In 2009 I was asked to come and teach the adult evening classes at The Place. Together with my dance colleague Nuno Campos (then rehearsal director for the Henri Oguike DC) I had taught a summer intensive workshop in 2008 based on one of the pieces from the company (Green in Blue) exploring creative tasks and improvisation. We had a blast and so I didn’t have to think twice and came back to teach. Last autumn, when I was asked to create a piece for the Performance Project (apart from checking my freelance schedule) I knew I couldn’t miss the opportunity to create something new.
This evening course at The Place is an extensive one and requires the participants to commit to two evening rehearsals a week from 20.00 till 22.00. That is a massive challenge for the people that work during the day or have a full time job that demands all their attention. And it takes a lot of passion to then come and dance for two hours in the evening. It is unavoidable people start missing after the first 4 weeks and you know they’ll have decided it’s not for them or it’s too much.
As a full time dance artist there are many things that you have to keep in mind with a project like this. First it’s the commitment that some may struggle with, dance may be the commitment of my life, for others it’s a hobby. Then of course there is the difference in experience. Some participants are dance trained some way or other. Others have no experience except for the recreational dance. Community dance is for many reasons a massive challenge for a choreographer. Getting to form a real tight group of people that can not only dance or move in a group but also to get them to connect as performers. For some that have never been on stage before (as a dancer) the whole experience can be frightening and so you have to make absolutely sure you create a layer of basic trust with those in need so they don’t feel absolutely thrown in the deep. They will already feel exposed by joining the project.
After teaching Danse Macabre adult course at Trinity Laban last year. This project was slightly different. I could pick my own music, theme, had 4 hours a week to rehearse and no idea how many people I would have at the end of the term. Trying to find the thin line between creating a choreography and directing people what to do exactly. And letting them have control over the choreography as well. And so we started off this journey with exploring improvisation and creative tasks.
The creation of this piece was a collaboration between the dancers and choreographer. Through improvisation tasks the dancers got to know each other and explore each others movement style. Following one another in group improvisation and learning eachothers set dance material. Slowly growing closer as a group able to move as one body. We started generating a lot of movement material by manipulating taught dance phrases changing directions and altering dynamics with a lullaby song. We also used gestures of a conversation and daily movement, like brushing teeth or hanging up the laundry, and through tasks turned those into an abstract dance of daily motion. Making daily movements unrecognisable and change normal gestures into extreme. Then the structure and music came in later. I had left that till the very last moment so we had loads of time to explore, renew and alter the material we had worked with for a while. Really knowing what we were doing and where, we only set two weeks before the performance. I had picked a set of songs that I used to slowly puzzle the material together into one piece, at home. A slow and organisational process that I wanted to be as clear as possible before I got into the studio just to avoid stress and major confusion. Again thinking about what I said earlier, some of the participants have no dance experience next to the occasional or the recreational and so they have a lot on their mind when it comes to the performance.
Then the friday arrived and we had about an hour to rehearse the last few things, space the choreography in the studio performance space and get a sense of how we felt about performing in front of a real audience. Some excited, some nervous, some terrified and some high on adrenaline we got to the moment so fast it felt like a blink and then it was over. Here one of the many recordings of the performance project 2011; Lullaby Gestures
In the end it was an absolute fantastic experience and the most rewarding moment for me was to see my ladies perform and really connect and enjoy themselves. After all this is why they joined the course. The experience of a creative process, performing and most of all enjoy themselves!
I still teach, tuesday evening level3 Contemporary and friday level2 Contemporary. Summer term starts 30th of April to enrol for classes check out The Place website now.
Thank you to all the lovely performers of Lullaby Gestures.