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.

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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.

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

 

 

 

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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.

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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.

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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

 

Lift Off! Rehearsals have begun for Contact Dance Company’s new show ‘Being Seen’

‘Contact Dance Company’ have begun rehearsals for a brand new dance piece entitled ‘Being Seen’, to be premiered at Theatre Severn on July 20th, 2019

Choreographer, Jo Fong, is working with a cast of eight dancers with and without disabilities, to craft this new dance work. Jo, who has worked with international companies such as Ballet Rambert and the Welsh National Opera, has been enjoying day one of rehearsals:

‘It’s so exciting to be at The Hive in Shrewsbury, with Contact Dance Company. It feels like a brand new era for the company- something fresh and energised. I’m finding myself constantly inspired by the dancers’ generosity and creativity’.

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 Amal Neffi, a company dancer with a disability, reflects on the first day working with the choreographer.

‘We challenged ourselves as dancers, learning how each other move, and building our confidence to work in close contact, supporting, moving and listening to each other.

 

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The new dance, ‘ Being Seen’, will be a treat for Shropshire audiences. Contact Dance Company has built a strong reputation for its powerful brand of contemporary inclusive dance, full of depth and connection. Choreographer Jo Fong wows audiences with her refreshing, energetic and playful dance-making; the combination promises to be a feast for the senses.

Audiences for ‘Being Seen’ performances will be invited to sit close to the action. Shropshire Inclusive Dance co artistic director Ray Jacobs states:

‘It’s really important that audience members see the details of the dance and feel the connection between dancers. The smallest gesture, the qualities of contact between dancers, is a delight to watch. Witnessing the show will be a sensory experience’.

This new dance piece is funded by Arts Council England and Shropshire Council.

Seats for ‘Being Seen’ can be booked via the Theatre Severn box office or online here  but hurry, tickets are going fast!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A week of dancing and connecting – Unique Voices Shared Visions, AVS Choreographic Lab 2019

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16 dancers joined SiD for the AVS Inclusive Choreographic Lab in June. Dancers travelled from Stoke, Gloucester, Nottingham, Stourbridge, Kidderminster, Telford and small villages surrounding Shropshire to attend the sell out week and what fun we had.

Workshop facilitators Annie Hanauer, Vicky Malin and Sarah Blanc arrived from London bringing a wealth of experience through working inclusively with some of the most established and respected artists and organisations in the contemporary dance world. The common thread  between the facilitators was that all three artists had worked with acclaimed Candoco Dance Company.

Each day started with a dance class, rotated between all three dancers. Each facilitator offered their own unique approach to morning class, including taught technical exercises, somatic dance practice approaches and improvisational tasks. 

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In the afternoons we explored creative choreographic tasks based upon the workshops leader’s interests and their choreographic research. The tasks involved lots of creative play and experimentation, individually and in small groups. There was time to talk, reflect and socialize, a gift that does not happen enough. During the final two days we experimented choreographically with our own artistic ideas.

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The week was a rich nurturing experience, feeding the soul, whilst enlivening and revitalizing individual practice. I found total delight in reconnecting with dancing friends and the joy of meeting new people. I loved the diversity of the group, encompassing different backgrounds, ages, experience, genders, heights, and body shapes.  The group arrived with various mobility aids, expectations and hopes but all of us were incredibly ‘open’, respectful and willing to take part fully in all the nuggets of ideas, movement explorations and improvisational structures offered. I loved dancing in a large group, as an ensemble, there was so much to feed off and enjoy.

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It was wonderful to be approached to host the AVS Lab, SiD leant that there is a need for a workshop of this nature and the experience brings so much to dancers and artists living and working in Shropshire and for those living outside in the surrounding regions. Maybe this is the beginning of a bi-annual opportunity and future collaborations ?
Thank you AVS Lab for this brilliant opportunity.

Rachel Liggitt, SiD Co- Director.

This AVS Lab was supported by Candoco Dance Company, The Place and Arts Council England. Thank you to Basil Houghton Memorial Trust for funding SiD received to host the AVS Lab.

Photography is by Ewen Macintyre.

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Contact Dance Company begin an exciting new performance project with dance artist Jo Fong.

Contact Dance Company performers spent two fabulous & creative days with Jo Fong, gathering ideas for a new piece to be premiered by the company at Theatre Severn in the summer.

Jo Fong invited the dancers into her physical, energetic, and dynamic style of dance.

How close can we dance together?  How small can our dances be?
How much noise can we make while we dance. Can we all dance in this tiny space here?

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Jo’s invitations to move were enthusiastically accepted by the company dancers.
Dances of an incredible range were explored over the weekend, subtle small dances in pairs, wild chaotic dancers with the whole company in small spaces, moments of quiet tenderness, lots of laughter and applause, the work was beautiful, powerful and funny to witness.

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Jo Fong is a director, choreographer and performer working in dance, film, theatre, opera and live art. Her eclectic career includes performances with DV8 Physical Theatre, Rosas (Belgium) and Rambert Dance Company.

 

Talking about her work Jo states’

‘The work creates shared experiences, as an audience member, performer or as participant. It seeks to invite an open exchange and immediacy through arts creation and opportunities that aim to promote and support inclusivity and the value of art to everyone’

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Jo Fong and Contact Dance Company are a great match. Jo, during the workshop shared her observation of the incredible physical and creative connection shared between Contact Dance Company dancers. Jo likes to see the work she is making with Contact Dance Company,  with all its diversity, connection, humanness and dynamism, as the future, the new normal.

 

 

 

SiD’s Film ‘A Bridge Between Us’ shown at The Breaking Down Barriers Film Festival in Moscow

SiD’s short documentary film ‘A Bridge Between Us’ was shown at  The Breaking Down Barriers Film Festival in Moscow.

‘A Bridge Between Us’ created by filmmaker Jonathan Tritton, documents a performance of duets by Contact Dance Company. The film explores what it means for performers to dance together and the skills needed to find a strong connection when making and performing dance. In the film,  dancers with and without disabilities share the connection they feel with each other through physical touch and through an invisible connection across the dance floor.

 

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The film can be viewed here.

SiD Co – director Ray Jacobs presented the film in two venues in Moscow as part of this ground breaking Russian film festival. The film was very popular and received great feedback. Russian and international attendees were interested in how SiD worked as a company and many international invites were received !
Ray also ran a master class inclusive workshop, sharing some of Contact Dance Company’s practical and creative approaches towards building connection between dancers.

The Breaking Down Barriers film festival, is an important international event. The festival shared over 80 films that explore, reveal and celebrate disabled peoples lives through fiction and documentary films. The festival was very well organised including a brilliant team of volunteers and translators for international visitors. SiD would like to thank the British Arts Council in Russia for supporting us. The festival was a great networking event and new contacts, opportunities and partnerships were forged.sIS

The premier of Unknown Places – a new ensemble piece by Contact Dance Company.

‘Unknown Places’ a newly commissioned ensemble piece choreographed by dance artist Joanna Young was performed by Contact Dance Company, last week at The Hive in Shrewsbury.

13 dancers from Contact Dance Company wove intricate layers of simple evocative movements throughout this 20 minute piece, often collecting, moving, replacing and shifting natural objects such as bamboo, rocks, sticks and plants.

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.

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The dance was accompanied by a subtle and dynamic soundscape of field recordings including birdsong, tides, river sounds, composed by Jamie McCarthy

The cast of 13 very individual dancers moved through shifts in mood and 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.

 

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Members of the audience shared the following thoughts about the piece.

‘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’

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Described by The Dancing Times as ‘an adventurous choreographic voice’, Joanna Young’s work is delicate, intricately crafted and absorbing to watch.

She writes ‘As a child I had an obsession with arranging spaces; moving paraphernalia and domestic furnishings around to create different atmospheres and situations. I feel like I am still playing the same game’

Before coming to Shropshire to make this new piece Joanna Young was in residency in West Wales, this ever-shifting landscape of rivers and tides had a big influence on the piece. During the making process the dancers were invited to spend a while witnessing the swirling currents of the river Severn and for these currents to be internalised and expressed by the dancers.

Many members of the audience commented on the absorbing, mesmerising and soothing qualities of the piece.

In the first half of the show Contact Dance Company shared two powerful duets

‘Unspoken’ and ‘While you broke through’ and screened a film about their making process entitled ‘A bridge between us’ These works get to the heart of what contact Dance company is about. Connection, relationship, presence, and a joy in the moving body.

Unknown places will be performed in the autumn, that and other repertory work will be available for bookings.

Images of Unknown Places – photography by Ewen Macintyre

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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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’.

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Connections – Westcroft School Students
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Mosaic Disability Theatre  – Will you dance with me