Contact Dance Company premier performances of ‘Human Range’ and ‘Being Seen’

Contact Dance Company performed two new pieces in front of a sell-out audience at
The Walker Theatre, Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury.

The first surprise for the audience, in this eagerly awaited show, was that seats were aligned in two long rows, facing each other across the performance space. In the front row we rested our feet on the dance floor: we were going to be close to the action.

The first piece was a duet entitled Human Range. Two dancers, one of whom used a wheelchair, explored the limits of their own and each other’s human range. A fresh and energetic soundtrack, by composer Nils Frahm, accompanied the piece. Human Range was choreographed by Shropshire Inclusive Dance directors,
Rachel Liggitt and Ray Jacobs.

20190720-_DSC4979

Dancers, Delphine Wise and Poppy Mansfield, used gestures and sweeping movement, combining equal measures of clear, sharp focus and physical power and fragility. Delphine manoeuvred her chair with grit and grace. Poppy Mansfield added playfulness and liquid smooth movement to the piece. When in close proximity, the dancers’ bodies, gestures and sight lines reached across the space in a series of near misses and fleeting moments of contact.

20190720-_DSC4981

As the work progressed the contact became more frequent and physical; human range became a metaphor for emotional and physical support. The long dance space, with audiences either side, acted as a corridor for playful and sometimes competitive travelling sequences. Audiences, so close to the action, were truly part of what they had come to see.

20190720-_DSC4942

 

‘Being Seen’, choreographed by Jo Fong, took the audience by surprise. Eight performers entered the stage to the joyful fanfare of Handel’s Zadok The Priest. As an audience member, I felt I was constantly being offered: ‘This is me and This is me and This is me’ as dancers gazed towards us from different parts of the stage. This was a great introduction to the dancers that make up Contact Dance Company: dancers of different ages, dancers with different bodies, dancers who kept their feelings in, dancers whose smile and fears spilled out. It was joyous.
In the programme notes the choreographer, Jo Fong, asked: ‘Do you see the disability or the person?’  I saw humanity in all its diverse beauty.

20190720-_DSC4983

Cue the second big surprise of the evening, as ‘Zadok the Preist’ moved to its choral climax.  Dancers draped a huge floating sheet of white linen down the entire length of the ‘corridor’ and then, during the next frantic ten seconds, littered it with everyday objects, transforming the performance space. Pot Plants, photos, prosthetic limbs, children’s toys and all kinds of paraphernalia lay around the performers, who lifted, placed, rested on and moved the objects, offering disjointed and unexpected images, sometimes dystopian, sometimes comical.

The piece never failed to surprise, moving through sections where performers conducted the audience like an orchestra, to a bold, sensuous duet, accompanied by a dark Nick Cave love song.

20190715-_DSC4795The audience were truly riveted; there was so much to see, including the reactions of each other across the dance space. There were further chances for the audience to get to know the performers as each dancer talked one to one to audience members about their very own special object; Dancer Amal Neffi shared the story of her prosthetic legs and the geographical and emotional journey it was for her to get to the point where they could be discarded, in favour of being seen for who she is. Dancer Andrew Kelly, shared the love of his Star Trek costume and the joy of being seen as a different person.

 

 

 

20190720-_DSC4995

As these monologues progressed, dancers began to congregate in a melee of movement, shifting and being shifted as an ensemble across the space. It was like watching an anamatron of limbs, bodies, arms, wheels and legs, moving in, out and between each other. The faces of audience members next to me looked bewildered at the speed, complexity, and sensitivity of this improvised movement. No time for the eyes to settle on one person – continual meeting, engaging and leaving.

20190720-_DSC4933

The final section of the work felt like the slow transformation from sunset to dusk, as intimate duos closed their eyes and began slowly moving each other. The dancers continued long after the stage lights receded, creating a sense of something without end, whether seen or not.

20190720-_DSC4952

Being Seen was performed by Chloe Shepherd, Amal Neffi, Mervyn Bradley,
Kevin Shepherd, Anna Belyavin, Becky Keir, Andrew Kelly, and Rachel Liggitt.

Directed by Jo Fong

Music was by George Frideric Handel, Antonio Vivaldi, Nick Cave, and Kiasmos.

Lighting Design – Jonathan Tritton

Costume Design and Fitting – Sue Hall

Jo Fong is an award-winning director, choreographer & performer working in dance, film, theatre, opera and the visual arts.

Contact Dance Company is part of Shropshire Inclusive Dance.

For more information about the company, visit http://www.sidance.live

 

Unknown Places – Performance at Wolverhampton Arena, October 10th 2018

‘Unknown Places’ Contact Dance Company’s most recent ensemble piece, choreographed by dance artist Joanna Young, made a welcome return to the stage at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton.

IMG_6666
Unknown Places – image Ewen Macintyre

This evocative and absorbing piece was performed alongside an improvised trio by Contact Dance Company titled ‘The details of the hands’. The piece was structured and inspired by Joanna Young and accompanied with sensitive and powerful live music by folk duet Deuair.

IMG_6644
Details of the hands – Image Ewen Macintyre

Shropshire Inclusive Dance’s co-director Rachel Liggitt has been in residence with ‘Dance Unity’ sharing some of the working methods in Contact Dance Company’s pieces and some of the ideas behind ‘Unknown Places’ The influence of the work became immediately apparent as Dance Unity took to the stage sharing a dance piece full of connection and elegance.

IMG_6591
Dance Unity – Image Ewen Macintyre

The final work to be performed was Contact Dance Company’s
‘Unknown Places’. The cast of 8 very individual dancers moved through shifts in mood & dynamics from subtle swaying and careful placing, to the creation of wild eddies of movement across a crowded dance floor. The piece demanded discipline and connection from the dancers, which was there for all to see.

‘A dancer moves slowly within a circle while delicate strands of lavender are precariously balanced on her. A male dancer moves and slides a large boulder through his arms, a ripple of bamboo poles balanced on dancers bodies provides a gentle rhythmic accompaniment’

 

20181010-_DSC6633 copy
Unknown Places – Image Ewen Macintyre

The dance was accompanied by a subtle and dynamic soundscape by Jamie McCarthy.Contact Dance Company performed Joanna Young’s absorbing and finely placed work with commitment, focus and energy. Members of the audience present at the premiere of the work shared the following thoughts.

‘The new work was a wonderful piece of ensemble movement: focused, reflective, contemplative, infused with the presence not only of each dancer, but also the presence and energies of the natural world’

 ‘At times it felt like the piece was showing to me the ever moving qualities of the whole of humanity’

20181010-_DSC6613 copy
Unknown Places – Image by Ewen Macintyre

 

Unknown Places by Contact Dance Company is available for festivals and theatre venues.

 

 

 

Ways of Being Together. A two day workshop with Jo Fong. March 5th/ 6th

Ma

20180306-IMG_9093

‘Ways of Being Together is a series of workshops, discussions and performances facilitated by Jo Fong centred around the idea of of Belonging. A sense of belonging is intimate and powerful, connected, optimistic, unknown and curious making’

Members of Contact dance Company were joined by dancers from around the region to dance under the energising and inspiring guidance of dance artist  Jo Fong.

Jo Fong is a director, choreographer and performer working in dance, film, theatre, opera and the visual arts. Her eclectic career includes performances with DV8 Physical Theatre, Rosas (Belgium) and Rambert Dance Company. Recent collaborations include working with Wendy Houstoun, Sonia Hughes, Deborah Light, Unfinished Business, Skye Reynolds, National Theatre Wales, Welsh National Opera, Hull Dance and Quarantine

Jo really immersed us in movement; her own joy of moving (whole heartedly and energetically) was contagious. Jo built energy in our bodies and throughout the group and facilitated a climate of listening, physical playfulness and openness to change.

When Jo set us simple movement based tasks, for example  ‘listening to a partners spine’, ‘dancing in partners, hands placed simply on shoulders’, or following our gaze to initiate movement. The tasks were explored with appetite, verve and sensitivity.

We also listened to the whole group dancing and our place in it,  the ensemble as an animal, improvising, listening, accelerating, quieting and resting

It felt by the end of the two days as if the group had been really stretched, challenged, had worked hard physically and got a lot of joy from moving and being together.

 

Above are some images of the 2ndday of the workshop when Jo was working with Contact Dance Company. Photography is by Ewen Macintyre.

 

 

SiD travel to Malta for international symposium

SiD had an incredible time at the Opening Doors Association Symposium in November 2017. The symposium based in the beautiful historic city of Valletta focused upon inclusivity, artistic development and accessibility.

Rachel presented a paper on devising work for performance and the artistic work of Shropshire Inclusive dance and Contact performers Kevin and Chloe performed their duet Father, Daughter followed by a post show Q&A, receiving a s
tanding ovation.

It was a fantastic opportunity to meet people from many different countries, participate in workshops, listen to a number of inspiring presentations and spend time with friends eating delicious food! A legacy of the symposium is the publication of a book, SiD has been asked to contribute a chapter, providing a fantastic opportunity to share our practice and approach with a wider audience

Thanks you Jo Butterworth President of Opening Doors Association for inviting us along.

Contact Dancers Chloe and Kevin Shepherd at the National Malta monument ‘A Flame That Will Never Die’ by Valerio Schembri

‘Two fold’ An evening celebrating dancing together with performances from Contact Dance Company and friends.

 

20171013-_DSC6339 copy
Curtain Call – Image by Ewen Macintyre

It was with a real sense of pride and joy that Shropshire Inclusive Dance shared ‘Twofold’ to audiences at the Wolverhampton Arena. The work on show was a culmination of our ‘Two to Tango’ project funded by Creative Black Country.  Eloquent and diverse duets by Contact Dance Company were performed alongside performances by groups in Wolverhampton we have worked with including Westcroft School and Mosaic Disability Theatre.  The rich experiences and beautiful dancing that were present in our community workshops and company rehearsals all really come to life.

Here is a review from one of our audience members

‘Yesterday I had the joy of watching Contact Dance perform their programme Twofold twice, at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton. I can’t begin to communicate the profound beauty of choreographic connection conveyed by this company, thanks to the diverse skill and passion for dance demonstrated by all the artists. There is such a rich landscape of emotion, dynamic, and depth which touches and transports one across the stage and beyond. In this particular programme, through all the pieces weaved the theme of dueting; exploring and expressing the dynamics which come into play when individuals engage and merge with one another on many levels of relationship.

 

20171013-_DSC6360 copy
Unspoken – Mervyn Bradley and Rachel Liggitt (Image by Ewen Macintyre)

In ‘Unspoken’ Mervyn Bradley and Rachel Liggitt speak directly to the heart in their sensitive exploration of friendship and its ebbs and flows. Each supporting and protecting, while encouraging the other to take risks. Attachment and autonomy are in flow. Always maintained is the security of unconditional trust and tenderness, whether the dancers are connected or divided. This is about the ‘work’ of friendship, the effort, honesty and compromise necessary to nurture and empower a lasting bond with another person. This is also about love. The love that exists when two people understand and appreciate one another on a level that goes beyond words. Two very different dancers, Mervyn and Rachel take us on a poignant journey through the unity and solace to be found in true friend.

20171013-IMG_5903
While You Broke Through – dancers, Michael King, Andrew Kelly( Image by Ewen Macintyre)

My brother Michael Wall and Andrew Kelly bring a powerful, energetic intensity to the stage in ‘While you broke through to other worlds’, thought provoking and open to individual interpretation. Is this a parting or a meeting? A reconciliation or a conflict? Perhaps these two people have discovered a division of ways along a previously shared path. There is certainly an insular atmosphere surrounding two separate entities striving to make opposite journeys; but somehow we know that each dancer has a fundamental need for the other. There remains a certainty that each man is facilitating and inspiring the other in his choices of direction. They resemble machines or rockets preparing for take off and landing, the self-contained movements erupting into sudden initiations of contact; launching, throwing, clasping, pushing. Aptly, Andrew’s and Michael’s voices ‘break through’ the music at the start and the end, reminding us that this is not a mechanical process, but very much a human one.

20171013-_DSC6305 copy
Twosome , dancers Delphine Wise, Anna Belyavin (Image by Ewen Macintyre)

‘Twosome’ is a glorious, playful celebration of twinning; of the delight and harmony to be found in individual expression of the same ideas and motivations. Delphine Wise glides about the stage with grace and precision, as she manouvres the brakes and intricacies of her wheelchair, integral to the spirit of the choreography. Anna Belyavin executes identical movements by foot, running and spinning alongside. There is a sisterly affection, a vibrant closeness between the dancers allowing each to predict and be energised by the other’s interpretation of the choreography, reciprocating the gestures and movements extended and retracted. There are moments when each woman embarks on her own movement motif simultaneously, reminding us that identical motivations have potential for diverse consequences.

 

20171013-_DSC6423
Father Daughter – dancers Chloe Shepherd, Ray Jacobs

In the poetic ‘Father Daughter’, Chloe Shepherd and Ray Jacobs (who was standing in last night for Chloe’s real-life father and usual dance partner), tell the story of family love in a secluded rural cottage. Following a rustic morris dance, Chloe’s birth and childhood is represented by the celebration of an invisible baby; shown to the audience by her father, glowing with pride and wonder. Then Chloe, now a beautiful young woman, emerges from the shadows for real, and the two begin to waltz tenderly, spinning and stepping in time, absorbed by their joy in one another. We witness the hard work of winter life at the cottage, the chopping of wood and the fuelling of fires. Throughout the narrative, Chloe’s journey to maturity is conveyed by hints of gentle conflict between father and daughter; her desire for independence confronting his awareness that parental protectiveness must now be accompanied by detachment and an encouragement of freedom. He retreats into the shadows and we are left with Chloe in a spotlight, standing alone, venturing forth as her own self-reliant woman.

Contact Dance elevate me to a place of pure joy; reaffirming my faith in dance as an expression of the soul as much as the body. This company is a gift to the world of theatre and community. It was also a privilege to watch the students of Westcroft School in their piece ‘Connections’, and Mozaic Disability Theatre performing ‘Will You Dance With Me’.

20171013-_DSC6235
Connections – Westcroft School Students
20171013-_DSC6246
Mosaic Disability Theatre  – Will you dance with me