Published: Thursday, 30 August 2012 23:56
Written by Chantal Guevara
It's been a long summer without any dance, thanks to the Olympics, but that came to an abrupt end with Jai Hutchinson's platform Insight's brief visit to London's Shaw Theatre, featuring NineBOBNote Dance Theatre and Cloud Dance Festival alumnus John Ross in its lineup.
The programme notes for John Ross's solo Man Down explain that the piece is inspired by a true story about life in a war zone, but this doesn't really prepare you for the experience of Ross's work. While it's the kind of piece which will have many of the audience members asking themselves afterwards "What was that?!", it's a piece which will have stayed with them for a long time afterwards - and not only because in Man Down, Ross has shown himself to have the rare quality of a new and original choreographic voice.
Using voiceovers and sound effects, Man Down is the story of the life and death of a soldier named James, as reported by his platoon commander Joseph Williams. A lithe and graceful performer, Ross allows the tension of the choreography to build and subside, with creative use of movement, whether expressing grief or matching the chaos of the score.
Man Down would greatly benefit from an effective lighting design to emphasise Ross's choreography to make this a much more powerful piece. A couple of sections are not as strong as the others and it's possible that these could be tightened with lighting or different use of sound: time will tell. John Ross is a talented dancer and promising choreographer and a name to remember.
Appropriately for being performed on the same night as the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympics, Amira Kremer's Sleepless at St James was performed by partially-sighted dancer Indra Slavena. Sleepless is a playful series of duets with pillows, with some very nice choreography performed by Indra, if very leggy choreography: the piece seems to be dominated by extensions, handstands, cartwheels and kicks. It's a light-hearted piece which seems to relish its accompaniment by Hugh Laurie.
Jack Stinton has the uncertain distinction of being the sole non-Scottish School of Contemporary Dance graduate in this lineup; also, his work, No Chance of Escape, was originally created for three male dancers but was performed on this occasion with three female dancers, and it's possible that they didn't have sufficient rehearsal time. No Chance of Escape has interesting ideas, but it lacked the sharpness of performance or choreography that it aimed for: for example, too many duets with one dancer fidgeting off to the side. It's yet another piece which seemed to aim for quantity rather than quality, and it would have benefitted from being reduced in length.
Following a brief interval, Jai Hutchinson's dancers performed Demolition in Progress, which claimed to be 'an exploration of themes of a self-destructive society', but was instead an ephemeral work with ephemeral solos with four women endlessly repeating their signature phrases while one woman hand-painted 'I KNOW WHO I AM. I AM STRONG.' on the rear wall. It's possibly a Fifties' definition of a self-destructive society?
The final work of the evening was As Yet Unknown by Lyndsey Allan's NineBOBNote Dance Theatre, which we fleetingly reviewed at the Accidental Festival. At first it appears to be three drunken women at the end of a girls' night out, each only wearing mismatching underwear and an open shirt. And then slowly some dance is worked in: two of the women launch into an improvised tap routine, then discuss a failed hair dye attempt while doing contact impro. It's a challenge to balance physical theatre with choreography, which Lyndsey Allan does skillfully, especially in bringing out the personalities and facial expressions of her dancers.
As Yet Unknown takes a while to find its stride, and loses its way from time to time, for example when extending gags for too long, but there are some great moments of genius, especially when the three women work together as a team, such as when one tells a story and the other two act it out. Lyndsey Allan, Lizzy Ryder and Courtney Robertson are all captivating performers to watch, and I can't wait to see what they do next.
Published: Friday, 24 August 2012 11:54
Written by Cloud Dance Festival
Dani Atkinson is a highly motivated and self-driven dancer, who had barely completed her training at Newcastle College before being offered the chance to start a new life with further training at the José Limón Institute in New York – and she needs your help to cover the costs that this fantastic opportunity will incur. It will be Dani’s first visit to the States, which will in itself be a huge transition away from the vibrant and dynamic dance community of Newcastle, which has enriched her development as a dancer since she started training.
We’ve been following Dani’s career since her performance in our last festival with Exquisite Corpse | Dance Theatre (now Lo-Giudice Dance), and so we invited her to tell us more about herself, her plans for the future, and most importantly, about her fundraising and upcoming fundraiser event.
The event will be held on 28 August at As You Like It, Archbold Terrace, Newcastle Upon Tyne, NE2 1DB. The show will run from 7.30pm-10pm, and tickets will cost £8 on the door.
The evening will include a solo performance by Dani, created by Nicole Vivienne Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre, and a duet with Dani and Anthony Lo Giudice of Lo Giudice Dance. It will also include a talk from guest speaker Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, and a raffle with prizes including a two-course meal for two at AYLI, and two tickets to see Agnes & Walter: A Little Love Story by Smith Dance Theatre.
If you can’t attend but would like to support Dani, and if you’d like to follow her journey, please visit her website daniatkinson.moonfruit.com
Dani’s career to date
I chose to stay in Newcastle for many reasons: I had taken my BTEC National Diploma in Performing Arts Performance at Newcastle College, so I’d had the opportunity to see the training provided by the lecturers on the degree program, and I was really impressed with the standard, especially of the end-of-term dance pieces, choreography, music and movement material.
Another reason for remaining at Newcastle College was the lecturers’ encouragement to go out and discover the regional industry yourself, knowing that the best way to gain an insight into the industry is to be amongst it. This really appealed to me because believe that it doesn’t matter where you train because ultimately it is the person you are that makes you successful.
Dance City (the National Dance Agency for the North East) has been amazing in the provision of a free daily professional morning classes, which have helped me in many ways, both developing my technical and performance ability and providing me with the opportunity to meet and work alongside professionals whether based in the region or visiting artists. Through attending classes at Dance City I have had the opportunity to meet and talk with many of the regional companies, and I have been fortunate to work with many including Lo Giudice Dance, Appetite Dance and most recently working with Nicole Vivienne Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre to create a solo which will be performed at my upcoming fundraising event. Dance City also provides a great number of free workshops and company classes with visiting companies, and organises an Ignite programme, which offers professional classes, workshops and seminars amongst other events and activities to locally-based dance makers from the North East.
The time I spent working with Exquisite Corpse | Dance Theatre, now Lo Giudice Dance, was an exciting year of performances, festivals and a week residency in Prague, and I learned a great deal along the way. Through each performance, I gained a greater confidence which has continued to grow through the continued support I receive from everyone.
Unfortunately I was not involved in ‘Roma’ this year as the project ran very close to the deadline of my dissertation and I had to make a decision on which to focus upon, this however gave me the opportunity to watch the work and see it from the otherside of the stage which was great as I was able to learn through observation and appreciate the work without dancing in it.
Following my dissertation completion, I was asked by Apple Yang, the choreographer and director of Appetite Dance, to dance in her new work ‘Letters to my Father.’ This experience gave a great insight into the Chinese culture and the detail and precision that goes into classical Chinese dance, it was often challenge for my body as it was a new dance style and technique, but I thrive on a challenge and really enjoyed it.
Coming to the end of my degree, I still felt that I had so much more to learn and I felt a change in location was of great importance, as this would develop me in other ways in terms of knowledge of other dance techniques and cultures. I chose to apply to the José Limón Institute because the technique excites me: I love the play with weight, fall and recovery within his technique, and the work with the breath, as I feel that through using breath, you discover a lot more about the movement and the depth you can take within it.
I am very interested in suspension and stillness during performance as it allows and requires the body to discover a prolonged energy to project. Limón technique will help to develop all of the above whilst at the same time encouraging me as a performer to explore and express my own individuality.
The current state of the UK dance industry
From what I have experienced of the UK dance industry in terms of funding, as it stands, is that a lot of funding is put into the creation of a piece but then there is often only one performance. I find this bizarre because there is not a possibility for the work to be seen by the wider audience, so I see this as a waste of time and money. I think there needs to be greater funding and development within a touring circuit so that a work can produce more than a one-night wonder.
While studying for my dissertation, I became aware that as a result of the government cuts, the dance organisations, companies, theatres and schools have to find other means of finance in order to survive the current climate. Increased fees for studio hire and and increase ticket prices are two methods that continue to be utilised, however this only jeopardises the industry further, as with a tighter budget, a choreographer has reduced funds, restricted access to studios and therefore less rehearsal time, which risks reducing the quality of the product.
I found that the most affected areas are companies, which are struggling to survive in the industry with the funding being either reduced or cut. While the Cholmondeleys and Featherstonehaughs disbanded last December after 25 years, other choreographers including Henri Oguike have dissolved their companies to work freelance, as this is usually a more financially effective method of working, having only themselves to fund. Nevertheless, on the other end of the spectrum, Sadler’s Wells is receiving an increase of £700,000, and Rambert Dance Company has received £7 million to build their new premises.
Some final words
It is hard to explain what dance means to me, although what I can say is that it is what I have an incredible commitment to dance, and it is of paramount importance in my life, devoting myself to the art form. The ‘buzz’ of performing is like no other, it takes me away from myself, and I become someone else and I feel myself beam. I love it.
I love the company Netherlands Dans Theatre: their technique, choreography and performances are all amazing, Jiri Kylián’s Petit Mort is my favourite work – no matter how often you watch it, it never gets old.
I am also a great fan of physical theatre, especially DV8 and Lloyd Newson, I find myself very interested in human psychology, the power of the mind and the tricks it can play on you. Lloyd Newson’s work is inspiring; the vast amount of research and human discovery is amazing, and I would love to work under a great such he. My favourite work my DV8 is Strange Fish, although watching it late at night by yourself can be quite scary!
There are many other companies I love for various reasons, I find it hard to pin which is my favourite, I like versatility, excitement, but what I really love to see is that the dancers are present and enjoying themselves. You can do the smallest of things, but if you are able to capture and take the audience with you, that is the power and performance strength like no other, and that’s the skill I aspire to gain.
Watch Jiri Kylián's Petit Mort, Part 1 and Part 2.