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A year ago I didn’t manage to write a review of 2018; which had ended momentously with the wonderful winter wedding just before Christmas of my daughter Joanna and her man Dan.  A very happy occasion with much laughter and song; and the talents of dear dancer friends from Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet days were visible in the bride’s beautiful dress from Ritva Westenius, now headed by Chenca Williams, and gorgeous floral arrangements by Covent Garden’s go-to florist Bloomsbury Flowers run by Stephen Wicks and Mark Welford.

Building up to this special family event had shaped a year otherwise spent in regular teaching but also academic activity; beginning in January with a lecture for the History of Performance Course devised by the admirable Jane Pritchard, Curator of Dance at the Victoria and Albert Museum which houses the former Theatre Museum collections. ‘Dancers, audiences and spaces: reflections from practice’ had been originally presented at a Dance and Academia event in Oxford programmed by Miranda Laurence.  It drew on my own experience as a dancer in considering different spaces for dance and their effects on the relationship between performer and audience.  In April the more theoretical side of my doctoral research had its first outing in a paper ‘The ballet class: oral tradition and embodied learning’ at the Society for Dance Research’s conference evocatively titled ‘Dance in the Age of Forgetfulness’. Read More

Looking back on the last day of 2017… This site has been very quiet this year; but even if artistic production and performance has been less in evidence there has been significant BiSS activity of other sorts, both study and teaching…

Having formally presented to the Roehampton dance research community in November 2016, in the New Year I submitted an initial chapter and a summary plan of my dissertation for examination by my Director of Studies Emilyn Claid, supervisor Geraldine Morris and Internal Examiner dance philosopher Anna Pakes. A viva on these submissions in May happily confirmed my upgrade in the PhD progress; the green light to go ahead and write. Read More

Looking back on the review of 2015, 2016 didn’t work out quite as expected – but in a year of global upheaval that is perhaps hardly surprising…

Following on from Two old instruments, an amazing opportunity had presented itself in December 2015 to work with Baroque musician Evelyn Nallen on a recreation of what could claim to be the first dramatic ballet in which a story was told without recourse to words, but through dance and mimetic gesture. John Weaver’s The Loves of Mars and Venus was premiered on 2nd March 1717 at Drury Lane.   His original scenario survives, and Evelyn and dance historian Moira Goff had used it as a base to put together a score of suitable period music; the idea to recreate the work incorporating some authentic dance material of the period but to reset ensembles and the gestural scenes, which Weaver had originally “attempted in imitation of the Pantomimes of the Ancient Greeks and Romans”.   This fascinating project was set to be unveiled on the 300th Anniversary in a truly period magnificent setting with a team of 14 dancers, 7 musicians and an actress. Unfortunately despite our best efforts and heavyweight support from some big names including Dr Richard Ralph, Weaver’s biographer, we were unable to raise sufficient funds; and ultimately lost our venue through factors beyond our control. The project has now morphed into an intimate play with music and authentic dance “Mr Weaver’s Dramatick Entertainment”, but I am sadly no longer involved. I will however keep you posted of performances of what should be a very enjoyable celebration of a truly notable date in the history of ballet. Read More

Rehearsing Sea of Troubles with Yorke Dance Project at the Place 22/02/16 -photo by Yolande Yorke-Edgell

Rehearsing Sea of Troubles with Yorke Dance Project at the Place 22/02/16 -photo by Yolande Yorke-Edgell

The last two Sundays I have spent at The Place in London rehearsing Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Sea of Troubles. This innovative late work was made in 1988 for the independent ballet company Dance Advance, led by Michael Batchelor, Jennifer Jackson, Sheila Styles and myself. As aspiring choreographers we broke away from the Royal Ballet companies to make new ballet based work, using 20th century and live music, performing in a range of smaller, more intimate venues round the country, reaching new audiences. For our first programme we asked MacMillan if he would make something for us; he responded with an experimental take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, designed by Deborah MacMillan, and set to chamber music by Webern and Martinu played live in performance by the ensemble Quorum. We toured extensively in southern, south-eastern and eastern regions of the UK, culminating in two performances in the Queen Elizabeth Hall on London’s South Bank. The piece later toured to Madrid, the Canary Isles, Bonn and China, and a short documentary was made about it by Anglia Television, featuring interview with MacMillan and extracts performed by the original cast: Michael Batchelor, Susie Crow, Jennifer Jackson, Russell Maliphant, Stephen Sheriff and Sheila Styles. Sea of Troubles subsequently entered the repertoire of Scottish Ballet and was also performed by an ensemble led by Adam Cooper.

Sea of Troubles is now being revived by Yorke Dance Project as part of their new programme Inspirit (also featuring works by Robert Cohan, Yolande Yorke-Edgell and Charlotte Edmonds), which will be previewed at the Clore Studio at the Royal Opera House on 11th March, and will tour in autumn 2016. MacMillan’s barefoot work, which the choreographer intended as a fusion of ballet and contemporary dance, has been taught from the original Benesh notation taken at the time of creation by notator Jane Elliott. I have been drawing on my embodied memory to inform and rehearse an exciting cast who are developing powerful new interpretations.  Wonderful to see this dramatic work, its fractured narrative full of insight and memorable imagery, coming alive once again. Here are some photos taken of the rehearsal process by Yolande Yorke-Edgell.

Looking at the original Dance Advance programme...

Looking at the original Dance Advance programme…

You can find out more about Sea of Troubles and MacMillan’s work here

And about Yorke Dance Project’s programme and activities here.

Dance Advance archival material can be accessed through the National Resource Centre for Dance at University of Surrey.

Coaching Amy Thake

Coaching Amy Thake

A year of dancing, teaching, study and music…

On a quiet day in January at the Ivy Arts Centre in University of Surrey Jennifer Jackson, Nicholas Minns and I danced for Sonia York-Pryce as part of her research into ageism and the mature dancer, improvising on her material. This enjoyable experience resulted in short individual interpretations, which along with those of other dancers in UK and Australia Sonia edited into an atmospheric compilation, Interprète/Inappropriate Behaviour. Shown to acclaim as an installation at the Whitebox Gallery of Queensland College of Art at Griffith University in August it subsequently won the Gold Medal in the first ever Joie de Vivre Dance Film Competition here in the UK. You can read more about this and find links to the films here

Dancing continued in February with a further performance of Two old instruments with viola da gamba player Jonathan Rees in the impressive Hive library in Worcester; read about this here. We prepared for this with rehearsal at Didcot’s welcoming Cornerstone Arts Centre; and were back there again in June, this time with Jennifer Jackson and violinist Jenna Sherry, to work on another musical collaboration. Set to Ravel’s beautiful and richly complex Sonata for violin and cello, inflect, unravel received an informal showing in the Church Hall at Holy Trinity Barnes on 17th June before its first formal performance on 18th June as part of Donald Hutera’s vibrant GOlive Festival at the Giant Olive Theatre in Kentish Town. Read More

A brief update on Sonia Yorke-Pryce’s project with older dancers, Inappropriate Behaviour, of which it has been fascinating to be a part, with news of showings of the work in Australia this summer.  Sonia’s filming of 4 Australian dancers and 4 British dancers interpreting her original motif was exhibited in a video installation in the Whitebox Gallery of Queensland College of Art at Griffith University from Tuesday 28th July to Friday 31st July.  Sonia will also be making a presentation about her work on this as part of the DANscienCE FESTIVAL this weekend 21st to 23rd August at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane.  This will include a showing of the final cut of her short film incorporating the interpretations of all 8 dancers: Ann Dickie, Jennifer Jackson, Susie Crow, Nicholas Minns (UK) and Anca Frankenhauser, Ross Philip, Patrick Harding-Irmer and Susan Barling Australia).

Nicholas Minns and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing for Inappropriate Behaviour, Ivy Arts Centre January 2015

Nicholas Minns and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing for Inappropriate Behaviour, Ivy Arts Centre January 2015

Watch Sonia’s final cut here

Read more about Sonia’s work here

Enjoy!

Hard to believe that two weeks has already passed since the performance of inflect, unravel at Donald Hutera’s GOlive Festival at the Giant Olive Theatre above the very agreeable Lion and Unicorn pub in Gaisford Street, Kentish Town.  A packed house, and even more packed dressing room, for this informal eclectic closing evening where Jennifer Jackson and I along with musicians Jonathan Rees and Jenna Sherry shared the bill with a rich range of dance and performance: Mamoru Iriguchi’s wacky multi-layered 4D Cinema: Screen 2, Alice Labant’s fluid solo Je m’appelle Reviens accompanied by the mysterious swooshings of her washing machine cycle; heartwarming Corali Dance Company in a summery quartet, powerfully brave Hanna Wroblewski’s dark solo My Heart became this Monster, Mara Vivas’ cool gestural Triptych and Fred Gehrig’s quizzically suggestive A Tree.  Great to be part of this vibrant sharing of new ideas in an intimate space, ingeniously lit and cheerfully compered by Donald Hutera.  The future of GOlive at this location has been somewhat up in the air of late but, with luck and perseverance, it will continue here as well as elsewhere; there are imminent dates at the Oxford Playhouse Burton Taylor Studio July 15-18 and Chesil Theatre, Winchester July 24.  More information to follow…

Sharing inflect, unravel at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Barnes - photograph by Adrian Hobbs

Sharing inflect, unravel at Holy Trinity Church Hall, Barnes – photograph by Adrian Hobbs

Grateful thanks are due to Holy Trinity Church in Barnes which afforded free space for us to rehearse in their peaceful church hall; on Wednesday 17th June we did an informal showing there for local parishioners, well received and followed by tea, chat and strawberries.  It has been great to be able to work on this piece in gorgeous studios at the Royal Ballet Senior School in Covent Garden, at the Ivy Arts Centre of Surrey University and once again at Cornerstone Arts Centre in Didcot.  We hope that there will be further opportunities to perform it, and there is another movement from Ravel’s lovely work to be developed; watch this space…

Delighted to report that Sonia York-Pryce has recently finished editing the video footage taken during her visit  to the UK in January, as part of primary research and creative practice for her PhD research project Ageism and the Mature Dancer.  Under the title Inappropriate Behaviour she has made short films of 8 dancers’ interpretations of an original movement motif of hers, set to contemplative music by American composer Bill Ryan.  Here is a link to her short compilation Interprète – the beginning featuring the British contingent; myself, Jennifer Jackson, Nicholas Minns and Ann Dickie:

https://vimeo.com/119615078

And see the links below for our varying takes on her original material:

https://vimeo.com/131751942 – Susie Crow

https://vimeo.com/131639723 – Jennifer Jackson

https://vimeo.com/131616011 – Nicolas Minns

You can find out more about Bill Ryan and his music here

GOlive is a dance and performance festival curated by the arts journalist Donald Hutera (The Times, etc) and produced by George Sallis, founder of the Giant Olive Theatre. It launched in autumn 2013 as an eclectic, intimate and playfully unpredictable platform for dance-based and other work by performing artists of all stripes. GOlive’s base has been the Lion and Unicorn pub theatre in Kentish Town, which is also where the latest and laboratorial edition is in progress until June 18.

Hutera is hosting each evening during a nine-night season where the spotlight will be on dance and movement with special emphasis on the work of women spanning the generations.  Under the name of BIG Ballets, long standing colleague Jennifer Jackson and I are delighted to be performing once again at GOlive on Thursday 18th June in inflect, unravel – a dance and music collaboration exploring Ravel’s Sonata for violin and cello with violinist Jenna Sherry and cellist Jonathan Rees (viola da gamba player from Two old instruments).

Jenna Sherry  and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing inflect, unravel at Ivy Arts Centre Guildford

Jenna Sherry and Jennifer Jackson rehearsing inflect, unravel at Ivy Arts Centre Guildford

You can find out more about the Festival programme and how to book here

Read Rebecca JS Nice’s review of Jennifer’s and my previous appearance at GOIive in 2013 here

And read Nicholas Minns’ review of Late Work here

We all look forward to seeing you there!

Susie

Start as you mean to go on…

This year’s creative endeavours got off to a positive and life affirming start. I joined colleagues Jennifer Jackson and Nicholas Minns in the spacious dance studio at the Ivy Arts Centre at University of Surrey once again on 6th January at the request of dancer and researcher Sonia York-Pryce, to contribute to her research into older dancers.

Sonia’s research into ageism and the mature dancer began in 2013 as part of her Bachelor of Digital Media (Hons) at the Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Australia. She called it Does the Dancing have to Stop? and initially involved dancers Jennifer Jackson and Louise Lecavalier in interviews and questionnaires about their process, fitness, and performance thoughts.  This and a short film using archive footage of the young Sonia and the mature became the creative input of her degree; watch the film here.

Read More

It is that day of the year when all our extended family make predictions as to what the coming year will hold.  I find these very difficult; much easier to reflect back on 2013 and see what that reveals.  Finding the way forward by looking to the past seems to have been rather a theme in creative work this year… 

Jennifer Jackson and I joined forces once again with deluxe improvising duo of composers Malcolm Atkins and Andrew Melvin to perform Late Work at Donald Hutera’s GoLive festival of new dance and performance in September at the Lion and Unicorn pub in Kentish Town.  The piece reflects on our past as dancers and how we are shaped by ballet’s language and historic repertoire.  This really was ballet in a very small space, but thrilling to be part of this lively and refreshing event and its richly varied programme. Read More