces which address issues of individuality, appearance and intimacy. The performance provides the ultimate end-point to a day of events and encounters with artists Colin Poole, Charlie Morrissey, Amy Bell and Project O, inviting audiences to get up close and explore what the crux of ‘identity’ means to us; whether celebrated, suffered or perceived.  

Project O (Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila Johnson-Small) bring VooDoo to The Old Market on Thursday 19 April when they deliver a four-hour experience across two 2 hour performances; whether you attend both or just one, divisions between audience and performer are sure to be disrupted by a uniquely beguiling visual and physical journey. We round off undisciplined with a double bill at The Old Market featuring Eleanor Sikorski’s Comeback’s I thought of later; a funny, irreverent work featuring dance, song and a lot of honesty that celebrates the frustration we all experience when we think of ‘sassy things you wished you’d said when someone’s been a dick’, mandatory viewing for those learning not to care too much.  Finally, we’re invited to join Jan Marten’s ‘Ode to the attempt (a solo for meself)’ as he collates a deeply personal choreographic collage of his mind (and computer) and the inner machinations of his lurching emotions. Join us for a three-day tour de force of performance, conversation and provocative encounters. Visit Whats On, on our website later this month for more information about the performances and to book tickets.

South East Dance present undisciplined

Collaborate – Dramaturg in Residence

South East Dance’s Dramaturg in Residence programme has just been turbo-charged with a generous grant from the Garrick Charitable Trust of £5000.  The Dramaturg in Residence (DiR) programme offers support to artists through four key strands of work - Test: intensive workshops with our Dramatrug in Residence Lou Cope and Guest Dramaturgs Martin Hargreaves, Collaborate: in-depth dramaturgical support for artists creating a new work, Embed: evolving our artistic strategy as an organisation through high-level support of a specific artist and Reflect: our online resources available for artists to access and share, hosted on our mini-site The Red Line.   

 

The Garrick Charitable Trust’s award will enable us to offer extra Collaborate support to an artist at a pivotal stage in their career.  Artist Rachel Birch-Lawson presented a project we felt compelled to engage with and invest Lou Cope’s dramaturgical flair.  ‘To the Moon’ is a stunningly beautiful duet that addresses crumbling, shifting landscapes, vulnerability and overcoming obstacles through transcendence.

The funds have also allowed us to partner with Dance4 and host an intensive Test workshop for ten artists.Test provided a supportive environment where participants could practically and theoretically interrogate and explore the definition, application and methods of dramaturgy and dramaturgical thinking.  Humbled by the number of applications received for our Collaborate award, receiving over 70 submissions but with only 9 places to offer, we were equally impressed to behold the vitality of our next-generation talent emerging on our choreographic horizon.

Our digital offering will also receive a boost with this year’s Guest Dramaturg Luke Pell delivering four online discussions where he shares his approach to developing practice and methodologies when creating new work, how he navigates his creative road-blocks and tests ideas. Please visit The Red Line for further information in the coming weeks.

© Raphael Klatzko
Collaborate – Dramaturg in Residence
© Becca Carter.

Dance to Health

South East Dance in partnership with Aesop (Arts Enterprise with a Social Purpose) and NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group have begun the national roll-out of the newly expanded Dance to Health scheme.  Dance sessions began in December in town centres across Oxfordshire involving professional dance artists from across the region, co-ordinated by South East Dance

Dance to Health is a pioneering older people’s falls prevention dance programme developed by Aesop, an arts charity and social enterprise. It combines evidence-based physiotherapy with the creativity and energy of dance. Thanks to a £2.3 million expansion, the programme will run for two years, involving over 800 older people and 800 volunteers. 63 programmes will be delivered across England and Wales in collaboration with regional Health and Dance Partners. 

The expansion programme is being delivered thanks to generous support from the Big Lottery Fund, Nesta and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, Peter Sowerby Foundation, Rank Foundation, and the Aged Veterans Fund funded by HM Treasury.  South East Dance will also be responsible for delivery throughout Kent to Warwickshire over coming months.  To find out more, follow this link: http://www.dancetohealth.org/

© Helen Murray
Dance to Health

2017, what a year…

It’s been a spectacularly busy and successful year for South East Dance, and while we brace ourselves for the excitement that 2018 promises, we’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the highpoints of last year. In September, after 10 years of planning and fundraising, forks finally broke ground at Circus Street in Brighton and South East Dance’s new home The Dance Space became a tangible reality. Thank you to all our friends, partners and supporters who have shared our journey so far and will be key to the final push over the next few years when doors open in early 2020. 

 

We’ve programmed and presented performances that have been charged with artistic and emotional vibrancy including Dad Dancing and Fagin’s Twist, inviting participants as young as 6 and up to 74 years to share the stage with their professional protagonists. We have watched bold young talent that we’ve supported over the years mature into confident, self-assured performers taking their work to the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe garnering rave reviews. And we’ve grown our programmes offering support to artists through our Dramaturg-in-Residence, Pebble Trust bursaries and stretched our minds and practice by working with an array of boundary-breaking Research Artists.                                                                               

The Welcome Project, our lead-in programme to The Dance Space introducing local residents in the Queens Park and Tarner wards to the work of South East Dance has concluded its first 12 week open-door dance sessions for the under-5’s, young people, long-term unemployed and older people, and so far, we’ve had a blast. Come spring 2018, we’ll be working with the Goodall Foundation to deliver an expanded programme for under 5’s at The Barge in the Marina, and partnering with the new Brooke Mead Extra Care facility to offer dance classes for older people, some living with dementia.

© Zoe Manders
2017, what a year…
© Katarzyna Perlak and Claire Haigh.

Announcing the Dance Space…on the cusp of South East Dance’s 20th anniversary

Fanfares and bunting! It’s with enormous excitement that we are finally able to announce that construction has begun at Brighton’s Circus Street where South East Dance’s new home, The Dance Space, will open its doors in early 2020. It signals a major milestone for the organisation after years of planning and fundraising and a particularly symbolic coming of age as we celebrate South East Dance’s 20th anniversary. Back then, we sought to provide contemporary choreographers across the region with badly needed support outside the capital.  Since then, we’ve grown our mission and reach dramatically; commissioning new work, nurturing the careers of artists and engaging many hundreds and thousands of people from all walks of with the life-affirming and transformational benefits of dance.

Designed by award winning architects Shedkm, the building will include a suite of studios and a large ‘Creation Space’ that can transform into a 150 seater auditorium. It will feature live/work units providing accommodation for visiting artists where they can test ideas and fully immerse themselves in the creative development of their projects. A dedicated community and learning space in addition to a public events square will host a programme of events for under 5’s to the over 60’s ensuring that there are workshops and classes that everybody in the local area can access.  

© shedkm
Announcing the Dance Space…on the cusp of South East Dance’s 20th anniversary

The Welcome Project

The Welcome Project is a programme of events and workshops which will allow us introduce ourselves and the local artists we’ll be working with to our neighbours in the communities surrounding The Dance Space. Over the next three years as the building takes shape at the Circus Street site in the heart of Brighton, it’s our aim to get as many people as we can to come and dance with us. Literally!

The engine behind The Welcome Project is Emily James-Farley and Linzi Whitton who have recently taken on the role of Creative Communities Manager. They’re currently finalising schedules of open door dance sessions for families and under-5s, young people, unemployed and older people, working with Puffin nursery, Brighton Youth Centre, Brighton Unemployed Centre Families Project and Brooke Mead extra care unit. Work in progress also involves the establishment of a community steering group, a volunteer programme, artist- in-residence projects building up to a new community curated dance festival, ‘Our City Dances’ due to take place in the summer of 2018.

"We are delighted to be taking up the new post of Creative Communities Manager. This is such an exciting role allowing us to focus on developing sustainable, meaningful relationships with the communities surrounding The Dance Space.  We have already begun to forge partnerships with some of the groups we will be working with over the next 3 years, hearing what interests them and the types of dance activity they would be keen to take part in. At this early stage this has proven inspiring and insightful, and we look forward to developing a diverse and interesting programme of activity – to get more people moving, socialising and reaping the benefits that dance can offer."
- Emily James-Farley and Linzi Whitton

One of our first projects under The Welcome Project banner has been the recruitment of participants to become involved in a performance of Dads Dancing at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on Friday 27 October. We’ve put a call out for dads and father figures of all ages, abilities and music tastes to join us for a series of workshops leading up to the event and so far, we’ve had a joyful time.  If you’d like to become involved, please check our website for further details on the next workshop or drop sarah.kearney@southeastdance.org.uk a line to advise your interest.

© Bosie Vincent
The Welcome Project

Brighton Digital Festival 2017

Brighton Digital Festival 2017 is upon us and South East Dance has partnered up with a range of choreographers, visual artists and tech maestros to bring you an array of mind-bending and thought-provoking shows. 

Here are our highpoints:

Last year we hosted AɸE’s work-in-progress, Whist, as part of the Virtual Reality LAB. They return this year with the piece fully developed into an hour long experience that explores the dreams, fears and desires of a fictional family; a story inspired by Sigmund Freud. A multi-dimensional digital journey that merges Physical Theatre, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR

Performances throughout the day from 11am – 9pm; 19 & 20 September at The Old Market (14 yrs +) 

© Luke Lebihan
Brighton Digital Festival 2017

Q&A with Patricia Okenwa

Patricia Okenwa is a contemporary choreographer with over 14 years of performance and choreographic experience working with some of dance’s most prolific names including Rafael Bonachela, Andile Sitoya, Kim Bandstrup’s Ark Dance Company. Resident at Rambert for over a decade she is also a founding member of the boundary-pushing, cross disciplinary New Movement Collective.

In collaboration with visual artists Mária Júdová and Andrej Boleslavsky and commissioned by Renaud Wiser Dance Company, Patricia’s R&D for the work Camouflage will feature as part of Brighton Digital Festival and will be performed at The Lighthouse on Thursday 5 October and at Werks Central on Friday 6 October.

We asked Patricia to take a break and reveal a bit about what drives her.

You’re known for combining extreme physical choreography with emotional themes.  Can you tell us how this form evolved?

When I started to make work myself I was attracted to pushing dancers beyond the usual as a way to be fully present in the performance.

I guess I love to see people attempt something, but let go of the end result, so something new can emerge in the moment. This is always emotional, because the dancers have to be very committed and are entering a vulnerable state, where they give up some control.

Was there a particular gap in the creative arts scene that you wanted the New Movement Collective (NMC) to address?

NMC evolved as a response to our collective need to create beyond what we could access at the time and our common interests in architecture, design, technology and to a point, fiction. Most of us where working for large established companies and it was not possible to make work that was site or space specific and collaborative with other creative disciplines so we started to create those opportunities ourselves. The dancers in the collective had been performing at a distance on big theatre stages and were now up close in immersive work. This was exciting and new to many audience members.

Which piece of work are you most proud of?

I'm pretty proud of Hydrargyrum, the work I did for Rambert last year. I made a huge step forward in my way of working in this process and the work is very me. I also had a particularly wonderful time with my collaborators, composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, designer Jon Bausor and lighting designer Charles Balfour. It felt like such an organic process of developing the concept, structure and design, but I feel our unique voices are very present.

You’ve written about how becoming a mother has become a catalyst for creating new work - could you tell us a bit more about this and whether this has affected the themes you wish to explore in your work?

Becoming a mum has changed me personally. I recently gave birth to my second son and again I found the experience of birth itself transformative. My physical, emotional and mental power all played together to bring him to the world and at the same time I had to fully let go and flow. Having experienced it again is making me want to dig in and work from that place or know that place.

I also recently started a project called a Stabat Mater, researching mothering with a small group of dancers and a singer as well as in workshops with non-professional dancers and mothers of different ages.

We’re fascinated by the utilization of digital technology including virtual reality headsets and movement recognition sensors in the Camouflage project. Are you positive about the advancement of digital technology or concerned?

I feel both. I think technology as well as human behaviour is complex and unpredictable in its effects, so sometimes the most light and playful scene could make us reflect on something sinister or dangerous. I guess Camouflage includes the option of testing moral boundaries. What do we feel comfortable with, how does wearing a mask or giving into a virtual world change how we act or feel

What is particular about our set up is that live dancers interact with the participant as well as the virtual reality they are immersed in allowing interesting behaviour to emerge between dancers, participants and the space.

What are your ambitions for Camouflage and your work with Renaud Wiser Dance Company?

Our ambition is to create three works that relate to digital imaging where two are more traditional stage works by Renaud Wiser and myself plus the VR installation.  My work will take the experience of Camouflage Installation as a starting point and give the audience the opportunity to try out part of the creative process. I hope this will allow the audience to relate and interpret the work in a new way, bringing their own VR experience to their theatre viewing experience and vice versa. I think this will spark new conversations and a level of co-ownership.  Stage works will be created next spring and will premiere and tour from May.

Urban or rural?

Dreaming of rural

East or West?

South?

Where does the future lie? 

Play, flow, presence

© Benedict Johnson
Q&A with Patricia Okenwa

Dad Dancing

South East Dance in association with the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts are a bit excited about the forthcoming performance of Dad Dancing. It’s a project developed by Rosie Heafford, Alexandrina Helmsley and Helena Webb from their experience as dance students trying to enlighten their dutifully supportive Dads who were clearly grappling with contemporary dance and their career choices.  Coaxing them into a dance studio with the promise of a nice lunch and some good music, their intention was to celebrate unique family dynamics through dance…as well as spending time with each other in a profoundly different context.

Two years on from that experiment, they are still dancing with their dads in a show that uses idiosyncratic, embodied movement, humour and storytelling to explore father-child relationships.   They’ve invited other dads and daughters, father-figures, sons, uncles, mentors and grandparents to take the stage with them to ‘reclaim fatherly grooves’, applaud the sharing of generational soundtracks and send the message that we should all dance our own dance.  

We’ve been putting the call out for participants of all ages; from 3 months to 101 years, and all abilities; from novice walker to chorus line professional, to join us for workshops and potentially be part of the performance at the Attenborough Centre.  It’s a joyful experience where new friendships are made and dance moves cultivated; as one Dad said when asked to sum it up in three words; “enjoyable, dancing, fun”.  Led by Rosie Heafford, the first workshop was attended by dads, step-dads, grandads and their sons and daughters keen to try something new and exploring what it means to be a dad and what it means to be a daughter or son through storytelling, movement and games.

If you’re interested in joining in a workshop (with no commitment to staying involved!), please check What's On for more information in how to take part.  We’d love to see you there!

Book here for the performance on Friday 27 October; Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, BN1 9RA

© John Hunter
Dad Dancing

Artist in Residence – Brandwatch, 2016

As part of Brighton Digital Festival 2016, we held our first Artist Residency in a business, with Brighton tech company Brandwatch, who invited dance artist Janine Harrington to research and create in response to their global business analysing data through innovative technologies.

The residency was an 8 week experiment in digital and artistic creativity, alternative thinking and new ways of seeing – with no prescribed outcome…

It was a chance to explore what happens when Tech and Dance, Business and Culture collide and provided much fertile ground, placing everyone outside of their comfort zones in order to liberate creativity.

Check out the residency. If your appetite has been whetted let us know – you could be our next Artist in Residence host….

“If other companies in Brighton were to do the same thing, who knows what we could be capable of” 
Katja Garrood, Creative Director Brandwatch

“Why would you not”  
Janine Harrington Artist

© Brandwatch
Artist in Residence – Brandwatch, 2016

Breakin Convention by Joanna Gurr’

Breakin' Convention at Brighton Dome – international festival of hip hop dance theatre (supported by Sadler’s Wells) - Wednesday 31 May 2017  Joanna Gurr

Initially I regretted my choice of a matinee performance as a large number of children were out in force as it was half term, but I soon came to realise that if anything they added to it because they were all so enthusiastic both as performers and audience.  I really enjoyed seeing them in the same event as adults but really holding their own.  Pre-performance and during the interval there was a DJ (RudeBen), MCs and break dancers performing in the Café-Bar and this included a very excited and appreciative gaggle of children watching and waiting to be given a chance to be part of their set.

I recognised J P Omari who was hosting alongside Jonzi D to introduce each of the eight performances.  I learnt from the programme that Jonzi D has been the Artistic Director of Breakin' Convention since 2004 and later in the show he was acknowledged as being the driving force behind an adult performer’s chosen career when he met him as a child.  J P Omari is a well-known Brighton personality as Founder and Director of Streetfunk and having seen him some years back leading a Parkour demonstration, was happy to see that he seems just as enthusiastic at encouraging young people to perform.  

First out was the youngest street crew Killerbeez (choreographed by Omari) in very stylish gold and black outfits with a high energy and exciting routine.  Steroshok and Defiance were two more under 14 crews in vivid black and red who gave short 3 minute very lively sets.   Then we were treated to a local Brighton crew called BN1, an impressive under-18 group whose coordination and slickness were spot on.   All danced to very loud hiphop tracks that maintained a high level of excitement.

The next lineup had a whole different look and feel using a loud repetitive beat throughout – the 4 South African Soweto Skeleton Movers who are experts in pantsula dance.  Its origins lie in jumping off and on moving trains and mixing it with tapdance and developed into a syncopated quickstepping low to the ground dance.  Their footwork was exceptionally frenzied with lots of routines interacting with each other and combining expert hat tricks and amazing contortionism. 

The second half started with the What is written Dance Company.  They cleverly put across the concept of being a slave to work and oppression and this was compelling theatrical dance and staging.  Next were Tentacle Tribe (a Canadian-Swedish duet) described as deconstructed street dance performing a surreal ‘Nobody likes a pixelated squid’ inspired by sea creatures.  Their slow modern dance of 15 minutes seemed much longer to me though and I could see some of the audience finding the slower pace less engrossing.  The final 9 dancers Just Dance from South Korea were led by a Buddhist monk using traditional instruments providing an exciting and diverse musical experience too which looked to be a favourite for many and was a great finale performance.  

© Breakin' Convention
Breakin Convention by Joanna Gurr’

Audience Ambassador Programme

South East Dance has launched the fourth round of its acclaimed Audience Ambassador scheme, praised by ACE as a case study for innovation in audience development.

The mission of the scheme is to introduce people to contemporary dance through a series of informal meetings with artists; inviting them to dinner with fellow audience ambassadors, behind the scenes rehearsals and culminating with attendance at the final performance.  Collaboration over the creative process can give incredible insight to both the performer and the audience member and we have found that participants in the scheme have found the venture to be such a revelation that they become repeat attenders and some of our biggest advocates.

This round sees award-winning choreographers  Igor and Moreno invite our ambassadors to observe the development of their ground breaking new dance show ‘Smoke’, a multi-sensory exploration into how our perception is enhanced or curtailed with the introduction of sounds, smells, elements and touch.

If you are interested in becoming involved in our audience ambassador scheme, please contact Madeleine Wilson at madeleine.wilson@southeastdance.org.uk by 20 June.  The only qualification we require is that you have NO previous experience of contemporary dance. 

Check out some of our previous ambassadors and their reactions to the scheme.

© Igor & Moreno
Audience Ambassador Programme

South East Dance at Take Part Festival, Brighton, June 17

Take Part is an award winning festival organised by Brighton and Hove City Council encouraging participation in sport and physical activity for all ages and abilities across the city.  It launches on Saturday 17th June at The Level in the heart of Brighton and members of the South East Dance team will be there in force to spread the word about the great work we’re doing to get young people dancing. Of the many performances taking place, three will involve people who have been supported through South East Dance’s learning and participation programmes, showcasing their phenomenal talents and passion for dance.

At 1.50pm ‘Dance Inc.’, a troupe aged between 13 – 25 years with learning disabilities will perform a 20 minute set, followed by a 30 minute inclusive workshop at 2.20pm. The workshop is open to everybody, with or without a learning disability. ‘Dance Inc.’ is run by Emma Vernon Harcourt from Rounded Rhythm, a creative arts group that fosters inclusivity in the performing arts and is supported by South East Dance.

At 3.10 pm, students from the Brighton and Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) who are studying for GCSE’s and BTEC’s in Performing Arts will take the stage with a short contemporary ballet piece showcasing formidable technical proficiency for their 12 – 16 year age group.  South East Dance work in partnership with BACA and the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy to develop dance opportunities and qualifications for students.

Following on, our Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) students training through the Brighton Satellite Partnership programme with leading contemporary dance centre, The Place, will perform a short extract from a choreographic work developed with Carrie Whitaker and Dougie Evans from the renowned Lila Dance. Our CAT students are young people between 12 – 15 years who demonstrated exceptional talent in dance and are on the road to developing their potential. 

Do come along and join us for Take Part if you are in the Brighton and Hove area. 

South East Dance at Take Part Festival, Brighton, June 17

South East Dance ‘A Space to Dance’ Brighton Fringe award

This year’s Brighton Fringe Festival included an array of vibrant talent across the dance genre that made shortlisting for South East Dance’s annual ‘A Space to Dance’ fringe award an ordeal with a minefield of contrasting invention, wit and visual captivation.

Four acts made the nomination list and included ‘Check Out My Shirt’ by Sidonie Carey-Green and Rebecca Thompson from Outset Dance, ‘My Feminist Boner’ by Sarah Blanc, ‘Still I Rise’ by dance troupe TRIBE and ‘Out’ by Rachael Young. 

After much deliberation, we were pleased to announce that Rachael Young’s work, a defiant proclamation of self-expression performed with co-creator Dwayne Anthony, took the prize at the awards ceremony held at The Warren by Brighton Fringe Festival organisers.   Part of the prize offers Rachael bespoke mentoring sessions with South East Dance’s artistic team to assist in honing her creative and operational skills and so nurture a remarkably fresh talent.

South East Dance Programming Director Cath James declared:

'The South East Dance Brighton Fringe award is for the 'most surprising dance event'. The fringe is a great place to take risks; physically, artistically and politically. This award is not about perfectly produced and virtuosic dance but risk, and we want to celebrate risk takers who surprise and challenge. Rachael and Dwayne's performance was exactly that. Huge congratulations to both of them, and we look forward to getting to know Rachael over the next 12 months'

Rachael’s reaction to winning the prize;

"I’m so chuffed to be nominated let alone win the award. Sometimes you just need that little bit of recognition to let you know that you are doing alright and that all the hard work and determination will eventually pay off.

Having support from South East Dance in the form of dramaturg Martin Hargreaves has been invaluable to the process. I feel like he understood what we wanted from the work right from the beginning, he was great at questioning and really helped us interrogate the movement, so that it was absolutely doing what we needed it to do. Though this has been a tough project, I have found using the movement in my practice incredibly liberating, it has allowed me to say things I never thought I would be able to say on stage and inspired me to think in completely different ways about how I approach making performance."

© Brighton Fringe
South East Dance ‘A Space to Dance’ Brighton Fringe award

Hiccup: From Fringe to Festival

We first spotted The Hiccup Project as part of an experimental evening of new work at the Studio Theatre, Brighton Dome.  The Hiccup women; Cristina MacKerron and Chess Dillon-Reams, both graduated from Northern School of Contemporary Dance and were back in their home town of Brighton, eager to develop their choreography and performance. Their work in progress: May-We-Go-Round?  was refreshingly sassy, authentic and right on the money – drawing on their own teenage histories with wit and humour. We could see the potential in their very early explorations, and their clear dance talent.

We invited them onto our Emerging Artists programme, a support programme for young artists to develop creative and producing skills. We provided mentoring, cash and support in developing their fundraising skills and networking introductions to get there work out there and into venues.

Working with our Dramaturg In Residence, Lou Cope, May-We-Go-Round? was reworked and presented in Brighton Fringe  2015 to sell out houses,  and won the inaugural South East Dance Brighton Fringe Award. Arts Council funding success and a national tour followed. Hiccup took their work to Edinburgh Fringe, receiving excellent reviews and again, good houses, and in the process, a new relationship with Dance Base, Scotland’s national dance centre.

Hiccup’s second work It’s okay, I’m dealing with it was presented in Brighton Fringe 2016, with continued mentoring and support from South East Dance and, from this, we put their work forward for inclusion in Kate Tempest’s Brighton Festival 2017.

All the best work begins with our deeply personal experiences. The Hiccup Project instinctively dig into that place and find a richly comic and authentically physical world there.
Ben Duke, Lost Dog

We are delighted with their success and loved seeing Chess and Cristina in action during the festival.

It's been a whirlwind, high speed, very exciting, super tiring, adrenaline fuelled journey for us.

In 2014, we entered a scratch night with a 10 minute work in progress in Brighton, hosted by SED. Three years later, we're performing as part of the Brighton Festival with two full length works. As local Brightonians, and with its prestigious reputation, this is a real high point for us in our careers - particularly this year with Kate Tempest as guest director, and the whole ethos of it.
Cristina MacKerron

Read a delighted Alex Berdugo’s (The Verse) review of ‘It’s okay…’ here

© Hiccup Project
Hiccup: From Fringe to Festival

Q&A with Martin Hargreaves

What is performance for?
It’s actually both very useful and also useless. Performance is useful because it often brackets itself off from real behaviour and then questions this bracketing. It is useless (in a positive sense) because it is difficult to instrumentalise in order to produce a singular known affect or impact. We can never anticipate what it will produce and this is the continuing allure and exciting frustration of performance.

What is the most memorable performance you have seen?
David Hoyle in conversation with Lauren Harries at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern in 2008

What bores you?
Most things that attempt to seduce me

When did you last feel hysterical?
When I was last successfully seduced

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I didn’t want to grow up

What most excites you about your job?
Being invited to work with artists. Whether they are established artists who I’ve admired for many years or students just starting out, I always learn from each encounter.

Who inspires you?
My students and the artists I work with.

What is your favourite piece of music to dance to?
Dear God I Hate Myself by Xiu Xiu

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Nothing. It’s my favourite pastime.

Where would you like to be right now?
Asleep in bed

If you were a plant, what would you be and why?
A cacti: dry and spiky with a wet centre.

What is your greatest achievement so far?
Paying my rent as a freelance artist in London

What was the longest word in your thesis?
Heteronormativity

What does it mean?
It’s a very bad word indeed.

 

Join Martin for Doing Dramaturgy on 24, 25 June - a two-day course that will explore dramaturgy as a process and product-shaping practice.  

Click here for more details and booking

© Martin Hargreaves
Q&A with Martin Hargreaves

A Success Story: HOSTED

This year South East Dance was delighted to team up with Brighton-based dance company, Penny & Jules Dance, Brighton and Hove High School and One Dance UK, to bring HOSTED, the U.Dance South East showcase, to the stage. Eleven youth companies from across the region joined together for a vibrant and varied night of dance at Brighton’s The Old Market. There were also screenings of work by three budding dance filmmakers. The evening was an enormous success, and it was wonderful to see the spectrum of talent emerging in the region.

A panel of three judges were there to select two groups to represent the South East at the National U.Dance 2017 Platform. We are pleased to announce that this year the groups are Penny & Jules Youth Dance and Ceyda Tanc Youth. Ceyda Tanc Youth shared their elation with us:

When we were told that we would be representing the South East, excitement ran through my body as this was my first performance with Ceyda Tanc Youth Dance and I have never had a greater opportunity in the whole 6 years I've been dancing.
Tom Williams

Huge congratulations to both, and thank you to all the amazing dancers that took to the stage at this year’s HOSTED.

This year’s National Festival is taking place in Birmingham from 13-15 July. Click here for more information.

© Rob Palmer
A Success Story: HOSTED

Work In Progress by Keith Stewart

In 2016 I was invited to take part in the South East Dance programme – Dance Ambassadors programme (www.southeastdance.org.uk). An opportunity for non-dance people such as me to experience dance. I was invited to see the Belgian dance artist Vera Tussing at the intimate Dance Studio. I am always happy when I attend something and haven’t read the background. All I saw was dance and thought “o.k.”

This was a magical, stimulating and thought provoking afternoon with Vera and Esse as we explored with them a work in progress. There were about ten of us in the audience. Intimate. Connected and in the moment. It is such an honour to be allowed into the thought processes of artists. And especially when they are playing with and developing ideas.

Vera and Esse are Dance Artists from Belgium. This was their first time in Brighton. They have performed across Europe and usually London. Their work has moved through stages in their exploration of their dance - sight and now the physical. Safely wrapped in the imagination of dance and expression I was able to exclude the dreary May rain. I was entranced from the beginning. They showed us four pieces and each time we were able to be inside their thoughts. In addition, share our reflections that could help them think about how to grow the work. They move in “duoglide” ceaseless and creaseless harmony. It is wonderful to watch two women who are so in tune with each other and for whom touch and movement together is energy. We were given permission from the start to be part of this process. To speak, to take part in a dance, to change our angle and move to other parts of the studio. We had ownership of the space and this participation is integral to their work. The audience is done with not done to. They helped make this dance experience accessible to me on a physical and emotional level. Even bringing us all into parts of the dance -touching fingertip to fingertip with the dancers. I enjoyed collaborating with other audience members to narrate their movements in one piece. Some of their work is shown to audience members who are blind and use their vast array of other senses and methods to feel the dance. Touches such as braille notes designed by various artists increase participation and understanding. Contemporary dance of this calibre offers so many opportunities to break barriers and create avenues. Watching two women dance together without the male lead raises questions. How often do you see women dance without men leading? The women are the flexible feminine input. While the men are the “strong anchor”. Or so we are taught to accept.

Movement like this reflects and challenges some of the “isms” of Society. This graceful, strong, solid, confident pair reword some of that language. I experience this as “movement” and more than “dance”.

© Joeri Thiry
Work In Progress by Keith Stewart

Anne’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

Anne Colvin received a Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary to support her development of a new piece of work. Here Anne reflects on how her mentoring sessions with choreographer and director Rosemary Lee has had an impact on her ideas and approach to the creative process. 

Anne Colvin – Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary - Mentoring with Rosemary Lee

The Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary opportunity popped up at a perfectly ripe time for me, though autumn, when everything is retreating back down to earth. But it was time for me.... 

Where I was

For over four years now, I have been brewing ideas for developing a piece of work inspired by people and the richness of their connections with their landscapes. I want the work to share people’s connection with nature, their stories, their sense of place, not a representation of it or a nod towards it, but the real experience of it - through dance, with dancers and choreographed.

I was taking the leap from working with a rich people-centred creative focus, enabling and facilitating creative connections with the world through dance, into a ‘me-centred’ place, shifting my focus back to making my own choreography, and this was overwhelming.

I needed guidance from someone who understood the importance of people in making work, someone who could recognise the desire to take a creative journey, and artistically and sensitively share the essence of connection through choreography. Rosemary Lee was my obvious choice, and has been a fabulous mentor. She is a choreographer whose work resonates with my ideas and who I felt I could connect with; I could bumble through my ideas and share my vision in a way where I felt challenged, understood and encouraged, with authenticity and honesty. 

What we did

We met and we talked. Through conversation we were able to tease out the most important aspects of what I wanted my work to look like, to feel like, to share. It was more than an exchange of me telling Rosie what I wanted to achieve and her telling me how to do it. We chewed over ‘what’ of people’s stories interested me, why nature draws us in and how I could explore with the dancers to find the depth I’m looking for. We considered the nature of participatory dance and how it differs from dance with a community focus, how that sits with me and how my processes and approaches have validity in both spheres.

I also needed to make the pictures in my head real; I could begin to unpick these and create a structure for my research with guidance from Rosie. Her generosity in sharing her experiences, highlighting practicalities and realities and the joy of collaborating with people and with nature has been affirming and inspiring.

There were lots of tiny revelations that came, both in conversation and in my reflective time in between our meetings. Each conversation guided me to the next stage - of wondering, questioning, finding clarity and making decisions. 

Where I am now

I’m ready. I am clearer with what I want to play with and in my approaches. I have more confidence in experimenting with my own ideas and enjoying what evolves. I have been able to ask for the right advice and support from peers and potential partners and I’m looking forwards to inviting others to come on that journey with me as collaborators.

My G4A bid for the R&D phase of IMPRINT is nearly ready.

A huge ‘thank you’ to South East Dance and the Pebble Trust - and to the amazing Rosie Lee, who will continue to be an invaluable support to me as the project develops.

© Anne Colvin
Anne’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

This Bright Field - a guest blog by Charlotte Constable

Fresh from two international commissions, Theo Clinkard returns to his Brighton base to deliver a world premiere of the striking This Bright Field, a two-part exploration of why we look where.

In its first part, an installation of sorts, Clinkard invites us to observe the dancers in close proximity. Positioning ourselves at one of the four sides of the stage, we catch flickers of hands, stolen embraces and sideways glances as the dancers constantly rearrange a series of panels to dictate what we see and don’t see. It is rather intoxicating. We find ourselves questioning who is smiling at who, or where that slapping sound is coming from. Under Guy Hoare’s dim lighting, it all feels very voyeuristic indeed. Particularly startling is a moment in which Crystal Zillwood finds herself face to face with two spectating women, and begins to gently gesture towards her own body, as if beckoning them to look more closely.

The second part, which seats us back in the auditorium, explores more richly what it is to be human, at its most primal and sensory. Experiments with touch, sound and taste permeate the movement.

The beginning is brash and unflinching. Performers emerge as if from nowhere and slither their way onto the stage from the stalls, crumpling and unfurling on their endeavour from floor to feet. Harsh, white lighting illuminates their silhouettes as they begin to discover one another. Before long, the theme of the gaze becomes apparent, as the captivating Leah Marojevic and Stephanie McMann sit alone, twitching: an installation illuminated as their fellow performers observe them from the shadows.

The following chapter is arguably even more primal. A nude Marojevic writhes and stumbles, a naturalistic comment on a material world, accompanied by a scrunched foil bedding of sorts. She bites and hits herself; gestures of bodily dissatisfaction. As more bodies enter the space, though, the corporeal becomes the playful - passionate hair pulls and cheeky slaps suggest a curious sexuality. As the light fades, they gather in a riotous, ritualistic murmuring of song.

The final moments transform the stage into a dressing room, performers tackling Rike Zöllner’s unshapely costumes as James Keane's on-stage drumming builds expectation nicely. Finally, they are totally united, flinging themselves through the space in an energetic sequence adorned with yelps and smiles. Yet, in a nod to Clinkard's advocacy of diversity on-stage, the now-uniform group is still self-expressive; and by this point, we feel we know them. As the panels close in around them, the dancers, in all their heavy adornment, seem at their most free.

A guest blog review for Theo Clinkard's This Bright Field at Brighton Festival on the 25 May by Charlotte Constable

© Theo Clinkard
This Bright Field - a guest blog by Charlotte Constable

Tango for the 21st Century - By Ms.Merized

A guest blog review for Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's ​m¡longa at Brighton Festival on the 19 May.

The Dance of Life

Choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui promised to add a contemporary twist to the original influences of Argentine Tango, and delivered right from the start. An overhead screen introduced a melange of Traditional moves, then the spotlight switched to a couple centre-stage. Slow, measured, tempered passion; going through all the usual moves: the pulpo, octopus-like leg entanglements; gancho, leg hooked around the other's leg or body, only they do it all back-to-back: like a couple who've had a heated argument; able to stay in the same room, stay in the relationship, but not yet able to face each other. They argue, yes, that's a complicated dance at the best of times, but through various shifts and turns are able to come face-to-face; see eye-to-eye. Extraordinary: the perfect start. Tango is about power, relationship, passion, desire, raw emotion: the pulse and rhythm of life. Intensity. Complexity. Entanglements. Social binds.

On-Screen Relationships

So much of life now is screen-based. Witness the man absorbed in orchestrating his life, arms upraised like a conductor, re-arranging scenes from his life on the big screen: enlarging, shifting, swiping, deleting. Memories, history, the storyboard of life. We see it all, over his shoulder. Voyeurs. He has his back to us. Smartphones are jealous gods, they demand undivided attention. The Screen is just that: a cover for real life. It plays an important part in the performance: projections & shadows. Real dancers perform (compete?) with their projections: larger than life - they can almost steal the show. They distract, as projections do, They can even be more active than the figures they stem from, leaving them at a standstill. There's a divide between what's real & what's superficial image, and how the two can interface, or not. I was reminded of Fred Astaire's 'Shadow Dance' with a touch of Buzby Berkeley. It highlighted that uncomfortable breach in relationship where you're not entirely sure what's going on.

"It Takes Two to Tango..."

Well, the contemporary twist to that is acknowledging, it more than likely takes three: including an ex- in the pulpo entanglements; plus, the arrastre, body dragged along behind, or still wrapped around a partner. Or, in the more time-honoured tradition of affairs, up close and passionate, behind the back of the one of the 3 at any given time. Ouch. A clever, creative take on relationships. If you can get together at all, that is, which is also taken into account. The awkwardness of sitting on the side-lines while everyone else is paired off; being in the same city / same gathering, yet not quite able to connect. Or, being so self-absorbed, important signals and flirtatious cues are missed, whilst practicing social strategies: comic touches added by the Lucille Ball-like character trying to gain the attention of Mr. Bean. Tango is relationship; and as such, includes how we move in our environments; caught up in the busy-ness and rush of city-life, that invariably ends in isolation: the antithesis of Tango. 

A passionate tour de force, beautifully enhanced by the small band of on-stage musicians, and thedistinctive accordion that is the natural partner to the Tango - it breathes! And moves together / apart, but never divided. I recognized some of the music from my Nuevo Tango CD. A wonderful evocation of all that is Tango; its roots & fruits. A triumph all round. Bravo!

Tango for the 21st Century - By Ms.Merized

A review of Digital Tattoo by Nicholas Minns

Caileen Bennett in Artefact 1 of Digital Tattoo. 

A new company, a new venue. Katie Dale-Everett, artistic director of KDE Dance, studied choreography at Falmouth University, graduating in 2014. She is a freelance dancer, teacher and choreographer and has wasted no time in putting together and performing projects with a focus on how dance can be written and read. In Digital Tattoo she is exploring writing dance in the service of a social project. In this context, Dale-Everett’s writing takes on the French use of the word ‘écrire’ (to write) to describe the notation of the choreographic process whereas in English we prefer the verbs ‘to make’ or ‘to create’.

Recently I have seen different approaches to writing dance: Joe Garbett’s work No. Company takes its point of departure from choreographic text messages; Fevered Sleep’s choreographic performance of Men & Girls Dance is wrapped in a written project, and here in Digital Tattoo is a trio of works within a single program that comments on the concept of privacy in social media. Such an approach has its strengths and weaknesses. Whereas dance can provide an emotional entrance to the understanding of a social concept, there is always a danger that the written aspect, if taken too literally, will take precedence over its imaginative choreographic content, that the image becomes too directly linked to its meaning. It doesn’t have to; it is worth remembering that fairy tales in their written forms were imaginative vehicles for understanding social concepts or cultural values even if today the production values and aspects of the performance — in say the balletic form of The Sleeping Beauty — tend to obscure those lessons. Dealing with contemporary social concepts through dance is thus a complex balance between the rational and the imaginative, one that Dale-Everett sets out to resolve by dividing Digital Tattoo into three separate elements.

The first, Artefact 1, is a short film, subsequently picked up by Channel 4’s Random Acts, with a simple overlay of social media images on a naked female torso, equating privacy with sensuality. The underlying focus of the tripartite program is the notion of the Right to be Forgotten — the right to erase our online footprint whenever we choose. In the film (with John Hunter as director of photography), we see a woman, Caileen Bennett, reaching round her back to erase the projected images by frenzied scratching but the merging of the two surfaces is an illusion. All we see is the scratched red marks underneath the images becoming deeper and more painful while Bennett’s breathing becomes more strained and frantic. The message, like the image, is simple and strong.

The second element, Conversations about the Digital, brings us back into the everyday through a performative quiz on stage with eight willing members of the audience (one male, seven females on this occasion), each with his or her own smartphone. The quiz consists of a series of recorded questions about smartphone usage to which the participants — classified demographically at the beginning as either digital immigrants (born before 1980) or digital natives — respond through gestures, movements, selfies and tweets. The goal is to promote awareness of our online digital presence, the influence it has on our social behaviour and on our understanding of our world (fake news is a current hot topic). Even though the questions stimulate an element of self-reflection, the self-confessional nature of the staged format leaves too much wiggle room for dissimulation which waters down the effect.

The third element, Digital Tattoo, is essentially a recapitulation of the first two in a danced duet performed by Jonathan Mewett and Sophia Sednova with a musical score by Tom Sayers that traces the development of their online meeting, its development and, once concluded, a unilateral effort to erase it from digital memory. Even if the preceding context informs our understanding of it, the structure of the duet is clear (as one would expect with Lou Cope as dramaturg), so that it could stand alone in its depiction of love at first byte, highlighting the self-comment, self-deprecation and self-consciousness engendered by the creation of an online relationship. Dale-Everett enhances the choreographic message with an effective use of digital light (developed with the help of Nic Sandiland), giving Mewett and Sednova the ability to use their fingers as on a keyboard to write on each other’s bodies their interjections and exclamations expressed through ubiquitous emojis. Real life events, like a scene at a party where Sednova loses control, are witnessed through selfie gestures as they might appear on a tagged Facebook page with self-accusatory hashtags.

It might seem counter-intuitive to depict an online relationship in a choreographic duet; the structure is necessarily complex, constantly blurring the distinctions between online and offline. My principal concern is that the educational framework of Digital Tattoo holds back the emotional aspect of the choreography; while Mewett and Sednova are convincing as its exponents, it appears circumscribed by its didactic function. In using dance for purposes that are not inherently choreographic this will always be a danger, even if the social orientation of the project is effectively served.

This blog post was written by Nicholas Minns and originally featured on Writing About Dance.

Digital Tattoo was presented at The Circle Arts Centre, Portslade as part of the Digital Tattoo Tour, 2017. For more information about the dates please visit katiedale-everettdance.co.uk.

Katie Dale Everett has been supported through the South East Dance Emerging Artist Support Programme.

© John Hunter
A review of Digital Tattoo by Nicholas Minns

Sue MacLaine’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

Sue MacLaine reflects on her experience of working with leading choreographer Jonathan Burrows as part of research and development (R&D) for her new work, supported by South East Dance’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary. 

The bursary enabled me to have time with Jonathan Burrows to assist my dramaturgical thinking alongside dancers/dance performers in a studio space to explore ideas of 'radical togetherness' and 'radical aloneness'.  This feeds into a new work I am making entitled 'Vessel', that has been co-commissioned by the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and Battersea Arts Centre and will premiere in 2018. The work is currently in research & development funded by Arts Council England.

I am conceiving the work for an ensemble of five with an emphasis of performers whose own life history can contribute to the themes and ideas and so at this point in the R&D, I’m seeking dancers/dance performers with complex and multiple physical disabilities.  To assist my thinking through the ethical and practical implications of this, Sarah Pickthall; a disability, equality and inclusion advisor is also part of the team.

I wanted to begin a discussion about what my definition of 'choreographic' would be in this work and to think about notions of the choreographic field, the imagined choreographic and symbolic choreography.  In addition to our work in the studio, I was guided to look at other artists work, in particular Mette Edvardsen’s 'Black' that explores a choreography that is about making things appear and the relationship between spoken word and space and being 'present' for an audience, the writing by Nigel Thrift about resistance, expressive embodiment and dance, the contemplation of the geographies of dance and of course meaning making when non-traditional bodies and the histories they carry are placed in conversation with the choreographic. 

My interest is about the capacities of language to provide the choreographic framework for a work and the question of whether language can actually choreograph the space.  It is probably important to say my vision for the work sees the audience and performers within a shared space and so choreographic space will be a vital and visceral experience for both audience and ensemble. 

Research & Development image from 'Vessel' by Sue MacLaine with Simon Startin, Julie Cleves, Sarah Pickthall and Jonathan Burrows.

© Kitty Shaw
Sue MacLaine’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

Robert & Chloe’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary Reflections

Through the Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary, South East Dance and the Pebble Trust supported Robert and Chloe Gregg to work with experienced Hip Hop dance artists as part of their professional development training. Robert and Chloe have used this experience to enhance their practice and feed back into the work they deliver at their studio in Eastbourne. 

Robert Gregg

Opening a dance/gymnastics studio, and having a baby at the same time, has been challenging. South East Dance enabled me to have time for ME. Time for my development as a dancer. It is so important to invest in yourself, to energise your passion, perfect your techniques and then give back to others further down the line.  I was able to brush up on my dance skills, and practice styles and moves that were out of my comfort zone.

The funding was spent on sessions in Locking with Samantha Haynes, who has years of experience working in the style. She has travelled the world learning from the pioneers and creators of the dance form.

In the sessions we covered moves that I hadn’t learned, and also went over a whole bunch of moves that I knew 80% of, and she managed to iron out the remaining 20% of all the moves giving me a full perspective.

Having this knowledge has given me more confidence when it comes to teaching and creating within Locking.

I recorded all the moves and documented the knowledge so that I would not forget.

This has been a great and valuable experience, and has made me want to continue this journey with Locking and other styles that I know none/a little/a lot of.

Massive thank you

Robert Gregg 

 

Chloe Gregg

I went to Kieran Warner for a private class to help excel my Hip Hop Freestyle and learn the style Lyte Feet.

This was an enlightening experience as it broadened my mind on the new depths I could go to with footwork. The transition and style is so difficult but phenomenal. 

Kieran also challenged me showing me new ways of pushing coordination ideas to the maximum. Having taught and putting myself aside for so long I had got quite complacent, so having someone come in and push me; it just enlightened me! I feel rejuvenated and ready to push myself to the next level!

Hip Hop is such a passion to me so learning new depths of it has been amazing 

Chloe Gregg

http://www.ss4a.com

http://www.s3studios.co.uk

© Robert & Chloe Gregg
Robert & Chloe’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary Reflections

WHIST at The V&A MUSEUM - Try_Out - February 2017

Journey into the unconscious mind as Interactive Theatre and Virtual Reality combine
*World Premiere: The Gulbenkian, Canterbury 12-13 April 2017, various time slots (duration 60 minutes)
*CPH:DOX Copenhagen International Documentary Festival 16-26 March 2017
(Esteban Fourmi of AΦE will also be participating in the conference programme, which explores Art, Technology and Change)
*Colours International Dance Festival, Stuttgart 6 – 23 July 2017
(further dates to be confirmed)
WATCH THE 360 ̊ TRAILER

AΦE announces the world premiere of its newest dance and Virtual Reality production, ‘WHIST’, which will take place at the Colyer-Fergusson Hall at The Gulbenkian, Canterbury, 12 – 13 April 2017. Inspired by Sigmund Freud’s dream theory, WHIST invites audiences on a journey into the unconscious mind, where instincts will be the guide through a narrative of surreal dreams and fears.
Combining Physical Theatre and Mixed Reality Technology, the production bring the magic of theatre together with the type of special effects only possible in the world of film. WHIST incorporates 360 ̊ interactive film, soundscapes and an architectural art installation to create an environment that blurs all boundaries – between consciousness and unconsciousness, reality and fiction, the physical and the virtual.
Immersed in a world of unfolding dreams, the viewer chooses his or her own path, creating a truly unique narrative dependent on choice – their personal decisions made through the course of the mesmerising hour- long experience.

Supported by South East Dance

WHIST at The V&A MUSEUM - Try_Out - February 2017

Rosaria M. Gracia’s Our Future City project reflection

In January 2017 I was approached by Our Future City (OFC, http://www.ourfuturecity.org.uk/) and South East Dance to lead a series of workshops in a local school. The sessions were to develop around the generic topic of #BeWell and, in particular, around the issues of belonging and trust.

This is a topic close to my heart. My work in this field has been mostly with adults through Synergy Arts with musician Polina Shepherd (2006 – 2009), Dancing for Health and Wellbeing with Sports Development at Brighton and Hove City Council (since 2012) and Finding your Compass (http://findingyourcompass.co.uk/home/) with film maker Fiona Geilinger (since 2012). Although I have been working in schools for over 20 years (most predominantly through my role as Dance Resident Artist for Same Sky (http://www.samesky.co.uk ) working on the Children’s Parade), I saw this as an opportunity to take the experienced gathered on topics around health and wellbeing to younger audiences, and learn through the process. I had a meeting with the OFC and the teacher of the local school to discuss the main issues. We explored some of the dynamics in the class and the need to focus the sessions around the sea, as main stimuli, to link with the curriculum. Straight away there were all sorts of images that came up that could be used for the performance, e.g. schools of fish, synchronised swimming aesthetics, pirates, and this gave me food for thought to prepare for my meeting with the children.

I met the Year 5 students the following week and we started talking about how it felt to be near the sea, what they liked doing, associations with the sea, etc. They came up with plenty of ideas, images, feelings which we started putting together in a short choreographic phrase. This was the beginning of what it was to become a 13-minute performance.

In the sessions, I realised that there was a child that was not that interested in the movement we were working on. She was keen to support me so we found ways in which she could be integrated in the sessions. The idea of using words then came up and I asked her whether she was keen on reading something at the performance and/or creating a piece. She took that opportunity and wrote riddles which then were enacted by a group of children, which was integrated in the performance too. She later on joined in the movement using one of the props! :

A series of serendipitous moments (mostly watching films with my two-year old son) brought in interesting music which we experimented with. Some songs worked better than others and we kept the ones that really motivated the children.

So, with a combination of small group-created movement pieces recreating pirate scenes, use of props (thanks to Same Sky), spoken word and ensemble pieces, the children created a performance which encapsulated playfulness, belonging and trust around nautical inspired music.

The process was highly enjoyable but was not free from challenges. The school time was packed with deadlines which made difficult to have a focused debrief with the teacher and TAs. We tried to go around it through emails and very focused structure of the sessions. This had the potential to fail but in this occasion, it worked out as the children were engaged with the project.

The flow of the project was also broken with half term and a prior work commitment. However, the teaching team used this time to delve into the small group pirate scenes which enormously supported the development of the performance. It must be said, that the support and dedication of the teaching team really made a difference as they prompted the children and kept their focus throughout the project. Big thank you to them!

Although my contact with the children was two hours per week for four weeks, I could really see that there was a subtle change in dynamics were the group seamlessly went through one task to another, widened their group of friends and those who were quite shy to start with, started to show some leadership skills.  It was highly inspirational to see, and a reminder of the need to continuously support children to develop their strong suits in their own way within a group.

The final performance took place at Fabrica, which made the sharing very special not only for the children, the teaching team and myself but also for the parents who were eagerly queuing up earlier than the announced time!

The children performed their pieces beautifully and with confidence and it was so amazing to see how proud they were of what the achieved!

Thank you Our Future City and South East Dance for inviting me to be part of this amazing experience. I learned a lot and made me understand once again the powerful message of dance as enabler to reach areas and dynamics that are difficult to reach otherwise. Thank you!

Rosaria M. Gracia’s Our Future City project reflection

COUNTERACTS by MARIE ASHTON

I’ve not previously been to a contemporary dance performance, as it’s just not something that I’d decide to spend my money on.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Candoco performance, I was impressed by the performances and how the able-bodied dancers supported those with disabilities; the lady with one leg supported from behind a fabric screen was impressive, allowing her to move more freely. The performance with the guy in a wheel chair and his partner was very graceful and impressive. I also enjoyed seeing two men dance together as this isn’t something I’d seen before.

The second half challenged perceptions in a very amusing way, using height to demonstrate how ridiculous discrimination is.

I’d not previously thought about people with disabilities being involved in dance or theatre performances, I feel quite ignorant that I’d not noticed that they were missing. And I think is very important for everyone to be involved in the arts and performances, regardless of physical ability or ability to pay. It’s a shame that contemporary dance and theatre are experiences reserved for the middle-classes. Well that’s my perception anyway. I enjoy music gigs and circus skills performances, but I’m unsure about musicals and modern dance.

 

Let’s Talk About Dis by Hetain Patel, Photographer: Amanda Thomas 2016

I’ve not previously been to a contemporary dance performance, as it’s just not something that I’d decide to spend my money on.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Candoco performance, I was impressed by the performances and how the able-bodied dancers supported those with disabilities; the lady with one leg supported from behind a fabric screen was impressive, allowing her to move more freely. The performance with the guy in a wheel chair and his partner was very graceful and impressive. I also enjoyed seeing two men dance together as this isn’t something I’d seen before.

The second half challenged perceptions in a very amusing way, using height to demonstrate how ridiculous discrimination is.

I’d not previously thought about people with disabilities being involved in dance or theatre performances, I feel quite ignorant that I’d not noticed that they were missing. And I think is very important for everyone to be involved in the arts and performances, regardless of physical ability or ability to pay. It’s a shame that contemporary dance and theatre are experiences reserved for the middle-classes. Well that’s my perception anyway. I enjoy music gigs and circus skills performances, but I’m unsure about musicals and modern dance.

 

Let’s Talk About Dis by Hetain Patel, Hugo Glendinning 2014

© Amanda Thomas
COUNTERACTS by MARIE ASHTON

Candoco’s Counter Acts by Cara Wheeler (aged 15)

Guest Review of Candoco's Counter Acts, Brighton Dome February 17 2017

I went into the theatre feeling very apprehensive about the whole situation, what was it going to be like? Was there going to be a clear storyline? What was I going to be experiencing tonight? I had no idea (other than it included disabled and non-disabled dancers). As soon as the show started the beautiful dancing and soundtrack captivated me. There was a scene where the dancers on wheelchairs were almost hidden by this piece of black shiny material; to me it felt like this was a metaphor for the visibility of disabled people but that might’ve just been my critical mind trying to find things that related to the dancers.

Throughout the whole show there were four main reoccurring themes; trust, feeling trapped, manipulation and visibility. Trust played a large part, as the dancers worked together to create entrancing movements, there were parts where they would use the large black material to create a slingshot motion and the other dances would catch the dancer that had been ‘thrown’. This also links in with the themes of manipulation and feeling trapped. The manipulation aspect isn’t so clearly to do with the dancers themselves but rather the material, and perhaps the material represents society and it’s the limitations it causes for disabled people.

One of the female dancers who was disabled had solo a part where she abandoned her crutches and interacted with a large black malleable wall. At the end of this solo piece the wall intentionally fell down. I interpreted this as her breaking down the walls of constraint from being disabled. However, I was unsure about whether disabled dancers could be in dance productions that were about any topic or whether dance productions they were in always had to be about disability. In the near future will we have disabled dancers that are separate from the stigma of disability?

© Hugo Glendinning
Candoco’s Counter Acts by Cara Wheeler (aged 15)

Candoco’s Counter Acts by Bella Wheeler

Guest Review of Candoco's Counter Acts, Brighton Dome February 17 2017

In an exciting double bill that claimed to challenge 'hidden prejudices and misplaced political correctness with seductive charm' Candoco's Counter Acts introduced us firstly to Alexander Whitley's mesmerising piece Beheld. Aided by Nils Frahm's brilliantly atmospheric score, seven disabled and non-disabled dancers used various props and energetic choreography to explore themes of freedom and constraint.

What appeared initially as a tangled and restrictive web of rope was gradually transformed into an object of playful exploration through the dancer's engagement with it, creating a metaphor for the ways in which collaboration and creativity can alter objects, material and 'things'. In other moments, non-disabled dancers appeared to mirror disabled dancers highlighting the contrasts and possibilities of what different bodies are able to do. In this context a dancer's wheelchair became a medium through which new movements and modes of expression could be conveyed; not better or worse, just different.

A large fabric wall appeared, porous and dotted with dancing lights, the small flickers creating a bridge between previously binary worlds. Abandoning her crutches, the dancer tentatively explored the wall, touching the lights and contorting her body until the wall fell down completely. If I had been interpreting the dance in a formulaic way, seeing what I believed the choreographer wanted me to see in themes of constraint and the overcoming of barriers, the second part of the bill and Hetain Patel's spoken word piece Let's Talk About Dis certainly changed all that.

Scripted through a process that drew upon the experiences of Candoco dancers, this proved brilliantly comedic in its self-conscious mocking of the earnest accounts of living as disabled that audiences have arguably come to expect. Discussions of language barriers, communication across continents and physical differences were interspersed with the dilemmas of missing limbs, teenage sex and how to use vibrators. In knowingly avoiding talking about 'the thing that they were expected to talk about' Candoco created a witty and subversive commentary that did indeed challenge politically correct assumptions about the right and wrong ways to address disability.

Not only did Counter Acts offer an arresting and aesthetically pleasing experience, but it also offered a thought provoking and cerebral event that pushed boundaries surrounding current binary notions of ability, disability and inclusion.

© Hugo Glendinning
Candoco’s Counter Acts by Bella Wheeler

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba Review By Clio (aged 14)

Danza Contemporanea de Cuba Review By Clio (aged 14)

Candoco Dance Company: CounterActs

Lou Hinman attended Candoco Dance Company, CounterActs as part of our Ambassador Ticket Scheme, this sketchbook page was produced in response to the work.

With thanks to Brighton Dome for supporting our Ambassador ticket scheme - Part of our Audience Ambassador Scheme. 

© Lou Hinman
Candoco Dance Company: CounterActs

Reaching out to communities on our doorstep and beyond

We want The Dance Space to be a welcoming creative space that local people from all walks of life will feel really at home in, so we’re excited to be launching a new programme that will reach out directly to communities on our doorstep and offer almost 15,000 people in Brighton & Hove new opportunities to take part in dance.

Thanks to a £125,000 funding award from Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, the Creative Communities programme will allow us to develop new relationships with more than 1200 children and young people, isolated older people and long-term unemployed people in the Queens Park Ward of Brighton – one of the top 1% most deprived wards in England.

A core part of this programme is The Welcome Project, designed to inspire and entice local people to take part in dance. Amongst the exciting plans for the project are workshops, discussions, classes and performances as well as a new festival of dance curated by local people.

Fran Purcell, Head of Development at South East Dance, says: “In addition to the artistic community, The Dance Space also belongs to the people of Brighton & Hove - it’s their place to dance. To make sure that message is well and truly heard, we’ve set ourselves the important task of inspiring and engaging specific groups of local residents over the next three years. We’re planning a new city-wide dance festival as well as an artists’ commission working with local people. Watch this space to find out how to get involved!” 

© Zoe Manders
Reaching out to communities on our doorstep and beyond

It’s official: dance keeps us strong and social into older age

In people over 65 years of age, falls represent the most frequent and serious form of accident, costing the NHS £2.3 billion per year and leading to reduced mobility and isolation from friends and family. Now, thanks to a survey leading to a new report published by AESOP and People Dancing, which was presented to the House of Lords in November 2016, it is officially recognised that dance provides a creative solution. The survey was borne out of Dance to Health, a pilot programme that saw South East Dance offer dance and movement sessions to more than 980 older people in 2015/16. While 40% of people complete regular falls prevention exercise programmes, a fantastic 73% of those who took part in Dance to Health finished the course, benefiting from a range of health, artistic and social benefits.

Jamie Watton, Executive Director of South East Dance, says: “Given that by 2024, the population of a quarter of all UK local authority areas will include 25% over 65 year olds, it’s time that dance is placed right at the heart of health and wellbeing programmes.”

One Dance to Health participant said: “At 83 many avenues are beginning to close down. My family – children and even grandchildren - are all, thank goodness, independent beings and are scattered far and wide. My professional career is over. Even my vocabulary is shrinking and most of the things I love to eat and drink are ‘out of bounds’. But the [group] is opening doors and whole vistas I never dreamed of as a younger woman. It is a huge part of my life."

Whatever your age, if you’d like to find out about dance classes near you, take a look at South East Dance’s The Other Yellow Pages.

© Helen Murray
It’s official: dance keeps us strong and social into older age

Tea and a chat. Tips on finding your way in dance with Rosie Heafford

Choreographer Rosie Heafford has been involved with South East Dance’s Professional Development Programme since graduating from Laban in 2009. This month she premiered her second dance piece for children, Getting Dressed, at Bournemouth’s Pavilion Dance South West. We chatted to her about her career to date.

How did you first get involved with South East Dance?
After graduating I moved back home, knowing I wanted to choreograph but not knowing where to start. By getting in touch with Surrey Arts, I found out about South East Dance as a regional support hub and started getting involved with all of the professional development opportunities I could. I had a couple of appointments with a Producer there, which I found really helpful and inspiring; and I was successful in applying to have my own mentor. Gradually I started building up a good understanding of how the dance world works. South East Dance have been there for me from the beginning, in terms of guidance, helping to raise my profile and always offering words of wisdom and advice.

Your 2015 piece Grass toured for over a year, tell us about that?
Grass was my first theatre piece for young children and established my work on the children’s theatre network. It toured right up until November 2016 and is going to be included in a high profile children’s theatre festival [which I can’t mention the name of yet] and then there are plans for it to tour overseas. Before making the work I made an effort to go and meet the promoters I was interested in engaging with, usually before or after performances. From this I gained a lot of knowledge about what a venue might expect, how they worked with different ages and opened my mind to what theatre for young children was already out there. 

What are you working on now?
Commissioned by Gulbenkian University of Kent, Getting Dressed has been a while in the making. It’s a more technical show than previous pieces, aimed at children and families aged 4+. The idea came from thinking about how choreographic getting dressed and putting on shoes can be, as well as the fact that we gender our children very young. We choose colour and names based on predictable gender stereotypes. I wanted to encourage children, parents and teachers to have more fun with clothes, to wear the clothes you want. Twirling a skirt is fun whether you’re a boy or a girl and Getting Dressed plays with that.

You’re a well established choreographer now, what advice would you give to emerging dance artists about how to develop their careers?
Firstly, get in touch with arts organisations local to you, don’t be London centric about it (if you’re in London). There’s a real drive to develop dance for the regions and some lovely spaces to make work and get support. Most development organisations are open to having a chat with artists, so always ask for a cup of tea! You never know where it might lead. For me, so much has come out of conversations with colleagues at South East Dance, with producers, choreographers, and other arts organisations: directing me to funding opportunities and links I can make.

© Zoe Manders
Tea and a chat. Tips on finding your way in dance with Rosie Heafford

Supporting young dancers to train closer to home

Until now young Brighton-based dancers training at London conservatoires as part of the Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) schemes have had to travel to London for mid-week training sessions – no mean feat when you’ve already done a day’s work at school! Now, thanks to a pilot partnership between South East Dance, Trinity Laban and The Place, professional support and training for these 14-18 year olds is available much closer to home in central Brighton.

Under the guidance of professional dancer Greig Cooke, participants receive training in techniques that complement their own journey as developing dancers, as well as advice on entering conservatoires.

“It’s important for these young dancers to have the opportunity for continuity and focus, to develop them as artists and as human beings,” says Greig. “By getting to know them and their own personal journey, I can support them in their next step.”

South East Dance hopes that once the pilot is completed, in discussion with The Place and Trinity Laban this important offer for developing young dancers will continue.

© Zoe Manders
Supporting young dancers to train closer to home

Welcoming choreographer Ben Wright back to the UK

After three years as the Associate Artistic Director of Skanes Dansteater in Malmo Sweden, former South East Dance Associate Ben Wright is returning to the UK to reignite his company bgroup and focus on his own creative practice. Having been awarded the first ever commission from the Rural Touring Dance Initiative, to create and tour his first piece in the UK since 2013, Ben will collaborate with musician and writer Stuart Warwick to make Keepers – a seafaring story exploring an eerie relationship between two keepers at an isolated lighthouse. “I’m thoroughly excited to be coming back to the UK,” he says. “It’s been a fantastic few years in which I’ve had remarkable opportunities to generate mid and large-scale works that merge theatre, opera and dance disciplines. In some ways Keepers is like a tiny continuation of this investigation and I’m looking forward to creating something so intimate.” 

Ben intends to combine the creation of this new piece with teaching and mentoring. "Having completed my Clore Fellowship in 2016, I’ve been thinking a lot about this challenge of leading as an artist.” he continues. “So this return to the UK signals a period of rumination, to take some time to explore this balance.” 

In the meantime Ben is busy staging works on a small and large scale. “In late February I’m premiering Spectrum in Sweden – a new piece that explores the 11 basic colour terms in the English language, and in November I re-stage The Feeling of Going,” he says. “I’ll be in production for Keepers during the summer before we start touring in the Autumn.” Ben will continue to act as the Associate Choreographer for Skanes Dansteater for the next couple of years. 

Keep an eye on the bgroup Facebook page for Keepers tour dates and other updates about Ben’s work. 

© Malin Arnesson
Welcoming choreographer Ben Wright back to the UK

Brighton Festival – dance highlights

The 51st Brighton Festival launched this month under the guest curatorship of Kate Tempest and with the theme of Everyday Epic. Dance and physical theatre plays a starring role in this year’s festival programme and here our Director of Programming Cath James takes us through her top tips in time for public booking opening on Friday 24 Feb.

Brighton-based Theo Clinkard really is a rising star of the dance world with an amazing gift for choreographing beautiful lush movement. For Brighton Festival, Theo presents the world premiere of his new work This Bright Field, hot on the heels of creating a piece for the late Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal. Expect a memorable event.

A new solo work from former South East Dance Associate Antonia Grove will be presented at Brighton Festival partner venue The Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts. Now You See It crosses disciplines and showcases Antonia’s extraordinary virtuosity as a performer.

When I saw it Plan B for Utopia had me laughing out loud - the performers are so amazing. This is a great piece for these ‘interesting times’ and not to be missed if you are at all interested in how we could respond to the state we are in.

South East Dance Emerging Artists The Hiccup Project bring rowdy, messy, laugh out loud funny physical theatre to the festival with the award winning May We Go Round and their new work It’s okay, I’m dealing with it. 

Also supported by South East Dance is The Hum, a site specific sound & movement trail based in the city by interdisciplinary artists Nic Sandiland and Yael Flexer. To experience The Hum, simply download the free app on the Dome website, plug in a pair of headphones and follow the trail on your screen. 

Following on from Vincent Dance Theatre’s live work Virgin Territory that premiered at The Place last year, the Virgin Territory video installation features the four young performers and four professional dancers who took part in the original live production. The full challenging, provocative Charlotte Vincent experience is what you will get.

I saw M!longa at Sadlers Wells when it first premiered and really enjoyed the scale and oomph of this work. Great visuals and performances and I loved the tango and the live band – a perfect night out. 

I won’t miss this reading of debut novel and Brighton Festival/City Reads Big Read for adults The Handsworth Times from Brighton-based novelist - and our very own Head of Communications - Sharon Duggal. This will be fantastic – I’ve read The Handsworth Times and thoroughly recommend it.

Finally - and not just because I am Australian - sensational Australian contemporary circus group Casus presents Driftwood, and Circa (from my hometown Brisbane) presents Depart. It would seem that Australian Circus is on its way to world domination, not that I am biased in any way. I’ll be at these two for sure.

© Theo Clinkard
Brighton Festival – dance highlights

Charlotte’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

I was delighted to be offered one of the Pebble Trust Flourish Bursaries by South East Dance earlier in the autumn. As an independent, freelance artist it can all too often be difficult to prioritise professional development opportunities over the need to earn money. Also, my primary roles as choreographer, facilitator and teacher mean that I am mainly in positions of responsibility – for decision making, for time-keeping, for deciding what happens, for taking care of the people I am working with. Don't get me wrong, it is a self-chosen position, and mostly I enjoy it, but the opportunity that this fund afforded for me to be the 'participant' and focus on my own dancing was really welcome.

I decided to take a one day workshop with Simon Whitehead in November and a week long intensive with Rosalind Crisp last week. Both workshops were programmed by Independent Dance at Siobhan Davies Studios in London.

With Simon we worked closely with pieces of furniture that we had brought from home. Wondering what I might bring on my bike on the train from Lewes that was more exciting than a cushion was an interesting proposition and I was really proud to neatly fold up my anglepoise lamp into my pannier and reveal it in the studio! I loved working with the lamp – it's weight, it's folds, it's almost person-like character. As the light of the afternoon faded Simon didn't turn the lights on in the studio and gradually we worked into the darkness.

In the dimming light, my focus closed in and I found myself ever more absorbed in the creative world that I was investigating with my body and my lamp. Glad to be dwelling in the invitations of someone else that gave me boundaries and freedoms in which to explore, I found myself focused and energised by my quiet curiosity. Simon's instructions were deceptively engaging – seemingly simple, but filled with rich potential, and space for prolonged investigation. I could have stayed in that world for a lot longer. Working with objects as the light shifted triggered a series of thoughts and ideas in relation to the piece that I am currently working on – Is this a Waste Land? - this new work which is designed for disused urban spaces will take place at twilight. I had been anticipating the need to hire lighting to support visibility for audiences as day shifts into night, and I may still decide to pursue this avenue. Something strong in Simon's workshop left a lingering curiosity about how we might extend our 'normal' experiences of light or lack of light within the mode of this performance work.

The week with Rosalind Crisp was utterly and refreshingly different – I wouldn't afterall want two experiences that were similar! With Rosalind we danced a lot every day. We danced solo dances with very particular parameters – moving one surface of the body in one direction; two surfaces of the body towards and away from each other; giving rules to our partner's dancing 'stay with that' or 'leave that'. As Rosalind describes them they are tools for dancing that have emerged for her through 30 years of investigation whilst dancing. We danced for ourselves, for a partner and sometimes for several others. We were constantly exchanging roles between doing, and watching and supporting. In many ways, precisely what the tools are is not important. What felt extremely important though was what they enabled – for me to be more deeply engaged in my dancing; in attending to each and every part of my moving body all of the time; in attending in the present moment. It was exhilarating and exhausting.

I was profoundly inspired by Rosalind herself – her evidently boundless enquiry that was absolutely rooted in a practice of dancing (rather than talking about dancing) and which remains so alive and urgent for her. It allowed me to give permission for myself to renew my commitment to my own dancing, separate (but not in isolation) from my work as choreographer and teacher. I think I fell in love with dancing all over again and I came away with lots of questions about how I can integrate this work into my daily life and my current practices. I appreciated the serious dedication to working that was wrapped up in playfulness and humour.

And of course I took away a whole host of new ideas for teaching and sharing practice. As a teacher it felt like a wonderful resource to be led by such an experienced and accomplished teacher and I have observed lots of subtle techniques for unlocking dancing and dancers; for enabling trust, support and closeness within a group whilst maintaining focus and momentum.

Thank you South East Dance and The Pebble Trust for enabling me to have these remarkable experiences. They are written into my body.

© Sam Cohen
Charlotte’s Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary reflection

Fevered Sleep - Reflections from Brighton and Hove

We are open

Waves crash, morning light breaks, runners gather on Hove Lawns. Adults and children, in wet suits, outside the sailing club make circles to stretch and warm. At lunch Darth Vader masked beside the pier bumps knuckles with someone passing knee-high. Two girls one by one jump up and down, bounced by wires, fly four, five, six, then seven, eight feet in the air, caught by men watching closely.

Gulls flock soar, dive for chips, as little legs clamber on shifting pebbles sounding, pulled out pushed back to sea. A wide soft horizon turns to turquoise and the light touches people kissing on the boardwalk, in person and in sculpture.  Up the way behind the Dome, beyond buskers clustered, cyclists skirt Victoria Gardens as the leaves fall gold.  And as The Number 5 creepsFevered Sleep - Reflections from Brighton and Hove towards Hollingbury a boy giggles in a top deck window patting a big yellow balloon. Beside where the bus stops, across from the Co-op, not far from Pound Land, a bright neon sign says come in we're open.  

The Talking Place comes with us everywhere we go with Men & Girls Dance, appearing in shops and cafes and community hubs. For Brighton and Hove it appeared in a place that is all three of these things at once, The Cowley Club on London Road. As the sun spills across the city at lunchtime, hundreds of people each hour pour off the bus, come streaming by. One woman picks up a newspaper from the stack folded outside the door, flicks through the pages and walks away. A girl - who tells us she’s eleven - and her Dad appear in the doorframe, pointing to the poster on the yellow sandwich board with one of the men from our project lifting one of the girls above his head.

 

She loves to dance, that’s more my her thing,

I’ve just come in for her

 

People picked up papers and went on their way or chose to cross the threshold and come in for conversation.  We sat for the few weekends around Halloween and Half term chatting with folks about men and girls and dance. About where they come from, how they grow up, how they get old, where they then move to.  What wee ones might become and why.  We heard about Brighton and Hove. About the sea, the Lanes, the pubs and clubs, the parks, the pier and pride. About public stages and private spaces, iconic dances in living rooms, about bopping on beaches at home and on holidays. We heard about places to walk, to talk, to dance, to be together.  

 

Gigs…off course to dance…we’d go to the Concord, near the seafront, near the marina, The Underground, the Jazz Rooms on West Street, the Art room, Sussex Arts Club, the Catfish Club

 

My children dance,

they grew up in a house where we all prance about

 

I was a TV Topper, I danced, we all danced,

it’s good for the soul

 

Busby Berkley, Fred and Ginger, Pan’s People, Andy Williams, The Rat Pack

  

 

I saw Nureyev and Fonteyn when I was 12, my Dad took us to the theatre for an annual trip

 

On holiday, they are so out there with their bodies, big small, old, young, all kinds of different and we are swept away, carried with it, by the music, the dance

 

Waltzing with my dad at his wedding

And then, I remember being told at twelve I shouldn’t sit on his knee

 

We heard from some in schools that there seemed to be a lot more pressure to be safe and with that came controlling play. We heard from a man who’d been playing with his nieces - that he’d just met for the first time - that as he’d left and kissed them goodbye, he wondered if that was okay, and in picking up our newspaper he’d begun to wonder why. We learnt more from teachers about massage and mindfulness in primary schools and some other people who came in asked them why it stopped there. Professionals talked with us about the words they follow in their staff handbooks but never speaking with colleagues about what those words really meant to them. We heard about fun and fear and love. We heard what dancing meant to people big and small and their thoughts on what led to growing amazing minds. About magic and imagination and about what keeps us open.

 

It’s just about trust and play

 

Dance is free-making

 

Play, it enhances the mind

You need to imagine you can be whatever you want

 

Dance connects us

it’s a celebration of life

 

 

To feel embodied, truly embodied, to connect better to your-self

and then to others

 

 

What’s that?   (picks up a water glass)         it’s a rocket

What’s that?   (picks up a pen)                      it’s a train

For a child                                                       it can be anything

 

 

Let them play

 

We met parents and grandparents, adults and teenagers, reporters and writers, researchers and academics, professional experts and experts of life. People talked about touch and intimacy, about Mum’s and Dad’s, about being asked to babysit and not because of prejudices to with being boys or girls or gay or straight. We heard about who cares for whom and who is allowed to care for whom. We heard about generations of closeness and generations growing apart. Generational shifts. The order of things, rites of passage, markers of time, how we learn, young and old, from who and how. We heard about growing up in different places, the acceptance of what, when and where.

 

In the war everyone used to look out for everyone,

you just stepped in and took care

 

Three generations of family in one house

 

I really love the anarchic nature of my upbringing playing in the streets

 

 

We knew the boundaries of our horizons were very limited

  

 

Learning to risk assess yourself

 

 

Kids live in a more sterile environment, all these things contribute to closeting children

 

 

Men have had a tough time  

 

People are afraid. Sometimes I am too, when I’m playing with my nieces and nephews

 

 

  I remember being critiqued by friends for letting my children go to Preston Park to play as part of Pride

 

 

We just saw a boy fall over, hit his face on a scooter and I did pick him up, but I mean…I was in the police for 27 years

 

But you wouldn’t, shouldn’t…

It’s so sad that we just don’t anymore.

The level of suspicion is shocking

 

It’s so good to talk to you I work in social care.

Sometimes I can forget why it is I do what I do. It’s good to get out into the community and see what’s happening

 

A sense of community and a feeling that you belong

 

People spoke about what this project means to men, what it means for women and about connection and power and trust and transparency. We talked with people who’d picked up the paper, read it and wanted to respond by taking the time to explain - in person - what they had thought they thought and felt. Some people told us they’d noticed how long it took to be able to be really honest, to let what they had lived surfaced, to talk about joy and to talk about fear and to say actually I’m not sure, I don’t know. Some talked about the value of what it is to be able to question, to have concerns, to be unsure, to not have answers and to not be judged.

 

We have to question why we think, who shouldn’t do what, it’s not just men and girls, it’s what women can do, what men can do, who’s allowed to play, who is allowed to be themselves

 

  

I’d take my granddaughter to Queens Park, I felt uncomfortable sat alone in the playground so I’d take one of her jumpers to hold,

 

 

They don’t look like dancers, they look like men, I guess I have an idea in my head of what dance looks like and it’s not them or me

 

 

I’m training to be a youth worker,

It makes me wonder if there should be a qualification to be a Dad

 

There’s not enough integration between generations

  

 

People are much more aware of the vulnerability of certain groups and children are one of the most vulnerable and with increased awareness it’s become unbalanced

  

 

People can exploit fear

  

 

What could those men be to those girls? They could inspire them to do anything, to be anything.

 

 

I have concerns,

I am concerned

 

 

Its great to see the male energy that loves, cares, protects and plays

  

Sat on sofas in corners quietly collecting thoughts or thinking out loud people shared very frankly what the themes of this project or witnessing the work meant for them. At the Attenborough Centre for the Arts, after each show, we waited and listened to folks who told us in their own words what they saw. Remembering that we all see different things.

 

To transmit that love, that joy, that dance of abandon

Beautiful important.

 

 

Beautiful,         I thought I was open,

I am an artist

But, I felt…uncomfortable

It’s brilliant that you brought that discomfort. That you acknowledge that it’s there

 

 

It was very provocative and I’m just really happy to see men standing up for the rights of all of us to have relationships that are tactile, so that we use our power very delicately

  

 

I saw they had power

And that was used openly

 

  

This is the heart of my work I needed this, working with innocence, protecting innocence, this is innocence

 

Beautiful, joyous,

  

It’s reminding all people now that there is goodness in the world

 

And as we often have in The Talking Place this year we got on to talking about words.  About which one’s are useful, about how they get used and by who. What gets put down on paper, what gets said in whispers and what gets said out loud. Which words, which stories are recorded and remembered and which ones we forget are there to be heard.

 

It’s the art form that isn’t so much about verbal communication

 

Those words, they shouldn’t be, but they are

 

 

Its saddens me that we’ve lost children’s voices

 

 

Wordless

 

 

I have a whole new language

 

 

We don’t have enough words for love

 

We heard a lot in this Talking Place that Brighton has always been a place of openness. We heard about sharing space, about honesty and invitation and anxiety amidst uncertainty.  And these thoughts and words and feelings came about because of people, who took some time to look, at the newspaper, at a poster, to come and see the show and then chose to talk. In front of a bright glowing sign that says come in we’re open.

We made that sign as a welcome, an invitation. We’ve felt so welcome here in this place where we have heard people talk about their hopes and fears and dreams and prides. About celebrating children, about celebrating who you are and about what matters most. These conversations felt so welcome in these spaces for re-imagining - The Cowley Club and Attenborough Centre for Arts – and by those – South East Dance’s The Dance Space - that are being dreamt.

Here we remembered that we have ben so warmly welcomed everywhere we’ve been this year, by the people who live and work and play in Folkestone and Huddersfield, Salford and Nottingham, Brighton and Hove. And we have noticed the importance of that.

We remembered all the people we have listened to and talked with, all the men and all the girls, who have danced together.  Shared their stories, their memories, their moves, themselves, so generously.

We remembered all the wonderful people who worry and wonder and love and care.

 All the people who are all still beautifully open. 

Fevered Sleep - Reflections from Brighton and Hove

MINDSET ERROR #ADA

Madeleine Wilson, Programme Co-ordinator for Artist Development at South East Dance and an Audience Diversity Academy Fellow is making no apologies for delivering her experiments.

I would like to mention an error I made.

As part of the Audience Diversity Academy, I undertook three new ‘quick and dirty’ experiments for South East Dance: two artist development opportunities and a public project. My aim was to significantly raise the number of applications of those from a diverse background within 6-weeks. The challenge felt huge.

Unexpectedly I succeeded with them all! Not only reaching organisation targets – but exceeding them: diverse applications raised to 24%, then 32% and finally 35% respectively. What’s more it was a thoroughly enjoyable, fascinating process.
My error was this. Mindset. I imagined there being many obstacles between myself and reaching diverse communities. I thought it would be impossibly difficult, that defeat would set in before I had begun. I thought I would be hung-up on. I thought people wouldn’t be responsive and that it would be an up-hill struggle.  Surely I, just me, couldn’t make any real impact?

I was wrong.

In fact, it was alarmingly easy. Not in terms of time: which there was never enough of, or rivalling workloads: which were many. But, I was amazed how much you could do with a phone, pen, paper and a dash of optimism. No large-scale strategy just simplicity. There were so many people willing to help connect me to other communities – if I only took the time to explain and ask.

The public project is one close to my heart – titled ‘Audience Ambassadors’ we offer a free dinner, show, artist meet and behind-the-scenes rehearsal to those who wouldn’t normally have the opportunity. This scheme is aimed at audiences with no previous experience of seeing dance. I rang 35 local charities of which two thirds were able to help me spread the word and suddenly I was inundated with applications. I asked everyone who responded, for recommendations of other people I could contact and gradually built up a database of interested parties. And to attract a broader range of artists applying to our development opportunities, I visited the Hip Hop conference in South Woodford, discovering gatekeepers to more diverse groups.

My brilliant mentor, Mel Larsen, taught me to get on with it, listen carefully and to re-assess all communication – was it inviting to the audiences I wanted to reach? Actually no. It was erring on academic rather than clear. 4 versions later we had an exciting, punchy public project e-flyer opened by 1327 people! Our live event attracted 33% new-to-dance audience members and the project had an overall known diversity reach of 37%. Our artist development e-flyer travelled so far that we had our first application from the Ivory coast… which has opened up further conversations about how we work with international artists/audiences! I acknowledge this is the tip of the iceberg, but I wonder if more of us realised how easy it really was to begin connecting with new audiences whether organisations/venues would be better at it.

Note to self: no more excuses.

© Martin Wickenhaeuser
MINDSET ERROR #ADA

Men and Girls Dance - a guest blog by Jackie Blackwell

The men and girls were already on stage when we sat down.  They were on their hands and knees sticking newspaper pages together with tape.  Newspapers formed the backdrop and more of it was scrunched up on the floor, and the performance began.

It didn't start with any music, instead two men sat while some newspaper was wrapped round their heads and a previously invisible newspaper man rolled on the stage from within the scrunched paper at the back. Not sure what was happening but I was intrigued.  The girls and the men at first separate across the stage, slowly they moved in closer, mirroring their movements either side of the large taped together squares of news. It triggered memories of Simon Says I used to play as a kid, and when they picked up the edges of the paper and billowed it above their heads, it was like the parachute game played loads of times at school with my own daughter when she was a similar age to the girls.

 When they dropped the paper, I hadn't noticed the man who stayed underneath it.  He moved towards the girls like a monster, as they ran from him screaming as he surged towards them. It felt playful and I could feel myself smiling and then laughing as he swooped towards them.  One of the girls bravely threw herself on the covered man, and she partly disappeared, then tearing through the paper, she was held up high in his arms, so beautifully, so tenderly it brought a lump to my throat.  And from that point onwards I was engrossed.  

It felt this was the turning point in the dance, and from it we were led through a beautiful trusting, loving and moving performance of movement, words and music.  The relationships and dance between the girls and men felt honest and respectful, playful and powerful, moving and funny.  The soundtrack from Velvet Underground then Nina Simone was fantastic and the dancing to the final track, Great DJ by the Ting Tings felt a truly lovely, strengthening and joyful experience. I didn't even notice that it was men and girls dancing together anymore.  

We both left the performance feeling uplifted and joyful too. 

© Benedict Johnson
Men and Girls Dance - a guest blog by Jackie Blackwell

A Pebble Partnership

It really goes without saying that we couldn't do what we do without the support of our partners. Not only do they support us to make projects possible in the first place, but they also bring fresh ideas and shed new light on how we see and do things.

The Pebble Trust have championed local talent in Brighton & Hove since 2009 and we are delighted that they have chosen to support a refreshed Flourish Fund bursary. Louise Arnell from the Pebble Trust said, "We're really pleased to join South East Dance in supporting dance professionals from our wonderfully creative city, and we look forward to hearing about the Flourish Bursary recipients".

 

Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary

The Pebble Trust Flourish Bursary is a cash award of up to £1000 to support continuing professional development, open to professional artists based in the Brighton & Hove area working in contemporary art practice in dance.

We are interested in dance artists who wish to develop themselves and their careers, who seek to push boundaries within choreography or evolve how they ‘run their business’; artists who want to risk, explore, delve and discover.

How it works:

Artists are invited to apply for any amount between £100 and £1000 to support Professional Development through:
Development Opportunities: mentoring, courses, workshops, travel costs, arts conferences and anything else which is related to your personal professional development.
Research and Development: time and space for expanding practice in creative work, where it can be clearly demonstrated that this is vital to your professional development.
To qualify you must have a UK postcode beginning ‘BN’ – which refers to Brighton & Hove and surrounding areas.
The bursary is open to professional artists at any stage of their career.

Entry: You can apply by video or written application. Please download application guidelines here.
Deadline: 9am, Monday 5 September
Questions? For further information please contact sarah.kearney@southeastdance.org.uk, call 01273 696844 or stop by the South East Dance office on the afternoon of Wednesday 10 August between 2pm and 5pm for a face to face conversation.

We encourage applications from artists who identify as disabled and/or are from a BAME background.

Check out our blog to see what previous professional development bursary recipients have used their funding for, and be sure to keep an eye on our homepage.

© National Dance Company Wales and Jevan Chowdhury
A Pebble Partnership

Shadows & Light - By Fevered Sleep

Here we are, in Brighton & Hove, rehearsing by the sea.  The ballroom at King Alfred’s Leisure Centre; low light, dim chandeliers; lighting for a Saturday evening reception, couples dancing around the wooden floor; a sort of brown light, honey-coloured.  Then we go outside, and where the sunlight hits the surface of the sea it’s like molten metal; dazzling; blinding; incredibly, brilliantly bright.  Darkness and shadows; brightness and light...

From Fevered Sleep's blog. Read the full post here: http://www.menandgirlsdance.com/men-and-girls-dance-blog/2016/10/18/brighton-hove-light-shadows

Shadows & Light - By Fevered Sleep

Janine Harrington: Artist in Residence at Brandwatch - PART 1

By Janine Harrington - Aug/ Sept 2016.

Through collaboration with South East Dance, I was recently selected by Brandwatch to be their Artist in Residence for Brighton Digital Festival 2016. The artist residency is a new undertaking for both Brandwatch and I, and will include experiments between dance and technology based upon my recent practice and insights into Brandwatch’s business in global data analytics. In the run up to the residency period, I reflected on some relations between dance and technology in my work. This will be the first of several posts about the residency.

I am interested in creating playful live encounters between audiences and dancers, and work mainly outside of theatre conventions in outdoor, studio and gallery contexts where people can move around and through the work. When I am making work, I think about the kind of invitation or proposition offered, the context, and the parameters and conventions involved. For me, this thinking develops in a symbiotic relationship between what the content will be (in this case dance) and how it will be navigated by those who experience it. Navigation is a key term for me, and constant reminder that spectating is an active process and that there are infinite variations in people’s attentional and cognitive process.  This also connects to access, both in terms of how the visitors move in the space, where they see from etc, and in terms of who can access what. An undercurrent in my work and something that I will continue to think about is accessibility. So far this has been mainly been thought about in terms of physical space and the kinds of thresholds people have to cross to get into theatres to see dance. 

Working in this way offers the potential for active real-time relationships to be formed between visitors and dancers, which in turn change what appears in the space. I work with this premise, to create choreography in which the potential of the movement is revealed through these activation relationships between visitors and dancers. I started to develop this way of working in 2010, with the support of a small encouragement grant from the Bonnie Bird Choreography Fund and within the context of the MA Visual Arts programme at Camberwell College of Arts. In 2015 I redeveloped an early work The Performing Book and presented it at Brighton Festival in the outdoor programme.

In this performance the visitors learn how their own movements affect what the dancers do, and how. Each dancer has a phrase of movement which can be danced differently according to the position of the visitor, and in this sense the surface form of the choreography - what is danced at a given moment - is a negotiation between the dancers’ embodiment process and the visitors’ experimentation. I’ll try to explain this a little more clearly. Making this work is like a programming process in that the dancers and I develop the possibilities available to be danced, but what the dance actually looks like will always be connected to what the audiences do in the live encounter - in terms of their proximity to the dancers, the speed, and direction of their own movement. These parameters are connected to the shared space, and so we imagine a series of axes or grids underlying the space. The dancers each have a base phrase, which will only be danced in that form if the visitors walk at a particular distance from the dancers and at a moderate, constant speed. Otherwise it will increase in volume or shrink, speed up or slow down, or reverse in any combination and at varying degrees of difference from it’s original. To me it’s like a kind of programming because it’s building one end of a potential situation - the other side is the navigation process. It’s also a live processing challenge as we dance it, and this can support a social experience of embodied learning; one that involves closeness and distance, collaboration, learning and testing boundaries, of pleasure seeking and engineering awkward variations of the movement material. We are not trying to emulate machines, but rather modelling the visitors’ navigational processes on the kind of familiar processes that they use elsewhere such as when using smartphones or tablet devices.

Talking with Brandwatch early on, I was interested in the underlying logic of their processes - how they structure and visualise information. At the level of metaphor, there are similar processes involved in my choreographic work. For Brandwatch a search term is entered, refined and developed to hone in on a specific interest and then a result or set of results is delivered. This happens through language processing, and coding, which is also language. In my work a relationship is established between dancers and audience in a live body-to-body interface where the movement of one party changes the resulting dance offered by the other party. The movements of the visitors have the affect of whole body swipes and zooms.  The audience use trial and error to understand what is possible, building on their findings as they go to reveal different aspects of the dancing. For me this a spatial search query, not one which uses language, but one which uses the same materials as the result will bring.

As I have started to think about what I might do with the residency, I have become increasingly interested in this notion of spatial search query and started to think about it in terms of vision and blind spots, something that has come up a lot in my recent work Satelliser: a dance for the gallery. This interest is developing into something around what might be hiding in plain sight, just needing the right input to reveal it. At Brandwatch I will have access to 360° video technology, which I intend to experiment with, with this idea in mind.  This technology is becoming more interesting as it improves in specification and affordability, but it is still quite new and has some foreseeable draw backs. However, I am curious to explore what it might offer to dance as a format between live and video work. The audience are placed at the centre of the action and their attentional processes are needed to activate the content in a way that could be ever different, but the situation is not live performance. I think that choreographically this poses interest.

My research will be shared at Brighton Digital Festival in in a form to be determined towards the end of the residency period.

© Janine Harrington
Janine Harrington: Artist in Residence at Brandwatch - PART 1

Charlotte Vincent for the Men & Girls Dance Newspaper

As part of Men & Girls Dance, Fevered Sleep publish a free Men & Girls Dance newspaper, distributed across the Brighton & Hove, featuring pieces written by people who live in the local area. This newspaper is a response to most other newspapers, in which the reporting of the relationship between men and girls tends to be negative. In this special excerpt, Charlotte Vincent, Artistic Director of Vincent Dance Theatre, shares her contribution.

All I can really remember is that I’m singing and dancing my heart out on a small raised wooden stage in our local hall, overlooking the village green and I am moving alongside adult men and women much older than me. Men that I secretly fancied or loathed or thought smelled strange. Men harassed into joining in by their leading lady wives. Gay men, straight men, young men, ancient men renowned for their hedge cutting with names like Merlin or Grahame or Francis, all quietly proud of their performative panache.

It was a community coming together, un-restricted by health and safety laws or child protection policies, with no safeguarding as such, but hard work founded on tea, custard creams, cigarettes and a communal desire to construct and compose melodies, scripts, pantomime sets and backdrops, costumes, cakes and stories alongside dreams of village celebrity status.

Charlotte Vincent is Artistic Director of Vincent Dance Theatre, whose new production Virgin Territory premieres in London this November, made with four adult dancers and four teenagers: www.virginterritory.org

© Hugo Glendinning
Charlotte Vincent for the Men & Girls Dance Newspaper

Q&A with David Harradine

Job: I’m Co-Artistic Director of Fevered Sleep

What is your earliest memory of dance?
It’s not very early.  University Students' Union.  Friday nights.  Wild abandon.

What does dance mean to you now?
It’s the choreography of experience and existence, so that we might see more clearly.  It’s being together.  It’s touch.  It’s deep empathy.  It doesn’t always look like dancing.

What is the best thing about being a man?
Generally having a decent view of things at gigs.

What is the worst thing about being a man?
Being expected to be a man.

Who would you most like to meet?
My childhood hero, David Attenborough.

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Gardening, sea swimming, reading, walking, thinking.

What trait do you most admire in others?
Patience and kindness and calm.

What would your super power be?
I’d be able to breathe underwater.

What is your favourite word?
Rigwelted.  It’s a Yorkshire dialect word for a sheep that’s rolled onto its back and can’t get back up on its feet.  My dad, who has had severe arthritis since he was a teenager, also uses it to describe himself when he falls over.  It reminds me of the privilege of being in a body that can flex.

What is the most important lesson Men and Girls Dance has taught you so far?
To never underestimate how differently different people think about the same thing.

Is taboo a good or a bad thing?
That depends on context.  But any taboo which leads to a restriction on what consenting people can do with their own bodies is probably bad.

What makes you happy?
Light.  Cold water.  Hopefulness.  Love.

What do you spend too much time worrying about?
The lack of light, of hopefulness, and of love.

What makes an exceptional dancer?
A wide open heart and an articulate body.  Only one of these things can be trained.

What is top of your bucket list?
Living long enough to not feel the need for a bucket list.

© Benedict Johnson
Q&A with David Harradine

The Talking Place

The Talking Place appears wherever Men & Girls Dance happens.

The Talking Place is where you can pick up the Men & Girls Dance newspaper or ask a question about the project. It’s where you can pop in for tea and cake and conversation with Fevered Sleep and other people, where you can find out more about the themes of Men & Girls Dance and talk about what they mean to you.

Hosted by Associate Artist Luke Pell it’s a place where you can wonder, where you can be listened to, where thoughts and words and images gather and collect.

When Men & Girls Dance comes to Brighton this October, The Talking Place will be based at The Cowley Club on London Road at weekends and on the days of the performances.

Men & Girls Dance has previously been to Folkestone, Huddersfield, Salford and Nottingham. If you’re interested in reading more about the conversations from The Talking Place in each of those places, a series of writings and reflections are posted on the Men & Girls Dance blog.

A Restless Art have also written a case study about Men & Girls Dance in Nottingham.

Everyone is welcome at The Talking Place! Come and drop in, this event is totally FREE - we’d love to see you there.

The Talking Place

Venue:

The Cowley Club, 12 London Rd, Brighton BN1 4JA

Opening Times:

Saturday 15 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Sunday 16 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Saturday 22 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Sunday 23 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Thursday 27 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Friday 28 October: 10.30am - 5pm
Saturday 29 October: 10.30am - 1.30pm        

 

The Talking Place will also pop up on site after the evening performances of Men & Girls Dance at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, University of Sussex, Brighton, BN1 9RA. Come along and see us after the performances on Thursday 27, Friday 28 and Saturday 29 - 8.30 - 9.30pm

© Fevered Sleep
The Talking Place

Men & Girls Dance - The Local Cast

Men & Girls Dance is hugely important to us, not least because, central to the project, we have been able to offer nine local girls aged 8-11 the opportunity to work with Fevered Sleep. How often do you get to be part of a professional dance performance with an internationally acclaimed company in an inspiring venue - our wonderful partners Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts - right on your door step? The creative, challenging and rewarding experience that they will no doubt have is something we hope they will cherish forever. 

In the lead up to the shows, the girls will work with Fevered Sleep and their professional dancers as part of the rehearsal process.

We will be documenting some of the activity and hope to share the reflections of those involved here on our blog soon.

Here, some of the girls who have been cast in the show share their motivations, hopes and aspirations for being part of the project.

 

Edie

It is a great opportunity because I will do it with professional dancers who will teach me lots of things. I hope that I will make lots of friends. I want to let my imagination run wild. Also I want to incorporate art; which is another one of my hobbies and be creative. I am excited about the project because I want to try my best in contemporary dance and try something new but most of all I want to do loads of dance.

 

Ella

I want to take part because I am interested to see what they do.  People really like the company and I'd like to see why. I hope that everything will go well and that I will make new friends. I am excited by going on stage to perform and the rehearsals.

 

Gwen

I wanted to join Men and Girls because it will be a good experience to be in the show. It will be exciting to work with adults because I have mostly been in shows with children before. I am looking forward to learning different techniques from the professional dancers and having fun!

Men & Girls Dance - The Local Cast

Elaine Macey’s Flourish Fund reflection

South East Dance supported Elaine Macey to attend a Clore Plus Course through the Flourish Fund. Here, she reflects on her experience and how she will use what she learnt in her daily practice.
 

Clore Plus: Presenting with Impact

March 2016

“But I’m a dancer, I’m used to presenting myself in front of an audience and communicating a message, a thought, an idea. It’s what I do; it’s what I love! So why are you nervous Elaine, why do you go blank when you know you are good at remembering things; why do you lose all rationale about what you need to communicate when you know exactly what you need to say? SAY? Ah there you go, you need to use words, not movement, that’s why you have a wobble before having to present!!” [An excerpt from my journal doodles!]

I discovered from an early age that I learnt through ‘doing’, I was a kinesthetic learner who used movement and being active to explore, develop and enrich learning experiences. So, with a passion for dance from an early age studying a BA honors in Dance & Professional Practice and then a MSc in Dance Science seemed a natural progression. After graduating I set my sights on setting up a dance company through volunteering locally and internationally, working as a freelance dance artist in schools and at an arts centre, teaching in community settings and in special needs schools, and working as a creative partner and creative agent for Creative Partnerships. These experiences, along with many other life experiences helped me make a dream a reality; I am Artistic Director of my own dance company celebrating its tenth anniversary. In the last ten years I have performed and choreographed, facilitated and taught inclusive dance classes and dance leadership courses for young people; I’ve volunteered abroad in Cambodia, Lebanon, Bali and Bosnia setting up community, leadership and performance projects, and delivered GCSE Dance. I am currently in the process of taking on our first studio, a space I endeavour to make into an inclusive, creative and community arts space.

My creative journey has evolved from the wish of just wanting to dance; to studying the subject I love, gaining experience through many wonderful jobs and voluntary opportunties, to creating and building a company that I want to share with many other people. And for that to happen I need to use more than just dance; I need to present to tell the story, to share the ideas, to invite others to join – I need to speak from the heart and present with impact.

Why apply for the Clore Plus: Presenting with Impact?

“An audience will decide your credibility, professionalism, education and experience within 3-7 seconds of meeting you” Sarah Cartwright, Clore Facilitator.

Wow, that’s a fact that fuelled my nerves within the first 10 minutes of starting the course!

I acknowledge I need to speak not only with passion, but with facts and confidence in a concise, clear manner. I need to expand my skills on structuring presentations to ensure the right information is being delivered, with the right amount of engagement and oomph! I wanted to learn how I could overcome nerves, to manage the dreaded stuttering or the awkward questions from audience members. I felt this course would nurture my presenting fears by allowing me to develop my confidence, and to help me structure a powerful talk for me to present with facts, passion and conviction.  And I can positively say this course did what it said on the package – it presented with IMPACT!

Topics covered:

Three Act Presentation Structure – Act 1 (Intro), 1st turning point, Act 2 (core), 2nd turning point, Act 3 (summary)
Postural techniques & warming up exercises – where to place your hands, breathing techniques
Vocal exercises & different methods of using your voice in a presentation
Eye contact - the three second look at an audience member before moving your gaze to another
Tips to control nerves – breathing techniques, plan your presentation, confidence in your ability and depth of knowledge
An understanding of different presentation styles – assertive, creative, PowerPoint / prompt cards v. off script
How to embrace your inner ‘Chimp’! That voice that allows doubt, fear of being judged and nerves creep in.

The most valuable element of the course was presenting my own presentation at the end of the day to the 19 other attendees. It was such a supportive environment that once I stood up in front of them, remembered to breathe (always helpful!), ensured I wasn’t looking too intensely at my audience, I felt myself relax, smile and actually enjoy telling my story; the story about ‘What I am passionate about’. I spoke from the heart, about a volunteering experience in Cambodia, dancing with students and witnessing how dance revealed itself in all its glory to be a powerful thread that united people from around the world, from different cultures, with different abilites…. That ‘anything is possible’ if we set our minds to it (my MIP; more about that below).

I had a brilliant day at the Clore Plus: Presenting with Impact course. I came away buzzing and excited to present. The facilitator was professional, full of useful information, and I really liked her presenting style and how she made everyone feel welcome and relaxed. I feel I gained a lot from watching others presenting as it demonstrated the different styles and shared concerns, which was reassuring.

Top Tips:

Be yourself – be confident in what you have to say, it’s your time to share information, inspire and motivate your audience
Do your homework – to avoid nerves, awkward questions or those brain freeze moments read up on your subject and remember key facts. Try not to present from a script; use prompt cards if needed, or script your opening line/introduction and summary and learn off by heart, and enjoy presenting off script for the core middle section.
Tell a story – to bring your presentation to life tell a story or share a fact that may be funny or powerful. Just a small nugget of info that your audience will stop to really listen and go away thinking ‘that was a good story/fact’!
MIP – Most Important Point. A MIP is a tag line, a statement or a title that you repeat throughout your presentation, an anchor point that reveals and reminds your audience what your presentation is about.
Stand tall, take a deep breath and SMILE : )

Thank you South East Dance for this wonderful opportunity and for supporting me in the next steps of my creative journey.

Elaine Macey, Artistic Director
4Motion Dance Theatre Company
www.4motiondancetheatre.co.uk

Elaine Macey’s Flourish Fund reflection

Anuradha’s Flourish Fund reflection

Antaraal (October 2015 – February 2016) – Reflections by Anuradha Seth

Through the Flourish Fund, South East Dance supported Anuradha Seth towards mentoring sessions with dance artist Debbie Fion Barr. Here, Anuradha reflects on her experience and how she will use what she learnt in her choreographic practice.

Antaraal is the contemporary Kathak work that I developed and choreographed for Resolution 2016 at The Place, London.

It was shortly afterwards performed at Moving with the Times evening of dance at Pegasus Theatre Oxford.

This reflection is the study of the process of mentoring that I undertook to with choreographer and dancer Debbie Fion Barr, as part of the development of my contemporary choreographic practise, supported by South East Dance’s Flourish Fund.

Kathak is a highly nuanced dance form. Its intricate gestures, subtle expressions are powerful tools that can transform a simple moment from being beautiful to mesmerizing. Its comprehensive grammar of rhythm puts it in a unique category of its own.  However, it is a traditional dance form with all the challenges and difficulties that can come whilst pushing the boundaries of the form.

I have been a practitioner of Kathak dance for nearly 15 years and during all of the time the idea of putting the dance form in a more contemporary context always intrigued me.

The question was what exactly constitutes contemporary dance, particular in context of Kathak. There are always challenges when a traditional dance form is experimented with, especially when there are established norms and conventions, not to mention a very strong comprehensive idiom and grammar of rhythm with in the form.

What makes a little easier however, particularly in the UK dance scene is, the fact that there are other dancers and choreographers, who in their own way have tried to experiment with form and explored narratives that could only be called contemporary.  Therefore, in a way, a tradition is gradually developing, pushing the boundaries of form and trying to find the bridge between the traditional and modern. This is not just because of dancers and choreographers trying to create new and more relevant works, but also in response to the changing aesthetics of the modern day audience.

For me the most important challenge was experimenting with the form in a way that the integrity of the form is not compromised; at the same time finding unique ways to express the narrative, focusing on making ideas and narratives accessible to wider audience.

Trailer for Antaraal:
 

Presentation, presentation!

When I started working on my first contemporary Kathak work, Antaraal, it was necessary that I work with a mentor who can challenge me and take me out my comfort zone. Someone who is familiar with Indian Dance genre and can understand the context and background of the Indian dance forms. Debbie Fionbarr, came highly recommended by Marie Mcclusky, former Artistic Director of Swindon Dance.  Her 20 year association with a dance company called Sankalpam as rehearsal director and her research study at Kalashetra within the Bharatnatyam genre made her uniquely placed to not only understand Indian dance, its structured approach, its strong links to rhythm and musicality but also, the mind-set of dancers. Dancers within Indian genre are often trained with individual guru or teachers. The training is often reflection of the style the teacher adapts and is less to do with institutions where an individual is trained. It also is interesting to understand that historically, Indian dancers are trained to be strong soloists rather than group performers, although they do perform as part of group through their learning years. Thus, the presentation is often reflective of this mind-set; formal and face to face with the audience.

For me it was refreshing to work with someone who in the first instance challenged my notion of what constituted contemporary aesthetics - Is it about changing the style we move or is it something more basic – how we present?

The development of the piece Antaraal, for me, was the beginning of the process of rethinking and re-evaluating my existing choreographic practise.

The focus from the very start was how I can break away from the traditional, often easy habit of using the space; formal face to face presentation.

With Debbie as my mentor we worked step by step to experiment and explore the space in newer ways. She would often say, developing the contemporary practise is not about borrowing from contemporary dance movements, it about learning how to use the space and directions in ways that challenges your comfort zone, whilst working within your own genre.

Bodies in the Space

The other area that was the constant focus was the comfortable distance that bodies often adapt in relation to each other.

The piece was choreographed with three dancers including myself. As is often the case, we would fall back into our default positions in relation to each other.

The process of mentoring focused very strongly on breaking this habit of adapting comfortable spaces in relation to other bodies in the spaces.

It was an interesting at the same time quite a disconcerting experience, to feel the other dancers in your space, especially when doing movements that include wide sweeping arms. It was challenging to push myself and other dancers to be even more precise with the direction and positioning even when doing pirouettes and fast movements so as not collide with each other and end up in an ungraceful heap. In the traditional format we often try and respect each other’s space. This was nothing like it.

Tight is powerful

This relates to point above about bodies in space but still needs a special mention, especially because it relates to energy that we as a dancers share when we are grouped together.

The closer you are, the more focused and strong the energy. This invisible thing called energy is what we feed from each other. It is this almost live connection between dancers that draws in the audience. It also energises the dancers and gives a sense of relationship between the bodies even if they are turned away from each other.

During the process of mentoring we often worked on each section keeping in mind the tightness of formation. It was intriguing to see how tight formations resulted in more powerful moments in the choreography. The audience feedback confirmed this theory like nothing else would. Often the viewers would recall moments in the choreography where dancers were closer and tighter in formation whilst we lost their attentions where the bodies scattered due to resulting lack of energy.

This was a first albeit, a very important step in developing my choreographic practise in more contemporary context. It is my hope that I can work with Debbie in the future to look at other aspects of my choreographic practise, for this is just the beginning of a long a fruitful association for both of us.

I feel really grateful to Marie McClusky for introducing me to Debbie and to South East Dance for supporting my practise through the Flourish Fund without which I couldn’t have taken this very important step.

Anuradha’s Flourish Fund reflection

Brandwatch: A New Collaboration

We are hugely excited to announce our first Artist Residency with Brighton technology company Brandwatch, who have invited dance artist Janine Harrington to research and create within their organisation over the next few months. Janine is known for using non-theatre spaces to choreograph sets of parameters that question the roles and relationships of audience members and performers. 

Through her residency, she will be responding to their global business analysing data through innovative technologies. It is an exploration in digital and artistic creativity, prompting alternative thinking and new ways of seeing (for both parties!) and will result in a sharing or performance as part of Brighton Digital Festival this September.

We asked Brandwatch and Janine a set of questions, to find out about the collaboration and what might emerge…

 

Have you ever done something like this before?

Brandwatch:
Our having an Artist in Residence is new, yes, but it is not necessarily an isolated or anomalous project for us. We sponsor and host a lot of community events, mostly tech natured (e.g. JavaScript meetups, hack days) and also maintain firm links with the arts sector via our active role within the Brighton Digital Festival.

Externally, we sponsor the Festival and sit on the consortium. Internally, we tend to use it as an opportunity to experiment, like when we invited Twitter users to light up our building for the 2014 festival. This year, as well as collaborating with Janine, we are also working on a project with Fabrica gallery, and sponsoring a community art project with Art + Believe.

These efforts are not purely altruistic. We believe there is a business need for us to promote innovation and creative thinking within our organisation. Working with an Artist in Residence is just the latest in a line of approaches to this.

Janine:
I haven’t done anything like this before in terms of a residency, though I am often in conversations with people from other fields. For example, I have an ongoing conversation with Dr. Jamie Forth, a researcher in music and cognition at Queen Mary University, which is along the lines of some of the topics that I expect to come up at Brandwatch in terms of processes and data visualisation.

 

What is interesting to you about the other’s work?

Brandwatch:
We were very attracted to Janine's process. The logic with which she codifies the world into movement is something we could immediately relate to our own processes, even if our outputs are very different. Janine choreographs like a coder. And what she produces is, in a highly abstracted way, a form of data visualisation.

We also clicked with her on a personal level too, and were inspired by our early conversations. In short, we like the way her brain works.

Janine:
I am interested in the transpositional and organisational processes that underlie Brandwatch’s work. For some time I have understood that my choreographic practice has a lot in common with data processing, programming etc and that I have developed methodologies (scores, exercises) around the embodiment of similar systems.

 

What excites you about this type of residency?

Brandwatch:
For Brandwatch this collaboration is about looking outside of our filter bubble, exposing ourselves to the unexpected, and re-contextualising our worldview. By inviting an artist into our space we hope we might witness something new, inspire originality, or just get a fresh perspective on what we do with data.

We genuinely don't know what is to come of this collaboration. Which makes it incredibly exciting.

Janine:
For me embodiment, navigation and the relational aspect of these systems, as they unfold in time, are really important. So in relation to Brandwatch I am curious about perspective and navigation through data, the possibly hypothetical position of omniscience- how that expanded view has to be refined via searches the returns of which reflect balance between inputs and outputs. 

 

To follow this experiment, be sure to check out our What’s On page and our Blog.

In partnership with Brandwatch.  South East Dance is a member of the Brighton Digital Festival Consortium.

Brandwatch: A New Collaboration

Grass: The Great Outdoors

By way of introduction, and for those who don't know you, tell us a little about yourself and what you do.

Hello! I’m a choreographer and Artistic Director of Second Hand Dance. I spend my time making dances – both my own projects and collaborations with other artists (other choreographers, visual artists, musicians and directors) – and producing that work.

I started the company in 2011 and am based in Epsom, although I find myself working all over the country.

Where do your ideas come from - where does it all begin? 

I like to view performance as a meeting point, a tool to bring people together and share something of ourselves and our stories. I so guess it often starts there, with an audience.

I’m interested in the celebratory aspect of performance. Something that is full of joy. Where dance is reclaimed from awkwardness into a gift; an exchange between viewer and performer.

Recently I’ve realised that my impulse to make work often comes from my family and own experiences. Often when I’m thinking about a new work it will start as just an image, and through investigating that image I realise why I’m interested in it (usually because of something I have experienced or encountered) and then I work to understand how it relates to a wider audience and why people might be interested in sharing a theatrical experience about it. 


One of your current pieces, Grass, was recently performed as part of the inaugural Starboard Festival at Brighton Open Air Theatre. So what's it all about?

When I was a child I had a fascination with grass and everything that lived in it. I used to collect snails to look after as pets, feeding them greens from the garden; or watch woodlice and ants for ages scurrying around underneath rocks, going about their business.

The show Grass came from an image I had of movement on turf – how the enjoyable sensation of soft green blades against your skin might encourage you to move. It was inspired by my memories and collected memories of others about their favourite things in, on and around grass.

It quickly developed into a show about my fascination with bugs as well – so many insects dance! Bees ‘waggle’ to tell each other where pollen can be found and ants use dance to tell if they are from the same colony. We found that mini beasts could move in ways that we couldn’t even start to.

I wanted to celebrate these bugs, show them off and encourage children, adults, parents and grandparents to get outside and pay attention to what is beneath our feet.

How does performing outdoors change the work?

We’ve performed Grass in theatres, outdoors, in parks, gardens, town squares and even cattle markets and in some ways it changes each time and in other ways it doesn’t. It was always designed to be a flexible show that can perform in lots of different spaces. The weather can be a fun if unpredictable change - particularly if it’s a bit wet the dancers get very muddy!

There are some technical differences, for example we don’t use projection in the outdoor version, but have some very nice puppets which you can look forward to meeting instead.

Mostly though, I say it’s the audience that affects the work more than its location. Their personalities, their energy and their bug knowledge!


Why do you think it is important to make dance work for children?

From an early stage as an artist I have been interested in making work for a range of people, not just adults already engaged with the arts. Art is about discussion and reflection for me, and I want to do that with as wide a group of people as possible.

This desire made me increasingly interested in how children respond to and understand dance and choreography. Their visceral, immediate response encourages a playfulness in my creative process and choreography. I make work for children as I would any other work, with the experience of the audience at its heart.

I think it’s important to make artistic experiences for children in the same way it is for adults – we all deserve to engage with creative ways of understanding ourselves, the world around us and each other better. For me art and dance is a part of life for all of us, no matter what age.

What impact do you hope Grass might have on your audiences, young and old?

I hope that audiences will have fun, enjoy the dancing and learn some facts. My favourite ever audience quote was from a 7-year-old girl who said: “I was going to go home now and watch TV, but instead I’m going to lie down in the grass and pretend to be a worm”. Brilliant, let’s have a few more people pretending to be worms in the grass!

As well as the show, there’s a chance afterwards to explore some of our set that turns into sand and soil play-crates with things to find and a chance to talk to the dancers – and who can resist a chance to get messy!

 

www.grasstheshow.com

© Zoe Manders
Grass: The Great Outdoors

We are Orlando

We are Orlando and we keep dancing their dance
Written by Theo Clinkard

Omar Mateen's unspeakably hateful act took place in Orlando but the repercussions were felt deeply around the globe by the LGBT community and those who know that love is love.

In the aftermath of events such as this, it appears that the wound deepens as the finer details emerge. Initially the numbing shock of it all was hard to compute; we reported it as ‘news’ to each other, citing the few abstract facts available to us; a location and a toll which gradually increased as the day went on. But as figures became names, names became people, people became lives, everything shifted; the tragic event was humanised and news became perceived experience. Hearts grew heavy before rage burned bright. Before long, forty nine gleeful and sassy Facebook selfies looked back at us from screens and newsprint. We learned about their jobs, their loves, their culture, their activism, their families and most painfully of all, their dreams, the ‘who’ of the thing appeared to reveal the true horror of these losses. The hashtag was right, we were and are them; our child who just graduated (Akyra), the brother we look up to (Juan), our uncle (Franky), our barista (Luis), our pharmacy technician (Stanley), our bouncer (KJ), our accountant (Eddie), our bartender (Dee Dee) and our mum to eleven children who survived breast and bone cancer and who regularly went dancing at Pulse with her gay son (Brenda).

The one detail that I can barely comprehend is the fact that they were killed dancing. Since it was Latin Night at Pulse, I imagine them dancing in couples, in each other’s arms; such an ultimate expression of love, sexuality, community, diversity, care, freedom and of trust.

How are we all implied and impacted by these events? How do we relate compassionately, without lessening the experience of the families who reel from the loss of those they loved? How do we respond as queers, as artists and simply as empathising humans? How do we continue to honour these people through the ongoing noise of 2016 and beyond? How do we dance now when dance’s nature is one of trust, freedom and ultimately, hope?

For me, the volatile world events of this last month have reframed the act of dancing. Dancing was exposed as an act devoid of shouty activism when it seemed so desperately needed. Its muteness was suddenly so apparent. I struggle to explain it, but simply launching into an improvisation at work seemed like the most idle thing to do. The freedom of my body in space almost insulting to those that died in the very act.

Theo Clinkard performing with Liv O'Donoghue in Fearghus O'Conchuir's The Casement Project. Photo by Stephen Wright.

 

I was performing in London the day before and the day after the shooting. I was dancing the most glam queer voguing dance that has ever been asked of me as a performer; the kind that normally happens in a kitchen to a glittery pop song. Whilst I feel comfortable in my rainbow bright skin, it was a challenge to let myself flaunt it. It took trust to reveal that part of myself in a public place but it was liberating since, just like them, I was in a safe place. The fact that the term ‘safe place’ suddenly seems to ask me for quotation marks is a glaring reminder of how hate crime implies us all. To dance our dance we have to imagine we are safe. An arms flung in the air kind of safe.

As I prepared for the second performance, the opportunity gifted to me by being on stage became alarmingly clear, for I was visible. I could dance their dance in all its gay glory. A proud and defiant dance, needed today as much as ever before. Not just for Orlando, but for every marginalised community, LGBT or other. We are all of them. Dance continues to have a new found relevance for me these last few weeks. It is inherently empathetic, uniting, celebratory and hopeful.

Its ephemerality a distillation of this moment in time. To dance is to humanise and this is needed now more than ever before.

Kitchen dances, club dances, wedding dances, dad dances, private dances, queer dances, local dances, campfire dances, worldwide dances, miniature dances, sexy dances, video dances, watched dances, expansive dances, playground dances, beach dances, forest dances, pensioner dances, romantic dances, flashy dances, stage dances, shy dances, lyrical dances, spoken dances, imagined dances, free dances and non-violent dances. It is our responsibility to keep them all going.

Happy Brighton Pride to everyone. Be more fabulous than you ever dared and keep dancing their dance - I think it was probably a very sassy one!

 

www.theoclinkard.com

© Stephen Wright
We are Orlando

Q&A with Sarah Blanc

Describe yourself in three words…
Jason Donovan enthusiast

What did you want to be when you were growing up?
It varied from being an actress as a main job and a dancer in my spare time to being a dancer as a main job and an actress in my spare time. Then from about 8-11years old it was a Zoologist and then dancer and actress in my spare time. But swiftly moved on to being an actress until I became a dancer. I don't know how that happened.

What is the worst job you have done?
Working in Home Bargains in Liverpool. Loved my work colleagues but didn't like my boss. He was mean.

What is your favourite music to dance to?
POP

What would your super power be?
Understanding all languages.

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Hang out with my nieces and nephews in Ireland.

What is your favourite thing about summer?
It is brighter, days feel longer and everyone is in a much better mood.

If you were an ice cream which would you be and why?
Pralines and cream because it’s delicious, slightly nutty and sounds a bit posh.

What trait do you most admire in others?
Loyalty.

What is your biggest fear?
Going blind…. Ooh that just popped out without thinking about… I thought it was losing all my teeth.

Where would you most like to be right now?
Freemantle in Perth Australia on a beach.

What is your favourite word?
BOSH! Stolen from Bryony Kimmings when we worked together on Jason, and it has not left my tongue ever since.

Who do you most admire and why?
Right now Jezza Corbz - what a man. I feel he has handled himself with such dignity throughout the past few weeks. I have so much respect for him. JC for PM.

What one change would make your life better?
MORE MONEY and maybe handling my time better.

What motivates you?
Paying my rent - jokes. I love who I work with - the trust that they have in me and me in them is a real motivation and we have so much fun together. I am also naturally a really curious person and I love that I can use my work to be nosy and ask questions - I feel very lucky. 

© Katherine Rose
Q&A with Sarah Blanc

The Welcome Project

The past few weeks have arguably been the most politically turbulent the United Kingdom has seen for many decades. It has been a time of enormous unrest and uncertainty, and continues to be so. As we all play witness to the maelstrom unravelling in the media, we feel it is important to remain centred and grounded.

Amongst all of the heated, colourful and chaotic activity that has resulted from the EU referendum we have been reminded of the importance of breathing. Of breathing deeply and purposefully. Breathing is central to dance – it not only feeds and replenishes the body, but it also gives space and enables flow. As a sector we now, more than ever before, need to breathe. We need to fill up and be ready for any challenges that may come our way; we need to allow space to respond with positivity, inclusivity and creativity, and we need to keep moving forwards, supporting and nourishing the art form that we love.

At South East Dance we have spent many years working to nurture relationships with artists, audiences and organisations across all kinds of borders. We have worked closely with our continental neighbours on some of our most bold and exhilarating projects, including DanSCe Dialogues and Audience Ambassadors. Collaboration and invitation are at the heart of what we do; it enriches our outlook and enhances the experiences of those who come into contact with our work. We will continue to seek out and welcome cross-border collaboration and conversations in order to push dance forwards to new and unexpected places, and to connect with new and unexpected people. 

© Zoe Manders
The Welcome Project

Khyle Eccles’ Flourish Fund reflection

Receiving the Flourish Fund could not have come at a better time. It allowed me to venture into exciting new territory. Territory that I never thought I would be in.

It funded me to start me learning about the neurology of movement by attending the Fundamentals Pro course by a company called Applied Movement Neurology.

What I didn’t realise at the time is that this was to change my approach to working with dancers as a dance specific strength and conditioning specialist – not in the material or coaching that I would advise or prescribe but in understanding ways to reassure and justify why I am suggesting such exercises or training.

The Fundamentals Pro course primarily looks at the cerebellum - the part of the brain at the back of the skull, which coordinates and regulates muscular activity. What happens in this part of the brain is pretty incredible and basically allows dancers to do what they do very well.

Although the work we did focused on the cerebellum, the cerebellum needs inputs from the vestibular system, the central nervous system, the peripheral nervous system, and muscle spindles in order to process information and create a neural stimulus to make movement happen.

Dancers are unique creatures and perhaps one of the most adaptable and versatile movers across the movement world and once I made my way through the course it became more and more clear why – COMPLEXITY!

Throughout the Fundamentals Pro course we talk a lot about “firing up” the cerebellum, and we do this by working up to more and more complex movement patterns. The problem I was finding was that a complex movement pattern for the average person was but a very simple warm up exercise for your average dancer!

This led me to understand that dancers are in essence “complexity royalty” and in order to have this new knowledge work for dancers I would have to de-engineer the information and put it back together almost in reverse.

You see, although dancers are the complexity super stars they often lack solid movement foundations away from technical aesthetic – by which I mean simple movement patterns away from their specific style such as a squat or a push up or how to run efficiently.

So instead of building a dancer’s movement up bit by bit to something complex, we have to break their complex movement down, look at the movement they are using, and address how we can make the foundation/simple movements integrate and support the aesthetic/complex movements – creating a clearer neural pathway for the brain to process the movements and to create a clearer and stronger stimulus received by the muscles.

An example might look like: taking a duet with lots of complicated lifts and breaking it down into its individual movement components, then looking at the mechanics of each movement and then looking at strengthening or correcting areas that seem less stable or uneducated.

The other part of the Fundamentals Pro course that I found very useful was addressing neural fatigue and knowing that we might not be physically tired but we maybe finding it harder to process information or react quickly – this can often happen at the end of a long rehearsal day or when learning lots of new skills or movements.

The Flourish Fund allowed me to take a small journey to help boost my big journey, and that is very valuable.

This learning will be put to great use in my dancer training initiative Athletic Artist and with be used throughout my work with the Dance UK Healthier Dancer Programme, Kingston University and Arts University Bournemouth, along with independent dancers and dance companies.

Big thank you.

Khyle Eccles
Athletic Artist
www.athleticartist.co.uk

Khyle Eccles’ Flourish Fund reflection

Francesca‘s Flourish Fund reflection

The South East Dance Flourish Fund enabled Miss High Leg Kick's Promettes to come together for a ribbon dance workshop led by rhythmic gymnast coach Eleonora from Rhythmic Excellence, based in London.  The Promettes are established artists Harold Offeh, Yoko Nishimura, Steve Nice, Abi Cunliffe and Miss High Leg Kick (Francesca Baglione). We also invited younger guest Promettes Reggie (8 years old) and Luciana (5 years old) to participate in this wonderful bonding and development workshop. It was an extremely successful day for everyone. We not only learnt basic ribbon technique but also worked with the coach on combinations which will help us with future choreography. This was an unique experience for all (including Eleonora) as we had no previous experience of rhythmic gymnastics - yet through an intense afternoon we were able to sow the seeds for exciting new performance work both individually and as a group. 

“A great thank you to South East Dance for enabling us to expand our work into the unknown - truly inspiring!”  Francesca (Miss High Leg Kick) 

“I can’t believe how much we learnt in such a short space of time - and how much fun we had doing it! Our next Promettes ribbon dancing routine will be on a whole other level!”  Steve

“It was so good to have the opportunity to do a workshop that is really going to benefit our practice together by having the time and tuition to try out some new techniques and shape up and build on some familiar moves of which hopefully we can practice and adapt to our work together. The tutor was friendly, enthusiastic, encouraging, and easy to work with, with a wealth of knowledge and talent, and managed to cater for all our questions and queries (ages between 5 and 49) I would love to do some more training with her if there was ever the chance and I think I speak for us all in saying that. It was a great team building exercise where we learned some new tricks. It was also a wonderful chance to re-connect in between the working gaps and have some focused tuition and lively fun in a great venue which gave us lots of space to move around. Thank you so much for getting this off the ground. It was a really valuable top draw experience. I loved it.” Abi                                  

“Attending the ribbon dance class as Promettes was a fantastic and fun experience. I have learnt many new tricks and skills that I can incorporate in our work as Promettes. We also began to explore new choreography using the techniques we’ve learnt. I am very grateful for the opportunity. It felt fruitful.” Yoko

“I think the training (Ribbon Training) was really fun and in a few months I’m going to do a special dance and I think the training will help me with my dance. I think the teacher was perfect in every move.” Reggie (age 8 yrs)

Francesca‘s Flourish Fund reflection

Emma-Jane’s Flourish Fund reflection

South East Dance supported Emma-Jane Greig in attending marketing consultancy sessions to help her get the word out about street dance classes run by her company, Body Politic. Emma-Jane has used the knowledge and skills she gained from this experience to design her reflection using Mailchimp. The result is an interesting and catchy marketing tool for her business…

In November 2015 I was fortunate enough to be awarded £150 from the South East Dance Flourish Fund. The fund supported me in accessing three marketing consultancy sessions with Oxford-based marketing whiz Sarah Crowther, who oddly enough I had met through her attending my weekly dance classes!


To read see the full Mailchimp reflection, please visit South East Dance: Flourish Fund

Emma-Jane Greig
Director of Body Politic
www.bodypoliticdance.com

Image credit: Photographer - Christian Villaflor

Emma-Jane’s Flourish Fund reflection

Don’t Miss…

Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me)

17 May – Lost Dog’s Paradise Lost (lies unopened beside me) - suitable for ages 14+
There is a possibility that God made everything because he was terrified of doing nothing. Here is a re-telling of the story of the beginning of everything inspired by Milton's Paradise Lost – told through words, music and the easily misunderstood medium of dance.

Slap and Tickle

19 & 20 May – Liz Aggiss’ Slap and Tickle - suitable for ages 15+
Maverick, indomitable, fearless: words that describe performance artist Liz Aggiss. Born in an era when children were seen and not heard, Liz had no clue what she wanted to be. She just knew she wanted to be seen and heard. Slap and Tickle is a dark and ribald physical commentary on cultural mores and sexual taboos: a disorientating display of interpretations and contradictions about women, girls, mothers and pensioners. Beating a path through the personal and historical, Aggiss creates a feminist soup lurching from word to movement, music hall to radio nostalgia, costume change to prop manipulation.

The Last Resort

7 – 29 May – Art Of Disappearing’s The Last Resort - suitable for ages 8+
Amidst a barren landscape, a neon light stands bleak and stark. Welcome to The Last Resort. For those brave enough to return to this long deserted resort, beauty, science fiction and history merge to create a unique outdoor experience.

Wearing headphones, you and a partner will embark on a journey along a desolate stretch of beach to rediscover a fantastical reality. Why do transmissions from the past interrupt this guided tour? Why did those that came to this resort never leave?

Using bin-aural technology to create a constantly shifting world of sound, artists Rachel Champion and Tristan Shorr have created an exciting immersive work that takes a wry look at science fiction traditions and dystopian societies.

Grass

3 July - Grass is a delightful interactive show by Rosie Heafford, Second Hand Dance. It is suitable for children and families aged 3+.
Featuring worms, slugs, snails, spontaneous outbreaks of ant dancing and plenty of weird and wonderful facts about bugs, Grass uses performance, puppetry and projection to inspire children to look closely at the world around them, to get mucky and play!

Grass is being shown in Brighton for the first time as part of the opening weekend for Starboard Festival, a brand new festival of outdoor performance by, for and with children and young people at Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT). Visit here to book tickets and find out more about the festival.

Bird with Boy

9 & 10 July - Junk Ensemble’s Bird with Boy - suitable for ages 14+
Explore exquisitely designed rooms at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in an unexpected encounter with dance, theatre and live music. Bird with Boy is a beautiful site responsive work from Ireland’s award-winning dance company Junk Ensemble. About things that end before they should, Bird with Boy uses a multi-generational cast, including eight local boys, and an unabashed sense of theatricality to create an intimate, haunting audience experience. Book your tickets here before it sells out!

Don’t Miss…

Get Involved this Summer

This summer is brimming with opportunities for children and young people based in Sussex who are interested in dance and performance.

New BTEC National Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance)

South East Dance is delivering a brand new sixth form course for student dancers across Sussex in partnership with Brighton and Portslade Aldridge Community Academies. The Aldridge South East Dance Academy is a unique collaboration between education and the dance industry, giving students the opportunity to study for a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance), the equivalent of 3 ‘A’ Levels. This distinctive course will include special opportunities for students to learn first-hand from some of the acclaimed world-class dance artists who call Sussex their home.

To find out more about the BTEC you can sign up for one of our two open talent workshops at Brighton Aldridge Community Academy in July and September – we hope to see you there! More info here.

Men & Girls Dance

There is something exciting coming to town in October! We will soon be putting a call out for an open audition on 10 July for Fevered Sleep’s Men & Girls Dance for the last leg of its national tour.

Men & Girls Dance brings together two very different groups of performers: men who dance professionally and girls from Brighton & Hove who dance for fun. If you are 8-12 years old and interested in taking part in this performance then watch this space for more info on the auditions.

As well as local girls taking part in the professional performances, there are ways that everyone else can get involved too. You can book to see the show, you can become a volunteer Community Catalyst, or take part in a creative workshop with an artist to explore the themes of the show. More info here.

 

If you are interested in finding out about any of the above then please e-mail Rose Kigwana – she would love to hear from you!

© Karen Robinson
Get Involved this Summer

Q&A with Charles Linehan

What is your earliest memory of dance?
Folk dancing in Cyprus

What is the most memorable performance you have ever seen?
There are so many but one would be Viktor by Pina Bausch

Who do you most look up to?
Goliath

What motivates you?
Imagining what can happen

What is your greatest fear?
I don’t really dwell on fear

What do you wish you had more time to do?
Do more travelling with my children

What is the best meal you’ve ever eaten?
Any meal with my extended family around

Where would you most like to be right now?
Berlin

What would your super power be?
Time travel

Do you ever long for a 9 - 5 desk job?
No thanks

What is your favourite word?
Cascade

When do you feel most calm?
Swimming under water

Which book has had the biggest impact on you?
Karl Ove Knausgaard’s cycle My Struggle

© Hugo Glendinning
Q&A with Charles Linehan

Big Dance Pledge

Big Dance is back and we’re excited to be getting involved once again. Our contribution to Big Dance over recent years has been vast and varied, with activity spanning from 2008 until now. During that time we have reached well over 30,000 people with performances, workshops and chances to participate, and have worked with almost 200 artists.

This year, we’re supporting the Big Dance Pledge 2016 which culminates on Friday 20 May. The Big Dance Pledge is a free opportunity to take part in a connected creative process with other groups across the world. We’ve arranged for local Dance Artist Nick Lawson to teach the students on our Centre for Advanced Training (CAT) Brighton Satellite programme Akram Khan’s three-minute Big Dance Pledge routine. We’re also connecting local groups and dance artists into the process to enable an estimated 80 young people that we’re not currently directly working with to get involved and get dancing!

There’s still time to learn the Big Dance Routine, to get involved and find out more please visit the website.

Big Dance Pledge

Lindsey’s Flourish Fund reflection

Lindsey’s Flourish Fund reflection

A postcard from the midst of the middle

Update from our Dramaturg in Residence, Lou Cope.

Hello all. It’s time for an update from the South East Dance Dramaturg in Residence programme, as we are past the half way point of the first year now.

It’s been a wonderfully inspiring and interesting journey so far. Here’s a quick round up of what’s been happening.

TEST Workshops

I’ve delivered the first of three two-day TEST workshops, aimed at enabling makers and dramaturgs to really unpack the value and potential of working with a dramaturg, or consciously engaging in self-dramaturgy.

We had a great group of honest, open and eager participants – all of whom contributed brilliantly. I think we all learnt loads, and some very strong bonds were formed. We talked about the dramaturgy of a process, of a show and of a career. We noted that it’s never too early for a dramaturg to get involved. And we’ve supported each other since – virtually as well as in a follow up session where we got our hands dirty again by delving around in each others practices and trying to offer support, possibilities and rigour.

“It was a valuable weekend that explored the theory and practicalities of working dramaturgically, with a diverse group of artists that allowed for interesting discussions and a totally creative supportive atmosphere.” Roz Conlon

TEST 2, with a whole new group of participants, is coming soon, and TEST 3 is available for booking now.

Come and join us as the range and depth of conversations about dramaturgy grow. It’s getting meatier and more exciting by the minute!

COLLABORATE

Following 80 applications, a super-exciting and varied group of artists were selected and I have begun working with them all in recent months.

I’ve completed work with Katie Dale-Everett on both her Ignition Random Acts Network Film Commission and her live performance; with Tim Casson and his collaboration with StopGap (which is a family show and is touring now) and with Dan Daw – on preparation for his 21st Century Aesthetics symposium with Kate Marsh.

I’m in the process of working with the following artists:

Botis Seva is working towards a new piece that will premiere at the end of the year. Botis and I have started with a few online sessions, i.e. through skype and film. We’ve talked about his practice and we’ve looked at a previous piece which was a 7-minute duet that he’s turning into a full blown show. It’s now called Woman of Sun and it will premier at Trinity Laban in November. It’s really interesting to take a short piece that was received very well, and properly examine if, why, how and in what way it could be developed.  I’m very excited to be joining Botis and his dancers in the studio very soon. For more info click here.

French artist and performance maker Chris Dugrenier and I have embarked on a very intense and inspiring collaboration. Chris is making a show and installation called Parallels.

Here’s an extract from the interim copy I wrote for the show (something I do throughout a process to help us grab hold, even momentarily, of what is being created).

As we watch Chris Dugrenier create her installation, we are watching her create worlds. Worlds that are filled with hope, opportunity and ambition, but also with borders, limitations and inequality.
She follows the traces of 7 different characters as they set out on their journeys from home to a promised land. Some make it, some don’t - these are left in limbo, waiting and praying for the political winds to change, and for fate to roll a different dice.
The randomness, luck and unfairness of it all come crashing in on us as we watch Chris beautifully, carefully and painstakingly create paths, intersections and wonderfully poetic narratives.

I’ve been working with Chris to try to help her/us understand and develop the possibilities of her working practice, the show, the installation, the different forms and the context, and again, will be joining her in the studio soon.

Next up is Rosie Heafford– choreographer and Artistic Director of Second Hand Dance. With Rosie my job is different. I’m working with Rosie, mainly online and through skype, to support her as she runs a fast-growing dance company with multiple commissions on the go at any one time. I’m working with Rosie as and when she needs/wants input throughout the year – and our conversations range from how to be efficient within a working day, how to balance admin and art, how to survive financially, as well as developing making practices and working on the dramaturgical development of the actual shows.

It’s perhaps worth pausing a moment here to note that I’m not a mentor - I’m not someone who operates from a position of knowledge or power. I accompany people in their making processes – trying hard to understand where it is they want to get to, and help them get there, and hopefully beyond, in style. Yes, I’ve worked on lots of wonderful shows and been around the block a bit, but each maker, each show and each journey is different – that’s the joy if it! – and all I know is that if we work together hard and well, we’ll be enriched, and audiences will be better served than if we hadn’t.

Add to these the beginnings of a fascinating collaboration with Rob Clark. Rob has brought me in at a very very early stage of his process – to join him in thrashing out ideas and directions – to get him ready to make further funding applications and bring the rest of his team together. I’ve learned recently, through TEST 1 actually, that some people feel they need to have their act together before they bring in a dramaturg, and I’d disagree with that. Involving a dramaturg right at the beginning, as ideas are just forming – can mean that you go forward stronger, quicker and in better health than you might have done otherwise, and personally I love being involved in this bit!

There’s also a very exciting week of wardrobe painting and destroying coming up with Leen Dewilde and Reckless Sleepers, and online support of choreographer Anja Meinhardt and her dramaturg Miranda Laurence – working with them to help them make the most of their relationship.

So it’s clear that this Residency is opening up all sorts of different relationships and conversations, and I feel confident that it is really supporting artists – helping them to clarify and develop both their practice and their product.
 

Image copyright John Hunter

Embed – South East Dance

One of the most unusual aspects of this residency is the fact that I am ‘dramaturging’ South East Dance (SED) – as an organisation. It’s an incredibly interesting and inspiring process, both very similar and very different to working with a big dance company.

Though still very much in the middle of it, I’m becoming more and more clear that a dramaturg can contribute to all manner of processes and organisations – not just those that are arts based. Having someone on the outside of the inside, focussing on identifying, exploring and exploiting the ‘inner flow of dynamic systems’* - whose aim it is to help you get where you meant to go – in more style and with more efficacy and authenticity than you might otherwise have been able to achieve – can only be a good thing.

And thanks to SED and the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, this residency is enabling me and a huge number of other dramaturgs and artists to really explore the potential of this wonderful collaboration and process.

Which leads me to the final part of this update:

The Red Line Website

Where do artists and dramaturgs go to really discuss the nuts and bolts of performance making processes? To get advice, to share learning and to be honest about the highs and lows of it all?

Well – nowhere that I can find!

So I’m working with the marvellous team at SED to create a new website – The Red Line.

Taking its name from the phrase ‘le fil rouge’ – that we dramaturgs use to describe the through line of a production (and a process, and a career, and even a day in the studio!) – this website will ask artists to blast open the doors of their rehearsal studios and share experiences about each phase of their making processes. It will be a way for this residency to share some of our learning, but also for artists across the UK and beyond to dig deep into our practices, open up our thinking and collaborate with each other  - with a view to hopefully learning, inspiring and supporting one another as we go.

We hope you’ll join The Red Line community, and get involved in the discussion – watch this space for the launch of the website, and for all forthcoming updates about the SED Dramaturg in Residence programme.

Thank you for reading, and hope to see you or hear your thoughts soon!

Lou Cope
Dramaturg in Residence
South East Dance
 

* Katalin Trencsenyi – ‘Dramaturgy in the Making’ – Bloomsbury 2015

A postcard from the midst of the middle

On Being An Emerging Producer - Elise Phillips

Six months on, what has come out of the Producer Development scheme? So much. Far too much to fit into a blog and too much to have fully processed yet. It feels like I have enough information and personal revelations to chew over for the next couple of years (honestly), so for now I share the first question that was really prominent for me at the start of this process.

A bit of context before I get to it - I kind of accidentally fell into producing. I managed a couple of dance projects and had been told that what I was doing was actually producing. I later worked as a trainee producer for Stopgap Dance Company. This scheme, however, is focused on producing independent artists - not stand alone projects, not NPO companies - so in many ways I'm at the very start of this career path.

Initially a prominent question was 'what is a producer?' It seems rudimentary to me now and something that I feel I have comfortably moved past but it was a real question for a few months. The definition of the role seemed to change depending on who I spoke to - artist / manager / administrator / seasoned professional / newbie.

Apparently there is no simple answer, no simple definition and no set understanding. Broadly speaking, I understand a producer for independent artists to be someone who does a combination of the following: administration, project management, tour support, production management, tech support, fundraising, relationship/network building, tour booking, promotion, emotional support, purchasing, creative feedback, evaluation, social media management, digital design, and/or education/community outreach. It just depends what the artist needs for a particular project at a particular time and what the producer's skills, interests, availability and contacts are at that time. Easy.

The challenge then lies in defining your interests and skills in a way that others easily understand. How do you fully convey what YOU do - your practise / service / skills / what artists are going to get working with you as opposed to someone else. Does the term 'producer' cut it? I don't know. Perhaps it'll do for now until some other term is deemed for appropriate.

With that question answered, I will now be reflecting on the following:

Can you be a producer if you don't have a rollerdex of venue contacts?
How do you (financially) negotiate making the step from a regular PAYE job into being a full-time freelancer?
Can dance play a real role in social change?
Is it time to write a 5 year plan? (Not just for the sake of it, but because I have a massive plan that probably needs a massive lead in...)

Let's see which question gets answered next in time for my next reflective blog post...

www.elisephillipsdance.co.uk

On Being An Emerging Producer - Elise Phillips

On Being An Emerging Producer - Fergus Evans

Two figures exist on a bare stage, a man and a woman. Their movements are quick, darting, manic – always with the possibility of more movement, a longer phrase, something held back. Their limbs tangle. They are fighting, they are supporting one another, they are twisted in a lover’s embrace, they are struggling to be free. In moments of rest, their long bodies fold in on themselves – they crouch low to the ground, make a comedy of dumb paws and the inarticulateness of limbs, before again leaping into action. They are hares fighting in a field; they are falling in and out of love with each other. Each sparse line of text has the same darting pithiness of their movements, the same feeling of stopping just-short-of, a coiled tension that sits underneath each word.
Lost Dog, Like Rabbits at the Almeida Theatre 2013

It’s hard to say when dance started to insinuate itself into my creative life. As someone who has made a living as an artist and producer primarily working with the power of words, the idea of a purely physical art-form has always been intimidating. In a calendar crowded with new theatre and live literature, there didn’t seem to be much time for dance. And besides, where would I start?

But dance has slyly slipped into my life. There are obvious overlaps – in the world of contemporary performance there isn’t always a great deal of stylistic difference between live art / contemporary dance / experimental theatre / performance art / dance theatre, except perhaps in how we speak about each of these things. They borrow from each other, they reflect back to one another, push each other forward and outward. And yet, there are lines drawn in the sand that can sometimes be quite hard to cross. There are paths leading out and away, paths I can’t quite see the shape of. Moving more into dance can sometimes feel like frantic reconnaissance, a series of steps into another country. There is a shared language, perhaps. But there is also the question of dialects, of vernacular.

I suppose the first time I found myself actively thinking about these overlaps was back in 2013 when I first saw an early version of Lost Dog’s ‘Like Rabbits’ as part of the now-defunct Almeida Festival. It was probably the premise that grabbed me first – an award-winning dance theatre company working with up-and-coming playwright Lucy Kirkwood to adapt a Virginia Woolf short story. The Almeida built their reputation on classic and contemporary texts, and even when they work with new playwrights it is almost always in the context of story, of strong narratives. So I was curious to see what would happen when dance artists and writers collaborated.

Maybe it’s something I should have expected, but what struck me was the absence of text. Working with two great writers (Woolf and Kirkwood) Lost Dog gives us largely a performance without words. And the words which are used, like the deployment of the dancer’s bodies, are at once a demonstration of two people struggling – to connect, to be independent, to satiate something – and an exercise in careful restraint. ‘Like Rabbits’ seems to say to us: we will show you this much, but there is so much more we will not. Our bodies and minds and words are powerful, they can leap and kick, but they are ours. You cannot know all of it.

Twenty-one performers are gathered before us – mostly standing, with and without the aid of crutches, some in wheelchairs, some solitary, some clustered in groups. Each is listening to something on headphones, but we the audience don’t know what they’re listening to. We’re not in on the secret. There is only the slightest sense of movement – a leg jitters to an unheard beat, heads nod. The performers undulate with the nervousness of someone wishing they could dance like no one is watching but unable to get away from the suspicion that everyone is. Suddenly, one performer bursts out into song.

‘I’m still standing…’

The audience begins to titter, nervously. Little ripples of laughter spread through us. Then, louder, bolder, as the performers each begin to sing – popular songs, ones we all know, ones we could all sing along to. Elton John, Celine Dion, Michael Jackson. Only phrases, but the best ones, the ones we know. No awkward verses. Just the chorus, the refrain, the hook. Now our laughter is full-throated, now it runs the risk of drowning out each of these soloists. It is a roar, it is collective, it feels revolutionary and powerful, this permission we the audience has taken to be in on the joke. And still, twenty-one performers are before us, biting back the words we don’t know, keeping those words for themselves. They don’t laugh. Each of them is trying to sing out over the rising tide of the audience’s laughter, to dance like no one is watching, to be heard.
Candoco Dance Company performing Jérôme Bel’s The Show Must Go On at Sadler’s Wells 2015

Much of what we’ve done so far on the South East Dance producer development scheme is speak with each other. We recommend artists to each other, articles to each other, documentaries and websites. I leave each meeting with an ever-longer list of things to read and see and think about. The conversations move freely from our own experience as artists and producers and into wider issues.

More often than not, these conversations circle back to the precariousness of trying to make a living out this, and how as producers we want to create a space for dance artists to get on with the hard work of making. Many of the fears and concerns we return to are the same fears that exist in theatre circles – the anxiety around paying artists fairly, how the obsession with youth can crowd out older experienced artists, the ways in which touring in this country has changed irrevocably (and not always for the better), the very real possibility that the lens of mainstream arts criticism might be narrowing as interesting voices are crowded out, and how all of this is exponentially harder if you’re a woman, you’re not white, you’re disabled, you’re working class – or god help you, more than one of these things.  We’ve talked about what it means to a whole sector when our most visible artists devalue these struggles.

All these overlaps, and all these shared concerns. As the three of us (and the many South East Dance staff who have joined in the conversation) have spoken, I’m often struck by the possibilities of how artists working in different fields could support each other, the power that could come from stronger alliances. But I’m also trying to be conscientious, to not let myself only see the similarities. I don’t want the big, booming sound of collectivism to drown out the individual. If I’m going to support dance artists I want to hear about the loves and struggles that are unique to artists working in this field.

There have already been some interesting surprises – the idea that dance and choreography are related concepts rather than synonymous terms, the demands touring can place on the body – which keep reminding me that this is a similar-but-not-the-same world I’m trying to enter. I am reminded again and again that there is quite a lot I don’t know and that if I’m honest I still don’t even know what I don’t know. Much of what is considered standard practice in dance still sits in the bit of my own map marked ‘here be dragons.’

I’m going to end this post with an invitation. If you’re reading this, something tells me you probably love dance, that it’s already part of your life. So I’m asking you – what starting points would you suggest for someone new to dance? Where are the points of entry? As someone working in dance, what are the interventions you’d like producers to be making? Where do you need the most support? What should I do? What should I see? What should I read? What conversations should I be having, and where?

Respond to Fergus’ questions on twitter - @fergus_evans or in our comments box below…

On Being An Emerging Producer - Fergus Evans

On Being An Emerging Producer - Iris Chan

The Producer Development Scheme has been an incredibly supportive, invigorating, and informative framework to be a part of, and I've been really grateful to have this structure and dedicated time to discuss openly and honestly about my current challenges and aspirations as a producer. We have had some lengthy debates, philosophical discussions, informative sessions, informal chats, and a lovely pot luck lunch with the SED team so far. Being the only producer who is London-based, I realised very early on in our first session how London-centric my knowledge of the dance sector was, and how much interesting activity was happening in Brighton and the South East, which is really inspiring and helping me to think outside of my existing networks. 

The scheme has been an invaluable space for my professional development, which I would otherwise be doing and investing in on my own, looking things up on the internet, paying for and attending workshops, or waiting until the next time I go to see a performance to bump into someone I needed to talk to, to find out the information I need, and constantly feeling like I was making things up as I was going along. Our sessions so far has thrown up such a huge range of topics and issues for me to think about and knowledge to consolidate – from informative sessions on fundraising and an overview of the UK dance network, to discussions on dance training in higher education, and managing artist/producer relationships. But it's been the more personal and philosophical questions that are really sticking with me right now, some of which include:

- What does being a producer mean to me?

- Is it a job, a career path, or even just a ‘side job’?

- How much time do we spend on managing ourselves? In deciding what work to say yes to, or to turn down, and in building/managing relationships with the people I work with?

- How do I sustain a healthy relationship with my work? Is there an issue of 'burn out' in independent freelance producers?

- Is everyone currently called a producer?

- What do I already know, and how can I know what I don’t know so I can ask for support?

- What are the areas of producing am I most interested in developing, rather than feeling like I need to know and be able to do everything?

Whilst I was writing my application for the scheme it became clear to me that what I am interested in and passionate about is helping artists make their work happen, and that I wanted to do this from both a performer’s and producer’s perspective. I find both roles creatively challenging and satisfying, and the more producing work I do the more I realise how dancing and performing informs it. It has been reassuring and a relief for me in some way, to have conversations with the other two producers of the scheme, Fergus and Elise, on the tensions between working as a producer and balancing our own artistic practices and other aspirations. To acknowledge that we are not 'just' producers but have other experiences to draw from that inform how we work with, and as artists, is what I think has kept each session engaging and informative. One of us will always chip in to discussions with examples and case studies, and I’ve been surprised by how much knowledge, skills, and advice we can share between us.

Relating this to the afternoon we spent visiting Artsadmin, we spoke with Senior Artists’ Producer Nicky Childs and Director Judith Knight on how the organisation was originally set up, and why it felt more effective for independent producers (or arts administrators – the more commonly used term then) to work together rather than alone, to share resources, but perhaps more importantly to be supported by each other and to make more interesting projects happen. So I have been wondering about this model of producing work in the current dance sector, what networks already provide this kind of support, and what other possibilities could be explored…

I’m really looking forward to our upcoming sessions and meetings, and towards a more tailored programme for areas I’ve identified that are of interest to me, whilst still keeping those questions I have afloat, to continue interrogating them (but probably not resolving all of them), and trying not to get too overwhelmed by them at the same time!

On Being An Emerging Producer - Iris Chan

What’s Going on in Artist Development?

As ever, the Artist Development team is a hive of activity, working to bring you insights from and opportunities at the cutting edge of choreographic practise…

We have just completed ‘Artists Producing’, a professional development course open to all, delving in to the realities of what it takes to be an independent choreographer and maker, held at New England House in Brighton.

Next month, ‘Doing Dramaturgy’ will take place in Kent - a 2 day workshop, led by Lou Cope our Dramaturg in Residence. Our Dramaturg in Residence programme is supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation. The course will explore the how and why of using dramaturgy in your work. There are still a few places available to book here.

And hot off the press… we are in development of our new online site ‘The Red Line.’ Conceived in collaboration with Lou, the space will be dedicated to exploring the process of making work: with all its peaks, troughs and in-between states. Watch this space!

In December, we launched The Other Yellow Pages, a website focusing on contemporary art practice in dance in the South East and East - with a whopping 3000 hits in the first month! Designed to facilitate easy communication between artists, employers and audiences, be sure to sign up to be a part of this extensive resource created to help support artists to connect, share and self-initiate projects.

And we look forwards to working with Chiharu Mamiya and Sofie Burgoyne and their collaborators in April, at our Scale & Scope ChoreoLAB in partnership with Pavilion Dance South West. We were thrilled to receive over 65 applications from artists interested in investigating work that is small in scale, but big in ideas.

For all of our latest exciting projects and opportunities please remember to join the mailing list on our home page!

© John Hunter
What’s Going on in Artist Development?

A Partnership for the Future

The Aldridge South East Dance Academy is a partnership between South East Dance and the Brighton and Portslade Aldridge Community Academies. A unique collaboration between education and the dance industry, the partnership has commissioned the development of a BTEC National Extended Diploma in Performing Arts (Dance), the equivalent of 3 A levels. The curriculum is exclusively for Aldridge South East Dance Academy students studying at Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA) and Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA). The Academy will be the only centre in Brighton & Hove offering this qualification, with students combining academic studies with choreography and performance development and the opportunity to work with respected members of the dance industry. The Aldridge South East Dance Academy is for students studying in the Sixth Form and will commence in September 2016.

“This partnership brings the truly exciting prospect of a unique and trail-blazing approach to dance education and training beginning right here in Brighton and we’re absolutely delighted to be involved. Developed from the forefront of dance industry expertise, the new curriculum will create dance opportunities of the highest quality so that more young people can not only fulfil their creative potential but also enjoy the exhilaration and health benefits of dance.”
Cath James – Programme Director, South East Dance

Image copyright Benedict Johnson

 

Written by Justine Reeve

It is a pleasure to have been asked by South East Dance to write a Brighton and Hove focused curriculum for both PACA and BACA Schools and the new Aldridge South East Dance Academy. As a teacher of dance for over twenty-three years (including being an examiner, external verifier and writer of BTECs) I can see this has the potential to really inspire young dancers.

Through this full time dance curriculum the students will connect with the vibrant and rich local dance scene as well as achieving a BTEC National Level 3 in Performing Arts (Dance), which is worth 3 A Levels. I am enthusiastic about BTECs as they offer endless possibilities for devising exciting projects for assessment alongside allowing for a rigorous training in dance. It is the BTEC’s vocational nature and these delivery possibilities that will allow a Post-16 student to train as a dancer, create original choreography, learn repertoire and perform. With the new BTEC specification, for first teaching this coming September, the qualification encourages dancers to work to a commission, to consider developing work for diverse target audiences and to evaluate their own practise as well as preparing students for University e.g. one external unit requires students to create a solo audition piece.

During the two years students will take regular practical dance classes and workshops in a minimum of three techniques, which, as part of this curriculum, will be taught by local professional dancers. In addition the dancers have ample opportunity to discover dance practice and dance pieces first hand from choreographers and local dance makers. We have a huge wealth of artists within the South East region and having a selection of these included within this curriculum as case studies will prompt further investigation. Students will create their own choreographies inspired by these professional works with the opportunity to learn and perform professional repertoire as curtain raisers in local theatres. The curriculum also has scope to explore dance by drawing on the local art, venues, communities, artists, festivals, companies and spaces e.g. using the murmurations of the starlings over the seafront as a starting point for structuring group phrases.

I am thrilled to be able to use my knowledge of BTECs and local dance industry links in creating this bespoke course. I only wish now that I was 16 again.

 

To find out more about the BTEC you can attend an open evening at both schools,

Brighton Aldridge Community Academy site – 26 April - 6.45 -8pm
Portslade Aldridge Community Academy site - 27 April 6.45-8pm

For more information or to confirm attendance, please contact Connor Daly, 6th Form Specialist Academies Coordinator, by e-mail.

© Benedict Johnson
A Partnership for the Future

The Dance Space Update

Hi there, allow me to introduce myself my name is Francesca and I am the newly appointed Head of Development for South East Dance. I am chuffed to be joining the team at such an exciting time. I have worked in the not for profit sector for over 10 years now with a passion for people, problem solving and development.

What I love about South East Dance is the combination of amazing projects happening that support artists, as well as the local community. Dance is something that everyone can enjoy and with The Dance Space on the horizon here in Brighton, it’s the perfect time to get involved.

As many of you will know, South East Dance has been working hard behind the scenes to make The Dance Space happen and thanks to some incredible support we are getting very close to finally creating a new home right in the heart of Brighton. This means we’ll be able to bring the delights, health and well-being benefits of dance to an additional 75,000 people each year, building on the 84,000 people who already engage with our work through live and digital performances, projects in the local community, installations and discussions.

So far, we have raised a staggering £3.22million – that’s 92% of the funding needed to create The Dance Space. So it is now critically important that we reach our final fundraising target to ensure Brighton is given a building it deserves. This final investment of £274,000 is essential, and without it we will not be able to build The Dance Space to highest specification needed. Once the final funds are raised The Dance Space will set Brighton apart, with a state of the art cultural centre that would last well into the future. This will ensure that The Dance Space will inspire more people of all ages to enjoy dance for generations to come.

Once all the funding is in place we will be aiming to open our doors to the public in spring 2018 and, with £3.22 million already confirmed, our energies are now firmly focused on raising the remaining £274,000 – the final 8% of the budget to complete the building of this iconic cultural centre. We want everyone to enjoy The Dance Space, this is an important part of our vision for the building, which is strongly anchored in the belief that it should not be an ivory tower.

South East Dance and The Dance Space are at critical point now, and we are reaching out to local people and businesses in Brighton who share our passion for the arts and new dance. We now need to connect to people like you, who can help The Dance Space reach its final fundraising target of £274,000. We see this figure coming from a wide range of sources, however we hope that everyone will get behind the final fundraising campaign to help us construct this incredible building, which we know will add real colour and creativity into a piece of Brighton that has been left derelict for too long. Would you like to be part of this amazing new development? If so we would love to hear from you!

If you would like to set up a direct debit, make a one off donation, hold your own fundraising event or even fund the construction of an entire dance studio we would love to hear from you.

Please visit our website to make an online donation, alternatively if you would like to learn more about The Dance Space and explore how you or your company can make a real difference contact Francesca D Purcell, Head of Development, on 01273 696823 or e-mail francesca.purcell@southeastdance.org.uk

© Zoe Manders
The Dance Space Update

On Being An Emerging Producer

The Producer Development Scheme was created in response to a palpable hunger for producing knowledge, within the dance world. We have often heard the question: Where are all the dance producers? Or the statement: There aren't many dance producers! However, the overwhelming response to our call-out would suggest otherwise...

Not only did the number of submissions far exceed our expectations, it highlighted that there is a real desire for independent producers (of all levels) to connect with others in the industry, broaden their knowledge base, experience and develop new skills. In fact, so difficult was the decision, we decided to take on three participants instead of two. Introducing –Iris Chan, Fergus Evans and Elise Phillips, our three exciting producers, who have been with us on the scheme since October 2015.

Currently in the middle of their Development Scheme, they have covered sessions spanning: fundraising, community dance, European funding, festivals, touring, higher education, the UK dance scene, alongside many discussions about what it means to be a producer with a portfolio of work, whilst remaining creative amidst it all. They have attended networking opportunities with programmers and established producers, dance companies and venues and each producer has highlighted areas for further investigation, around their specific interests. Looking forwards, the producers will meet artists currently working in the field of contemporary dance practice; brush up on tour booking and venues; have an opportunity to ask their questions directly to an Arts Council relationship manager, spend time with a dramaturg and more.

The Producers have also benefitted from one another's experience and expertise. In fact, part of the success of the project is that Iris, Elise and Fergus have had the time and space to share knowledge based on their varied career paths, which span the arts, performance and producing.

We caught up with Elise, Iris and Fergus mid-way through their connection with South East Dance and asked them to reflect on their experiences so far. Follow the links below to a collection of thoughts, questions, ideas and mullings-over that have come from the discussions that have taken place as part of this pioneering scheme...

Elise Phillips

Iris Chan

Fergus Evans

On Being An Emerging Producer

Q&A with Art Of Disappearing

What is your favourite time of year?
Rachel (R): Any time of year, depends what’s going on!
Tristan (T): Spring and summer for me…the more sun and daylight the better.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
R & T: We both wanted to use our imaginations, so exactly what we are doing now!

When did you last dance?
R & T: This morning in the kitchen!

What is your favourite piece of music to dance to?
R & T: Aria by Balanescu Quartet, it’s beautiful. Also Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth usually get us moving.

What is it about live performance that you like best?
R & T: That it’s real, in the moment and anything can happen.

Why is interaction so important to you?
R & T: For us the work is about engagement, about being present. It’s important to us that the audience is not passive.

What is your favourite thing about Brighton?
R & T: The music scene has always been great. Lately, with lots of work and no studio, it’s been the coffee shops!

If you were a sea creature, what would you be and why?
R & T: A blobfish

What is your favourite sound?
R & T: The rain and everyone laughing around the dinner table

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
R & T: It would be a big dinner party and Pina Bausch, Martha Graham, David Lynch, Ian MacKaye, Sun Ra, Daniel Day-Lewis, Henry Rollins, Peter Greenaway and Arvo Part could totally come.

When was the last time you felt truly inspired?
R & T: We are inspired most days in some way, thankfully!

What does audience mean to you?
R & T: These are the people that come to our shows. We are glad they exist.

What makes you happy?
R & T: Working on new projects, listening to music on journeys, the children, treats, noodles, great films, taking photographs, turning off the computer and phone, amazing snowy landscapes, talking with friends, clothes, architecture...bit of an endless list!

What is the best thing about working outside?
R & T: We’ll tell you at the end of May!

What is your favourite word?
R & T: We like most words. Although there are some combinations of words we probably shouldn’t use?

 

Art Of Disappearing’s new immersive work The Last Resort will premiere at Brighton Festival this May. It will take you and a partner on an unusual tour into an even more unfamiliar world, inviting you to actively explore your own imaginations and rediscover a future past. For more information and to book tickets, visit our website.

The Art of Disappearing are looking for volunteers during Brighton Festival. Interested? E-mail Ellen for further information.

© AOD
Q&A with Art Of Disappearing

Destination Brighton Dance

The Brighton Festival focuses in on Brighton this year with the themes of home and place to celebrate its 50th anniversary. With the festival subtitled ‘On The Edge’ the dance programme reflects this with a wealth of talented Brighton companies and  personalities in the mix. South East Dance’s commissioned artists include Liz Aggiss in Slap and Tickle,  and Charles Linehan bringing the world premiere of his brand new work A Quarter plus Green to Brighton.

I’m looking forward to visit The Last Resort, by Art Of Disappearing. Artists Tristan Shorr and Rachel Champion create a tantalizing  and surreal journey for two people at a time, along the barren landscape of Portslade Harbour. Using binaural technology, this work places the audience at the heart of the performance – well, they are the performers, as is their imagination. We worked with Tristan and Rachel last summer in the streets and beaches of Brighton & Hove with their participatory performance The Stand-In and we are delighted to be working with and supporting them both as they (and we) explore a whole new world within Portslade.

Last year we featured Lea Anderson as part of our Brighton Digital Festival commission Pan’s People Papers, and this year Lea returns to Brighton to work with Three Score Dance Company, creating a work for 50 over 50’s especially for the 50th Anniversary festival. (I see what they’re doing there) Lea’s work is always quirky, witty and somewhat eccentric. This should be fun.

The Brighton Fringe is also absolutely filled to bursting with performances again this year. South East Dance will be checking out all the dance performances in order to award our annual fringe Space To Dance award for the most surprising dance performance. And do check out our Emerging Artists the Hiccup Project and their new work It’s OK I’m Dealing With It - another South East Dance commission. Authentic, raw and sassy, the Hiccup girls will brighten your night. I’d say think 16+ given some adult themes and strong language.

Come what MAY (2016) South East Dance is delighted to be supporting all these artists, and we hope to see you at some of these events. Follow us on twitter @southeastdance #Brightonfestival for updates and comments.

Destination Brighton Dance

Luke Pell blog series: Get Better Soon? - Some Gathered Musings [Part 6]

Luke Pell was a guest speaker at Get Better… Soon: Musings on a 21st Century Aesthetic, a discussion event curated by Dan Daw and Kate Marsh at Brighton Dome in November 2015. Here, is the sixth and final part of Some Gathered Musings, Luke’s transcript from the event in November.  

Get Better Soon?

What’s not lost

What matter matters to whom

We collect ourselves into being

Fluid beings

Forceful objects

Who cares enough

To read

These mute witnesses

Somethings coming to surface

My 21st century aesthetic is informed by
the life I have lived
the paths I have crossed
the people I have touched and who have touched me
the meanings we make

I have spent many moons in theatres along with other theatre folks and over time I have come to believe that these spaces, places for gathering, sharing utterings and gestures of what it is to live (and die) on land and sea, are built upon values from days of yore.

I have come to believe that these buildings, these manmade structures, these ways of seeing and sensing, still rely upon values drawn from just one way of being in the world.

A tradition of castles and theatres, dwellings and outhouses, built for a hierarchy of courts and classes

A tradition of castles and theatres, built and made with one way of seeing in mind

A tradition of castles and theatres, built for looking up or looking down

One way of seeing

One way of perceiving

One way of making meaning

One of way of appreciating

And although our traditions may be evolving, although there may be new dances in theatres and choreographies in great halls, on farms, lochs and mountains, that interrupt, disrupt, disturb, question
these ways of

Sensing

Knowing

Sharing

Our efforts, our endorsements, our measures of worth, still look up and down towards these buildings

These enchanted spaces are gated

We order these buildings with hierarchical ideologies

Looking up to gods and down upon those in the cheap seats

Looking up to elaborate, formal gestures, of assailing, rising

Looking up to a mastery of one tongue

Taken from many

Turning away from people falling, writhing, rolling, leaking, weeping, seeping, weathering, shrinking, stumbling, dripping, beautiful messings

the wet stuff that lets us know we are alive

Beasts and beings, in a world moving

Amongst chess-set staff in buildings, looking up to Kings and Queens and down on the ground, workers, demons, goblins.

No-man is an island.

We force fabricated structures upon ecology, only occasionally encountering, the fleeting folks living in the land, crossing waters

Fixed upon a vertical ascent, increased accumulation

When we could, look out, around, behind, beyond beneath

We could listen, lean back, laydown and dig

Squirm and squeeze and shake. Reach, rollout, embrace, breathe

Out.  In and go

Quiet activists
Queer radicals
Artist as anthropologist
Moving bodies,

What we choose to remember
and what we allow ourselves to forget

This re-remembering is an inscription of where I am now, how I see, think, feel

A sensing of the presence of so much human fear, fear of the other, of things that seem too close to mortality, fear of impermanence, of change and transformation, fear of being what we are, fuelled by shame and money

The overbearing presence of patriarchal medicine, reductive notions of normalcy, a colonial architecture for our social sensibility

An absence in the world of attending to others, as peers, with kindness, with genuine curiosity, with empathy, without fear

I don’t want to Get Better Soon, my difference, my deviation, ditherings and disruptions, my deficit, my dances, are amplifications of empathy,

Political acts of Love

Luke Pell blog series: Get Better Soon? - Some Gathered Musings [Part 6]

Daisy Cauty’s Flourish Fund reflection

Through the support from South East Dance’s Flourish Fund I was able to attend an intensive workshop with Anton Lachky at Trip Space, London.

This was a fantastic opportunity for me as a freelance dancer and artist to indulge in Lachky’s intensely physical approach to dance and creation, and use what I learnt to inspire my own professional practice.

The first vital concept was isolations of body parts. Through repetition of exercises, we aimed to achieve control, clarity, speed, precision and exaggeration. The execution of these movements was very challenging for me, as it is not my usual way of moving, but this is exactly why I wanted to take part in this intensive project. I have gained a different perspective on ways of dancing that I never knew I could achieve. And I plan to take these new influences into my own creative and professional work in the future.

For me to learn and understand the exact execution of one single body part was the basis of his approach, but the challenge had only just begun!

Lachky’s innovative way of creating material, fittingly named Puzzle Work, works on the basis of specific coordinations of the body, but adding layers upon layers of movements within a very small time frame, thus inventing a supremely complex system of movements all performed at one time, with intense speed and precision.

“Speed, speed, speed!!!” (Lachky)

Whether in morning class, or the afternoon workshop, Lachky would push us for speed, intensity and clarity all at the same time. I found myself developing faster than I ever have before, and his insistent attitude to perfecting the finite details makes all the difference to the overall product. One challenge for me was to resist making movements smaller as the speed increased. Lachky simply told us there is no need for this, “Just be big and fast!”

I will certainly be adopting this strong attitude and approach to my own style of choreography.

Lachky mentioned that practicing movement at such speed is a great way to not ‘settle’ into our abilities. I found it very inspiring to be told that we can always push ourselves as dancers to achieve better and higher goals. If we achieve the difficult levels that he was setting us within the workshop, then we should not see that as an ending, but as the beginning. This achievement then becomes the norm of our ability, and we can push ourselves to the next level as we develop further.

“It’s not what you do, but how you do it” (Lachky)

My own personal feedback from Lachky was to finish every movement. This comment resonated within me, and I feel that this opportunity has allowed me to raise my own personal expectations and abilities within my professional career, as well as my physicality and strength. I have been given the much needed boost at this point in time, to grit my teeth and push myself to achieve more. This workshop has given me a fresh outlook into the way I approach choreographing as well as dancing, and I will use these tools to develop my dancing body.

The workshop has also enabled me to grow and develop my creative and choreographic skills to new levels, and I will be using the techniques I have learnt from the workshop to inform my new piece of work. This new creation is in collaboration with a friend of mine, Tora Hed, and we aim to use visually confusing and inspiring images to convey our themes across to an audience. Lachky's Puzzle Work theory is really helping us come up with different movement ideas, allowing us to come out of our comfort zone and explore what our bodies can do. It has pushed us to create something completely new for our bodies and minds.

To sum up the workshop, here are some key words that were repeated throughout:
Speed, clarity, intensity, exaggeration, physical, economical, satisfying, fun!

Great thanks to South East Dance for supporting me through their Flourish Fund scheme. It is a great initiative, and I hope other artists can benefit from this in the future.

Daisy Cauty’s Flourish Fund reflection

Luke Pell blog series: A Remembering - Some Gathered Musings [Part 5]

Luke Pell was a guest speaker at Get Better… Soon: Musings on a 21st Century Aesthetic, a discussion event curated by Dan Daw and Kate Marsh at Brighton Dome in November 2015. Here, is the fifth part of Some Gathered Musings, Luke’s transcript from the event in November.  

A Remembering

Today, I remember,
Memory is a live act 
a choreography, of connection.
We, re-remember 

Today, I remember that Ophelia said
Rosemary is for remembrance.  Pansies are for thoughts.

I have so many. Thoughts and words
For forgotten bodies. Magic that did not go

Still, here. Transformed.
Terra incognita

I remember they said
Here, be dragons and, witches to burn

I remember they said
To write with left is wrong

I remember they said don’t ever wipe tears without gloves

What atrocities arise, from fear of some unknown

I remember that ‘truths’ change

Today, my hands will be wet and muddied,
as I tend to what might grow. 

Today,
tomorrow, I will remember those we won’t yet know.

Luke Pell blog series: A Remembering - Some Gathered Musings [Part 5]

Luke Pell blog series: The craft of making and the art of disappearance [part 4]

Luke Pell was a guest speaker at Get Better… Soon: Musings on a 21st Century Aesthetic, a discussion event curated by Dan Daw and Kate Marsh at Brighton Dome in November 2015. Here, is the fourth part of Some Gathered Musings, Luke’s transcript from the event in November. 

The craft of making and the art of disappearance 

A sculptor, a dry stone wall builder, a thatcher, a potter,
Considers their materials their qualities, their dynamics, their action, in space and time, how they might change and transform in weather, in heat in cold.

I’m a maker.  My material is the world around me, the words we find, the movements we make, the learning that comes from living. My work is to listen and to touch gently upon the some things we won’t have words for, where words fail, to notice what might go unnoticed, the somethings in between.

The sculptor, the painter makes studies, explorations in material, time, light.  A series of considerations, of properties, qualities, particularities to bring an object into being, a visual, physical manifestation, which may, or may not, endure over time

Forceful objects.

What then for those of us whose materials and studies are with the intangible, the live, the fleeting,

The craft of making, the art of disappearance

I tend more these days to talk about making and curating 

Make, from the Old English macian "to make, form, construct, do; prepare, arrange, cause; behave, fare, transform

Curate, from Medieval Latin curatus "one responsible for the care (of souls)," from Latin curatus, past participle of curare "to take care of" 

Rather than work in participatory practice, live art or performance,

I create offerings and invitations, choreographies, objects, intimate encounters in a certain light

Dance is at the heart, why dance…. Yes because of its spectacle, for the social and the ritual, for health and wellbeing,. An art form, a political act, and for me because it is the art form most like what is to be in the world.

Here and gone
I identify as queer
All the shades of grey
The mist, somewhere in between

And I’m genuinely curious about other ways of being in the world, each of our unique lived experience, is precious, and gathered together offer up wisdoms for living. What of that wisdom should become public and what remain private.

If my work is to be with to you for as long as you need, to choreograph an encounter, a darkened room, a conversation about some memory across a floor.  Where you or I may share something that wont meet others eyes or ears and you leave this room with only the tiniest trace.

How do we value that? That time, that labour, those crafted moments.
That empty space
Where we make what’s seemingly certain, money, art, ourselves, beautifully disappear.

Luke Pell blog series: The craft of making and the art of disappearance [part 4]

Luke Pell blog series: WORDS - Some Gathered Musings [Part 3]

Luke Pell was a guest speaker at Get Better… Soon: Musings on a 21st Century Aesthetic, a discussion event curated by Dan Daw and Kate Marsh at Brighton Dome in November 2015. Here, is the third part of Some Gathered Musings, Luke’s transcript from the event in November. 

WORDS

Here are some more words, about words and finding words for dance I wrote about dances for Candoco’s In Dialogue series publication:

What Words Can Do: 
What can words do?   

I love language. Its great shapes and sounds, tones, colours, textures, how, it is changed by people and place and time  

I love how words form in the mouth and hand, passing through pen or tongue, on to the page, off the lips.  Reaching out, toward others fingers, eyes, ears 

As a maker and curator of dance and performance I work with words in a particular way.  For me language is physical.  I understand it as of the body.  

I work with words and movement.  Words as movements 

Words can bring things into being with greater clarity 

And dances can say so much when words fail,  

The poetry of the body 

Words can be a way of finding questions and making invitations. 

An invitation is a gesture.   

Gestures can be passed on, shared out as a way of stimulating conversation with other artists, thinkers, people - in physical and virtual spaces - to find further questions. 

Words 
Dances 
Invitations 
Questions, can also exclude. 

But,  

I think of a question as an opening and  

An opening, as a space of  

possibility 

A space that can invite different perspectives on what it is to be in the world and articulations of unique lived experiences

An offer to work in a way - that to some might seem more slowly - with space and time and the intention that everyone can be heard and listened to. Considering different modes of conversation, spans of energy and attention, layers of translation.

I love the spaces between words, the pause,  

The space to read or write yourself in 

And this is also what words can do, open up space to read or write yourself in. 

As I sit at desk, ink in hand, writing,  
I remember school days  
when those of us who were left-handed were made to change they way we wrote.  

To write with our right hand because that was what was ‘right’      

Left and right 
Right and wrong 
An and an other
Experimental mainstream 
Risk safe 
The clutch of words, 
propositions to move in one direction or the opposite, that there is a right to be arrived at 

I remember how words can be used to fix  
As attempts to make memories concrete 
Experiences into facts 
People into objects (of inspiration)

I remember where I’ve come from, what I’ve heard and learnt, lived and witnessed   

How and which bodies were written as right and wrong 

And I remember those truths changing 

How words can undo.  

Words can move the ways we have been taught to think, to see and act  

As a dance maker I work with people as ongoing transformations, fluid beings, bodies becoming.  I’m moved by movement not as representation, but as changing, unfixing, undoing, reordering, re-sculpting, re-knowing, a celebration of temporality and impermanence, of all that’s in between.  

All these days of discussing and doing, months of watching and writing seeking to tug on tenuous threads that lead to knotty places.  

To encourage fraying, tension and unraveling, to tangle and to loosen, rather than tie things off neatly in bows, binding bodies with words.   

To invite difficulty, acknowledging that movement is rarely straight forward, that we can set out and go off course - meet unexpected people in unfamiliar places  - arriving somewhere different, transformed by encountering other realities. 

Candoco, In Dialogue 

Luke Pell blog series: WORDS - Some Gathered Musings [Part 3]

Luke Pell blog series: DANCES - Some Gathered Musings [Part 2]

Luke Pell was a guest speaker at Get Better… Soon: Musings on a 21st Century Aesthetic, a discussion event curated by Dan Daw and Kate Marsh at Brighton Dome in November 2015. Here, is the second part of Some Gathered Musings, Luke’s transcript from the event in November. 


DANCES

Here, are some words - about dances - I was invited to write in early 2015 for Fleur Darkin’s Miann for Scottish Dance Theatre, (miann is the Scottish Gaelic word for ardent desire, or longing).  

FOR MIANN  (written on the back of a map for being lost)

People and the land around us transform in every moment, subtly and radically. Forests are devastated by fire, buildings crumble and decay, family members die, friends move away, relationships end.  Some changes we learn to anticipate, to predict and others are entirely unexpected, shocking and as such, traumatic. 

When we lose people.  We lose a large part of ourselves, because we have come to know ourselves, and the world, together, through our relationship with them. Confronted by impermanence.  In no longer seeing or holding that someone, some-thing, we are terrified that it is forever gone.

As an Artist what I care most about are people and places and the threads that weave between them.  I am concerned about how we negotiate change and appreciate other ways of being.                                                                                                                    

Fascinated by nuances of time, texture, memory and landscape, my work is underpinned by ongoing research into how we find language for loss. 

The poet Rilke said  ‘Our instinct should not be to desire consolation over a loss but rather to develop a deep and painful curiosity to explore this loss completely, to experience the peculiarity, the singularity, and the effects of this loss in our life’.

In this new work Fleur Darkin and the dancers offer up a ferocious and extraordinarily, beautiful framework for navigating a seemingly insurmountable task.

 

Poets, prophets, seers, in Celtic history the druids, would invoke knowledge, attempt to see the invisible, by entering into ecstatic states of inspiration through trances, frenzies, dances.  When we dance there is an activation, an acupuncture of the land, a summoning.  An attention to what will come, to now and then. Remembering is an act of power. Landscapes remember, bodies remember. 

               ‘The landscape of devastation is still a landscape, there is beauty in ruins’.
               (Sontag. S)

Sometimes, in my attempts to find language for loss I struggle. In some scarce, sacred moments, I am elated.  Often I am overwhelmed.

But, still, so hard to turn away from the live.


I saw miann, in the sweat of summer. I felt, something. A something, that charged through/me. 

Akin to aching
To desire and despair

Akin, to the arresting, retching wilderness, the dark feral being I have felt, in correspondence with grief and mourning. In the daily discourse between faltering memory and an unsigned agreement with loneliness, that has come, since losing my ……..   what might have been.

There, in the sweat of summer.
I felt

Something, that looked like, what I can no longer see.

What moved me in the sweat of summer came up, so close, to speaking of the thousands of vast and tiny feelings that are welded, to what it is to care.

Skin off, heart raw

There, looking between bodies, across the wood and grass and silver.
I felt something familiar
I had begun to think I had forgotten.

I felt
the burn,
of love

In amongst these people, feelings crawling, thrashing, shining,
come some things we won’t have words for.

But, when words fail, there are dances.

There is Miann

Luke Pell blog series: DANCES - Some Gathered Musings [Part 2]

Luke Pell blog series: Some Gathered Musings [Part 1]

Some gathered musings were drawn together for Dan Daw and Kate Marsh’s Get Better Soon, Musings on a 21st Century Dance Aesthetic.  They were shared in a room at Brighton Dome, in the Founders Room, in Brighton.  A room with windows, with chairs in a broken circle, with some people sat in the chairs and some sat on the floor. The electric lights were low, making small pools of warm light on the floor.  Taped to the walls around the panorama of the room were some personal photographs of people I have called family: my mum, my dad, brother, paternal grandparents, my maternal grandad, my nana and a lover.

During the time I talked and walked and sat about the room, between the people listening, the sun went down outside, the room got darker.  I lit two candles in glass jars and placed them amongst those I was sharing these words with.  Towards the end of these musings, I quietly closed the lid on each jar and we watched their light go out. 

I was asked to prepare some musings on a 21st Century Dance Aesthetic, for Get Better Soon.  They were gathered for a live encounter. Made to be spoken.  We are sharing them here, now, in the ether, as an echo.  A remembering.  

They were called:

Here
Dances
Words

The craft of making and the art of disappearance
A Remembering
Get Better Soon

And they began like this:

Here

I’m playing with this thing of re-remembering.  To see what’s changed, what’s still resonant, still feels true or relevant. To remind myself of the live mercurial nature of memory, the slippery state of life.

Starting in the south, I grew up along the south coast of England, my nana was - one of eight - from Eastbourne, to the east, her ashes are there at Beachy Head and some of my late partners’ are further along on the hills in Hastings, where we had planned to move.  My mum and dad are west, now, in the New Forest.  My paternal grandparents ashes are in Winchester although they hailed from Yorkshire. And my maternal grandfather was from Armagh, his ashes went with my nana to Beachy Head.

So I’m going to start here, 36 years… and still, here. Not wanting to assume you have any sense of who I am or how I’ve come to be in the world, I’m going to attempt a potted history of how I come to be, here.

This is where I’m from. I was born in Winchester in the seventies.

I grew along this coastline. We moved.  We went to live by the underpass in Cosham, to the west.  Before my aspirational parents escaped the memory of their parents council homes. We moved. To a few mock tudor dreams for 2.4s in the surburbs, along the A27. I grew up in a blanket of whiteness. One bus an hour.  My brother needed speech therapy, a convenient conduit for shaking away the colour of the Irish orphan and Yorkshire miner accents we could have carried forward from my parents, their fathers, entangled with some misplaced sense of shame.

I grew up awkward. Like bambi on ice. Spindling limbs.
A locking giraffe neck, one bout of pneumonia and allergies.  
Swimming to gain health and better lungs. 
Friends in books and a handful of A-graders.
And my nana. 

At seven, my maternal grandad died, I saw him sick, but not go.
At seven, saying to pals in the playground that I was an alien and that I wasn’t really like my family or anyone else.

At 13 in secondary I came out. Illegal, unentitled.
Supported by art and Spanish teachers, gay women in love across the grey, concrete comprehensive sprawl, who’d spotted someone struggling in ways not unlike those they had known.

Shunned by A-grader pals and their strict Church going parents
Swimming at national competitions. The spindly limbs slicing more swiftly through water, lacking
muscle and power.  Glancing and blushing
at the other boys in the pool and change rooms as the rush and swells
of puberty took over.

A-grade pals stopped.  Swimming stopped.  Trying to talk with family had stopped. The fear of finding out

So everything was art. Books and portraits,
experiments of the self.  Photography
The touch and play of light, sculpture, process and properties the transformation of material.

A few gay scuppers with closeted men in my part-time jobs.
And then came college the polytechnic, away from the shunners and into, clubs.  Brighton, Portsmouth, Southsea parades and parties, queers on piers.  Smoking, speed and nail polish, piercings, poppers, eyeliner.

More art and literature. Ghosts and lovers
Dead white women, in rivers, Woolf and Ophelia
Tragic landscapes, as Cathy cried: “What ever our souls are made of his and mine are the same.”

Tales of others in far off cities: Maupin and Mapplethorpe, assemblage, portrait and photography, exquisite ways with light and flowers and people and words.  The words: sex and magic and a remembering; of the friends and families lost - known and not- to HIV/AIDS.  An awakening, to an eighties, filled with fear-mongering here and elsewhere.

And from there in the nineties, to the heat of the season of heroin chic.
An androgyne waif, uncomfortable in your own skin was in huge demand. Milan and London. And then not, not enough muscle, too like a girl.  Back to Southampton, to factory work making sockets for phones
Fired for my distracting camp. And then hairdressing: mopping floors, washing hair, making coffee, taking bookings, running books, holding the team, holding the space, attending to clients; with absolute attention to detail, care for the experience of all kinds of people.

Four years of hosting and night clubbing, glitter and mesh, podiums: Brighton, Bournemouth, London, Ibiza.  Nights on knees in the nineties, turning on, to other naughties in the noughties.  My first long term – lying - lover.  Suggested I might go from phones and podiums to performance.  So Back to Winchester, 3 years a BAPA at King Alfs’. Working three jobs the theatre, gay pub and bookstore to cover the fee more books, more people, more hospitality, queers and care.

First Introductions to dance: Sour milk, Shadow, Phasing; Three; Nemesis. Re-imagining what bodies might be. Learnt the craft of contemporary performance, human geographies, anthropologies, cosmologies. Wilson, Harradine, Taiwou, Imre, Behrndt, Lee and Watson.

And in between my paternal - not so grand - grandparents died.  I saw them sick and watched one go.

Pouring over the works of another Wilson and Waits, the photographs of Arnie Zane, Herrman, Sherman, Goldin. Smith’s poems, Mapplethorpe’s light play
Left, for cottages by the lying lover. Three years gone, two works written with bodies, in light,

Yours and Still

And, a broke artist emerged and a load of debt despite three jobs.
Headed to London for ‘a proper paying job’ in the arts and a dream of -
a not lying – love.

Making art possible in an arts centre, making art on the side.
Finding - and fending against - a new violent lover. A mangled face and throat, an extended dark pause, almost gone and learning, that that’s not love.

Then, what some call a Candocan: Dandeker, Dias, Nielsen, Machado; Marsh, Derybshire, Smith; Ayton, O’Brien, Bowditch, Brew and Vahla; Charnock, Walker, Michelson, Dawson; Houstoun, Cunningham Malin, Daw and in amongst a Masters with: Weaver, Howells, Makishi, Johnson Baker, Ashrey, Hunter, O’Reilly.  Drawing on: Bock, Vincenzi, Harradine Goldin and Jarman.

Curating with Bock and Bridge: Callaghan, Coe, Klein, LeQuesne, Synge, Mcgrandles; Donovan, Joyner, Smith, Rosenblit and Muller; Watson, Chambers, Houstoun, Spooner, Tomos.  Dancing for Lee, Hunter, Pacitti and Parker. Dancing with: Dan, Arcoulides, O’Conchuir, Zitluhina; Atkin, Long and Fedorec.

Words as names for people, some sort of shorthand, attempts at understandings of humans sharing time and space.

And in between my Nana love died.  I held her sick but missed her go.

And in amidst came a great love and then again came – death.
I held him sick and held him go.

Ghosts and lovers
Still
and London 2012.

Then a new year, New York
A mountain and the mist, some bold love passing through. 

Some new works: Old Flames, Walk with Me, An Open Field, Take Me To Bed and a move, to Scotland. To look in other directions, to work in other ways, to enter into another reality amidst the unknown outcome of a pending referendum, the beauty of people unpicking the problem of the binary, yes or no, stay or go.

Luke Pell blog series: Some Gathered Musings [Part 1]

Kamara Gray’s Flourish Fund reflection

The Flourish Fund enabled me to attend the Dance UK industry wide conference: “The Future: New Ideas, New Inspiration”, which took place from 9 – 12 April, 2015. It was incredibly valuable and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend. The event featured over 100 top speakers presenting dozens of topics relating to the dance industry. At times it was a challenge to know which session to attend as there were so many interesting talks happening at the same time.

My goal for attending the conference was to engage in professional development in three key areas - to access up to date information; to watch live dance performances; and to have the chance to network and meet new people within the industry. The conference certainly delivered in all three areas and greatly surpassed all of my expectations.

The talks that I attended ranged from the opening night talk from Dame Gillian Lynne, highlighting her outstanding career in dance, to the ‘TED style’ talks featuring choreographers Kerry Nicholls Dance, Kenrick ‘H2O’ Sandy, Shobana Jeyasingh and Jeanefer Jean Charles, which was definitely one of my highlights (watch it online if you can: www.danceuktv.com). There were talks on risk taking in choreography, research methods, health and well-being of dancers, style specific talks, training within the dance industry and everything in between. The talks inspired conversation, debates (some more heated than others) and reflections about our current practice.

The performances were also fantastic and it was exciting to see such great talent from both student and professional dancers. Performances on the opening night event included Teneisha Bonner in her piece, The Date, Kristina Rihanoff and Robin Windsor from Strictly Come Dancing and Verve (the postgraduate performance company of Northern School of Contemporary Dance). Other performances over the weekend included the brilliant National Youth Dance Company in Frame[d], choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and the enjoyable, Our Mighty Groove by Uchenna Dance.

The main benefits of the conference were that I was able to hear dance artists share their stories and experiences; learn about the provision of dance training available in the UK; network and meet new people within the industry; and watch a number of inspiring performances.

Attending the conference gave me the chance to learn about current industry activities, as well as hear advice from leading dance practitioners. It left me feeling motivated and encouraged to continue to develop as an artist. One talk that I found of particular interest was presented by Christine Devaney, who spoke about her work and how to develop as an artist. Included in her talk was a list of advice that she would give her younger self if she could. Her number one recommendation was to ‘ask for help’. Hardly a ground breaking or a new revelation by any means, but putting it into practice is a different story. This gentle reminder gave me the confidence to ask for help more and as a result, I’ve since approached dance artists, choreographers, and venues seeking assistance. Sometimes the answer to my requests has been ‘no’ but I have also heard ‘yes’ a few times as well.

The talks regarding the future of dance within the UK were also of great benefit. A number of dance organisations presented recent projects involving young people and the community including East London Dance's The Fi.ELD, Matthew Bourne’s Lord of the Flies and the Young Creatives from Youth Dance England. The talks covered a diverse cross-section of the art form and enabled me to stay up to date with the provision of current initiatives. It has made me reflect upon my own practice to identify if I am providing the highest possible quality to the learners and young people that I work with.

The event also enabled me to meet some of the leading dance practitioners and artists and engage in conversation with them. I now feel more connected to the dance industry and have since been invited to events by artists that I met over the weekend.

I have also reflected upon my choreography since the event. After seeing the live performances it has given me ideas on ways that I can develop my choreography and further challenge the young people that I work with. It was highly inspiring and I look forward to other such events.


Kamara Gray
Artistic Director, Artistry Youth Dance
 

Image credit: National Dance Company Wales. © Jevan Chowdhury

Kamara Gray’s Flourish Fund reflection

Wendy Houstoun: An article apropos of nothing…

Wendy Houstoun was our Established Artist Fellow 2015. At the end of the year, she sent us this lovely piece of writing as a conclusion to her Fellowship.

An article apropos of nothing…

Written by Wendy Houstoun, December 2015

For Becky.

 

After the years, the many years, the many, many years- I find myself wavering. Sitting here and wavering….where to go – how to go about it- what best to do.

I can think I should be participating in collecting food parcels and trainers and taking them to Calais- or I should be turning my sofa into a bed and housing a Syrian Family- or I could think I should be stepping aside to make room for the young- or stepping up to give hope to the old- or just really continuing to try and take the next step without too much thought.

I first started work in 1980. And here they are again.

The 80’s.

The 80’s are beginning to re-emerge. Not just in a picture book, vinyl, bands, and clothes way but in that day to day- defining who you can talk to and who you can’t – kind of way.

It’s all coming back to me.

The wearing of politics on your sleeve.

The rattle of the bucket and off to greenham common.

Except I was never that person in the first place although I did go on the marches. Clause 28. CND. Anti Maggie- But it was so very easy to be anti Maggie. Just her voice was enough to send spasms through a body.

I was happy to be keeping that spirit, that feeling, that fight the good fight with all guns blazing but always fell short of actually joining the socialist workers party- or becoming a fully paid up member of the activists.

I have never liked groups or gangs and instinctively mistrust mass outpourings of any kind. It seems to lack depth of thought, circumspection and I realise now I have always admired a more philosophical take on the world.

So yes, activism within the work- not instead of…..

 

And now- in 80’s repeat mode- things feel as if they are getting too much.

 

Is it this cyclical thing that is making me crazy?

The internet?

Or is it the vague sense of pushing and pushing somewhere (but seemingly nowhere) against my body instinct?

I have the feeling I am living in a continual version of The Apprentice where I could get fired at any moment- were there to be a contract?

The feeling that the circle I move in is getting smaller and crankier with every Facebook post that flares out into the ether with its blessed and endless love and ever so slightly implausible non stop good mood and inspiration.


And I look back at the 35 years of touring:

The schools, the clubs, the pubs, the parks, the prisons, the streets, the hospitals, the leisure centres, the school halls, the village theatres, the disused cinemas, the car parks, the old roman ruins, the roof tops, the corridors, the alleys, the roundabouts, the fields, the big theatres, the small arts centres, the epic stages, the postage stamps, the scrubbed clean dance floors, the pock marked concrete, the splinter ridden wood block, the over polished flag stones, the sheeny dance matts, the raddled tarpaulins, the corrugated iron roofs, the rainy tents, the muddy marquees, the rivers, the streets, the ponds, the old abattoirs, the reconstructed churches, the airport hangars, the cellars, the clammy rooms, the air-conned vacuums, the smelly sweat lodges, the 4 star fame academies, the no star back rooms, the old peoples homes, the odd fellows clubs,  scout halls, masonic lodges, ballrooms, dance halls…… the sports clubs, the gyms, the boxing clubs, the rooms above a pub, the rooms beside the bowling alley, the puppet theatres, the operating theatres, the conference centres, the union clubs, the trade halls, the hall way- and yes-  the old fascist theatres, the old deco theatres, the odd music hall theatre, the old cinema with flaps that open, the little theatre that Shakespears’ play went on in, the theatre that was used for the lion king, the theatre where Eddie Izzard just played, the theatre next to where Bonnie Langford just strutted, the theatre  under where Patti Smith was singing, the theatre next to where Philip Glass was playing, the theatre behind the famous theatre, the theatre on the outskirts of town, the theatre in the middle of nowhere, the theatre with no roof, the amphitheatre, the theatre with lifts, the theatre with no wings, the theatre with no entrance, the theatre with a bouncy lighting grid, the theatre with no lighting grid, the theatre where you could see everyone’s ‘ faces, the theatre where no-one came, the theatre where we imagined everyone was Nazis, the theatre where we imagined everyone was doctors, the theatre where everyone booed, the theatre where everyone heckled, the theatre where everyone stood up at the end, the theatre where it was total silence but it meant good, the theatre with the dressing rooms that hadn’t changed in 35 years despite the front being done up, the theatre where you couldn’t flush the chain during a performance, the theatre with dressing rooms where you had to run down flights of stairs, the theatre with the green room which smelled of Chinese food, the theatre where the doorman didn’t like you  ‘cos he thought you were a bit below what he was used to, the theatre where the doorman was great to you even though he was used to really famous people, the stage where you always tripped up the step no matter how many times you went on , the stage which had a really steep rake, the stage that had a brick wall instead of wings, the stage with fireman sitting at the side, the stage which went on for ever – even beside the wings, the stage which made you feel you should be better than you were, the stage which made you feel you were better than you were, the stage which made you feel scared to even go on it……….

 

And you were-

I was……..

 

And all the places too…the small places – the big places- Wigan, Oswladtwistle, Burnley, Bacup, Belfast, Berlin, Crewe, Derby, Lincoln, Swansea, Cardiff, oxford, Cambridge, Ipswich, Colchester, Bognor, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Bristol, Brighton, Newcastle, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield,

Dartington, Bournemouth, Plymouth, Exeter, Aberystwyth, Lancaster, Leicester, Paris, Barcelona, Lisbon, Kortrijk, Rotterdam, Amsterdam,

Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, New York, Anchorage, Portland, Pittsburgh, Minnesota, sous, Tunis, Brussels, Burlington, Los Angeles, Seattle, Vancouver, Montreal, Ottawa, Edmonton, Bassano del Grappa, Florence, Castiglioncella, Girona, Gerona, Seville, Budapest, Ljubljana, Prague, Seoul, London, Tarrega, Dublin, Rouen, Toulouse, Aberdeen, Leeds, Ghent, Leuven and most of them all over again…

And the courting of promoters, the signing of contracts, the gaining of funds, and the waiting for payments, and the working out of tax laws, and the getting of E101s, or P 125s, and the tour schedules, and the visas, and the train bookings and the plane bookings, and the per diems, and the misunderstandings, and the complicated drinking law thing, and the prs thing, and the insurance thing, and the freight thing, and the trying to find time to rehearse things, and the doing the show and realising the promoter doesn’t really like you that much thing, and the promotion thing, and the marketing thing, and the review thing, and the quoting the review thing, and the seeing a nasty review in bad translation thing, and the being reviewed by young people who think you are tougher than you actually are thing, and the never quite knowing if its really ok sort of thing,

Then the – as time goes by- doing less in the studio and more on admin kind of thing, and the feeling the quality of the work is going down while being pushed more kind of thing, and the confusion of the original aims kind of thing, and one minute being kind of zeitgeist and the next moment being kind of “ has been” kind of thing,

And then, again, as time goes by- the outgoings being way more than the incomings, and the fatigue building up-

After 10 years- ok- after 20 years- hmmm- after 30 years- bloody hell- and now after 35 years- this is not going to work anymore

And the wheel having gone full tilt so I am back where I was with 35 years of wandering here and there, going here and there, and all that energy, and all those lights, and all those people, and all those times in the bar after, and all those years travelling, and all those hours waiting, and all those minutes behind the curtains as the lights go down, and all those seconds as the lights come up again, and all those weird moments with a fag out in the car park, or the back yard, or near the bins, or with the drunks, or out with the crack addicts down some alley, or up near the bus station, or down behind the fire door, or just out the front brazenly waiting to eavesdrop on your own performance – hiding in front of things ken Campbell would have said-

And I don’t really know how to justify myself anymore-

Sometimes I think- thank- god – at least I am getting old-

That is one thing going in my favour- one star to put on the

Things not going well – chart-

But then getting older these days is starting to smell of belonging to the club “what made this mess”- as if we didn’t all always make this mess- including those what went before we was any of us all living now-

And then I look at my dad-92-raf pilot- who did daily risk his life for what we might think of as- doing the right thing- though I don’t think he ever thought of it as that- less choice then- less self-publicity - I guess if there was Facebook during the second world war- he might have been putting up daily posts about his near death experiences- but I doubt it-

So yeah- being put off the current politics because of the self-righteousness that’s going on- the do the right thing Police- not that I don’t want to do the right thing but I don’t’ want to do the right thing in order to be in the do the right thing gang- which is what it feels like-

Something yechy going on in the state of pen mark-

Daily vigils- lighting candles-developing missionary zeal are all things I definitely gave up when I slipped quietly away from Catholicism- though I have always appreciated a bit of incense and I recently only loved churches because they were so unpopular -the only quiet place to go sometimes- that and they have a good collection of art- and I did love the theatre of it- even though it was badly paced and poorly acted-

Which takes me back-

And brings me back to theatre- home- refuge- and all that-

The bickering rows of holistic representation-

Of the desire to speed people along quicker than they can go-

Or the desire to hold some people back slower than they need-

 

And now I am wandering again-

A thought migrant on the road to nowhere-

 

And weirdly- I would have thrown all that into question

But a recent trip away found me desperately searching for the theatre so I could feel at home- a port in a storm- a place of refuge- just the hint of a technician to calm me down- just the sight of a parkhand to make me breath again- just the slightest smell of a backcloth- or a bit of rigging-

That or a bookshop would have done it-

And then it made me wonder all over again….

About this early exit I have been planning myself-

A theatrical euthanasia stunt-

A dramatic suicide-

 

It made me wonder-

When I am on the road- without a place to go- that is the place I go to-

That is the place that has always been my portable home- and like bookshops it seems to promise a gentle welcome- a soft hand – a kind word- a possible place- an empty place that will always be moving and filled for a second- and not closed up but on the shift=

It is a refugee’s kind of home-

Actually – no its not- it’s a moving home for people that don’t want to belong….

Or at least that’s what I have always thought of it as.

Wendy Houstoun: An article apropos of nothing…

Anja Meinhardt’s Flourish Fund reflection

From Fall to Flight

Trying to find words, all I can come up with is... Wow! Participating at the 2015 European Aerial Dance Festival (EADF) has yet again been both exhilarating and painful, fabulous and frustrating, but most of all absolutely fuelling and inspiring! Every year Brighton Dome transforms into this massive playground, where gravity is defied and flight entirely possible.

That moment, when what looks so simple turns into a complex wiring of your brain trying to translate unfamiliar movement into a coherent flow. When you’re all excited to try a new discipline and end up flat on your face. When you think you clearly know what you’re doing and find yourself upside down, unable to locate where on earth you’ve just landed…

That’s the most wonderful moment, the beginning of something new, a door to unlimited potential – that is if you don’t give up and carry through. Every year at the EADF I have such moments, where I’m deeply humbled by the skills I encounter from those around me and yet contain the sheer joy of being able to learn those very skills myself.

And then slowly glimpses of new movement unfold, you’ve nailed that turn, swivelled around the trapeze, waltzed with the Cyr Wheel and caught yourself in perfect front balance…

I thoroughly enjoyed taking part at the EADF and was able to develop my skills in trapeze, counterweight flying and contact improvisation, improved my skills on the vertical wall and got hooked on a new discipline entirely, waltzing round in the Cyr Wheel.

All teachers were absolutely brilliant and with their patience and enthusiasm incredibly engaging. Their own joy in their disciplines sparked equal excitement in myself and their encouraging attitudes made it delightful to be disciplined and to work hard.

The EADF is always an excellent time of inspiration to me, but also of developing new skills and connecting with wonderful friends. The people I met last year have been extremely special had a deep impact on me. Even now, weeks after - I thoroughly miss dancing with them all.

My main reason for going was to work on my trapeze skills, which I am needing to develop for a production I am currently working on. I have certainly gained much more experience in this discipline, and thanks to the Flourish Fund was able to attend the class in the first place. I managed to consolidate moves I had learned in previous years and acquired new tricks that will help me implement more exciting and interesting routines within my work.

But even more so I have fallen in love with counterweight flying, have been compelled and excited by the Cyr Wheel, have been overwhelmed with joy and gratitude during contact improvisation, got to explore a range of new movement on the wall and was ‘stretched’ to the limits during yoga, truly a most wonderful way to start of the day.

I am so thankful for this opportunity and am fuelled for the coming months. The memories are plenty and I can’t wait to work on all the equipment again. Certainly since having started training in aerial dance, there’s barely a time that I enter a new building without checking the ceiling capacity and whether I could rig there…

I loved it – loved every bit of it, and can’t wait for next year! In the meantime – I am looking into ways of mounting our own rig here in Oxford, to keep practicing and opening up opportunities of working in collaboration with other aerialists.

A huge thank you to everyone at South East Dance, for supporting me with the Flourish Fund, as well as to Gravity & Levity for organising such an excellent festival.

It has given me the opportunity to broaden my skills, to connect with a wider network and to gain perspective and inspiration.

I’m ready to fly… and will not fall

Anja Meinhardt’s Flourish Fund reflection

On Wellbeing

Luke Pell in conversation with Alice McGrath
Image copyright Luke Pell and Kitty Fedorec

What does wellbeing mean to you?

Well…

Well?

Well…
Being.

To be
To be me
To be me well
To be a well, being
Being me.  Well.

Or as my grandparents might have said:

“Well I’ll be!”

And as I come to think of it, or come to be it, I begin to think sometimes, it’s an effort to just be. 

I’ll. Be.

How do I attend to being?

With careful quiet attentions; gentle steering, deep listening, powerful dreaming; with mulling and musing and many ways of witnessing; creating space, for: questioning, noticing, gathering, re-imaginings; sharing, celebrating, different ways of being, in the world together.

What do I understand as well?

By re-imagining loss
To tend to what’s not lost. 
To question ideas of what’s whole or well or usual or better.
To love, all the holes and cracks and the very weathered bits.

To be, not for fixing, but, for being with what is.
And that includes all the uncertain somethings, the extraordinary inbetweens

And to notice
What’s well for me
May not be well for you. 

So, when we were asked about what wellbeing meant to us, for us, we began to wonder. And wander about, about our practice, about our conversations over coffee, wining and laughing whilst we blether, how we check in, in person and with virtual chatter, and what all of that does, for our wellbeing. We tasked ourselves with daily checking, listening to each other and these thoughts arriving.

We found ourselves listing - we have a shared love of lists - and turning things on their heads, to look another way.

So, here’s a little list of things we noted, keep us well:

Sharing space
Trust
Taking time to reflect
Listening to my gut
Trusting intuition
Having a word with myself
Trying to be true to what I call my values
My compass for my heart, the compass for my art
Walking
Talking
Dancing
Laughing
Crying
Conversation
Sharing, passions
Passion
People
Places
Caring
Witnessing
Love
And landscape
Taking time to notice, to get closer
Turning the volume up
Bubbles in the bath
Action
Sleep
Quiet
To look through other lenses
Candlelight, starlight, morning
Long and little lists covered in crossings, circles, notes and ticks
The woods, the mountains and the mist, the light, horizons, water
And fires
And my growing stacks of hardbacks
Hugs,
And when you hold my hand.
Not doing, being, eating, drinking, thinking, trying, one way all the time
Change
Being alone
To feed my imagination,
Words and movements, images, textures. Touch and smell and making mess
Play.  And clearing things up after
Plants
Beginning something growing

And as we walked in further, dug down deeper, nattered until it got darker.
We found ourselves in shadows.  Sharing some of ours. Our open wounds and cuts and scars. Turns in temper. Nags and niggles. Mornings when we keep sinking down beneath the duvet. The overwhelming lists of things to do, all that busy being busy, amongst discombobulating gripes and sulks, with peers and pals and lovers. Then came making mistakes, missing the mark, getting it wrong. Messing up and being messed about, compromising self and values.

And then we found distraction and ourselves tucking into great plates of buttered toast and crumpets and chips and cheese, with gravy.  Washed down with wine and chocolate, whilst staying very still and flat, sort of watching telly. Gazing out of the window at that chimney, those phone wires, grey seagull, puce pigeon, satellite dish and antenna, anything other than this writing that’s at hand.

Taking time, to make this writing, made a connection stronger. 

We noticed in exploring this ‘well’, our capacities, our sources of wellbeing, that we need time spent both with light and the dark. One doesn’t come without the other. 

Because both sides of the paper, each bit of the list, all of our spare and missing parts, our loose wires, fine threads, the peaks and the fallows

Make us.  Well…

Beings.

 

 

On Wellbeing
Luke Pell in conversation with Alice McGrath

Fascinated by detail, nuances of time, texture, memory and landscape Luke is an artist living in Scotland. Working in and in between spaces of dance, theatre and live art. Maker and curator he collaborates with other artists and organisations imagining alternative contexts for performance, participation and discourse that might reveal wisdoms for living.

Noticing threads that weave between people and place he makes work that takes form as intimate encounters, poetic objects, installations and designed environments – choreographies - for physical and virtual spaces that attend to notions of loss and landscape, memory and materiality.
www.lukepell.org

 

Alice is the Creative Director of Red Bridge Arts, which she established in 2015. Red Bridge Arts is an ideas-led organisation that aims to provide a supportive structure to stimulate and sustain artists’ development and practice.  The company’s mission is to nourish creativity and encourage curiosity.
www.redbridgearts.co.uk

Alice previously held posts at Scottish Dance Theatre as Executive Producer, at macrobert arts centre, as Director of Creative Development, Participation and Research and at Imaginate, Scotland’s development agency for children and young people’s performing arts as Creative Development Director.

On Wellbeing

Spotlight on Dance to Health

Written by Emily James-Farley, Programme Coordinator, South East Dance
Image copyright South East Dance

It’s been six months since I started working on Dance to Health here at South East Dance. As with most projects, the fundraising and planning stages take time and perseverance to get right, but I’m delighted that the hard work we have put in to date – along with that of our brilliant partners - is beginning to pay dividends now.

For those that don’t know, Dance to Health is a pilot project that has been created to respond to the issue of older people’s falls. At the moment, falls prevention provision faces a number of challenges related to funding, take-up and maintenance of activity. We’re looking to establish a creative way of addressing this problem, with dance at the heart of it, to be developed into a sustainable social enterprise.

In the latter stages of 2015, our project activity got up and running with FaME and Otago dance taster sessions at Abingdon and Banbury Health & Wellbeing Centres in Oxfordshire. There has been a good turn out to date and we’re optimistic about numbers continuing to grow, so now begin twice weekly sessions for the next six months.

Dance to Health is a special project for us and we think it has the potential to be a real game changer. On a personal level, it’s already been very rewarding to hear the earliest bits of feedback from participants via the dance tutors, which have been so positive. The next thing to look forward to is the Dance to Health celebration on the morning of 5 February at Southbank Centre which will include a short performance by one of the older people’s groups, this morning forms part of AE-SOP’s first National Arts in Health Conference & Showcase, so we’ll be gearing up for that very soon. 

We hope the project goes from strength to strength in the coming months and will keep you posted on further developments!

 

Dance to Health is a national partnership, initiated by AE-SOP with dance partners, Cheshire Dance, East London Dance and South East Dance, Later Life Training (FAME and Otago specialists) and the Sidney de Haan Research Centre (Evaluation).

Dance to Health is supported by Arts Council England, City Bridge Trust, Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity and Peter Sowerby Charitable Foundation.

Images © Helen Murray

Spotlight on Dance to Health

Finding Your Compass

An interview with Fiona Geilinger (FG) and Rosaria Gracia (RG)
All images copyright Finding Your Compass

SED: To begin, what are your backgrounds?

RG: My background is as a dancer and choreographer, but I’m also a researcher and a lecturer. My background in research is in health, political sciences and international development, so a bit of a mixture! I’m also teaching Mental Health in the Community for the Open University, which is having an impact on the way I’m starting to see the project we are doing with Finding Your Compass.

In terms of dance, my background is particularly in folkloric dances, very much in the Afro-Brazilian tradition, but also the Latin influenced folkloric dances – salsa, samba, samba-reggae… so all of them are influenced by stories.

FG: There are lots of different things that I’ve done, which I’ll mention briefly because they feed into what I’m doing now. My first degree was in Performing Arts, contemporary dance and choreography. I worked in television as a Picture Editor at Channel 4, so working with stills for television, and then later as a Presentation Director, so a lot of experience working with both still and moving images. I then had a break for having children, and this informs what I’m doing now, because I had post-natal depression. The anti-depressants had a very unfortunate effect on me and that set me on a long process of recovery, which has lead me to this work. Since then I’ve studied Fine Art and done an MA in Art and Design by Independent Project at Brighton University, where I explored sequential image work. So all of that and my previous studies and experiences very much inform my style of work now.

SED: How did you come to work together on Finding Your Compass?

RG: I started a project that I’m still running called Dancing for Health. It was originally devised for people who have cancer and their friends and families, as a way of coming together and doing something that was healthy. But nobody with cancer came! What actually happened was that a whole mixture of people came, for various reasons; people who wanted to get fit, people that were interested in movement, people with depression and anxiety came, and all differing ages, from mid-thirties to eighty, so a real melting pot. And that’s where I met Fiona. We started playing around with a narrative that was important for her, representing different stages through depression and mania with movement and music. And that was very much the beginning of Finding Your Compass.

FG: I started coming to Rosaria’s classes and found them very helpful, and then we made a film that described something about my experience of mania as well as depression. The anti-depressants had that effect on me, which apparently happens to a small percentage of people. So this led to us developing the project, and seeking funding, and it’s been going for three years now! Time flies!

SED: What does wellbeing mean to you?

RG: Chapters and chapters have been written about it, but it could be understood to be a definition based on ability. So if a person has the ability to do what they want and need to do, then they are in a situation of wellbeing. Really it’s having your full physical, emotional and psychological capabilities. So I think that not many people in society can say that they are completely well. It’s a very moveable concept, it’s not static at all, and it changes all the time. It could be anything from a change in the economic situation, as we are gathering – people who no longer have jobs and their whole lifestyle has to change, it’s a huge adjustment and the immediate impact on their health and wellbeing is huge, and for their families too. It can affect absolutely anyone, and it doesn’t have to be a major environmental disaster, it can be really small. And so it’s the ability or dis-ability to do what you need to do, having the power to do what you need to do, is what is going to define your state of wellbeing.

FG: My sense of it is that it’s about all aspects of your health – mental and physical. And I think it’s also about what you can do to help yourself. Obviously there are people in situations through no fault of their own where they are constrained from that wellbeing, but it includes the ‘what you can do to help yourself’ in your whole wellness.

SED: How are you connected to Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre (BHWC)?

RG: When public health started coming under the remit of the council, they had the Mental Health Promotion Grants, and that was the first bit of funding that we got. We also talked to Dr Laura Marshall-Andrews at BHWC to see if we could have any support or top-up from them, because we knew that what we were doing aligned with their aims. So the first project was funded like that, as a combination of them both.

BHWC has three branches of work: the conventional medicine as we know it; the alternative therapists, managed by Chris Dance, which is very much about massage, acupuncture and so forth; and then there is the healing arts, which is a new umbrella organisation called Healing and Expressive Recovery Arts (HERA), which is basically the amalgamation of the differing approaches to health and wellbeing. We have singing, creative writing, reading, visual arts and Finding Your Compass, all of which are independent projects that fall under the umbrella of HERA, and are hosted by BHWC.

FG: Laura takes a great interest in what we’re doing, and we’ve presented at a number of conferences, talking about their work and our work. We’re presenting at the Royal Festival Hall to MPs and health practitioners, under the AE-SOP framework.

RG: AE-SOP is a new framework that looks at how the arts and health sectors can come together, and we’ve been selected as one of 24 national champions practicing that.

SED: So what is Finding Your Compass about?

RG: It’s a combination of different artistic platforms to support people to explore whatever situation they are in. And what we say from the very beginning is that they don’t have to go into areas that they don’t want to, and they can go as deep as they want to. There are lots of things that play a part in that, but one of the things that is really important is that most of the people we are working with, and want and need to work with, have mild to moderate depression and/or anxiety. So it’s not really for people who are the very end of the spectrum, nor necessarily for people who are at the very beginning. It’s people that have experienced it, have been sitting on it for a while, have tried different things, some of which have worked and some haven’t, and they just want to take the reins over the situation that they are in. That doesn’t mean that coming to the project is going to prevent them from ever going into that situation again, but it just really provides them with tools.

Not everyone is used to being in a group setting, and some people are not comfortable with moving in front of others, so we make it fun, we play games, there is lots of laughter, but at the same time there is an encouragement to go a little bit deeper, so they get all the benefits from it. And they really explore different techniques and skills, so dancing, drawing, printing, moving in front of the camera…

Through the project we are looking at the five steps to mental wellbeing. Participants connect with others in the group, they keep learning new skills, they are enthused, they are engaged, and they are putting something back because they are invested in the group. And the really important thing about Finding Your Compass is that it works at two levels – one is the process and one is the outcome. So the process is when people are coming, they are going through their issues and they are sharing. Once they share, their situation is outside of them, out of their bodies, so it becomes a story that they are going to work with, it’s presenting it, and then observing it, and then working with it using movement or drawing or printing… And obviously there is certain kind of development, there is a kind of movement that is happening with their stories from the beginning when they start the sessions, to the end. The key is that there is no stigma. So the participants can say whatever they want to say. The session, although it’s not a therapy session, because we are not trained health therapists, works very much like in a counselling environment – it’s completely confidential, what is said there, remains there. That means they feel safe to share what they want to.

And then we’ve got the outcome. The outcome is a series of still images or it could be a film, and that has an impact both on the participants and also people who see it, even with no other involvement in the project. So for instance, when we did the pilot project, we presented the final film at the Wellbeing Gallery as part of their Open House programme, and it was really interesting to see people who didn’t know anything about the project. They watched the 8 minute film, and said things like, “now I understand more about the situation of my son in law, and now I can see what he went through.” People were really keen to talk.

FG: I think we’re looking at tools to help people to self-manage. And in terms of doing fine art things, we’re not looking for people with existing skills, we always get people saying “I can’t dance” or “I can’t draw” so I try to select tools and methods that they may not have done before, so they’re all starting from the beginning. And that seems to work very well.

We have weekly sessions and drop-ins, which have a steady stream of people engaging, and then the immersive projects. We’ve only done one of these so far, but are about to embark on the second this January. In the first immersive project we made our first film, and the thing to note about the moving image work is its reach. The most powerful way of using it, I would say, is showing it in a community setting, giving people an opportunity to reflect and ask those questions that come up as they watch it. And it’s incredible, for something which is non-verbal, how powerfully it communicates with people. And then of course it’s put online so it’s accessible by anyone and its reach can be huge.

RG: So in terms of people who benefit directly from the project by participating in the sessions, we’ve reached around 100 people so far. Then just at the Open House event we had 500 people watch the video. Now it’s on our new website, in one month it’s reached a further 150 people, and that number is growing.

SED: How does art and creativity contribute to wellbeing?

RG: In terms of dance I think it’s important on so many different levels. Some people just say dance is related to the moving body, and everyone has a body, and everybody has to move one way or another, even if they are physically constrained in some way and need to be mobilised. I’m doing quite a lot of work with dementia patients through Three Score Dance Company’s outreach programme, and it’s really interesting to see how just the stimulation of the music and being in a group setting, and trying to do something in unison with someone else, really reaches people’s perceptions of themselves in a wider context.

So in terms of the impact of dance on health and wellbeing, first there is the physical aspect, obviously, it’s like if you have a car that you don’t use, it will eventually stop working. There are so many benefits from just moving all of the joints, and the impact that has on the circulation, the muscular skeletal system, releasing muscular tension and so forth. But also in terms of the emotional level, it builds your confidence. And we are social animals, so being connected to a group, sharing that space with other people, is wonderful for wellbeing. You can be very isolated when you are dealing with a mental health condition, so being in a setting where you can have fun with others, really has an impact. How long lasting that is, we don’t yet know, but at least for the time they are there it has an impact.

We know from the first immersive project that we ran, most of the people in the group went on to other courses, some of them gardening, singing, movement, running, writing, so there is proof that once you are engaged in one activity, the possibility of you joining in with others increases, and that is really supportive for people who are recovering from mental health conditions. It gives sustainability and a long term support for that person to find the tools for what makes them feel better. That’s an angle we take from the very beginning – what do you do to make you feel better? Just putting that question in there gives the responsibility and power back to the person.

FG: The emphasis for them isn’t on the final outcome, it’s on the process, but we are teaching them high level skills. So I think that’s a difference between some art therapy that I’ve experienced, which is more ‘just do what you feel’, we are working with process, but also teaching them useful skills. And I think by working with process we are helping them to connect with non-verbal means of expression. They’re probably mainly used to one to one conversation, so to be working in a group, and particularly to be working with non-verbal methods, that’s a really vital part of this process. And using personal material, discovering through doing – not worrying about making a “great” drawing or performing a “superb” dance, but working with movement and mark-making and discovering things themselves about their personal stories, which then becomes the most universal and most powerful material you can have really.

RG: I think that building for that is quite important because, admittedly, we are not very demanding to the technical level, but we are providing a high quality definition of what that art form is without having the pressure for them to reach that level. But it’s important for them to see what they can reach, without making them feel inadequate. So my aspiration for them is to do something they can really feel proud of.

Something that has come up is that when we made the first film, we told them that they would be completely anonymous and unidentifiable, but then when they saw it they all wanted to be recognised, because they really liked the outcome, and they want their names to be in there. So it’s that level of pride that really takes it a step further. That’s why the outcome is as important as the process.

FG: The keys are the right teaching and working with process, so they’re not worrying about how it’s going to look. Then they’ll surprise themselves because they’re learning, and then observing, so they’re amazed at what comes out. They talked about feeling proud of what they achieved and what they’ve done for others as well. It’s contributing to the universal story that is acting to de-stigmatise and help other people, and that’s something they can feel proud of, as well as their own improvement in their health.

SED: Would you like to say any more about the impact the project has on mental health, as opposed to physical health?

RG: It’s about recognising and appreciating that whatever is happening at the mind level has a physical interpretation. And by giving awareness to their own bodies, they can also recognise some triggers on the psychological level. So by learning to read their bodies, and taking a little bit more control over their bodies physically, that supports their mental health and wellbeing. I mean, it’s very well documented in dementia cases – by tapping their arms and legs it establishes their framework – this is me, this is where I am, and this is my framework and my space. Just really knowing where you are is the beginning of self-recognition… I don’t want to use the term “self-love” because it may be considered very airy fairy, but it’s that appreciation of yourself, for better or for worse. Your imperfections are your own. Realising this and the links between the physical, emotional and psychological are part of the tools for recovery.

FG: Working with a recovery model, I think, introduces people to the idea of their involvement in the process. So it’s very different to being passive, or to being a patient. It’s about them becoming much more actively involved in their recovery. And that’s why this serves so well as a platform for them to move onto other things. It’s not just about coming to be fixed, it’s about getting tools and learning about how to be actively involved in their own recovery.

RG: Which, incidentally, supports the sustainability. And it may even reduce the bill of the NHS!

*laughter*

RG: It may have an impact on medication, so you never know! Not that we are against medication. Sometimes it’s needed. We just want to give people options and let them know that there are many routes to recovery. But it may be that by taking responsibility of their own bodies and having tools to cope with it, they don’t use medication as the first and only resort. Which is a win-win situation.

FG: It’s empowering.

SED: How can people access Finding Your Compass?

RG: Through referrals from the GPs at BHWC, GP Navigators in other surgeries in Brighton & Hove (volunteers who work in GP surgeries to assess patients’ non-medical support needs and help them access groups, services and activities that can broadly improve their health and wellbeing), through direct contact with us via our website or Facebook… Lots of people are self-referred, people just approach us, and we have conversations with them to work out what is the best way to progress.

SED: What are your aspirations for Finding Your Compass?

FG: Consistency of funding would go a long way to helping us and those that we engage with. Also raising awareness so that people know and understand what we are doing and feel able to approach us.

RG: Personally I would like to be able to provide the weekly sessions and the immersive projects every year in a really consistent manner. It would also be really interesting to do INSET days with other organisations, introduce people to our approach, perhaps train people, raise awareness about the art forms we use and the impact they have. It wouldn’t be about training people WHAT to do, but HOW to do it. What works for one group of participants, might not for another group, so it’s about providing a framework that is flexible. Just raising awareness that there doesn’t have to be one approach – there are many ways to manage your own mental health and wellbeing.

 

To find out more visit the Finding Your Compass website.

Finding Your Compass