Tag Archives: contemporary dance

My Cultural Week – worlds, writing, wavy realities

My week of worlds, writing and wavy realities began with live music at the Ropewalk with my folks. We saw Iain Matthews (original member Fairport Convention) playing something of a hometown show, warmly appreciated by the Saturday night crowd.

Sunday saw me in Beverley at the start of the Stage 4 Beverley week-long arts festival, workshopping with fellow writers on the themes of happiness, dialect and place, with Clint Wastling and Julian Woodford (High Wolds Poetry) The event was held in the Velo cafe bar on a very wet and windy afternoon. The ‘reward’ for doing the workshop was a taste of the limelight, with a moment or two on the East Riding Theatre stage, in front of a live audience of fellow writers, family and friends later that week.

Wednesday I read three poems from Foxholes, the svelte volume, I hope will be published this year. I opened with ‘Canopy Cradle’ (Lost and Found) adding a touch of theatre to my reading, enjoying immensely the feeling of being back on the ERT stage: the place where my Leonora Carrington show ran for three nights in the before times. 

Lucky us we grabbed the last tickets in the house for the main event that night, namely a visit from the poet laureate Simon Armitage. How would I describe him? Northern, very northern. Also he gave good value reading a whole punch of poems, long ones, short ones, found ones; ones that pulled on the heart strings; ones translated from The Odyssey, proving his scholarly credentials to the great and the good of the Beverley literary set.

My favourite and the one I told my hairdresser about the next day, as she shaped my hair into the perfect bob, was the one that began, ‘He splashed down in rough seas off Spurn Point’ ‘The English Astronaut’ plays with nostalgia and pays homage to the slightly less glamorous, and sometimes slightly less successful British space programme. Have a listen on Poetry Archive. 

Sat in the row just in front of us, was a Beverley-based musician called Tom and we got talking as you do waiting for the show. It turned out he’d seen my Leonora show four years ago: I mourn the time lost due to the pandemic, so much impetus lost. Not only had he been in the audience, but the potted history in imagery and verse, had inspired him to go and discover the lost surrealist’s work for himself. He described how Leonora became one of his favourite artists in those intervening years, so much so that he now has two of Leonora’s prints hanging proudly in his home. I was delighted by this brilliant revelation: something I had created, something I had dreamed up, had inspired someone so. 

Thursday

You find me at Humber Street Gallery to see how dancers Emily Gray and Tamar Draper, respond to the exhibition ‘Show Real’ by visual artist Kara Chin. Gallery One is filled with the strangest contraptions, torso-less legs flex and pulse, a deconstructed sandwich drips with grease, an innocent looking coffee table with glasses laid out on it, rigged to move and shake in a poltergeist kind of way; a coffee cup with perpetual steam; a suspended apple, an unappetising plate of grey food, and a gloriously anarchic revolving Wotsits chandelier. My friend Matt Sutton who took the picture below, described how he had seen the way facsimile is used in food advertising, how drinks glasses are sprayed with some kind of gel, to give the appearance of continuous cool moisture, but how it makes the soda taste awful for the sun-kissed, bright-eyed, unreal looking actor.

Show Real by Kara Chin @ Humber St Gallery – More Details

Emily and Tamar staged a series of interventions in and amongst the paraphernalia incorporating different choreographic languages, that spoke to me about the erasure of self, moving towards a startling and unnerving robotic climax. The limb control and machine-like movement was faultless, the accompanying soundscape of droning gears and motors added to the cyborg illusion. 

Front: Emily Ward @ Humber Street Gallery

Upstairs bathed in cerise and orange light Jamal Sterret, blew us away with an outstanding performance, defying human physiognomy, contorting his body, sliding across the space in jaw-dropping ways to hip-hop and ragga beats. I’d done my research, checked out some of the Nottingham-based movement artist’s work online and discovered his dance style was ‘Bruk Up and Flex’. It comes from dancer George Adams, who in the 1990s brought a kind of freestyle movement from the Jamaican dance halls, to the hip-hop clubs of Brooklyn. ‘Bruk’ is a patois word meaning broken. (Enough of the history lesson) I’ll try to describe more of what I saw from Jamal… athletic, gymnastic, ridiculous levels of control, a powerful energy sustained throughout, transitioning from floor to standing to floor again like pouring syrup.  

Jamal Sterret @ Humber Street Gallery – See Profile

Friday

Tonight battling storm Eunice and my nerves, I’m back at the gallery on Humber Street for the script-in-hand performances of new work from last year’s writers’ group lead by playwright Tom Wells and Middle Child Theatre. Eight short pieces written by a range of people new to play writing, performed by a cast of professional actors and directed by Middle Child’s Paul Smith. 

I had the piece ‘Tanya and Lisa B’ listed third in the night’s programme, and it suddenly hit me as I walked in the gallery door exactly what it was we were here for. I’ve done many a reading as you will know, standing up and sharing my words with an audience is almost like second nature. Handing over your work, having someone else read it, that’s a whole new ball of wax. It was a first for me, and for many of the other writers. I was simultaneously nervous, anxious, and excited.

Everyone shone: the actors, the writers and, considering the tempest outside, we managed a pretty good turnout. The writing standard was high across the board, many had pretty hard-hitting content warnings and dealt with adult themes, however the actors were still able to extract the humour and humanity out of some of the most bleakest of set ups.

Jess Morley, Georgia Ham at Humber Street Gallery – Picture by @iWilburnArt

I was hanging on every word, leaning forward utterly absorbed in Jess Morley and Georgia Ham’s performances, during my scene. ‘Tanya and Lisa B’ takes place in an NHS drop-in centre waiting room. There is a surprise meeting between two former friends, who haven’t seen each other since they were in the hostel system together a decade or more before. They find themselves reminiscing about their lives then and now and the contrasting paths they seem to have taken.

I knew what was coming, I’d written it. At the same time I simply had no idea what was coming, it was like experiencing it for the first time, in a parallel universe or something. The way the two actors had built on the dialogue, adding a look; a certain gesture, something in the way a line was delivered; was thrilling to me. The laughs, the pauses, the lines that suggested that more was going on underneath, all were handled brilliantly which meant Tanya and Lisa B felt believable, and their story was really brought to life.

I was on cloud nine. It’s the strangest feeling. I can’t really describe it. It’s not like the adrenaline high after a good performance of your own, no it is not that, it is something else. A writer friend of mine described it as ‘immediate validation for your talent’, that’s certainly one way of describing it. The comments and feedback I received from the actors and the audience afterwards, made my cheeks glow cherry red. Last night was glorious, so huge thank you to Tom Wells and Middle Child for continuing to support new writing.

Saturday 

Finally, in what is a leviathan blog post admittedly, I am just about to go out to 87 Gallery (formerly Artlink) to see how dance company Tamar & Jo respond to the installation work currently housed in the newly-renovated Princes Avenue gallery. Worlds Apart by Aristotle Roufanis is a digital work with lots of head scratching tech behind it, a work that takes place in the real world and in a fabricated world, creating an arresting comment on isolation and loneliness. Aristotle confronts how the negativity manifests and proliferates in the online world, how we feed it with endless screen time; and the ultimately destructive way, we have allowed the ‘technology of the unreal’, to infiltrate every aspect of our lives. It’s not easy to describe the work, it has so many layers and tentacles asking questions about what is real and what is construct.

Artist Site: https://aristotle.photography/about

All week I have found myself in this liminal space, between reality and non-reality… and after many months of lockdowns and restrictions, all this activity, all this going out and doing and seeing, none of it seems real at all. I catch myself making strange social faux pas, as I try to retrain my brain, to remember what used to be instinctive behaviours.

Look out for more from Worlds Apart one of the more unusual and innovative visual works to come to Hull in the last five years. I have this week joined an artistic programme called Streams (led by Critical Fish in partnership with 87 Gallery) which met on Tuesday evening. It is a short course designed to explore how we can build knowledge, to hone and develop, through mentoring and support, the faculties and creative skills needed to critically respond to artwork. We are very fortunate to have Aristotle’s multi-dimensional work as a starting point. 

Next week the diary is a whole lot lighter.  

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Thick & Tight’s Ten Year Show delivers boundary breaking work

To mark their 10th Anniversary of Thick & Tight founders Eleanor Perry and Daniel Hay-Gordon curated Short & Sweet, a dance show that appeals to the queer sensibility, underpinned by strong ideas around identity, inclusion and authenticity. Working with a group of dance artists, the classically trained dancers (Rambert School) presented a series of short vignettes, that cut through the noise and grandiosity that sometimes gets associated with dance, and delivered beauty, realness, risqué humour, meticulous detail, high camp hi-jinks, all finished off with a delicious parody.

Photo by Darren Evans

It wasn’t until after the first performance it dawned on me that during the intervening years of blackout I’d forgotten how this kind of dance show works: choreographed by one person or in this case one company Thick & Tight; and how you are afforded a window into a variety of dance styles, characters, storytelling and body shapes. Nine works all completely different each performance of the highest quality. 

It would be unfair to both artists and future audiences to give away all the secrets but I would like to make a few comments as its been so long since I’ve seen any dance. First the opening piece which in the programme was called Two Moths in Real Time, but, which I hadn’t read, so I mistook their antennae in the costuming, for that of retro-fitted robots. 

Instead of insects I saw two melancholy android figures each slowly coming to life, discovering and learning movement in order to interact with the world and each other, a building of energy and courage expressed through bolder sequences. Then, dramatically each becoming their own ghosts. The lighting effect creating ethereal shadows, imprinted on my mind like a dusty hologram. In hindsight, having read the description, I can see now how the flickering movements, the emphasis on the lights, might be assigned to the natural world. 

I must stress that the movement in no way felt stiff or robotic or repetitive, but there was a sense the intention was coming from an alien place which I mistook for mechanical. The space between human and non-human, the constructed and the natural, is a constant fascination and underlies my misreading of this work. 

Sid Vicious may seem an unlikely queer icon but delinquency and innocence are so often endearing, and punk was a performance all about attitude so why the hell not? Connor Scott embodies Sid like a second skin, like your favourite bedroom pin-up come to life: it’s sexy; it’s dirty, the choreography is gloriously louche and pure rock n roll. In a similar vein Twiggy is brought back in that iconic dress and boots, the movement, the look, the attitude is so exacting, that it feels like she is right there in the room: meticulous studies both. 

Azara Meghie brings her own story through spoken word, into her snapshots of Grace Jones with hi- energy routines sending rapturous ripples of appreciation among the exuberant Lowry crowd, whereas the legendary lover Grigori Rasputin has everyone in fits, with a dance that will live long in the memory.  

Daniel and Eleanor have taken lip-syncing to the next level with some of the works in this show, none more so than in an imagined meeting (I assume it’s imagined) between John Cage and Elaine Page – a more avant-garde pairing you will not find –  a tour-de-force in portraiture and parody, simultaneously surreal, nostalgic and utterly beguiling. 

Short & Sweet by Thick and Tight delivers excellence beginning to end proving time and again, that dance can be anything and everything, and that everything is dance. 

For Tour Dates and Full Cast : https://www.thickandtight.com/short-sweet

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GARY CLARKE COMPANY – 50 PORTRAITS

I’m writing on behalf of Gary Clarke, Artistic Director of Gary Clarke Company, to ask for your help and support with our new collaboration this Autumn between choreographer Gary Clarke, photographer David Severn, and the LGBT+ community.

Gary Clarke Company is a dance theatre company based in South Yorkshire, known for creating powerful, national award-winning touring work with and amongst marginalised communities.

Please use this link to donate to 50 Portraits https://gofund.me/1c2186db

Following Gary’s award-winning COAL and Wasteland, the final part of the trilogy, DETENTION (to be created in 2023) will cover the personal stories and experiences of 50 members of the LGBT+ community who were affected by the controversial anti-gay legislation Section 28. 

To accompany the show, we would like to create a new touring photography exhibition called 50 Portraits which will be presented in theatre foyers, gallery spaces, community centres and on-line, will be available to the general public for free and will be created to help deepen the context of the live show, raising awareness and visibility of LGBT+ lives.

Each of the 50 contributors will have their portrait taken by acclaimed photographer David Severn, who is well known for his striking and beautiful portrayal of working-class Britain. In order to raise the funding for this photoshoot we have set up a GoFundMe page and we would be grateful if you could donate and share the link via your own social media, friends and colleagues in order to help us realise our next important work with the LGBT+ community. 

Thank you for your support https://gofund.me/1c2186db

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Live Dance at #PopUpPatio York Theatre Royal

Dance Artists Show The Way Forward in Time of Covid. Friday Aug 14th I travelled to York to check out some live dance performance. [Feels good to say that again] A specially curated, production by York Dance Space to launch York Theatre Royal’s #PopUpPatio event series. Continue reading

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New Term New Twist For Adult Contemporary Dance Class

Tamar Draper and Jo Ashbridge invite you to join them for the Sept – Dec term at State of the Arts in Hull’s old town. Over twelve weeks participants will work with Tamar & Jo on several short pieces of choreography in-class, with an informal end of project ‘sharing’ evening for those who wish to show what they have learned during the term.  Continue reading

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Lithuania’s Aura Rewrite the Rules at Transgressions 2019 

Ar galiu su jumis pašokti? Contemporary Dance returned to the Live Art Space in spectacular fashion with the arrival of Aura Dance Theatre to Ferens Art Gallery this weekend. Saturday evening at Transgressions 2019 saw the first ever visit to the UK by Lithuania’s leading dance company Aura led by Birutė Letukaitė. Continue reading

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Hull Choreographic Prize 2018 Winners Announced

First thing to say Hull Dance Prize is never boring; whether it’s exploding water melons, blinding tech; audience participatory ballet class; a fresh choreographic language with all the feels. Weds 14th Nov saw the 5th Hull Dance Choreographic Prize taking place on the big stage at Hull Truck. Continue reading

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Hull Dance Prize 2017 Winners

(Post delayed but I’m a completist so couldn’t just leave unpublished) Hull Dance Prize 2017 happened. No really it did, last Saturday inside Hull Truck, an esteemed panel deliberated until announcing the winner Grim Visions. Continue reading

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Performing Gender and Gender Moves at Yorkshire Dance

I wanted to write about taking part in Gender Moves an LGBT+ community dance project run by Yorkshire Dance, exploring issues around gender, identity, activism and dance. Gender Moves is part of Performing Gender an international enquiry into these media panic inducing, culturally charged issues, working with artists from Spain, Netherlands, Slovenia, Italy and the U.K.  Continue reading

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Dance… it is cheaper than therapy : Adult Contemporary Dance Class in Hull

An adult contemporary dance class with a difference, taking place every Tuesday night in Hull. People of all abilities are welcomed. Within the current group we have complete beginners, dancers trying out a new class; people who used to dance when they were younger, but haven’t danced for a while…  Continue reading

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