Next Choreography 2015-16

Words and thoughts from 12th November

Here’s my summed up reflective thoughts and words from the experimental tasks we did last week:

“Lost, hard and busy.

Trust the uncomfortable. Interesting,


No relaxation.”

I also want to share something I noted down from Charlotte Spencer: I realised how such a simple idea can be really interesting: “Changes our understanding of what we listen to.”


New words for new weeks

Here are our words from the Book of Words from recent weeks. Last week, we were an usually small group and despite missing those who were ill or couldn’t make it, I found something very precious about working closely and quietly together. We zoomed into small details of listening, touching, sensing spaces and bodies. We finished by playing with the composition of writing about our physical experiences. I was so impressed by what sprung from the pages. I’m hoping that some of the group will share their writings here as well.

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Choreographic Experiments…so far…

I can’t quite believe that we’re already over half way through the first term of this new year of Next Choreography. But then, when I look back, I am reminded of how much we’ve done, seen, experienced and discussed. We’ve had Sanjoy Roy in to talk to us about writing about dance; we went to Farringdon NCP carpark on the opening night of Dance Umbrella to watch Of Riders and Running Horses by Dan Canham/Still House; we went to The Place to watch Ben Duke performing his solo work Paradise Lost (Lies unopened beside me); last week Ben came in and shared some of his working practice with us. We got to experiment with being as absurd as possible and making lots of weird noises as well as ask questions and learn about some of the intricacies and pervading curiosities that Ben is grappling with. We briefly grappled with him. I think it was strangely liberating for us all!

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Last night the group came prepared with pre-devised movement scores/written choreographies/sets of instructions to exchange between each other. In groups of 3-4, they had an hour to prepare a performance from the instructions that they received. Then we watched and discussed how it was to interpret instructions and how it was to watch others performing your vision – what was unexpected? new? If we didn’t see what we had planned, did it matter? If we were to do it all again, what might we do differently? Lots of food for thought and delightful surprises.

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‘Paradise Lost’ by Ben Duke

Ben Duke, no doubt, is a funny man. His choreographed retelling of John Milton’s famous poem ‘Paradise Lost’ – which he has supposedly never opened, as the subtitle suggests – is a hilarious tour de force, marrying stand up comedy awkwardness and charm with precise and expressive movement.

In continuous conversation with the audience, he reenacts and impersonates God, Lucifer, Adam, Eve, the snake and armies of angels, while chickpeas (‘boulders’) rain from the ceiling (‘sky’) or he emerges in a morphsuit (‘naked’) from a fog machine’s exhaustions (‘heavenly clouds’).

In ‘Paradise Lost’, Duke simultaneously mocks and utilizes contemporary dance vocabulary and his own skill as a performer – for example, as he moves in spasms and twitches, making slurping and burping sounds as he goes (as ‘God’) through the creation process of Adam. Interlacing the epic tale with personal anecdotes of marriage and fatherhood makes both struggles, on the grand and the smaller scale, touching and engaging to the viewers.
It is quite unusual how he exhibits and deals with ‘mistakes’ on stage – for example, when he talks viewers through what the dance sequence would look like instead of actually doing it, since he (supposedly) missed his cue. It made us wonder – how much of that was improvised, how much of those ‘mistakes’ were fabricated and planned?

And in general, how did he choreograph this piece, how did he make the words connect with the movement? What came first, the way of moving or the way of telling?

Luckily, we might be able to ask him about some of that, since he will be leading a session with us at Next Choreography this week!

Watch the trailer for ‘Paradise Lost’ here:

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Of Riders and Running Horses – a moment’s impression

From down below, a siren sounds. Another. A plane makes its way across the dark night sky, leaving a trail of noise.

On the roof of a carpark in Farringdon, London, above the city streets, a woman stands alone. The woman has been running, jumping, twirling, now she is standing still. Adrift in thoughts.

A space of silence surrounds her as she slowly, surreptitiously, glides into soft movement. As if thinking aloud with her arms, legs, torso, as if piecing something together in her mind and unconsciously acting it out in her body, she tiptoes into expression. Carefully introverted, under the vast sky, on the roof in the midst of miles of city. The red lights on skyscaper tops are mirrored by the beams lighting her small scale arena in the car park.

The drumbeat reaches out again, gains intensity as it resounds through the pulse of each of the many people standing around her to watch, and the woman rejoins forces with the other women, the women that will dance with her, relentlessly, joyously, to exhaustion.

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Of Riders and Running Horses, by Dan Canham, was performed as part of Dance Umbrella, Oct 16th, 2015.

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A review of AH/HA by Lisbeth Gruwez

A Tableau of 5 motionless dancers, are set on a wave of billiard green carpet, curving up against the wall. The amplified moment of stillness invites us to indulge the framing of their zany postures and abstained facial expressions. Their eclectic combinations of attire are standard to that of a Berlin charity shop ranging from mini skirts to a 90’s double denim ensemble. A pulsatile squeaking sound begins to reverberate, prompting a meticulously controlled bounce through the dancers knees on the spot. Imagine a noise and gesture that your joints would do having not ‘oiled’ them in 15 years.

As the sound ceaselessly continues, the dancers begin to shift their focal point to and away from us whilst minutely distributing the bounce they have so rhythmically harnessed, progress across their whole body.

Outsetting to recognise the bearings between each other, they collectively begin to react to one another and travel the space.

These transcending regroupings echo the absurdist mannerisms of scratched video game interactions between avatars.

The pace and quality of the gestures grow with the sound and as it becomes louder and more rapid, to what now could be compared to a broken mattress springing out, so did their physicality.

The squeaking has come to a close as they start emitting wheezes of air at random, dismembering into a chain reaction of episodes that revisit the whole experience of a laugh through the notion of the voice. Reconfiguring under a gleamingly yellow Belgian street lamp-floating central to the space – “We have travelled from day to night”.

The process has a yearning for its pinnacle point of nonsense as they attempt to fully articulate every style of laughter. Only to deconstruct what it is to laugh and juxtapose it with what it is to scream of pain. They regurgitate this motion until an atmosphere of angst has developed and the piece begins to descend.

The mood has straddled us in engagement as we face the exhaustion and hysteria of these two alternate extremities.

Taking the audience as witness, the dancers standing begin to lean into a tight mass caressing and feeling warmth for one another. Making their way toward the floor returning us to what they had familiarised us with at the start, stillness.

We return back to day time after this stalled moment and the sound has began to have a glitch within it, stopping at the pronounced sound–he-he.

With every glitch they lift their heads until they eventually stand up to conclude the song and the glitch follows through with a greeting of ‘Hello’.

The concluding song is Lionel Richie’s – Hello that has embedded in it a history of intimacy and ridiculousness.

Two thematics, I feel that most address the way in which we interact and censor ourselves now. The dancers have become athletes of their emotion and exercised ours by unpicking what it looks like to divide your body and its sound, in order we become aware of that frequency we all possess. The performance and song choice adequately questions thematic of interactions in our present day. Amplifying how we express ourselves at this point in time that is verging on to silent communication just as much as the exploration of how we laugh.

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Week 5 – back in the studio

We return to the studio this week for a session with Charlotte Spencer. We’ve had a jam packed fortnight with a Sanjoy Roy leading a dance writing workshop, then going to see Paradise Lost by Ben Duke’s Lost Dog Dance, followed by Dan Canham’s Of Riders and Running Horses performance as part of Dance Umbrella Festival – time to reflect on these experiences by sharing and discussing together in the beautiful roof studio at Siobhan Davies Dance….

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Congratulations Charlotte!

This week we are celebrating the achievements of our fantastic Next Choreography Facilitator Charlotte Spencer, as she has just received a 4 star review in the Guardian from Judith Mackrell about her piece Walking Stories. http:// Running until the 31st October as part of Dance Umbrella- you’d be a fool to miss out!

How lucky we are, all Next Choreography participants past and present, to work with and learn from this exceptional artist every week!

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