Sunday, 24 June 2012

Video extracts from week 1: From Landscape to Portrait

So to give you a very brief glimpse of what we've been up to in our first 2 sessions on site, here is some footage of the dancers' first explorations threading through Chris Wilkinson's installation:

Some things I'm learning during the process of making the From Landscape to Portrait commission:
  • simple things work much better than more complicated images e.g. it makes a clearer visual statement to have something that unifies the dancers, rather than everyone doing something separately; simple movements such as walking can be useful; stillness and more sustained movements are effective
  • the installation naturally creates a 'fanning out' or incremental shifting of the planes of movement of the dancers, because they adapt their movements to the shifting placement of the frames of the installation
  • the contact material we have been developing needs space (in terms of physical space between the dancers and between the dancers and the installation, but also pauses) or it becomes very busy and the dancers can appear to be overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the installation
  • also, the contact material works best when the pathway of this material spirals continuously through the structure of the installation rather than retreating from any difficult moments - the image of threading or weaving is effective here, and it is also helpful for the dancers to think about being quite practical/functional in their movement, so every step they take enables them to progress through the structure. I really like the threading material (shown in the video in its early stages) because it offers an opportunity to see the fluidity and the fragility of the human body in contrast (but also necessarily working with) the shape of the installation.
  • we have been developing some complex movement in close canons and 'waves', and here I'm finding that I can't watch something for too long before I want it to change and develop - because of this it's more effective to see the group of 10 dancers working as 2 quintets rather than a whole group. However, I'm aware that this instinct might change when the dancers are more familiar with the material.
  • I'm also learning with the canon/wave material that it can help to loosen the sense of regimented counts, and to just allow the dancers to follow or chase each other through the movement, because then they are reliant on each other rather than the external rhythmic structure. The rhythm really has to come from them: again, I think we'll be able to develop this when the movement vocabulary is clearer.
As always, it's challenging working with such a short rehearsal period because I'm having to make very quick decisions when actually I'd prefer to research what's possible for longer. It means that sometimes I encourage the dancers to start setting something before they're ready, and that means they become less responsive to the features of the installation and the themes of this particular commission (because I don't have enough information to give them yet). It was also difficult in our second session this week because the weather was really against us and every time we went out to the courtyard it started to rain! However, I'm going to keep working to make sure the back-up plan is ready and the information for the creative tasks is clear and hopefully we will have good weather for the rest of this week when we're on site Monday - Friday.

Pop along and see us in the Royal Academy of Arts courtyard if you're in the Piccadilly/Green Park area this week - we are usually rehearsing on site from 11-1pm and 2-4pm. Free outdoor performances of From Landscape to Portrait will take place on Friday 29th June (7.30pm) and Sunday 1st July (3.30pm). For more information see the Big Dance website, or the Royal Academy of Arts website.

With thanks to the staff of the Royal Academy of Arts for being so supportive during our rehearsals and to the dancers: Marie Chabert, Catherine Clissett, Aina Gargallo, Megan Griffiths, Carl Harrison, Rhian Jeffery, Scarlett Perdereau, Hannah Pickett, Lucy Rowland and Jess Williams. Also thanks to Max Perryment and Cornelis Joubert who are busy behind the scenes helping with music and costume.

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