Chris on working with Charlie Morrissey

Last week I was in a workshop with Charlie Morrissey and he led a dance workshop. He taught me some improvisation with a partner and to move and feel like there is someone with you while doing the movement,  like the other person who is close to you or finding a way to be connected with the mover who is improvising around.

In some places Charlie mentioned to me to find a lighter touch like a butterfly on the body and to be as close to your partner. For me I felt that I was in a dream or something has landed on me. It’s like feeling a soft snowflake has just touched me on my body. I also liked the lifting and weight sharing because it’s the sense of pouring the weight and floating in the sky.For me I think of breathing and finding the coordination within the body that I feel that I can let my arms float and to be free.

Learning from Charlie has really taught me new  things and also there is something there that I can teach other people. And to take away what I’ve learnt from Charlie. And it will make me a better dancer.

Chris Pavia

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Artificial Things – Week 1 Video

We have been in the studio this week with choreographer Yoshifumi Inao creating part one of new work ‘Artificial Things’. Here is a small snippet of what we have been up to…

‘Artificial Things’ – Week 1: An Insight from the Artistic Director Lucy

This is the first creative process in which I am observing from the side of the studio, off of the dance floor and away from the sweaty heat of dancing/thinking/solving/dancing.

It is the first week of the creation of the new stage production ‘Artificial Things’ and we are working with the choreographer Yoshifumi Inao from Batsheva Dance Company. There is the familiar warmth of the dance studio, combined with a still air of focus and the quiet murmur of dancers searching for solutions.

For the first time I can sense both the nerves of the dancers and the anxiety of the choreographer; I can also see that both artists do not recognise each other’s fears and are feeling a little uneasy at the prospect of exploring each other’s unknown.

From my privileged studio corner I see the artistic team rise and fall, moment after moment; step forward and stumble back, time and again. They are striving to make sense of their collective unknown.

I see David, towering over Laura – climbing up and over her then gathering her close. He has always reminded me of a dancing bear, but during this week with Yoshi he has been liberated from his chains, and is moving with freedom whilst exploring the intricacies of dancing around the corners inside his skin.

I see Chris, open and curious – watching, waiting, wanting to communicate. He reaches out with strong arms and moves his skull, spine and tail through a thick air. Chris’ movement is like a heavy heartbeat – a metronome for his colleagues to follow.

Amy is poised, ready for action, eager to please – she knows her body well. There is lightness to Amy, as she hangs her movement high in the air and suspends from one shape to the next – delicately decorating the space with her skills & curls.

When I watch Laura at her best, I hear a distant Soprano singing. With her dark hair and dark eyes she is the Callas or Fonteyn. Always captivating the artist who is making; Laura’s movement is the unknown, and once past the fears of the first day, there is inevitably a ‘gold rush’.

‘A choreographer is only as good as their dancers’

Artificial Things – Creation Week 1

Hello there everybody!

Here are some photos taken during our first week in the studio working on ‘Artificial Things – Part 1’. Yoshifumi Inao has been the choreographer, whilst Chris Benstead has been composing the accompanying music. It has been a week filled with hard work, healthy eating, broken cables, noisy speakers, a lot of thinking and some killer bruises! We look forward more creating… watch this space!

ImageAmy and Indra, our ‘newbies’ working well together. 

ImageChris and David, our ‘oldies’ enjoy a post rehearsal stretch…(chat?)

ImageIndra helping Chris run through his solo section…

ImageThe full quartet

ImageThe production team get to watch a full run through

ImageTwo sides of the story… dancers vs production…

ImageHas Laura killed them all??

ImageYoshifumi steps in to demonstrate

ImageThe day where technology seemed to take over our lives

ImageLaura and David

ImageAmy

ImageArtificial Things bruises…

ImageYoshifumi, David and Amy

David’s Resolution! thoughts

‘Leave Elegance to the Tailor’

Several months ago I was confined to a hotel in Barcelona, Spain, filling out my application form for Resolution! 2013. That night It seemed that everything that could go wrong, did. Power failure on my laptop, loss of the hotel’s Internet connection, staff explaining “the engineer could be here in 10 mins or 10 hours, sorry”.

Thankfully, before my trip abroad, I had already negotiated my first collaborator for the piece. Dance Artist, Daniela B Larsen. As eager as I was to return to the studio with Larsen, after her short stint as the body double for Lucy, Stopgap’s Artistic Director, during last summer’s tour of SPUN Productions. I did not envisage the collaboration to begin quite so soon… With her help, the application procedure was completed and it was now time to focus on to the choreography and other collaborators.

Having worked with composer, Jim Pinchen, whilst performing with Stopgap, I knew he could convey the emotion I was looking to install in the piece. Working so closely with a composer was a pleasure, especially one so talented and exceptional at writing down the sound I believed only I could hear, perfectly.

My final collaborator was Gareth Green, a man with many strings to his bow, whose lighting design helped create the atmosphere and windows into the setting of the performance.

Having spent several weeks rehearsing, conversing and creating, the day of the performance was upon us. I was very excited and eager to see what was in store for me as ‘The Face and Name’ as well as the choreographer of a piece for public viewing for the first time. After years of being in dance repertoire companies I had become accustomed to being a member of a group, striving together to create an enjoyable experience for the audience. But always under the protection of a company’s name.

Thankfully I had the support of not only the collaborators, but friends and family. The lines between which blurred throughout the process. I was very pleased with the performance and its execution. The choreography, music composition and lighting worked harmoniously, and was met with very positive feedback and lovely comments. One reviewer described ‘Leave Elegance to the Tailor’ as the “…type of piece which makes people fall in love with contemporary dance.” (Chantal, Cloud Dance Festival)

Having left audience members and reviewers alike, calling out for more performances, it would be mean to not supply for the demand. This is merely the first footing…

David Willdridge

Mila’s thoughts on Barcelona trip

We have just returned from running a week of integrated dance workshops in Barcelona and what a week it was! Dancers David Willdridge and Laura Jones led the week, along with assistance from myself and our wonderful translator Jesús Sanz.

We were working with a group of enthusiastic participants from across Spain within a project that was set up by Spanish based choreographer Thomas Noone. The workshop was held in a beautiful and spacious, purpose built dance space called ‘Graner’.

Some of the participants who took part had attended a similar StopGAP workshop during the previous year and since then have been meeting regularly to form an integrated dance performance group. We also had some participants who had never taken part in integrated dance before and so the group contained a wide range of abilities and dance experience. This led to producing a very diverse, engaging and enjoyable atmosphere.

Each day began with a class to develop strength, technique and dance skills. We then followed on with various creative tasks including partner work, contact improvisation and group choreography sessions. There was a very strong sense of community within the group and we were often treated to delicious home cooked Spanish lunches on the studio balcony and cold beers in the sunshine out on the terrace… after hours of course!

During the week we pieced together a 20 minute long performance entitled ‘Traces’, which we performed on the final day in the entrance to ‘Caixa Forum’, Museum and Theatre space. The performance was watched by a transfixed audience of all ages and we even managed to attract the Mayor of Barcelona!

It was such an inspiring and emotional journey getting to know all of the dancers and hearing everyones individual stories and experiences of dance. It was an absolute privilege to be there and witness a few of them perform dance to a live audience for the very first time. We love them all and can’t wait to go back!

Mila Cassell – Access Officer

Sophie’s thoughts on Recruitment Workshops

From the dawn of 2012, StopGAP Dance Company will be opening their doors and inviting the curious to come wandering in. We are hosting a series of ‘Dancer Days’ up and down the country, not only to stretch the parameters of our little dancing bubble, but also with a view to recruiting a new dancer. After five happy years with the company, the winds of change are blowing me across the Atlantic to sample life on the West coast with my new Californian husband.

The ‘Dancer Days’ are an opportunity for StopGAP to meet dancers outside the adrenalin fuelled, sweaty palmed confines of an audition, and for curious and open-minded dancers to come along and meet the company. When I arrived five years ago as an access officer, it was not with the intention of eventually becoming a full-time performer with the company. I was a disillusioned dancer cum barmaid on whom risks were taken, and owing to fortuitous timing, opportunities given. Instinctively I seized them, and developed the deep-rooted passion for integrated dance and heartfelt responsibility for the company essential for any member of the team. Whether looking to recruit, or seeking employment, perhaps we don’t always know exactly what we are looking for, or what we need. What better time to call out for the curious and open-minded?

As an intimate company that spends a great deal of time together, it is essential that time is taken to find new team members. The group dynamic and often visceral relationship between the dancers is a unique and regularly celebrated element of our work. This cannot be plucked from thin air – or an audition alone! The balance of personalities in an artistic setting is a masterful kind of alchemy. Trust and intuition in abundance, combined with an imaginative and creative new dancer, could be the catalyst that allows the company to clamber to new heights, developing and refining their innovative and exemplary integrated practice (no apologies for the pressure new dancer!). We are entering a period of change, re-evaluating our progression, ambitions and our representation in the world we inhabit, time will be spent to ensure the ‘right’ person adds their voice to the chorus.

What a voyage creating the next season of rep will be, one that I personally hope will be rife with obstacles. I say this not because I will probably be sitting on the dock of the bay enjoying a clam chowder by that time, but because these obstacles are the heart and soul of our creations. Without restriction and resistance we are wading in a lukewarm paddling pool on a mild sunny day. It may feel nice but we aren’t getting far – it’s certainly no white water rafting in a lightening storm! Perhaps I am a little over-zealous with my metaphor but you know what I mean.

The creation of pioneering integrated work with StopGAP demands an expansive mind and a passion for problem solving. Blossoming in adversity is a skill necessary for the delivery of our education work also, throughout the year, by all the dancers. I was involved in a long term project that took me to Albania four times in the past year. A collaboration with the British Council, Help the Life and Vodafone Albania, we were asked to train professional Albanian dancers to teach inclusively and in turn form their own fledgling integrated companies across the country. Initially daunting, it was at times challenging, and constantly enlightening. Moments were lost in translation, and I grappled regularly with cultural divides and my own demons telling me to ‘do a fantastic job’. My eyes were opened, my inclusive practice improved, and my teaching scrutinized, explored and refined. It was a remarkable experience and ended with a surprise appearance on Albania’s ‘Dancing With The Stars’. Who’d have thought? Now there’s something to tell the grandchildren about.

There is an undertone of unpredictability and hilarity to our everyday interaction, but perhaps the most challenging times at StopGAP are in fact the humdrum days. When the nights are drawing in and it’s the same faces in the studio again and again, maybe we just need someone who will come in, put the kettle on, and then just get on with it.

Curious? You bring the biscuits, the doors are open!

Sophie Stanley

Hannah’s thoughts on play time with Charlotte Vincent

On the 17th and 18th of October we had a new choreographer called Charlotte Vincent. Charlotte was really good, helpful and understanding of the work in our company and us as dancers.

It was really interesting for us as dancers in the company to see how she uses her body and our dancers bodies and technique moving around. Charlotte led the workshop with us with good interpretation of how her company works together.

In a couple of years from now we are hoping we’re going to see her company and her as a choreographer putting together a dance piece for the professional dancers or for all dancers in the company.

Hannah Sampson

Shine On!! weekend – Hannah

On the 8th and 9th October it was the Shine On!! weekend. On both days we had a lot of fun dancing and playing around.

We had lots of young teenagers and adults. The support workers Kat Ball, Joy St’ Denis, David Willdridge, Anna Pearce and Chris Pavia really helped out the young dancers. Our young dancers had lots of  laughs and had done really good dancing as well. I was impressed with how they’ve worked hard.

On both days we started out with a class led by the StopGAP team. After class we all played games and danced around using props and pictures on animals, shadows and mats. By using these props and pictures the dancers had split themselves  into partners or groups to do a dance. By this time we all put everything together into one big show.

We showed our dance in front of our family and friends. They all enjoyed the show in the end.

Hannah Sampson

Summer Schools

August was an important month for me, not only because we rehearsed SPUN Productions for the performance outside the National Theatre, as part of Liberty Festival, but also because I had the pleasure of leading two Summer schools.

The first Summer school was housed at the Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, and was aimed at young teens with disabilities wanting to have fun through dance. So I took along my bottle of bubbles, my pieces of paper with different shapes doodled onto them; and my rubbery face to pull and contort in a way that has become somewhat of a trademark in StopGAP! 😛

 

After 4 days of learning new ways of moving through different stimuli, we showcased our hard work to the participants parents, and were happy to find that not only had we built up a new movement vocabulary, but had created a short dance too.

 

The second Summer school took place at The Point in Eastleigh, a venue StopGAP knows very well having not only taught there at the Summer school the year before, but also Premiering StopGAP’s latest stage production Trespass.  The Point offers a weeklong course aimed at teaching participants about integrated dance practice.

 

I was asked to plan and lead the week, with Anna Pearce as my assistant (a partnership I look forward to continuing with StopGAP’s Youth Dance Group every Wednesday. But I digress).  Throughout the week we looked at tasks aimed at creating movement whilst working alongside one another in an inclusive manner. Each participant brought a wide range of abilities to collaborate and produce exciting movement material that I found a genuine pleasure to watch.

 

It was thrilling watching the next generation of contemporary dancers work with each other in an integrated way. After all it’s a natural thing.

 

Some of the StopGAP Youth Group members took part in the week, and having taught them for almost 3 years (through YG or workshops) it was amazing to see them come out of their comfort zones and grow in confidence.

 

The week’s tasks culminated in a sharing/performance to friends and family; and were met with loud applause and happy faces. Judging by the standard of dancing and the level of understanding in such a short amount of time, I’d say the week was a success. One that I look forward to re-creating next year…