In May 2017 Neon Dance travelled to Japan in order to research the work of Arakawa and Madeline Gins for new work 'Puzzle Creature'. The trip was made possible thanks to funding from the Artists' International Development Fund and Sasakawa Foundation.
Learning new choreography is an everyday part of a dancer’s life, but learning a part that was created for someone else brings different, sometimes unexpected, challenges.
In April I sat in on rehearsals for Neon Dance’s production, Empathy, where newest cast member Luke was learning his part ahead of a performance at The Edge, Bath. Luke is taking over the role from David: one of the original dance artists who helped develop the work.
As choreographer Adrienne Hart notes in the video below, this process is not unusual with long-term touring productions – all of the current Empathy cast members have been taught their part by another artist.
At this rehearsal, however, David was missing – he was unwell, so instead Luke was aided by videos from past performances played on a laptop, with guidance from Adrienne. Strangely, this non-human presence in the room in place of a real person drew my attention to the empathy needed to learn a role created for somebody else.
From the two-dimensional image of David on screen, Luke needed to bring the video – a memory of his performance – into his own body in the present space. The two artists have contrasting physicalities and styles: Luke’s movement is naturally fluid, rippling through shapes like pouring water, while David’s style is more angular and staccato.
Unsurprisingly then, the rehearsal began a little tentatively, as Luke experimented with sections of the choreography and hit a couple of stumbling blocks: headstands were no problem, but a couple of floor-work sections had been choreographed to David’s strengths and body shape and were difficult for another dancer to emulate.
The laptop was simultaneously a facilitator and a barrier to the rehearsal process, which felt particularly apt as this performance of Empathy was part of a day exploring the relationship between dance and technology. Difficulties included the static position of the camera: while some clips gave Luke replay-able, close-up access to the sequence, in others David’s movements veered away from the angle of the shot, making them frustratingly hard to follow.
With David unable to offer the encouragement and insight he would have if he’d been in the room, Luke had to be able to understand his perspective, and the feelings behind his movement, from the video recordings.
For me as an observer, it was like watching two people interact for the first time and start to build a relationship: though physically absent, David had an almost shadow-like presence in the studio, as Luke stepped into the echoes of his movements and made them his own.
Working with Adrienne, Luke was able to devise small modifications, developing the choreography by moving through it, to inhabit the role in his own right as a performer. This adaptation required excellent knowledge of himself as an artist, but also a sensitive – empathetic – understanding of Adrienne’s vision for the work as a whole.
Post by Lucy Corley (@Lilopossum)
Media Intern Lucy Corley has written the above article for the South East Dance website The Red Line.
Watch a 1-minute film capturing behind the scenes at the Barbican Centre during our week-long Puzzle Creature residency. The film features fashion artist Ana Rajcevic producing a series of 'artefacts' with dance artists Luke Crook and Carys Staton.
Film by Oliver Holms.
Erased Tapes Records approached Neon's Adrienne Hart at the beginning of the year and asked if she would participate in a new music video for Peter Broderick and David Allred. The finished film directed by Robert Raths with artwork by Peter Liversidge features artists and musicians from around the world. A simple concept with compelling results we think. Enjoy!
We're on the look out for a media intern to support our Southwest (UK) Empathy tour.
Working alongside Neon's Artistic Director Adrienne Hart and mentored by Float PR founder Sofia Ilyas, the successful candidate will record and describe Neon’s new production on their own terms, exploring new ways in which to engage their peer group with the performing arts. We're looking for a creative self-starter aged 18 - 25 years old who is based in the Southwest region.
Send your CV and a cover letter or a short video (5-minutes max) describing your experience / interest in the role, alongside the below equal opportunities form to:
Ian Abbott - firstname.lastname@example.org
Equal Opportunities Form (click to download)
Deadline: 31st January 2017
Fee: £500 Bursary (travel inclusive)
Applicants must be able to commit a minimum 5 days to the project between February – April 2017. This must include 27th March (Exeter Northcott) and 22nd April (The Edge, Bath). All other working days/hours are negotiable.
Neon Dance were invited by Bath Spa University to takeover the fascinating Museum of Bath at Work for a week this November in order to create a new site specific work. Working with second year Bath Spa dance students, Neon's Adrienne Hart work in collaboration with lighting designer Stuart Bailes, composer Sebastian Reynolds and company dance artist Tilly Webber. Manuals for Living and Dying opened on Friday 11th November and received 3 sold out performances, where audiences were guided around the museum and treated to a re-imaging of the space as envisaged by Neon Dance.
Neon Dance have been in the studio at DanceXchange, Birmingham this week working alongside Producer / Composer Sebastian Reynolds and renowned Thai dance artist Pichet Klunchun.
In May 2016, with the support of British Council and Arts Council England's Artist International Development Fund, Sebastian Reynolds and Neon Dance choreographer Adrienne Hart travelled to Bangkok to research Thai dance and music traditions within the context of Buddhist Jataka mythology.
The creative duo have since secured funding from Arts Council England, Oxford Dance Forum, Kickstarter and support in kind from SOAS and DanceXchange to invite Pichet Klunchun over to the UK. A research week at Dancexchange enabled the team to work collaboratively to develop a new, bilingual musical and movement based language to tell the story of Mahajanaka, one of the great myths of the ancient world.
Images and a video by Oliver Holms, documenting the making process, coming soon...
Neon's Adrienne Hart is currently working out in Pristina where the UK shock brexit vote has become the backdrop for a new tragic comedy; visioning Kosovo as the ideal country to take the UK's place. The brilliant writer Jeton Neziraj delivers a timely and hilarious take on modern day Kosovo. The play opens in Pristina on the 26th September with further dates in Tirana, Zagreb and Belgrade.