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

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

Jenny on being part of Stopgap Youth Company

I am 25 years old, have Cerebral Palsy and I am part of StopGap Youth Company.I worked with Stopgap quite a few times in the past when I was at the Orpheus Centre. I always wanted to join so when I left the Orpheus Centre, it was the perfect opportunity. The reason I left was because I moved into my own flat. I live independently and have three p.a’s to facilitate my needs. I have been living here for 5 months. I’m in charge of my own life now, I get to choose what I want to do and going to Stopgap was top of my list.

I like knowing everyone at Stopgap and its a lot easier for me than acting, which I was doing a lot more of before.
Every Wednesday evening I practice in Guilford.I like going, I really enjoy dancing, it can be hard in a wheelchair but I just have to show people how I can do it. I have to tell myself relax and listen to the music.I tend to tense up and if it becomes really bad I cant move, so being relaxed is really important,not only for dancing but in my every day life as well. If I think about it too much I tense up even more, so I have to let it go. Sometimes in the dance group I need someone to help me relax my arms slowly. 
The hardest part for me is trying to do all the moves at the right time. 

I have met a lot of new people through Stopgap, we worked with students from Guilford University and put on a few performances before Christmas. In one performance we were in a group and at one point someone stood on my wheelchair. I had practiced this with my dance partner but she became ill before the performance so I had to do it with different people instead. I felt nervous but I got on with it and felt proud I could cope with the changes.

One of the people in Stopgap was in the Opening Ceremony for the Paralympics, her name is Laura and she is amazing. One day I hope to be as good as her. I am looking forward to all the opportunities that I will have being part of Stopgap. Hopefully I will continue for a long time.

Jenny Musselle

Paralympics opening & closing ceremonies – Hannah

On the 29th August I went to London with my family to see the Opening of the Paralympics. It was spectacular and overwhelming because there were thousands of people surrounding us. When we got to our seats, we sat down and watched the whole show until the morning of the next day. The show was extraordinary spectacular, the dances were absolutely wonderful, so was the music, it was so beautiful and heartbreaking.

In some of the dances I saw Laura Jones, Rick Rodgers, Dave Toole, and last but not least John Kelly with his band doing the music. When I saw Laura dancing she was incredibly beautiful working with the other wheelchair users. I did see Laura at the bottom of the audience going somewhere and that was the only chance I saw her close up from our seats. When I saw Dave Toole, he touched my heart because he danced like a beautiful swan; he reminded me of that song Eva Cassidy sang ‘Fields of Gold’. When Rick Rodgers was dancing, I couldn’t believe how he would dance on stilts up in the air that beautifully.

Laura Jones also works with Stopgap as a professional dancer aka Dance Captain for the Paralympics. I work very closely with Laura when we teach dance in workshops and training when we have rehearsals with StopGap. I was working with Dave Toole before for one of Stopgap’s old rep ‘Tracking’ as guest stars. Dave Toole is one of the Acquaintances with StopGap Dance Company.

My dad had filmed everything on his video camera so we could watch it again but the close-ups though, my Mum did the same as well but she was taking photos instead. We also saw the Queen close-up to but I saw it on my Mum’s camera because we were far away from them.

On the 9th September, I went to see the Closing of the Paralympics with family friends. That was extraordinary too and overwhelming as well. The dances were amazing and wonderful, saw CandoCo dancing as well. They were amazing and it told a story throughout the piece. The artists who were there singing their songs were Rihanna, Coldplay, and Jay Z. I remembered most of the words to their songs and was dancing along when I was sitting down. The Closing finished late as well until the morning of the next morning.

If you’re interested to watch the Paralympics Opening and the Closing one more time, here are the links:

Opening: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd4FgGSY5BY

Closing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIRHMmM2z7c&feature=relmfu

Hannah Sampson

Laura’s Paralympics experience

I’ve had an amazing time over the past few months working as a Dance Captain for the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Paralympic Games. My role involved working with the 10 other dance captains, alongside Kevin Finnan and Helen Parlour, to create the choreography for all the dance sections of the ceremony and then teach the moves to roughly 3500 volunteers!

It was very daunting turning up on the first day in March to a gigantic room, the small group of dance captains feeling totally dwarfed by it, and even more daunting knowing that it wouldn’t be that long before that room would be full of groups of up to 300 people at a time that we would be teaching the routines to!

June 26th seemed to come around very quickly, bringing with it the start of teaching the volunteers!  Everyone was welcome, and we had a real cross section of the public, not only age wise, 10 to 80, but also ranging from those with lots of dance experience, who have worked professionally as dancers, to those who were self confessed owners of 2 left feet!  They were so many inspiring stories, each of them had their own reasons for being there and journeys that they would go through.  Some people were there in the memory of a loved one, some as a challenge to themselves, some to gain new skills and experiences, to make new friends, everyone with a passion to fulfil, their enthusiasm and commitment was abundant.

I got particularly close to my Gravity group of skaters and wheelchair dancers.  Working with them was quite a different experience to working with other groups as this was a much smaller, more intimate group of only 45! (I never thought I would be describing teaching a group of over 40 as small!) There is certainly something thrilling about seeing a whole room moving as people whizz round on a combined total of something like 272 wheels!  It was great to lead the process from the beginning as they all got to know each other and understand how different people moved, through to pairing people up and as we collectively created a striking duet that was performed together.  Finding as many different variations as there were pairs, each pair with their own personality and different wheel formations/bodies/experience to cater for, harnessing each person’s individuality that was brought together in unity.

For all the groups it was fantastic to see the development going from the choreography we had created, to teaching it to the volunteers in the massive studios in 3 Mills, that suddenly seemed small when compared to the size of the 1:1 space at Dagenham and then the stadium itself.

I never lost the buzz of being in the stadium and looking up at all the seating, and thinking about how many people there and across the world would be watching and knowing the hard work and dedication that everyone put in to get there.  It really did feel like being part of a enormous family and it was an honour to be such a big part of people’s summer.

Laura Jones

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