After completing 14 hours of rehearsals, for community dance work Into The Light – part of LGBT 5O – and with just, a week-and-a-half until showtime, it feels like the right time, to spend a few moments to reflect on where we are at.
Into The Light is described as “a fast-forward version of LGBT+ history” according to Gary Clarke, and will be performed twice as part of the Duckie Summer Tea Party on the final day of the LGBT 50 commemorations.
The process began for me a little bumpy it would be fair to say, I wasn’t sure I was really ready to commit to the project, to let my barriers down and really go for it. I may like dancing in my local after a drink or three, but this is so far away from that.
I decided to sign up for Into The light because I wanted to challenge myself, I wanted to be able to say I achieved something new. A few of my friends had signed up so I knew I wouldn’t be going in completely on my own. If things got difficult there would be a cushion of familiarity and friendship to fall back on. Into the light is a big commitment not just in terms of blocking out weekdays and weekends for rehearsals, but also committing to the process. There is a particular guided learning which you must accept and follow, in order to get the best out of the process.
Participants and Professionals
The group numbers to forty-plus participants: participants of every age, gender, body-type and persuasion, with eight professional dancers, supporting choreographer Gary Clarke, to convey, implement and deliver his vision.
What I have found remarkable is the almost organic way that the choreography has grown and developed. Starting with just a few moves in the studio that expressed something of our own personality… I was channeling stadium rockers Queen, with my move, which is now part of the actual thing. For the seventies section there are entire phrases that each couple have devised themselves. They have gone from participant to choreographer without even knowing it.
The groups break out and rehearse their parts, making it the best it can be, then everyone comes together and shares what they have created. This sharing although nerve-inducing, is done in a fully supportive way, with the rest of the group encouraging and cheering you on. The camaraderie within the group is really strong, there is a feeling of equality, acceptance and understanding between each other and between us and the professional dancers.
Learning and Having Fun
Some of the dance is very big and theatrical, powerful gestures that reference the strength of purpose, courage and resolve, that key figures showed at the time. Some of the names and moments that are reflected upon in the work, are immediately obvious, but others are new to many people, so not only are we learning dance steps, but history as well.
One of my favourite things – and there are many – about being part of Into the Light, is the dance language: odd words and phrases, that act as an aide memoir for all the different steps and movements.
Start from your pigeons… Get into tableaus… Point and Peace – Point and Peace…
Finding the Magic
There is also another kind of commitment you have to make, a commitment to yourself that you will take it seriously, that you will be focussed and work hard: you will stay in the moment and allow the magic to happen.
In today’s session we spent a while exploring and experimenting, with some close contact work. The particular sequence depicts love and loss and is in direct contrast, to what comes before, being that this is improvised, intimate and deeply moving. Gary Clarke described the human sculpture effect, as being like the beating heart of the work.
There are still two and a half decades to look at, costume fittings, tech and dress rehearsals and the all-important location visit. We are rehearsing in the Performing Arts Theatre and dance studios, inside the Horncastle Building at Hull College. It is all very well being able to dance in a studio but it is another thing altogether, to then scale that up to Queen Victoria Square, in the middle of a Saturday afternoon, with thousands of onlookers. And a live band, did I mention the live band?
With each and every session it is a joy to watch, each and every person gain confidence, begin to think like a dancer… one of the best quotes I’ve heard from one of the leaders is:
‘When I was watching today I didn’t see participants and professionals all I saw was a space full of dancers.’
INTO THE LIGHT is a new dance work choreographed by award-winning Gary Clarke to celebrate 50 years since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
Part of Duckie’s Summer Tea Party, the piece will be performed twice from 2pm and 5pm July 29 Come on down, have a proper cuppa and celebrate LGBT50 with us!