Saturday, 31 October 2009

In the world in which we lived

What distinguished Cunningham from all other great choreographers was the degree of his inclusiveness. He invented dance movements that were modern and new, but even more revolutionary was the way he placed them in the world in which we lived.

Cunningham could never take his eyes off the street, and the dynamic that we all witness everyday is what he embraced. And he proved that music, costumes, set designs, lighting and sound could all exist independently on stage, just like they do in our lives, so long as there is a general shared aesthetic.

On Wednesday no one could actually watch everything, since people hovered closely around the stages. But dance was all around us. Music was all around us. And people were all around us. The audience could sit and watch and listen, or people could wander and socialize and have a glass of wine while paying a compliment to an art-world luminary such as Jasper Johns.

Mark Swed in the New York Times on the Merce Cunningham memorial 'Events' at the Park Avenue Armory in New York last Wednesday

Friday, 30 October 2009

Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection/Photographs

Some of the performers and choreographers with the Mayor, Cllr Anna Mbachu who joined in with enthusiasm in the workshop that Shelby Williams and Stephen Berkley White led for New Adventures.

Shahla Tarrant dancing among the letters of the Woolworths signage in my piece 'For Woolworths'

Pieter Symonds and Thomasin Gülgeç in Kim Brandstrup's DK60

And some fun coverage in the local newspaper

Monday, 26 October 2009

Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection/ The numbers

On Saturday, for Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection in the empty Woolworths in Leytonstone, eight Waltham Forest choreographers presented seven pieces, of which three were new works. The works were performed by 20 dancers.
A new visual art installation illuminated the shop windows.
300 people, from toddlers to pensioners, attended the three performances.
Matthew Bourne's New Adventures dancers led two workshops on the day with 35 participants and Dean James led two more in local schools in the run up to the event with 50 participants.
Meanwhile, 6 dance films by Waltham Forest choreographers filled the BBC Big Screen in Walthamstow and a documentary of Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection will be played alongside them when it is edited.

Choreographers: Kim Brandstrup, Dean James, Tashan Muir, Fearghus O’Conchuir, Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam, Stephanie Schober, Bettina Strickler,

Performers: Vincent Bugg, Elisabetta D’Aloia, Kamala Devam, Thomasin Gülgeç, Katsura Isobe, Seeta Patel, Luke Sawyer, Stephanie Schober, Pieter Symonds, Shahla Tarrant, Unity Youth.

Films by Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam, Fearghus O’Conchuir, Freddie Opoku Addaie, Stephanie Schober , Angela Towler and Martin Joyce.

Workshops led by Dean James, Stephen Berkley-White and Shelby Williams

Installation by Frances Bowman

Helped by the choreographers, the performers, East London Dance, Waltham Forest Council, The Arts Council of England, Leytonstone Arts Trail artists, and the BBC Big Screen

Friday, 23 October 2009

Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection/The Night before

I haven't had time to post updates about Pick'n'Mix. It's been a lot of work but tonight as I locked up, I felt calm and pleased by what we've achieved and hopeful that it will be ok tomorrow.

Yesterday Stephanie Schober rehearsed with her dancer weaving a complex pattern thoughtful energy between the Woolworths' columns.

Today I watched Seeta Patel and Kamala Devam rehearse in the Woolworths for the first time. I'd assumed that because they'd be coming late to the space that they mightn't be able to engage with it but they saw possibilities for how to insert the work into the building in a way that excites them and enhances the work in an unexpected way

Later Shahla came so we could finish off the piece I've made with her, called For Woolworths, and choreographed among the letters of the shop signage.

We rehearsed at the same time as Dean James whose dancers were leaping over the cash register and we passed the baton to Bettina Strickler whose performer Elisabeta D'Aloia was twirling a sweeping brush to Strauss when I left for dinner. By the time I got back, Bettina was imagining ball gowns and feathered head-dresses instead of sweeping brushes and I love that the space has encouraged a sense of playfulness and experimentation. I was happy too to have helped create a space where these choreographers could work side by side, generously, creatively and in that spirit, share their work with the audience tomorrow.

Because this spirit is the most important thing for me, I've resisted all of pressures that I feared would compromise the openness on which this spirit thrives. My job was to create a structure to support and avoid strictures that would stifle. I'm sure that's not the way to get things done in other circumstances, but being in a Woolworths allows me to adapt the rules.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection/Site visit

We're almost there, by which I mean that by Wednesday I hope that I will have the key to Woolworths to allow us to start rehearsing there in preparation for Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection on the 24th October. We visited today to allow some of the choreographers- Bettina Strickler and Dean James - to see the space for the first time. It was great to see their excitement and enthusiasm at the possibilities of the space and to realise that they see possibilities that I hadn't noticed.

I'm still a little anxious that I'm the one who's carrying the financial risk for the project. If I'm not successful in my Grants for the Arts application, there's a big shortfall in the budget which I have taken responsibility for - it was the only way to ensure that the project takes place. And Pick'n'Mix:The Dance Selection has to happen, not just this once but again: I've already identified four or five more choreographers who can't take part on the 24th that should be in another programme. Maybe it's a franchise!

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Dearbhla Walsh wins Emmy

I was delighted to see that Dearbhla Walsh won an Emmy recently for her work on Little Dorrit. I met her when she directed my dance film Match that was commissioned by RTÉ/An Chomairle Ealaíon for the Dance on the Box series. Dearbhla was already a successful director of TV series then but she was still prepared to work on art projects like our film because she felt those projects kept her ideas fresh. She saw a benefit to her more visible TV work from contributing to artistic collaborations like Match.