Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Dancing in caves: first thoughts, July 2014

After 2 very exciting days preparing for our performances of The Imagination Museum at Creswell Crags on Sunday 27th July (performances at 12, 2 and 3.30pm with workshops after the first and second performances), I have also had a meeting with Dr David Strange-Walker from Trent & Peak Archaelogy today to talk about the Nottingham Caves, and the potential for future performances as part of the 'Dancing in Caves' project.

The Imagination Museum rehearsals at Creswell Crags © Jo Forrest 2014 All rights reserved
The Nottingham Cave Survey, which is managed by Dr Strange-Walker, is absolutely fascinating, documenting many of the approximately 500 man-made caves cut into the natural sandstone upon which Nottingham sits. David was able to share with me some of his wonderful three-dimensional images of these caves, all available on the Cave Survey website, including this video documenting the vast Peel Street Caves, one of Nottingham's largest cave systems:

At Creswell, we have already learnt a great deal about the opportunities and challenges offered by dancing in the cave environment, including:
  • the potential for choreographing light in an environment which is pitch black, without electricity. We're working with torches and head-lamps at the moment (setting them in crevices of the rock or moving with them) but have started thinking about other light sources too, as well as the possibility of asking the audience to switch their head-lamps off at times so they can appreciate the unique atmosphere within the cave in total darkness.
  • the transformation that naturally takes place when moving from the outside world down into the cave. No other environment has provided such a strong sense of moving back in time, of moving from reality and into the imagination, and because of this some things that work in the 'outside world' seem less effective in the cave. For example, our eccentric tour-guide figures Mildred, Henry and Harriet from The Imagination Museum do not fit so easily into the world of the cave: their energy is suspended until we can see the daylight again. There are also many props that we would use in other Imagination Museum performances that do not seem appropriate in this environment. This means that the rhythm and the tone of the movement in the cave is very different from our other performances (and partly this is down to necessity, because the floor surface is really uneven and the dancers have very limited visibility at times). This is something to bear in mind when developing the characters for our new Dancing in Caves performance piece (which has the working title Beneath Our Feet), and when choosing the stories those characters might tell.

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