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

 

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’

 ‘At times it felt like the piece was showing to me the ever moving qualities of the whole of humanity’20180619-IMG_2260 copy

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our first open workshop, facilitated by Joanna Young.

Ways of being in unknown places.

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’

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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.

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We were invited to find shared breath and shared journeys in partners,
small groups and all together. A sea of breath.

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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.

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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.

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We had the time and space to reflect on our experiences and celebrate the treasures
we felt and witnessed.

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