Devon in Spring

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I am spending the spring in Devon while teaching at Plymouth University and working with the Devon Youth Dance Company.

Devon Youth Dance Company:

Rehearsals have kicked off with visting artist Raquel Meseguer of Lost Dog who is making a piece.  The starting points behind this year’s work are to do with the idea of watching an being watched.  What do we present to the world and what do we hide?  This has thrown up some funny and intersting conversations about facebook and how people present their lives.  Using walky talkies, binoculars, cup and string telephones, head phones, the face book live feed and a mic the dancers spy, imitate and razzle dazzle.

Plymouth University:

I am teaching technique as an Associate Lecturer for the Dance Theatre course.   I am really pleased to have a regular teaching practice, and work with the talented and interesting folk who run the course.

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Old Thoughts New Thoughts

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I’ve been trying to bring myself to a commit to a regular posting of writings alongside doings, a practice inspired by my friend Charlotte.  To start me off I found something I wrote a while ago while working with her which strikes a cord with me now:

The idea that in performance there is something to ‘‘get’, to understand and that somehow the idea of ‘’getting it’ means that you’ve attained it, you’ve arrived.  This as opposed to the idea that art can be an experience.  However you experience the work or respond is perfect.  Linking to the material which is named ‘getting somewhere’ which is essentially about not getting anywhere, stasis, attempt and retreat.  The future is a mirage that disappears when we arrive.  Something held at arms length.  Arrival and departure are always back to back.  The strength in pausing, not stopping or dropping.  Visually framing material, allowing you to ‘see’.

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Dog Kennel Hill Project: TUG

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In August and September 2012 I worked with the Dog Kennel Hill folk on TUG, which takes audiences on a drifting, 30 minute, journey along urban canal ways and towpaths.

To watch a video of the work so far visit:

http://vimeo.com/54134056

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Charlotte Spencer Projects: Walking Stories

DSC_0026In October 2012 I took part in the research for Charlotte Spencer’s new project Walking Stories.

Walking Stories is created by and for its audience: they are the performers, spectators and makers in this journey.

Designed for a group of 20 people to experience together, with mp3 players and headphones Walking Stories takes its audience for a walk. The audio experience that they share brings original sound and threads of stories to the landscape. Seemlessly, they find themselves inside a complex, living choreography.

To find out more about this project visit:

www.charlottespencerprojects.org

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The Rover

All this week I will be performing in a production of The Rover at Hampton Court.

The Rover is a bold new production of the 17th century Restoration comedy by the first female playwright Aphra Behn, devised in conjunction with The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned exhibition.

Moving through the majestic Baroque apartments of the palace, you are drawn into a world of beauty, sensuality and danger.

More information and tickets can be found at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/WhatsOn/TheRover?StartTrail=true

Photograph by Bill Knight

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Devon Youth Dancers Perform in Exeter Cathedral

On the 16th May 2012, as part of Daisi’s ‘Banners in the Cathedral’ Exhibition four members of the Devon Youth Dance Company created an improvised performance with violinist Emma Welton.

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HOW DO WE TEACH YOUNG DANCERS TO DANCE LIKE THEMSELVES?

I have been the director of the Devon Youth Dance Company for the last six years, and I’m always interested in how we could be making our programme better and what constitutes a quality experience for young people.  A question which has cropped up several times recently is one of creativity.  How do we provide a creative experience?

To me, being in the Devon Youth Dance Company should be a dialogue between the person leading responding to the needs and desires of the group but also offering new ways of thinking and doing things.  At an age where most people feel self conscious I see in them an obvious enjoyment in learning and mastering material as it gives them a sense of their ability and a tangible idea about how they are improving and what they are able to achieve, for instance ‘I couldn’t do this at the beginning of the year and now I can’.  Within this there is also an element of collective versus individual experience i.e. ‘we all do this in unison’ rather than ‘I’ve made this movement up on my own, I’m not sure whether it’s any good and I’m afraid you might judge me’, which could feel a lot more vulnerable.

The flip side of this is that often young people end up copying the way their teacher moves and their style rather than finding what is natural and best for their own body.  The ability to devise their own work, to improvise, to play with lots of options, to be creative, versatile and self reflective about what they’re doing is something they don’t know so well and something they don’t necessarily recognise as a skill.  For those who wish to pursue a career in dance these skills are increasingly important as dancers are often an integral part of the creative process.  In my experience what you offer as a whole person, your thoughts, ideas and emotions are much more important than being able to execute particular movements perfectly.  Whether or not they go on to dance, are not these qualities we would wish to instil in our young people?

Youth dance agencies and organisations advocate that young people should have their own voice but more often than not this means fitting themselves into a way of being which someone else has taught them.  This is probably to do with the fact that assisting a young person in finding their own way of moving to the best of their ability is a skill, one which most dance teachers aren’t taught.  We’re taught how to dance in a particular way and we pass on that particular way and so on.  In order to create a generation of dancers who are creative, innovative and skilled in exploring their own ideas begs the question ‘How do we teach young dancers to dance like themselves?’

Related article:

School Rules: the 10 elements of successful arts education.

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