Tonight, Fri 20th July, sees the ultimate performances of MY TURN in the foyer of Milton Keynes Theatre between 6.45pm and 7.15pm. A free pre-show extra for audiences to whet their appetite before heading to the auditorium to enter the world of Flashdance – The Musical.
So, what exactly is MY TURN?
It’s an opportunity for young dancers to try their hand at choreography with 1 to 1 professional guidance. 3 young choreographers were selected through an audition process and each was paired with a professional dance artist with whom to create a duet. The resulting duets have stemmed from the ideas of the young person; with guidance on how to translate written ideas or imagined concepts to dance given by their professional adult partner. It is these 3 duets which will be shown in the foyer at Milton Keynes Theatre.
My relationship to the project is multifaceted – I am one of the adult dancers who has been through the process and will perform as one half of a duet this evening; I was also the instigator for the project in my former role as an assistant director at MÓTUS. As such, I thought I’d share a few musings on MY TURN.
My reasons for initiating this project were twofold – not only wanting to provide a choreography experience for young people, but also looking at how to reach a different audience for MÓTUS. Over the years that MÓTUS has been active, we often programmed work in Margaret Powell Square (just in front of MK Theatre) during pre-show time slots - thinking that theatre audiences would enjoy an extra spot of dancing as they meandered in. However, we tended to find theatre attendees were a little shy of watching work in the square, in general it felt as though they were unsure whether they had permission or time to stop and watch given they had a ticket booked for a specific event at the theatre.
A few years ago, while I was working in Wales, I attended the theatre in Newport where I came across and was inspired by an initiative called ‘Dance Shorts’. I’d gone to the theatre to see Scottish Dance Theatre but was surprised in the foyer before the show to see another 10-minute dance work by TaikaBox. It really made the evening stick in my mind and felt like I’d got to see a bonus performance that day. With this in mind, for the MY TURN project MÓTUS has partnered with Milton Keynes Theatre and Selladoor Worldwide to present the performance of duets within the foyer of the theatre. Hopefully some of the audience this evening will get to experience a similar delight of bonus performance and that, with the duets being located in the foyer, worries will be eased as to whether they will get to their seats on time!
Now for a few behind-the-scenes thoughts sparked from the choreography process itself and what I learnt in supporting my young counterpart’s creation. I often find that dance is one of the poorest of the performing arts, and some of me wonders whether this is to do with the amount of ownership young dancers are able to experience being limited within regular technique classes. (Not that there is anything wrong with attending technique classes, it’s something that still feeds me and makes me happy to this day!) Another part of me ponders whether there is something in dance’s perceived lack of connection to paper – musicians frequently work with scores, and actors scripts – but where is the tangible thing a dancer can hold, create from and refer back to?! So, when my young partner has ideas written down on paper – a concept which she has proposed – but is unsure how to bridge the gap from paper to movement, is it any surprise?
Over time as a dancer, you build a toolbox of tasks to help bridge this gap – and one which I suggested as a starting point in this instance was for us to go through my partner’s text and pick out all of the verbs/ action words – which instantly gave same impetus for movement to be borne. As part of the process, I sometimes suggested ‘in between rehearsals’ tasks for my partner and myself, one of which was for us each to find 3 pieces of music that we would like to try out our devised movement material to. What was really interesting for me to observe in us doing this, is how much more language my partner had available to her in describing the music choices and its relationship to her initial concept than she did when talking about the movement. For me, this feels a little like when I take my car to garage – I just can’t find the right words to get at what I mean in that scenario as I don’t feel like I know how to speak the language! By focussing so much on movement in dance class, do we forget to give young dancers the language for them to feel comfortable and take ownership for their own creations?
Whilst the process has really nudged me to consider how it might be possible to start to achieve these shifts in intention where I teach young people class, it has also been really rewarding to see my partner’s progression and growth in confidence with decision making with regard to dance. The duets have already had their first outing during MÓTUS in thecentre:mk where they were one of the most commented upon items of the line-up. Here’s hoping they go down as well tonight!