Pavilion Dance South West and Foundation Community Dance present The Integrated Dance Summit, 16th, 17th May at Pavilion Dance Bournemouth. Sixty nine artistic programmers from centres across the country and beyond converged by the sea to spend two days in conversation, engaging with future work. Enjoying previews of integrated dance, attendees ate and viewed work en plein air at Pavilion Dance overlooking the seafront, in between Ocean Room Theatre showings and Seafront Studio discussions. The beautiful venue, seaside atmosphere, colourful food and impeccable hosting provided the perfect atmosphere to get the creative juices flowing.
The summit was more than a programme of pitches from choreographers selling their wares. The whole event took the form of a choreolab in itself where attendees shared, debated, explored and interrogated contemporary work and current topics of debate involving integrated dance and the industry. A melting pot of inspirational ideas and future events, the Summit was a whistle stop tour through integrated dance covering a range of styles and multi-disciplines from circus, speech and autobiography, physical theatre and more classical techniques. After each preview and pitch, three writers presented creative pieces, choreographic provocations and criticism drawing each post show chat to a close.
The Awakening Stopgap Dance Company
Kicking off the summit with a cool intensity under the heat of the spring sun, Amy Butler, Nadenh Poan, Hannah Sampson and Tomos Young perform The Awakening, choreographed by learning disabled dance artist Chris Pavia. A tribe of four individuals with mixed physicalities and abilities form a group identity, marking their territory and strapping their hands, in preparation for battle. The tribe of dancers perform a ritual of their own making creating a territorial sense of ownership over the space. A surprisingly sensitive scene of support emerges amongst the sounds of the sea and eerie sirens of a passing vehicle. A series of simple motifs repeat, fully embodied but not fully explored choreographically. The Awakening holds much potential for experimentation suggested in a series of What Ifs in post-show discussion. The piece is grounded by a force pulling between ground and sky. What would happen to this ritual to the sun if it was performed in the rain, or a dusting of sand or in two inches of water within the marked out square. New and alternative or unexpected intentions might awaken if the territory was constantly changing, travelling on a journey about a site with the audience following.
(i)land Marc Brew Company
In an evocative and beautiful piece, Marc Brew, with performers Rob Heaslip and Rebecca Evans occupy a mound of sand fashioned to allow figures to inhabit a hollow beneath. The sand drift forms a parallel universe, a manmade beach by the real life sea. Scratching, building, searching, basking, the characters discover objects with endless possibilities. I feel the same sun on my cheek as Heaslip reclines on his sandy bed. In this unique location of the South Terrace at Pavilion Dance, I felt stranded on this (i)land too, with the soundtrack of waves ebbing and flowing behind and the horizon in the distance, the audience and performers were surrounded by an ocean. A sinuous sea creature interrupts a leisurely scene bathing her body with sandy showers both luring and alluring. There is something sinister about this trio; round in circles they go, safe beneath their mast which creates a sense of place and certainty in a scene of isolation. A pointing motif alternates between searching, longing, interrogating, measuring, grasping and owning. Manipulation and development of motifs with attention to detail would embellish this piece further. The foundations exist to provide a greater sense of play with the objects and characterisation, to make it meatier. Like Auguste Rodin’s sculptures emerging from the rough and ready rock from which they were made, Mar Brew and his two companions emerge from the sand and inhabit it in a way that makes no apology for its environment. What would happen if this yellow mirage appeared in the middle of the woods or in a dock, surrounded by steely office blocks? The possibilities are endless however the six tonne weight of the set and its requirements are at risk of weighing this piece down.
Falling in Love with Frida Caroline Bowditch
Falling in Love with Frida is a semi-autobiographical conversation between two artists, one here in this world, one not. Caroline Bowditch opens the show with a monologue, laying on a table like a corpse awaiting a post-mortem, instead inspecting herself in her hand held mirror. Using Frida Kahlo as a vehicle to reflect on life, love and legacy, Bowditch frankly reminisces on her sexual endeavours interspersed with movement phrases from dancers Welly O’Brien and Nicole Guarino and a sign language interpreter. Stories were made tangible through sights, smells, sounds and slurps. A somebody receives a paper heart, a shot of Tequila is downed by everyone and a tale is shared. Bowditch creates a juxtaposition of beauty and the grotesque, pleasure and pain. The celebratory tone and matter of fact attitude can go further to reach the depths of Kahlo’s tragic life which can be held in starker contrast to the fun and shenanigans. The personal narratives of the performers on stage and their role as a chorus to Bowditch were at times unclear. As brightly coloured and multi-layered as Kahlo’s portraits, Falling in Love with Frida offers a portrait of the individual and offers an envelope, a story and a mirror to ourselves.
The choreolab provided a creative opportunity for integrated artists to make work with producers from Pavilion Dance South West, South East Dance and GDance and a chosen collaborator. In line with the creative and supportive tone of the event, the previews above were billed alongside work-in-progress showings. Facilitated feedback sessions gave an opportunity to engage with a knowledgeable audience to look at modes of making work and possible directions to take at this stage in the process.
Kate Marsh and Welly O’Brien question the gaze of the performer, the audience member and of humanity. Playing with bodies and body parts, sometimes replacing missing limbs, it is a gentle, exquisite and inquisitive piece exploring their partnership on stage. Mincing about, dressed in stripes Marsh and O’Brien emanate a quirky mixture of movement somewhere between a clown and a convict. The charming duo share weight, support, and sometimes body parts. Bathed in a warm, dim light that both protects and reveals, the sassy pair exuded a curious elegance and attitude.
Mark Smith of Deaf Men Dancing, performed with Anthony Snowden and Kevin Jewell, looking at tinnitus and how it is felt and experienced by the body. Inspired by a stop-start soundtrack elements of the work were invasive and relentless; silence, noise, noise, silence. Motifs and gestures developed from signing embellished the choreography, whilst disrupting codes and meanings. A certain fluidity of movement grows in this piece surrounded by invisible barriers which heighten as two dancers become three. Divided into sections which don’t marry with each other, there is room to focus on the piece as a whole and each component’s purpose. Signs, signals and actions end in a handclasp that doesn’t happen leaving the audience with an apprehension for more.
Noemi Lakmaier and Rachel Gomme’s focus outside Pavilion Dance captured passers by and attendees at lunch on the Saturday. A cloth of the deepest red ran like an umbilical chord between two dancers from one end of the terrace to another. Moving so slowly that one appeared in a new place without noticing. Their floor-work incorporated found objects in the space, working up to two chairs. It is positive to see durational art showcased in the outside spaces of Pavilion Dance, a genre often sidelined.
Conversations with Dystonia / A Sense of Beauty Arc Dance
Conversations with Dystonia, is an autobiographical piece looking at Suzie Birchwood’s relationship with her condition as it changes her body. Consisting of aerial work on a steel frame of two horizontal scaffolding poles, Birchwood is lifted and manipulated through her journey, balancing and swinging with a classical flavour to the styling. The fragility of the body is heightened against the metal scaffold, once a toy, it becomes a crutch as she alternates between it and a living breathing version in Peter Baldwin and Tyrone Herlihy. Tableaux’s appear and dissolve as bodies spiral and contort around the bars. The cold dark scene is imbued with graceful care by the sensitive relationships and easy lyricism between the group. As a whole, Conversations with Dystonia was repetitive and inward looking. An extra ingredient would shake up this piece, perhaps a collaboration with a Hip Hop dancer with their own story to tell would add pluralities of genres and narratives to a static scene.
Similar in vocabulary but more colourful in tone, A Sense of Beauty brings to life a series of Chagall paintings. The three performers above, are joined by dancer Rosie Leak whose own learning difficulties and Downs Syndrome add an interesting dimension to an overall style defined by the unique physicalities and abilities of each performer. Nimbly weaving through a ladder frame to live hums and strums, the dancers created a lullaby of caresses stroking the air and balancing in an invisible magnetic field. A light hearted series of fun and games, a heavy beat brings a leaden tone resolved with a tender trio between humans and ladders. A golden light bathes four figures as they move with a breath, a lightness and a haunting delicacy indicative of Chagall’s painted worlds.
The Point at Which it Last Made Sense Robin Dingemans and Nick Bryson
The strongest and most developed piece of the weekend used film, speech and objects to deconstruct images, messages and commercial mechanisms. Nick Bryson is joined by James O’Shea and Rosa Vreeling who question and confront notions of gender and sexuality as their dynamic relationship is played out before the audience. The Point at Which it Last Made Sense is relevant to contemporary performance addressing key issues in society and in line with current trends in multi-disciplinary work. Transferring images into words, speech into emotions and manikins into humans assumptions are turned on their head as the audience is challenged to make sense of the visual paradoxes before them. Particularly engaging was a mesmerising micro duet of heads and hands. The pair manipulate and slyly communicate in series of minimal movements and facial expressions evoking a classical bust at odds with the scene of shop manikins. Dislocation prevails between products and functions, bodies and emotions in a strong satirical work leaving viewers with questions and meanings still to unpick.
Creative response from the day:
A perfect torso, but his eyes are fiery.
A look that changes a thousand times without moving;
A Mona Lisa, a mass produced martyr, a pop-art Christ, a pieta, a Michelangelo’s thinker.
You are in great company with these mass produced and miss-understood icons.
How many figures make a body here?
Micro-choreographies of enormous proportion are nuanced and succinct as is each the piece as a whole.
Summing up the Summit
The Integrated Summit provides a looking glass into the forthcoming year of integrated and site-specific performance. The attendees are engaged, vocal, reflective and forward thinking. Deryck Newland is skilled at facilitating feedback and discussion in any direction which is key to the success of the event and the conference as a whole forms a driving force in the promotion and productivity of challenging new works in Integrated Dance.
Rebecca JS Nice