Over the course of the pandemic and under the limitations of lockdown I have been creating miniature dances arising from balletic challenges that could be practised and performed at home. There is a long established tradition in Western classical music whereby established composers have written technical studies, aimed at both amateur and professional musicians; some of these transcending their functional starting points to become great music. These are published and as such available to all who wish to try playing them; I hope to make my dance studies similarly publicly available online, and am currently investigating appropriate formats and platforms for doing this.
This grew from my response to those initially intimidated by live Zoom ballet classes, for whom I began making and posting a daily enchaînement on YouTube, to be viewed and practised in one’s own time and at one’s own pace – you can find Enchaînement of the day here. I began making more choreographic studies in the summer of 2020, greatly supported by the shared process of two wonderful programmes run by Caroline Salem at Space @ Clarence Mews in Hackney. I had previously passed valuable and constructive time in this wonderful studio facility, dedicated to the exploring and making of new work through structured programmes which include expert mentoring. Under lockdown it was of course impossible to go there in person, but Caroline designed online programmes which via Zoom allowed small groups of diverse artists to share their emerging ideas, receive peer feedback, and explore new virtual ways of framing and disseminating their work.
Initially I was dancing in my kitchen; but gradually towards the end of 2020 Oxford’s Arts at the Old Fire Station (OFS) began to open its studio for individual rehearsal. I was thus able to take advantage of Oxford Dance Forum and OFS’s generous Breathing Space programme of subsidised rehearsal space, generating and filming further dances to add to a small but growing portfolio of solos to share with Caroline and my newfound online colleagues.
Oxford Dance Forum’s Scratch Night on 9th February 2022 – ODF’s first live show since before the pandemic – provided a perfect opportunity to show some of these works to a wider group and receive feedback, but also to see the studies in a more conventional performance setting rather than in the studio or domestic space, alongside striking solos by Pragna Das and Helen Edwards. You can read Maggie Watson‘s account of the evening here. Having done the initial dancing work myself I was delighted to be able to teach existing studies to talented local Oxford dancers, and to make one new. Some of these pieces have been conceived with the qualities and needs of specific dancers in mind; others to focus on particular technical concepts. Ségolène Tarte, Evie Tucker and Thomas Page danced a selection set to piano music by composers Anatoly Lyadov, Trevor Hold, Erik Satie, Georgy Catoire, Francis Poulenc, and Jean-Philippe Rameau.
I hope you enjoy the following selection of pictures taken by experienced and sensitive Oxford dance photographer Stu Allsopp. This was an encouraging event; watch this space for further developments!
My sincere gratitude to Arts Council England’s prompt and empathetic Covid Emergency funding scheme, which supported me at the outset of the pandemic, enabling me to equip myself and develop my limited IT skills to cope with the new realities of dancing, teaching and creating online…