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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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.
The 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.
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.
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.
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
‘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’.
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.
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!
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?
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.
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’
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 are seeking a Treasurer to join their board, could you be part of the only inclusive dance company in Shropshire?
Shropshire Inclusive Dance (SiD) has an established board of directors who have the skills and expertise to drive the development of this company. We are now looking for a treasurer to join our board. This is a voluntary position requiring commitment and an interest in the arts.
To be our Treasurer you must be a finance professional who has knowledge of charity governance. As part of our board you will be joining a friendly team who are committed to supporting an ambitious local organisation. You will be supported in your role as Treasurer through training, away days and assistance from the company accountant.
We would love to hear from anybody who is interested in the role, please get in touch!
01743 234 976
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.
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
A full house at the festival witnessed Contact Dance Company’s absorbing and powerful programme of duets ‘Two Fold’. The programme featured;
‘Unspoken’ An intimate duet about friendship. How do we speak without words?
‘While you broke through to other worlds’ A duet exploring the dynamics and polarity between two people, the pull to strive ahead, the fear of being left behind.
‘Father Daughter’ a celebration of the real life connection between the two dancers.
The programme also included a beautifully made short film about the duets entitled
‘A bridge between us’ created by filmmaker Jonathan Tritton.
The programme culminated in a trio ‘The details in the hands’.
Dance development leader Elizabeth Crosswell and her son were in the audience
I came to watch Contact Dance Company at the Feast Festival at Malvern Cube Theatre with my 4 year old son, we were mesmerised.
I’ve never seen him sit on the edge of his seat like that before, watching the duet between Rachel Liggitt and Mervyn Bradley unfold. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him softly mirroring movements from the dancers, as a parent your instinct is to hush, to worry about disturbing the performance for others, but this was his response to the performance and my instinct said let him be.
His response came from the environment the performers had created, by connecting with us, the audience. They made us feel a part of it, drawing us into a duet for two, but we were also immersed in the moments of touch, the friendship, the meeting and parting.
The dancers were beautiful; from the measured, dynamic movements of the all-male duet, to the warm flow of the structured improvisation of the trio. I wanted to dance in that trio too, they made it look like so much fun. The way they connected with us as an audience is to me a huge part of what dance is about. The moment when the father proudly shows off his baby girl to the audience – we shared that pride with him. We see the love and care danced together when his daughter joins him later in the duet. It’s just magical.
I thought it was brilliant that the dancers were available to chat with the audience after the performance. Unfortunately I had to dash off for the school run, but I would have loved to have asked about the process and how the work was created.
Please thank all the dancers for their wonderful performances. I was so grateful to have been able to see such high quality dance in such an intimate venue.
Shropshire Inclusive Dance would like to thank the feast festival for inviting us to be part of a very special festival and JTV for supporting our production with high quality lighting and sound.
Images from the duets Father Daughter and Unspoken. (photography Ray Jacobs)