So here we are again: at the end of one year and on the brink of the next…what better way to use some of that downtime between Christmas and New Year than picking out 12 highlights of 2018. First up, part 1 - here’s what happened in the first half of the year:
1.An unlikely entry, but at number 1 we have: getting my car stuck in mud, with Anais Higgins coming to the rescue! A great example of two minds and bodies being better than one and that a little creative thinking can be useful in any area of your life. We ended up splattered in mud, with 4 ruined car mats and a reminder that with the right team anything is not only possible, but that even stressful scenarios can turn out to be fun. I first met Anais back in 2011 when we embarked upon OYAP Trust’s Young Leaders Programme, I’m so glad we became friends – we regularly find time to get to the theatre together, and in addition to helping rescue my car from mud this year, Anais has been there to provide last minute accommodation for me in her spare room (when a nearby workshop was finalised late in the day), has sent tokens of motivation in the post when I was having a tough month and [SPOILER ALERT] made sure she was there in person for the final event of MÓTUS 2018, which was also my final event as an assistant director for the organisation. If you haven’t got an Anais in your life, you’re missing out!
Arts1 performing at Generations Dancing
Photo by Rachel Cherry
2. 2018 was my first full year at the helm of the contemporary dance classes at Arts1 School of Performance in Milton Keynes. After focussing on technique for our first term together, we entered ‘show term’ – preparing for Cinematic with a piece inspired by the film ‘The Imitation Game’ and Bletchley Park. I couldn’t have asked for a more enthusiastic group of students to get behind my idea – they launched into learning my material, and approached tasks to create material through coded instructions with as much gusto, plus, were game to incorporate a section of live improvisation from a score into the piece. I loved delving into the codebreaking at Bletchley Park through movement, and was very proud of the piece we created together and were able to showcase in Cinematic, Jump Start and also Generations Dancing at the University of Bedfordshire. The students also donned their tea dresses again during IF: Milton Keynes International Festival – getting involved with Back to Back Theatre’s ‘The Democratic Set MK’. It has been wonderful to encourage their open approach to new collaborations and artistic opportunities – long may this continue into 2019 and beyond.
3. Going to the theatre and seeing work whether it be dance, theatre, mime or beyond is always time well spent in my opinion. I’m lucky to have seen lots of wonderful performances this year, but 2 in particular struck me most – Lost Dog’s ‘Juliet & Romeo’ and Robert Clark’s MASS. Juliet & Romeo poses the question: what if the protagonists had lived - were now aged 40ish and in couples counselling. It manages to be both witty and poignant, with all of the movement an integral part of the story telling – I raved about it so much that a group of my school friends from sixth form (non-dancers) joined me for a second viewing when it toured to Oxford this autumn, and I even gifted tickets as a wedding present for my cousin – an accolade in itself – there aren’t many dance shows I’d dare to deem wedding present worthy! What’s more, the production is still touring if you want to give it a whirl! MASS is an altogether quite different experience, but which still takes you on quite the emotional ride. It’s an immersive performance where everyone is given a hooded garment to wear before entering the space – so performers and viewers alike are clothed in the same manner and as such everyone becomes part of the MASS. I was most impressed by how safe the space felt, and how much care was given in allowing you the power to make your own decisions about getting involved so that you felt comfortable. By the end of the evening, I felt much lighter and ready to interact with the world without so many barriers up – a revelation in this year’s political climate! Again, it’s an experience I’d like to share with others, so I’ll be keeping an eye out for the possibility of MASS touring.
Taking part in The Playground
Photo by Elena Fortin
4. Part of what has shaped my 2018 has been being playful and trying new things. For example, I participated in a 3 day masterclass initiative with Extraordinary Bodies at The Point, Eastleigh and got a little taste of some aerial work in a harness…sowing the seed that perhaps this is something I’d like to experiment with/ do a little training in somewhere down the line. I also managed to make it to one of Tim Casson and Hamish MacPherson’s PlayDance sessions at Chisenhale – which very much encapsulated this sense of re-finding play in one’s professional practise – being sure to ‘do’ play as much as ‘deliver’ play. Plus, on my list of 3 new things to do in 2018 written at the outset of the year, was to attend The Playground at Rambert – an evening of speedy collaborations which is currently happening once a month - 4 artists lead different explorations in studios throughout the building before coming together for an impromptu sharing to round everything off. I managed to squeeze many of The Playground sessions into my diary this year and was particularly enamoured by the evenings I spent playing under the direction of Darren Ellis and Liam Francis. Thank you to all the artists involved in making The Playground happen - why not drop into a session yourself in the New Year?
Performing in From The Windows Gaze
Photo by Theresa Haworth
5. After reconnecting with Lisa Spackman (Two Thirds Sky) at the end of 2017, I was invited to work on some research and development of a new duet inspired by the life and works of artist Tamara de Lempicka. Working with Two Thirds Sky is always special for me for a number of reasons, including that it gives me the opportunity to dance with Laura Gibson who was my contemporary teacher during my training at Stella Mann College, such a privilege. Also, Lisa really encourages us to discuss and delve deeper into the source material – challenging our mental engagement and physical approach to tasks simultaneously. While this is tough at the time, especially as tasks are layered and Lisa pushes our skills in fragmenting, compartmentalising different body parts and then combining with other sequences, it not only creates a rich movement language for the piece but also inspires me in approaches that I can take when I am choreographing outside of the Two Thirds Sky studio time. We performed ‘From the Windows Gaze’ in a studio sharing with an invited audience which included my A Level Dance teacher, Michelle Gaishauser, and dance maker Richard Alston – I’m not sure who I was more nervous to perform for!
Performing in Surprise!
Photo by Jim Ward
6. Appropriately, the final entry for this half of the list was my final festival as an assistant director for MÓTUS. As always, festival time included wearing many hats to make sure all the plans laid out in funding applications written earlier in the year came into being. One of the projects I took the lead on was the MY TURN collaboration – an opportunity for young people to choreograph a duet in partnership with a professional adult counterpart – you might have spotted my blog post on it earlier this year. I also had a wonderful time choreographing an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ inspired piece with students at Great Linford Primary School – with many adult sized dresses and doll sized dresses thrown into the mix! Not only did the cast perform 3 times at MÓTUS in the centre:mk, it was also an honour to see them reprise the performance several weeks later for their school fete and to hear feedback from parents that their children loved watching back a video recording of their performance on repeat – in the words of one parent “it’s an experience that will stay with my daughter for a very long time”. Another highlight of the festival was getting to work with Miranda Laurence who collaborated as a dramaturg on the professional commission Surprise! choreographed by Chris Bradley. Miranda was able to interject ideas into the studio and help find clarity in narrative for us as performers – in understanding the story attachment of a certain movement sequence/ task which could then be read more easily by an audience. After such a final flurry of activity, it was time for me to step away from the MÓTUS team – I look forward to seeing what activities they have planned next for dance in Milton Keynes from the other side.
So there you have it – the first 6 highlights of my 2018 – check back in soon to see how the second half of my year panned out and how I put my new-found time to use having left the demanding cycle of planning, producing and promoting year round at MÓTUS.