Next Choreography 2014-15: Discovering

Review of Ultima Vez: What the body does not remember?

One musician sat at a table, scratching, swiping, flicking and banging rhythms into the hollow wood. Paralleled on stage, a male dancer belonging to his right hand and a female dancer belonging to his left. They are manipulated by these sounds with only the minutest of delays, illustrating the amount of time taken for the vibrations of the table to meet the Sadler’s Wells stage floor. The dancers lay obediently, rolling, planking, dropping and thrusting into a lateral freeze as if each vibration controlled their movement. This action/reaction game is repeated just enough for the audience to begin matching sound to movement, it becomes an enjoyable anticipation and a satisfying atheistic when your split second guesses are played back to you. Certainly a catalyst for a piece full of confrontations demonstrated with incredible physicality accompanied by a charismatic score.

Choreographer and film maker Wim Vandekeybus successfully revives his physical theatre piece ‘What The Body Does Not Remember’, once challenging audiences of the 80’s now enticing audiences of today. The dance content is subtle but powerful due to a seamless amalgamation of pedestrian and technical movement. The episodes play on themes of attraction and repulsion exposing the thin line between the two. Resembling the childhood hot lava game, two dancers balance cautiously on chalk blocks, engrossed in their own tasks, they remain for the most part unaffected by the whirlwind of chaos slowly unravelling around them. Circular pathways heighten the energy of the piece as they begin to run, an element of risk immerses the dancers. A female trio, peruse each other swinging on and off their jackets whilst throwing and catching chalk blocks. A male trio create a similar impressive display in the form of a relay race, timed to perfection, they seamlessly pass around the chalk block, hand to hand, keeping great distance between them only not for a second. Things turn dangerous as dancers begin to disseminate the blocks. A scene of suicidal block throwing unfold as dancers mercilessly throw the chalk blocks above their heads to be snatched to safety at the last moment.

Evidence of the previous scene are wiped away by a variety of colourful bath towels. Like items on a conveyor belt, dancers continually cross on a diagonal pathway, as if coming out the shower, towels are wrapped around the hair, body and hung on arms. Uncaringly they begin to take the towels from each other which then overlaps into a more ruthless theft of jackets. Hanging on rails at either side of the stage, costume change is intentionally visible to the audience, emphasising the dance idea of pedestrianism. An unexpected flash of nudity receives a collective exclamation from the audience. This episode emphasises the callous behaviour that people can withhold.

Snatching of possessions leads into the possessiveness of each other. Male dancers scale the women’s bodies as they stand affirmatively in a wide stance, gradually leading them astray to be caressed before snapping back, only permitting the men’s contact to go so far. At this point the relationship between music and movement changes, no longer does it seem the dancers are reacting to the music but rather, through the mesh screen, the musicians are responding to what unfolds in front of them. There is a deep, clustered rumble for the scaling of the bodies with a gradual crescendo matching an increase of intensity, with two sharp hits on the snare to replicate the self-resetting of the female dancers stature. The intervals between these qualities varying each time, leaving you unsettled and bringing about most strongly the idea of attraction and repulsion.

Small moments of humour are perfectly dotted around the piece never once disrupting from the sustaining tension, however, the longest form of light relief is found in a mirroring/ family portrait scene. A woman settles herself on a chair and maintains a parallel stacked position, although completely still, her open chest and face suggests that she sits with purpose. A man enters the stage with a chair, inquisitively staring at her before positioning himself downstage mirroring her position laying down on his side with his chair tucked underneath him. She remains purposeful, fixing herself into different positions, making it evident that she is posing, nonetheless, throughout this she is oblivious of her imitator who waits eagerly, analysing and assessing ways to replicate what he’s seeing onto his plane. The other dancers accumulatively filter onto the stage to join the woman, they bring with them character and meaning. Clustered closely around the chair, shoulder to shoulder, arms around each other and a few knelt beside the woman’s knee with ever so slightly characterised faces revealing imagery of a family portrait. The changes of position now increasing in succession, the theme of fear becomes apparent. It appears that space is tight and like a game of musical chairs no one wants to be left out, resorting in people being carried and sat on.

As the dancers and musicians filter in for the curtain call you can’t help but feel a little dissatisfied with only 80 minutes of entertainment, your mind is still active and ready to retain more exciting scenes of engagement and struggle. However, what appears to be the set up for the post-show talk is in fact for an astounding musical finale. Three musicians sat center stage, a table each, begin to relay the sounds of the first episode in complete synchronisation, you can almost still imagine the dancers’ responses (and truthfully still wait for an encore entrance). A swift flick of a page reveals they are reading from a score, bounding excitement within of what is about to come and not left disappointed the musicians begin to branch off onto separate rhythms creating a beautiful polyrhythmic score, sounds appear to bounce off, echo and complement each other, they dip in and out off unison before breaking off into even more complex rhythms with more challenging hand movements and changes away from the traditional 4/4 timing. A treat for the ears, after your eyes have been glistening and heart pounding proving Vandekeybus knows how to create a multisensory, interdisciplinary show that your body is sure to remember.

 

Bibliography:

Ultima Vez, (2015). What the Body Does Not Remember. [online] Available at: http://www.ultimavez.com/en/productions/what-body-does-not-remember [Accessed 15 Feb.]

Blackpoolgrand.co.uk, (2015). Review: Ultima Vez – What the Body Does Not Remember « Grand Theatre Blackpool Blog. [online] Available at: https://www.blackpoolgrand.co.uk/blog/review-ultima-vez-what-the-body-does-not-remember/ [Accessed 28 Feb. 2015].

Mackrell, J. (2015). Ultima Vez – What the Body Does Not Remember review – bruisingly powerful. [online] the Guardian. Available at: http://www.theguardian.com/stage/2015/feb/11/ultima-vez-what-the-body-does-not-remember-sadlers-wells-review [Accessed 28 Feb. 2015].

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Walking Stories revisit

Having moved on to the next term of Making in Next Choreography I find looking back and reflecting on what we’ve already visited or seen is a simple way to refresh my mind and incorporate ideas. Attached is my short visual response to Walking Stories, a walking/choreography trail, one of Charlotte’s own projects which we got to do ourselves in week 2.

I sometimes find that words limit me when I feel least limited. This piece brought up so many ideas and feelings that the best way for me to communicate them was through a visual tunnel. Transporting them into moving motions that create the same response, without having to confine what I took from it with just a few words that don’t quite express the scale for me.

The piece completely transported me. Having never done anything similar, to be skeptical is easy but to be drawn in was much easier and in the end, it’s these different ways of working that inspire me. The piece created a sensitivity and appreciation, there is so much to take for granted and it wasn’t until I was picking up a leaf and placing it down in a different place did I realize the scale of that. I was suddenly exposed to the raw world around me, drawn into connecting with these other people and within myself, taking everything in.

This piece limited no one, instead it challenged and renewed my everyday perceptions.

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Why do we like social media?

Here we are using a blog to talk about blogging and social media; why we use it and how we can use it well.

At the Next Choreography session last week we looked at our relationships as a user / audience of digital media and as an author.

Here we are using a blog to talk about blogging and social media; why we use it and how we can use it well.

At the Next Choreography session last week we looked at our relationships as a user / audience of digital media and as an author.

On average we look at our phones 40 times a day* to communicate with others, with mobile devises now the most popular way for young people to access the internet. Among the group we discussed our own digital use. Texting, snapchat, facebook and twitter were among the most popular and making a phone call at the bottom of the list.

As a user what attracts us to ‘follow’ and ‘like’ particular people and organisations? What do they ‘give’ us and why are they of interest?

Information, humour, news and inspiration were all described as reasons, along with the overwhelming desire to be in the know, to see things that aren’t usually on websites, the things that break with the ‘norm and give a sense of exclusivity such as behind the scenes photos from events.

The ’instant’ fix that digital media offers sees us constantly connected and aware of news as it breaks. In extreme cases audiences are waiting at the end of the phone for news and information from organisations.

Content that we are drawn to makes us ‘feel’ something, it gets a reaction from us and is memorable. The most successful pieces are talking points – content that bring us together to discuss what we’ve seen or read. The action of people coming together is another big draw for users, we want to be involved in discussion with our peers. Interesting online content creates a common-space for us to share, discuss, agree and disagree.

What should the most successful social media posts be? The exact content is down to the author but there are some tips and advice from media gurus such as Gary Vaynerchuk who says, ‘make it simple’, ’make is micro’ and ‘make it memorable’.

Next Choreography group will have a role in how their festival next year is marketed and using platforms like this blog will allow them to tell their story.

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Book of Words Session 11

After all the talking, thinking, reflecting, absorbing, I felt that it would be great for this week’s session of Next Choreography should focus more on doing – a glimpse into next term, and a physical drawing together of many elements from different sessions within this term.

We did things with eyes closed and ears open, ears closed and eyes open, eyes closed and touching, eyes closed walking backwards. In fact lots of walking backwards! Opening all the senses, opening the possibility of sensing through our backs. Drawing on our need for negotiation, co-operation, and peripheral vision. We composed short things and manipulated them, we put them organised ourselves through various different systems – we watched/experienced the system at work. I was reminded of Ruth Little, Lucy Cash and Charlie Morrissey all rolled into one! We took over the building in two wiggly lines moving backwards, and without realising it or planning, our activity became a performative experience for all of the audience members entering the building to attend the Crossing Borders talk. Quite lovely! I’m looking forward to all that next term might bring.

Here is our book of words for the session

Book of Words Session 11
Walking backwards in lines
Walking Backwards in lines
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What is a dramaturg? What is dramaturgy? – Ruth Little

Ping pong balls, Spirals, Shell from the beach, Energy, Argument, Order, Disorder, Repetition, Nature, Winter, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Everywhere, Chaos, Simple rules, Pattern, Rearrange, Repeat.

Living organisms all function in the same way, we look for patterns and change of patterns. For example the change of pattern in our voice in conversation keeps the other participants interested.

Nothing is new! Even our dreams are a jumble of everything in our past experience.

Although I have definitely not got a deep and detailed grasp on what a dramaturg is, even brushing the surface of dramaturgy provides hours of exploration and realisation. From what I gathered in our session, the role of a dramaturg working in dance is to make sense of the movement. By looking for patterns, connections and relations to act as roots to bring work together in a greater understanding.

A dramaturg can work alongside a company, a director/choreographer to dig deeper into an idea.

The most interesting example I took from the session on dramaturgy was a picture of a huge tree with a massive trunk lots of branches and filled with green leaves. Underneath the picture showed all the roots spreading through the surface of the ground to a much wider proximity. The leaves and branches represent the finished work, and the roots represent the the research of the dramaturg.

Ruth Little’s session made me realise that anything and everything is related in day to day life. It’s fascinating how closely everything is related! I believe this is very inspiring when creating work.

tree roots
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Book of words Week 10

Jane Packham came to Next Choreography to open a whole world of social media, technology and communications. Are we ever off the hook? How often do you look at your phone each day? Could you live without it? Who do you follow and why? How can we tap into all of that online, connected possibility to help us generate broader and bigger audiences in the arts? Lots of questions.

This was our book of words from the session.

Book of Words session 10
Communications session, week 10
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Art and Science…

What an interesting few weeks it’s been with Next Choreography, since joining the group in week 7 I’ve been on a wonderful journey with them exploring live performance, cross art form connections, universal inter-relatedness and the all consuming craze of social media….

Here is a photo of Next Choreography participants during the session with Dramaturg Ruth Little.

 

IMG_0967

I found her talk to be very inspiring and know I wasn’t alone when after the session I was left thinking about all the ‘possibilities’ within arts making. Something she said which has been whirring around my mind is that there is strong link between art and science, both mediums explore the universe and what’s in it, but scientists tend to follow a methodology, and artists follow intuition.

Let that be a lesson learnt. Take risks. Experiment. Explore. For even when we fail, we are rewarded by the chance we took as we learn how to do things differently…

 

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Dramaturgy is…

We’ve had a bit of a star studded term really, including sessions from Siobhan Davies, Charlie Morrissey, Lucy Cash and most recently Ruth Little. We’ve been to see Mirror City at the Hayward Gallery where we were lucky enough to be introduced to the exhibition by Frank Bock, and a couple of weeks ago we saw Jasmin Vardimon Company at Sadlers Wells. Tonight marketing expert, Jane Packham is coming to share some of her wisdom with us, and the first term of Next Choreography will end with a trip to the South Bank to see Candoco.

I want to share a few insights that I gleaned last week about dramaturgy from Ruth Little. Ruth has worked as a dramaturg for theatre and dance companies and with artists across the UK and internationally for over 15 years. Her approach to dramaturgy draws on the sciences of chaos and complexity and on the dynamic structures and processes of living systems. She currently works closely with Akram Khan and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui amongst many other artists.

So, a brief summation of some (but by no means all) of my notes

Dramaturgy is something that you ‘do’ not something that you ‘are’.
Dramaturgy is the relationship between movement and meaning.
Dramaturgy looks for patterns, looks for moments of changes, looks for possible meanings and impossible meanings.
Dramaturgy keeps the questions of the work alive.
Dramaturgy keeps feeding the questions that keep the work alive.
Dramaturgy keeps the flow of ideas flowing. It is an enabling role that believes in liquid networks.
Dramaturgy is a way of thinking.
Dramaturgy is ecological thinking (systems thinking) – small tip: if you say this to anyone who you’ve not met before, who doesn’t know anything about dramaturgy, then perhaps dash away after making this statement…it can take a while to explain fully and that is quite tiring!

Creative processes can’t be short-circuited: sitting with problems and watching the system is really important (though not always a comfortable experience).

Energy within any system dissipates over time – it’s no surprise then that things fizzle out – quite re-assuring really…

Thank you Ruth as always for sharing your huge breadth of knowledge and curiosity. Inspiring stuff.

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