Sync Fun from Judith

As part of our involvement in SYNC South East (http://www.syncsoutheast.co.uk/) Joy and I went to Milton Keynes to be part of Pitch.  Although the dancers couldn’t be there as they were deep in rehearsals, they were in the form of our film of Trespass and the wonderful photos from Christopher Parkes (http://www.christophotographic.co.uk/) as you can see here:

Difficult to miss us ! Joy was fantastic and managed to get three pages of new signees to our mailing list and it was great to have time to chat with so many people. A good day in all despite transport difficulties… lots going on and  a range of art work to see.

 

Posted by Judith Hibberd

Sho’s excitment about our new outdoor production “Spun”

StopGAP Dance Company started doing R&D for our new outdoor show ‘Spun Productions’ in December last year (2010). What we have got now is looking promising, and we are on course for our creation and rehearsals over May and June 2011.

‘Spun’ is being commissioned by Accentuate (Legacy Trust, South East), Woking Dance Festival and Foyle Foundation, and it will be a show full of surprises and wackiness, as most of our shows are…! The piece will be choreographed by Lucy Bennett, and is set to follow the rise and fall of a celebrity wannabe, and multi-layers of other characters’ stories our hero encounters along the way. The show will draw on how the media has encouraged ‘instant success culture’, and our surreal experience of our celebrity status in Albania! The show will also involve MacArthur Park sang by Richard Harris – courtesy of Universal Music and we think the lyrics are going to be very apt.

I’m excited about revealing and exploring how ‘being excellent’ involves hard graft and honesty, and it doesn’t just spring out of nowhere.

We are also very excited about our Apprentices Anna and Hannah being part of this project. They have developed so quickly this year, and we feel they are ready to take on this challenge.

Tour dates will follow soon!

Posted by Sho Shibata

Sho’s outdoor plans and exchanging experiences in France

StopGAP has been invited on to ZEPA network last December, and have been given an opportunity to do a creative exchange with Ballet Chaises, a disability performing arts group in Amiens, France. This relationship has been initiated by the festival in Ameins, and Winchester Hatfair. The aim of this exchange is for StopGAP to inject new and fresh ideas for the French group, and for them to teach more about performing in outdoor spaces.

We had our first exchange back in December 2010, and are due for another one in June 2011, when we perform our old outdoor piece ‘Tracking’ at the festival in Amiens. The festival in France is a very exciting opportunity for British outdoor artists, as this is the first festival ever to dedicate a whole weekend on programming British work. We are very proud to be part of this programme. We hope to meet many representatives from international festivals, and put our names forward to new opportunities!

Posted by Sho Shibata

Next week, the next step in developing future integrated dancers

StopGAP has been passionate about our responsibility to contribute to developing the next generation of integrated dancers. With such a small company infrastructure and the national and international touring workload of dancers, we have been frustrated about not being able to commit to leading regular sessions as we don’t believe in setting up something we are not able to continue. However, with support from funders like Children in Need, Ernest Cook and Comic Relief, in September 2010 we were able to take on our 2 apprentices full time: Anna Pearce and Hannah Sampson. As incredibly talented individuals their development has been phenomenal, and they are already leading a substantial part of our dance development programme. One element of this, with support from Surrey County Council and Waverley Borough Council, has meant the establishing of 2 youth dance companies locally for young people with disabilities, who are creating some wonderfully high quality work. Our ambitions for these young dancers are to give them the skills that will enable them to enter formal training should they decide to make dance their career.

As part of this journey, StopGAP and our youth company are doing a residency at Farnham Maltings next week, where our youth dancers have the rare opportunity to work on a 1-2-1 basis with our professional dance team. They will be learning new dance and creative skills over four days and have the luxury of creating a strong bond with their buddy-mentor. It is a wonderful project that we have been excited about being able to do at our home base. It is such a great feeling that all 3 elements: our youth dancers, our apprentices and our main dancers, will be able to spend good quality time together, and we are really looking forward to it.

If you are interested in joining our youth groups to be part of these opportunities in the future, please get in touch! If you would like to see everyone in action the youth dancers and apprentices will be performing as a curtain raiser at our performance of Trespass at Farnham Maltings on 28 April 2011 (see our tour dates for details)

Posted by Sho Shibata and Vicki Balaam

A little something to distract!

In my attempt not to think about the decision tomorrow, I have been working with Lucy on articulating our artistic vision.  We have strong vision as a company.  We are articulate.  But we have found it easier to talk about our principles and processes to ensure we make remarkable dance works, than we do about the artistic vision as we are a rep company that is hungry to have a broad range of styles, and experiences for both dancer and audience.

 

I think we are now coming of age when we have discovered enough about what we do, why we do it, and what makes it work, that we can make that bold step of stringing those words together and being able to talk about it.  We have been lucky enough to have had the lovely, energetic, ferociously gorgeous Sarah Pickthall in, as part of SYNC.  Her mission is to help us really investigate where we are heading, rather than reaching for the easy words that trot out swiftly but don’t really say anything, or even worse, are used by everyone else!  We have had one day with her already and there is another before the end of this week.  Here are some pictures of the Avatar’s we made of each other … mine was created by Lucy … it is a biscuit with cable-ties and multi-coloured blobs coming off of it, and it is hanging above my desk now … I love it!  It was such a fun day and it was great to involve the apprentices in the discussions as well.  Some phrases that I like that came out of the day are:

 

Remarkable dance

Relishes intriguing individuals

Evocative and delightfully infectious

 

Still very early days, but we are on our way and we’ll let you know more as soon as we have “cracked” it!

 

models we made of each other under the guidance of Sarah Pickthall!

 

First blog from Judith

So, my first blog with StopGAP – and what a week to launch!  Still secretly pleased at having secured funding to help us gather resources to help us get onto the GCSE dance curriculum and document the work we do and have done over the last decade.  Great conversation with Helen Roberts from the National Resource Centre for Dance who is going to work with us on the project.  She’s so calm and together!  I think its going to be good.

 

Showed my daughter the Trespass video on Facebook last night  – good to see her expression as she saw the range of dancers and what they could do. It made me think that it really would be an achievement if she, and her friends who already do dance at school, could study StopGAP in the way they would other dance companies – particularly when they are at such a body conscious age… I think it would make them think differently about what it is to be a dancer and who can be called a dancer.   It reminded me about the responsibility that the G4ta represents -so better get a move on and get the project set up.

 

Am waiting for Arts Council England’s decision tomorrow about our long term funding.  I am being calm about it because it will be what it will be and I know we put in the effort in applying and do deliver something pretty special  – but even so it will be really good to know.   If we do get the funding as requested it will be our ambition for the development of the apprentice dancers that I think will really benefit.  It wasn’t until I began to work around the dancers that I realised just how much time, energy and expertise it takes to get to the standard of Chris and Laura and that without a company like StopGAP playing their part in giving the necessary training AND the career opportunity, the pool of available dancers would just be too small. So, much riding on tomorrow.  Early start then.

 

Judith Hibberd

Associate Producer StopGAP

 

Celebrating international women’s day

As a “fledgling tweeter” I am still learning the art of twitter, and tend to read everyone’s entries absorbing information as well as learning from the “experts” who seem to make it look so effortless.  The other day, inevitably the discussions and activity on Twitter swirled around International Women’s Day.  I was overwhelmed with the discussions of how there are not enough women in all levels of organisations, but particularly at the “decision making” level in a company.  I felt bewildered by this, and really can’t believe that StopGAP is so different from the general view that was being promoted in those discussions.

Women feature very strongly in StopGAP, from our apprentices, within our dancers, throughout our management and senior management teams, and into our board.   It is mainly women who we are training for our next generation of integrated artists and leaders, and our current leaders in management, artistic and at board level are all women.  Externally we are working very closely with three consultants – all women who are leading their fields and are making a significant impact into how we are developing as a company and operate as a close knit team.

The leadership style of the company enables everyone to blossom, work to their full potential and is distinctive with it’s consensus building and other soft skills that are traditionally seen as “feminine” rather than “masculine” approaches.  I am beginning to understand that these “feminine” traits are the approaches that are seen as revolutionising the “mainstream” business world and are being taught to the emerging leaders of commerce.  There is even a book I am reading that extols the virtues of building on strengths rather than combating weaknesses – an approach that was the first cornerstone of StopGAP philosophy as part of my rebellion against the traditional approach of training and managing dancers that has been revealingly portrayed in the recent English National Ballet documentary.  But to us, our leadership style is one that has developed naturally over the past 15 years, based in a curiosity of how to enable each individual to achieve to their full potential that underpins the artistic focus of the company – and it works for us.  How can it not work, when each person is functioning to the best of their ability and as part of a co-operative and highly ambitious team?

There is an issue in the dance world about the lack of visible female choreographers, and I would agree with this. However, I am heartened by the exciting women who have become established in the UK dance scene over the last decade, and feel the new generation is coming into view, so maybe it is a question of time and determination from everyone involved for the balance between the genders to become even.  Maybe it is the responsibility of women in power to ensure opportunities are given to our female artists, or maybe women need to get better and finding their champions?  Maybe it’s both?

Our in-house choreographer is Lucy Bennett.  She is a very inspirational and astutely creative woman who is developing our work for out door spaces and non-traditional venues as well as constantly pushing our experience, knowledge and theory in integrated practice.  She is working alongside me at the moment and I am so excited to see how her leadership flourishes, and influence she will exert over the artistic development of StopGAP.

I wonder how things will be looking in another decade and what the discussion will be on that international women’s day, both within StopGAP, as well as the arts world in general.

A brilliant start to our Spring Tour of Trespass

Our first week of touring for this Spring season involved us performing at South Holland Centre, Lincolnshire, and Rose Theatre, Ormskirk, and what a magnificent way to kick start our Spring tour.  Near capacity audiences responded very enthusiastically and the dancers thoroughly enjoyed themselves, as you could tell from their performance.  Both performances also featured curtain raisers performed by local dancers we had worked with – we were very proud of what they created, and how well they performed.  It meant so much to receive these comments from Darren Carr, Artistic Director of “JUMP IN(tegrated)”:

“I didn’t want to disturb the performers on Thursday evening when we left, it seemed the right thing to leave them to get sorted and out of performance mode.  Could you pass on our much admiration for their work, JUMP IN was really inspired by their performance, it was a great evening. Thanks to emily for all her kindness in organising tech etc.

We felt really honoured to be their curtain raiser, just the boost in the present climate.  If there is anything else we can do in the future we would love to be part of it.”

“JUMP IN(tegrated)” are based at Liverpool John Moores University and performed as our curtain raiser at the performance at Rose Theatre, Ormskirk.  They are a great company, and do find them if you live in their area, their website is: http://www.jumpintegrated.com

As well as great audiences and excellent curtain raisers, the venues were wonderful, and a real treat to work with.  We would thoroughly recommend any touring company to go to these venues as we were treated so well, and couldn’t ask for more!

The patient waiting game ….

Please note, the following was written in February 2011:
The New Year was a hard one this year, as it began with the frenetic writing of our proposal to become a National Portfolio Organisation.  As you maybe aware, because of this government’s spending review and the financial agreement given to Arts Council England (ACE), the current system of Regular Funded Organisations, is being replaced with a new one where successful organisations are National Portfolio Organisations (NPO’s) who are to work “in partnership” with ACE to deliver their goals as detailed in the recently published document “Great Art for All”.  Nearly 1350 organisations applied and there is an expectation that only 600-800 will be successful in their applications, so this is a significant moment for this country’s arts scene and the organisations, like StopGAP, who have been relying on that RFO support.  I am sure that we are not the only company who is waiting for the announcement at the end of March, just over a month’s time, with baited breath and a surreal sense of limbo.  All we can do is hope for the best and not let fear stifle our bold determination for StopGAP’s ambitious future.

I fell back in love with Barcelona

We have just got back from performing for 3 nights in Barcelona … and it is feeling mighty cold!  It was an amazing experience, with a standing ovation on the last night!  It was a long standing ambition that Denise and I had, that we would one day perform in Barcelona, so to see the dream become a reality was pretty special!

We performed at SAT!, which is a great theatre programmed by Thomas Noone, and the performance was possible thanks to support from Francesc Casadesus at Mercat de les Flors and the British Council.  Lucy and David had led some workshops in October with local dancers, and were so inspired by them, so it was great for us all to meet them after we had heard so much about everyone.  We all agreed that it makes such a difference being able to perform for 3 nights in 1 venue … it gives the dancers a chance to focus on the artistry of their performance rather than the logistics of a new place, and I really saw them develop as performers in each performance.  It was lovely to have time to see the beautiful city, (for me especially the Gothic quarter), paddle in the sea, and go to the theatre without having the stress of a frantic get-in!  We can’t thank the technicians enough for doing a superb job, and an extra big thank you to Xavi who took us to the karaoke on Sunday night! (… I’m still recovering!)