From Votes for Women to Buddhist mythology, via Tango: two months in dramaturgy

One thing I love about my dramaturgy work is the privilege of being able to dip into so many artists’ making processes in quick succession. Each artist gives me the opportunity to learn new things, to get excited about their process and their ideas, and inspires me hugely as I go about my work.

Here are a few things I’ve been splashing about in over the last couple of months:

 

  • I’ve had a crash course in the history of women’s suffrage (courtesy of Reading University’s Dr Jacqui Turner), working alongside Jennifer Stokes and Reside Dance Company to create a new outdoor work. Funded by the Women’s Vote Centenary fund, the piece explores the story of the Representation of the People Act in 1918, which for the first time gave some women the vote. I didn’t ever think that I would be co-imagining ways of showing the so-called ‘Cat and Mouse Act’, which hounded hunger-striking suffrage activists, through the medium of contemporary dance! Jacqui wrote a very insightful write-up of her experience working with us.
reside dance 6 feb
Reside Dance. Photo by Brenda Sandilands
  • I was introduced to the world of storyboards, film stock, voiceovers, shoots and sound mixing when working with Kabecca Films on their short dance film. It tells the story of Lisa Sang’s life through dance, and how she dances through life, and will be released next month. Dramaturgically, I learned that the whole filming process from planning shots to editing footage could have a lot to offer the live performance-making process.
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Who knew dramaturgy involved graphs? #lookslikescience
  • I’ve had the privilege of chairing a panel of extremely knowledgeable people sharing their insights and interests about The Mahajanaka Dance Drama, a collaborative project from composer Sebastian Reynolds‘ and Neon Dance. They are working with a team of dancers and musicians from the UK and Thailand, creating a re-telling of an ancient Buddhist myth through Western contemporary and classical Thai dance and music. Prof Fiona MacintoshProf Jas Elsner and Dr Sarah Shaw, all from Oxford University, wondered about the role of ritual and narrative through ancient and modern performance practice and spirituality at a talk at the Ashmolean museum, during the ‘Imagining the Divine’ exhibition. I’m really looking forward to getting into the studio with choreographer Adrienne Hart and Sebastian Reynolds later in March for the final rehearsals before the piece premieres at Wiltshire Music Centre on 2 April.

 

  • I learned a basic Tango step during my Dance & Academia seminar with Prof Nicky Clayton and Clive Wilkins, who spoke about mental time travel, memory and the ethics of partner dance, amongst other things, as part of the “What is Dance without an Audience?” series. The diverse group of attendees included people from the worlds of ballet, Morris dancing, Salsa, architecture, history of science and law, so we had a very lively discussion.
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Nicky Clayton and Clive Wilkins

Coming up: lots more to learn and to be excited about! On 3 March, I’ve got the luxury of seven fantastic speakers coming for the ‘What is Dance without an Audience’ final conference event. We’ll be taking part in the Visual Matrix Method workshop, learning about Bharatanatyam and clay pot throwing, thinking about viewing dance on screen, asking what role the dance critic plays, and considering how audiences might transform in ritual or ceremonial performances. Still time to book tickets!

I’m hugely excited to have begun working with Johanna Nuutinen, a Helsinki-based dance artist, on a new work which explores ideas, emotions and experiences around waiting. Johanna received South East Dance’s Collaborate award through the Jerwood-funded Dramaturg in Residence scheme to enable her to work with me.

Also, I can’t wait to finally join Estela Merlos and Thomasin Gulgec for a couple of days playing in the studio, as part of their residency at Swindon Dance. I met Estela back in October when I was guest facilitator for the Hatch & Scratch performance at Pavilion Dance South West, and I’m really looking forward to getting to know this duo’s work better.

I have been stimulated in all my thinking through my new post at Reading University, where I have spent the last two months talking to a broad range of academics and professional staff, imagining how creative arts practice might enter the life of this diverse and sometimes overlooked institution. And naturally, creativity forms part of everyday life (especially during mealtimes) when you have a two-year-old running the show.

 

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