‘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.
Assam Vivemos is one of the most traditional disability film festivals worldwide, Brazil’s International Disability Film Festival (Assim Vivemos) is a biennial event that takes place in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, and Brasília, with two full weeks of screenings in each city, always providing all accessibilities: audio-description, sign language in the panels, and subtitles in the films. Known as the pioneer event in Brazil offering audio-description in all sessions, our festival strongly mobilizes the community of people with disability as well as schools and college students, and professionals related to accessibility, inclusion and other issues of people with disability.
We are thrilled that the film we be shown to audiences in Rio De Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia.We hope that those attending the festival and viewing the film enjoy it.
Contact dance company, friends and dancers from around the region gathered for two days of moving, dancing, witnessing and exploring with dance artist Joanna Young. Below are some words and images to share, of our time together.
(Images by Ewen Macintyre)
‘Working with improvisations and scores (creative movement tasks and instructions), open to individual and a group interpretation, the workshop explored how we can navigate, compose and find comfort within the unknown. Co-creating an environment of care, sensitivity and intrigue, this workshop was a place to be tactile, playful and curious around the relationship between bodies, objects and environment’
We were invited to connect with our own bodies, our own breath and the places we felt drawn to inhabit and move through in the studio.
We were invited to find shared breath and shared journeys in partners,
small groups and all together. A sea of breath.
We explored objects in the space some brought in from the woods of West Wales , others the detritus of dance studios, shoes, chairs, trolleys.
Objects as worlds to explore, objects as part of our moving bodies, objects as flotsam and jetsam, being moved as part of our own currents and tides.
There was an open environment of play, exploration and shared performance. We felt safe, nurtured and beguiled to be our creative , playful, listening responsive selves.
We had the time and space to reflect on our experiences and celebrate the treasures
we felt and witnessed.
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.
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.
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.
‘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.
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’.