Next Choreography 2016-17

Reflecting on the Festival and Next Choreography

And so the end of Next Choreography 2016 -17 has come, and what a year it has been !

The Festival was a vibrant, welcoming and slightly hectic day of dance, creativity and ummm cake … lots of cake. I was taken aback about how open minded and willing to participate the audience were, especially throughout the ‘welcome dance’ and the interesting lift experience.

I am overwhelmed by what I have learnt and achieved on the NC course at Siobhan Davies Dance, and so grateful to have this enriching opportunity. If you are interested in creating, meeting new people and up for a challenge I would highly recommend the NC course for next year. It is so much more than dance and choreography, so don’t let a lack of experience put you off – we had people from a whole host of different backgrounds from drama to art, which only made our experience more valuable. My perception of dance and choreography will never be the same again and I am so glad for this !

Thank you SDD so much and I can’t wait to join YAAG next year.

 

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Next Choreography Festival Rehearsals – With Martin Hargreaves

The NC festival rehearsals are in full swing, with only 3 weeks to go ! We have be running all over the Siobhan Davies building: from dancing in the lift, the changing rooms, the parlour and even outside in the court yard (let’s be grateful for the sunny weather over the past few days !). The Festival is looking to be a busy day, with a huge variety of choreographic pieces, art work, soundscapes and installations. The audience will also be welcomed to get involved with a workshop and several participatory pieces.

The NC cohort have also been working on an ensemble piece with guest artist Martin Hargreaves. This is focussing on the principle ideas of Signature, Theft & Translation and to what extent are these possibilities or what happens when we use these ideas within dance or choreography. Martin asked us to all devise a short phrase of movement, words or drawing which represented each of these words. Surprisingly, the greatest challenge for us as we approached this task was defining these words. Many of us soon realised that our personal ‘signature’  within movement, is perhaps also theft; we acquire gestures and habits from others and subconsciously are always ‘stealing’ –  we can never dance in a vacuum, as such. ‘Translation’ we decided felt less intentional or destructive than ‘Theft’, which to us symbolised taking movement or art that isn’t ours. Not simply copying, but also claiming ownership of it. Problems surrounding cultural appropriation were also stirred up with the idea of ‘Theft’ and how certain dance styles become appropriated by the mainstream media, with little regard to the original origins. Subsequent to devising our individual three pieces, we then worked in groups to combine our work. This lead to even more layers of watching other groups, recreating, remembering and recollecting their work, until we had several ‘meta’ works, all of which are intricate copies, translations and memories of other people’s work. And yes, it made our brains ache too when we did it!

The NC team have one more rehearsal with Martin this thursday before the dress run in two weeks time. I am interested to see how the piece will be finished, and if there are any more layers can add to the piece. By it’s nature, the spontaneity of the piece is a key element, so I am hoping that it won’t be a ‘finished’ or ‘polished’ piece as such, but rather a continuous exploration, even on the day itself.

If you’re keen to see this work, or simply have a passion for creativity, dance and community make sure you come to the NC Festival on Sunday 9th July at Siobhan Davies Dance.

Look forward to seeing you there !

Thank you,

Stella

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

Photo by Gorm Ashurst

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Rehearsals for NC Festival in full swing!

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I have no idea how time between September and now went by so quickly but the rehearsals for this year’s Next Choreography Festival surely are in full swing.

So what have we been doing so far?

Constantly questioning, constructing and deconstructing, venturing into our senses, always looking out for the present moment and for things that work and don’t work in our choreographic practices. Challenging our bodies, our perceptions, and our understanding of what choreography is and what it can be.

I remember moments that felt like a ritual – dancing and singing, in a circle, allowing the movement to come from ‘the guts’, letting go of inhibitions and indulging in the physical expression.

I remember dancing to inner music, outside music, no music, with music, and against music. I remember improvising to the sound of Donal Trump’s voice (highly recommend experience but must be treated with care).

And frames. We explored many frames this year. Siobhan Davies’ gestures and poses, Lee Anderson’s pictures/postcards, Martin Hargreaves’s uncreative creativity, forgery, theft… These are only some examples of artists whose choreographic practices and frames we explored this year. Each time, the frame (or a choreographic task if you’d like) was set up and we used our bodies as resources to engage and create within it. Amy Bell (the Next Choreography facilitator) often told us to think of choreography as a machine that you first set up and then put the movement through. Something will always come out, and the more you understand this machine, the more exciting the potential results.

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What should you expect from the Festival then?

Over the past couple of months we have accumulated tons of materials, notes, reflections, and experiences. We got very excited when planning the Festival – there were choreographer’s hats and badges, ritual dances in the courtyard, and other plans. Amy and Laura (the SDD Learning & Participation Producer) worked very hard with us to refine and compile our ideas into an exciting programme that reflects and goes beyond what we have experienced this year.

This year we encourage you to explore choreography through improvisation, challenge the perception of the performer-spectator relationship in a participatory piece, venture into different corners of SDD studios to see how dance unfolds in unexpected spaces, discuss other talented young people’s work as part of the Feedback Forum, and much more.

Overall, the Next Choreography Festival will overtake the SDD Studios for the whole of Sunday 9th July, filling it with installations (visual and sound), dance, movement, discussions, food (for body and for thought), and fun. Definitely an event not to miss.

For more information about the festival schedule and tickets: http://bit.ly/2sHQMLq

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Copy and Pasting images in movement – With Lea Anderson

Pictures in fashion magazines look weird enough. But what if you cut off half the picture then recreated it ? This was the main focus of our NC session today, led by the amazing Lea Anderson.

Initially, the task seemed simple – look at the picture, copy it. Soon enough we realised the intricacy and precision involved in copying an image – the focus of the subject, the angle, the position of the feet, hands, shoulders, the expressions. To add to the complexity, the photos had all been cut and pasted in various ways – some were just the faces of models, others a knee and a hand, one was just feet. This left us with the freedom to decide what to do with the rest of the body if it was not specified in the photo.

The most startling result of this session was watching how different everyone one’s responses were. We worked in pairs, and everyone followed the same set of images in the exact same order. Yet, each pair has such completely contrasting ideas and methods of copying. Despite this, we could all identify the images each pair did, and when one pair were stuck and asked ‘Which picture comes next?’, we all knew exactly where in the sequence the pair were and which picture came after it. The images could be clearly seen in each pair but the transitions and context of them were completely individual.

This idea of sequence and identifying patterns has left me wondering at what point does one image end and another begin ? Can we ever copy ? What is it about each image that made it recognisable in the different pairs ?

Thank you Lea !

Stella

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‘Primal Matter’ –Dimitris Papaioannou October 2016

In October 2016, Next Choreography attended ‘Primal Matter’, a dance piece performed by Dimitris Papaioannou and Michalis Theophanous as part of London’s ‘Dance Umbrella.’ What unfolded over the next eighty minutes on a starkly furnished stage in the (freezing cold) Old Truman Brewery could be compared to a book of optical illusions.
Through a sequence of surreal images Papaioannou and Theophanous morphed into a series of identities. As these individual identities changed, so did the relationships between the two performers: they became pet and owner, creator and creation, performer and ringmaster. Each illusion created in the piece produced associations for the audience. Through simple props and the tool of the human body, we were reminded of Frankenstein, Jesus, ancient Greek statues, conjuring acts, embalming. I later read that Papaioannou’s intention had been to choreograph in response to political issues in today’s Europe. This hadn’t even occurred to me while watching ‘Primal Matter’, but I don’t see this as a failing of the piece. Each image sparked a domino-run of associations in the audience’s mind, leading to any number of different readings. This made for interesting conversations on the Tube home.
The power dynamics between the performers shifted constantly and compellingly, the way they related to each other was at times tender and caring, at others  disturbing and even violent. Usually, one of the two was clearly in control but sometimes they seemed to be the same being, exploring themes of duality. In one of my favourite sections, Papaioannou rolled up his trouser leg halfway, rotated his knee joint and placed his lower leg on a clinical-looking table, before hopping on one foot with his other leg in his hand as though it was no longer attached to his body. Meanwhile Theophanous (creating the illusion of a statue) appeared to be missing a leg. Papaioannou’s leg then appeared to be attached to him, becoming part of his body through a sort of weirdly sophisticated party trick.
This raised questions in me around themes of disassociation from the body. I think these themes are particularly relevant in our era, when our relationships to our bodies are being viewed in a new light, as well as relevant to the dance art form- the body becoming a tool of performance is bound to lead to a level of disassociation.
The use of nudity emphasised the idea of the body as a tool, and as something vulnerable, linking with concepts of power and control. Some might criticise the nudity as crude humour, and it could be argued that the piece used shock-tactics (at one point the naked performer was doused with cold water, inducing a shudder from the audience wrapped up in scarves and coats.) However I saw this as purposeful, none of the shock or crudeness in the piece seemed to be just for the sake of it.
We left full of questions, and ideas about how to integrate illusion, duality, power dynamics and unusual props into our own dance-making.

primal matter arts award

 

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Siobhan Davies – material/ rearranged / to / be

We’ve been fortunate enough to have various artists leading workshops exploring their own creative practice. In November, we saw a sneak preview of material / rearranged / to / be at Siobhan Davies Studios with an invited audience.

Siobhan Davies is a well renowned dance artist and the artistic director of Siobhan Davies Dance. Her work has been described “as less theatrical than most of London Contemporary Dance Theatre’s pieces, less musical than Alston’s, less narrative than Spink’s.” Davies’ work is multidisciplinary, and Davies is interested in the cross over with dance, film and visual art.

Davies’ current work is entitled material / rearranged / to/ be  and takes the form of several individual artists each co-commissioned to create a piece of work linked to the original exploration. This is a multi platform walkabout piece exploring gesture, posture and how it is interpreted on different bodies. I won’t divulge too much because the performances will premier in January.

Siobhan Davies led a two and a half hour related workshop exploring the research process behind the piece. Davies said that the starting point involved taking inspiration from poses in portraiture. We attempted to embody many of the initial research images. At first glance, this task seemed quite manageable, however embodying these traditional poses proved very challenging. We discovered that this is a very difficult starting point for movement as these images are static. This difficulty led to finding either the movement before, or directly after these poses.  We explored these gestures in smaller groups and gave feedback to one another. It was interesting to note how very small differences in the placement of the hand, the turning of a head, or even eye contact can greatly alter the perception of a scene. Naturally, these small movement segments seemed theatrical and to tell a story.

Even though the original images used were very antiquated, the task of attempting to replicate imagery resonates as a very contemporary issue. As humans, we learn by mimicry. With the advent of technology, this has drastically altered how we learn and perceive the world. For example, there is rise of image based social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. A user can upload a photo and edit using filters and we as consumers attempt to replicate these images. It makes it seem as though these images are easily attainable. From this workshop I gained more awareness into the images I am consuming. I also gained an insight into the starting point for Davies’ exploration. Interestingly, the impetus was inspired from another art form. I will attempt to take this knowledge into my own practice. It is also fascinating to note the different perceptions of the same posture, gesture and movements from people of differing body types, ages, genders and ethnicities.

I’m looking forward to see the full performance at the Barbican Centre in January.

See more here:
http://www.siobhandavies.com/whats-on/performance/siobhan-davies-dance-new-work-premiere-material/

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Rauschenberg and dance

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‘Ace’ –  By Rauschenberg

The Rauschenberg exhibition opened on December 1st at the Tate Modern- everyone has been encouraging me to go see it because he worked closely with practitioners and choreographers like Merce Cunningham and Trisha Brown, so I thought I’d take a look. Whilst I thought the exhibition its self was a bit formulaic and busy, Rauschenberg’s work is really innovative and refreshing – constantly working with new ‘combines’ like colour, texture or even dance.

What interested me most about the exhibition was the way he used choreography in an unexpected way – choreographing objects and sound rather than dancers. One memorable aspect was a huge pool of murky water, which bubbled randomly ; simultaneously creating choreographed movement of splashes and a soundtrack of the water. His paintings also seemed to evoke images of dance and choreography, the awesome piece named ‘Ace’ was structure from 5 panelled canvases with what initially appeared to be random splashes of paint. However at times the boundaries of each canvas seemed to be ignored and to me this really resembled the structure of dances or scores of music with the different sections that are separated but related. I was also struck by the way his work seemed to encompass improvisation, reminding me again of the scores we created with Seke, with his performance piece named ‘Open Score’ involving tennis players, using the vibrations and reverberations of racquets to trigger the lights to flash and later movement.

Overall, Rauschenberg is highly recommended exhibition for dancers and artist alike. There’s so much crammed into the exhibition, with so many different approaches and medias for creating work. The only problem I had with the exhibition was that it was very hard to hear the sound from the videos of the performances and dance works, which was a real hindrance.

Stella

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Improvisation Scores with Seke

I see this map nearly everyday and on the way back from Next Choreography. It always stood out to me because it is so short and uncomplicated compared to the other tube maps. I’m not sure why, but today it reminded me of the improvisation scores we created last week (1/12/16) at NC.

Just to clarify, a score could be any rule or structure used in improv, for example you can’t stop moving. We decided it would be a good idea to create a score where all the dancers either had to be in eye contact with one other dancer or have their eyes shut, easier said than done, that’s for sure. We had more than one score, just to complicate things – like laughing if you heard someone else laugh or trying to go up or down at the same time as the other dancers (very difficult with your eyes shut.)

Going back to the image, the white circles with the line between the two for some reason,  reminded me of trying to dance with my eyes shut and blindly searching for someone to make eye contact with. When dancing, we somehow had a sense of where we were going and how to get to each other, without the need for vision.

Thank you Seke for the eye-opening session, hope you feel better Amy !unnamed

Stella

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What is contemporary dance?

I am very grateful that I am currently a member of Next Choreography 2016-7. This programme is a yearlong initiative for 14-24s which explores choreographic devices across various mediums at Siobhan Davies Studios.

The studios are just a short walk from Elephant and Castle Station. It’s refreshing to be surrounded by creatives in many different disciplines and stages in their careers. We have an enriching mix of dance graduates, those studying GCSE/ A Level dance, those training to be professionals, as well as some who enjoy dance amongst an assortment of wide ranging interests such as mechanical engineering, photography and theatre.

At the first session in September, I really didn’t know what to expect. I thought we’d bust straight out into some kind of hyped up super advanced session with someone screaming out obscure directions such as “Be the music. Be the space!” with tons of French sounding terminology.

Thankfully, it didn’t unfold like this.

We had a chance to write down questions, fears and elements we’re excited to explore this year. These were some of my questions:

 

What is choreography?

What is contemporary dance?

What are contemporary dancers?

What is it with the leggings pulled up on one leg? The source of your powers?

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Hopefully this year I’ll learn the answer to these questions and more…

 

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Manifesto for the Art of Being

Mon métier et mon art, c’est vivre.

(MONTAIGNE)

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I refuse to perform. I will be.

If the performance of everyday tasks or interactions could be as finely and thoughtfully executed as my best dancing, sure – I would do it.

But what is creation, what is change, what is progress if they are not sustained, nurtured day after day?

What is conveyed on stage or praised in the studio should also be part of people’s life outside.

To be generous on stage and selfish on the street? To strive for technical perfection and forget about ethics or basic considerations?

Franchement, non.

Turn off the spotlights. Do you still move the same way? Or have you suddenly lost your dancer’s costume?

 

Inspired by:

MANIFESTO

FOR MAINTENANCE ART 1969!

Proposal for an exhibition “CARE”

MIERLE LADERMAN UKELES

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