Rebecca Evans: You are only the sum of your data

Trinity Laban alumnus Rebecca Evans is currently working on a digitally interactive mobile phone app led dance performance, David, with her company Pell Ensemble.

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Image: David by Mira Loew

What was your inspiration behind David?

The inspiration behind David was data – how we’re using data and how we’re moving towards an uncertain future. We’re caught up in this huge technological wave and we don’t know where it’s going to land, but we keep feeding it, and I’m interested in examining that. I was also inspired by an outdoor performance I had done with a walking app, and that was the first time I encountered using mobile phones in dance.

You invite the audience to use their mobile phones, could you tell us more about what this involves?

The audience scan a QR code which takes them to a mobile app / website. There are projected screens in the space which give the audience information, and the audience then bring David to life. The audience start giving data which helps to shape David and the world around him.

The interactions on the mobile are actually quite simple – from a coder’s perspective maybe not! – but from an audience perspective, things like holding, swiping, really quick choices and ways to interact that immediately show up in the space, and David responds. We try to bring audiences out of their phones and into the performance space as much as possible. The only feedback will be in the performance space rather than on their mobile phone screen.

At the moment we’re working at a limited audience of around 40. You would have a unique projected avatar on the screen, so we have limited spaces. You can really see when you press a button that your avatar is moving.

You and your dancers, David Orgle and Stefania Pinato, are all Trinity Laban alumni. How has it been working together?

It’s been fantastic! I’ve worked with David for around three years now, so he’s really been a part of developing Pell Ensemble, and Stefania is fantastic, they both give a lot. They’re both incredibly creative in the space, really solution based. What’s really wonderful about them is they really understand what it is to be in a collaborative environment. There’s about 8 artists in total collaborating on this project, each from different backgrounds, and they’re able to wrap their heads around the different elements whilst feeding into that process which is great!

We’re all Trinity Laban alumni, and we will hopefully be back at the Laban Building for a week in April to rehearse. It’s nice to come back and to be using the facilities, bringing everything back full circle around ten years after I’ve graduated!

How are you finding working with technology?

I’ve found that technology can be incredibly expensive and it is a very cost heavy project because of the amount of people involved and the time needed to develop a digital piece. It’s very different from having say five weeks consecutively in the studio – this is a four month creation with weeks of dance time dotted around. People have given up a lot of their time because they’re so interested in the project, and they really want to develop something new.

We’re looking to develop a live stream, hoping to team up with a University that has an interactive digital arts subject and a dance subject. This can help us develop what that live stream could be and could possibly even be out on tour with us. An example of putting this to use could be that we’re at a venue and there’s schools that want to see the performance but might not be able to come – we can then do a live stream and that can go out to them and they can use their tablets that they’ve got in the classroom to interact with David.

What’s next for you?

We’ve got performances at the end of April at Redbridge Drama Centre and the University of Bedfordshire. These are more showcase performances, and then for 2018 we’re looking at having another small development period to really refine the code and build out the live stream. There’s a lot of digital wrap around the performance, so before you come there’s a website you can go to and interact with David and then after the performance your data is made into a visual expression of you as an individual in the performance. We plan to be developing that in 2018 and then we’re looking at contacting venues for touring. And then we’ll see!

Also being a part of 2faced Dance Company’s THE BENCH programme last year has been so great and really helped to raise the profile of the project.

For more information visit the Pell Ensemble website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Rosie Kay on conspiracy theory and the Illuminati

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Image: MK ULTRA by Brian Slater

Rosie Kay’s latest work MK Ultra comes to the Laban theatre on 20 April 2017.

Explaining my new work, MK Ultra to people has become a lot easier in recent weeks. Even six months ago, mentioning my work looking at conspiracy theory would have drawn a snort from many over the age of 25. But it is different now- ‘Fake News’ and ‘Alternative Facts’ have become the news and the fragile balance of trust between truth, the news, our leaders and the media has been fractured. The lid has been lifted, and widespread belief and knowledge of conspiracy theory is now being looked at seriously- something I’ve been advocating for several years as I researched and watched the gulf between the mainstream, the alternative and how young people were navigating their way in this confused world of distrust. Most of us have been in a state of stasis, but young people have known and felt the disintegration of belief in our leaders and the stories they tell us.

Researching conspiracy theory since 2012, I came across the theory of the ‘Illuminati’, for those who don’t know, a supposed shadowy elite who control the media through messages in pop music, entertainment and intent on somehow ruling the world, spreading a ‘New World Order’ agenda of state control. Through my research I encountered a lot of conspiracy theory, I looked at false flag attacks, false news, alternative theories on almost every single mainstream news item, as well as theories on shadowy elites, occult sects, secret societies, modern witchcraft, assassinations and celebrity deaths.

The conspiracy theory is that the people who created and developed the brainwashing technique of MK Ultra teamed up with CIA and Disney to create automaton pop stars. MK Ultra was a CIA brainwashing programme that was carried out across Western Universities in an attempt to use experimental psychology to programme potential spies, soldiers and assassins. While it is historically agreed that MK Ultra did in fact take place, and many people were unwilling volunteers, there is no evidence that MK Ultra has continued past the early 1970’s. The theory is that it did continue, with the MK Ultra doctors and the CIA directors teaming up with Walt Disney to attempt to brainwash singing and acting children, and turn them into programmed stars who would perform as puppets spreading messages to alter public consciousness.

Potential stars were brainwashed through MK Ultra torture techniques and programmed to be perfect performing pop stars. This was carried out through the Disney club and took several attempts before they struck gold with their first mainstream star, Britney Spears.

But one of the downsides of the MK Ultra brainwashing, is that the programming starts to falter as the victim ages, with the individuals own personality fighting back and trying to break through their brainwashing. The stars would have some kind of episode, often with the media reporting planted stories of drink or drug addictions, before the star is put into some kind of ‘psychiatric unit’ where, the public would be told they were having rehabilitation, but in actual fact they would be being re-programmed. The stars, now re-progammed by their ‘handlers’ then return to their grueling touring and performance schedules, often looking a little bit dazed, but mostly compliant until the next ‘episode’.

This is supposed to have happened very famously to Britney, but also to Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber, Lindsay Lohan, and most recently to Kayne West.

So far, so bizarre.

While conspiracy theory can be seen as a joke- the preserve of the tin hat brigade, still obsessing about 9/11 and career suicide for academics, as I was told, I felt that this was a real phenomenon and one ripe for artistic exploration.

Hidden within pop music videos is a tick-list of illuminati symbols- symbols that tell the viewer if this artist is a puppet of the illuminati or not. These symbols include butterfly’s (linked to monarch programming, a term for a certain type of brainwashing), triangles (THE sign of the illuminati and a symbol of the power of the elite over the masses) one eye and eye of Horus (links to Egyptology and the all seeing eye), birdcages (trapped), asylums (the brainwashing torture chambers), broken glass (symbolizing the shattered psyche), checkered floors (linked to freemasonry) and occult and satanic signs. If you don’t believe me, try watching Keisha’s Die Young video with this all in mind, and you’ll soon see it.

But what this incredible world reveals is far more than just a crazy conspiracy theory that generally young people are aware of, and older people are not. This world holds up a mirror to where we are now. Do we all think we are stars now? Are we the stars in our own reality TV show, and each aspect of our lives defines our individuality? Each product we buy or activity we do shows how separate and special we are, but in fact we are not free, perhaps we have been sold a dream and we are living in a brainwashed state. We are living in our own bubble, we see our version of the truth, and live our lives surrounded by information that helps reinforce the bubble of reality we inhabit. And like our pop stars, our programming is starting to dysfunction, we are starting to see through our dream, and waking up from the sleepwalk that has taken us into the harsh reality of where we are now. As one young person put it succinctly; “we used to believe, we used to be told what was real by our leaders, but since recent events, we’ve been let down. Now we fend for ourselves’.

In this new world reality, it’s not just the New World Order we need to be afraid of, it’s our lack of leadership and the forces that fill this vacuum as we stumble along, half awake, half asleep. Or maybe we are just about to wake up, and realise that there is a new reality, just around the corner, or is it ‘over the rainbow’?

Read the full interview with Rosie Kay on the Dance Tabs website.

To book tickets and for more information visit our Events page.

Reflection on placement with Trinity Laban Dance Science

Recently I completed a 40 hour placement with Trinity Laban in the Dance Science and Health departments. I gained an insight into the research that takes place at Trinity Laban, the MSc Dance Science programme, and the busy lives of everyone involved in making it such a wonderful and inspiring place to be.

I’m currently a third year student on the undergraduate Dance course at Kingston University and planned to do this placement in the hope of finding out more about the Dance Science world and what career paths I could take in this area. Let’s not forget that Trinity Laban offered the first Dance Science Master’s degree in the world, so it really felt like I was at the heart of all the action, at the number one place to be! It was really interesting to talk to the likes of Dr Emma Redding (Head of Dance Science at Trinity Laban) and Edel Quin (Programme Leader MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban), who both have a lot of experience in Dance Science and have developed the Dance Science course at Trinity Laban. But it was equally fascinating to talk to the Graduate Interns (who had completed the MSc at Trinity Laban), and everyone in between, to discover everyone’s plans for the future.

I was also lucky enough to undertake my placement the same week that the Dance Science department had their Health Interdisciplinary Day, and so I learnt the difficulties of ‘measuring’ results in research studies. I also learnt the difference dance can make in community settings, and the wide range of participants the department work with, whether school children or hospital patients. What I found most valuable, not only on this day but throughout the whole week, was the impact that qualitative data has. Before I started my placement I had only thought about the importance and relevance of quantitative data. Over the week, I learnt that deciding what to measure and recording qualitative changes is really hard, as in the dance field researchers are dealing with the complexity of the human body and not just a ‘lab rat’. The problem the Dance Science world then face is that, given how new and evolving the field is, it is a challenge to guess what kind of research will be awarded funding.

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It was also exciting working with Lucie Clements (PhD Candidate and Guest Lecturer), getting a sneak peek into the psychological work the department are currently doing with international colleagues on the motivational environments dancers work in and the type of environment dancers would prefer. This allowed me to learn more about the psychological side of Dance Science.  When I arrived at Trinity Laban I only really had basic knowledge on the physiological side of the field and this is what attracted me towards the area. I left Trinity Laban having more knowledge on both physical and mental aspects, and if anything being more interested into how psychological research in Dance Science can help not only dancers but also other communities.

Overall I can say that I really enjoyed my week long placement in the Dance Science and Health departments at Trinity Laban. All the staff and students were really welcoming, which made every activity enjoyable whether interviewing staff, learning about the equipment in the science lab and conditioning studio, or even formatting documents! Now I have completed my placement I can say I’m even more eager to have a career within Dance Science and so I would like to thank everyone who helped or talked to me during the week.

 

I hope to see you all soon!

 

Rhiannon Bromley, BA Dance student, Kingston University.

Taylor Benjamin | Company Chameleon

Taylor Benjamin was a member of Transitions Dance Company, graduating in 2008. Since then he has toured works with 2Faced Dance Company, Kompany Malakhi, Balletboyz and DV8 Physical Theatre. Taylor now dances for Company Chameleon, with whom he will be performing in double bill Witness at the Laban Theatre on 16 and 17 March 2017.

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Image: Company Chameleon

Company Chameleon were nominated for Best Independent Company at the National Dance Awards last year, how does it feel to be part of such a respected company?

I feel very proud to be part of Company Chameleon. I have been dancing with them now for nearly two years and, although they are getting bigger both nationally and internationally, there is such a humble, family type energy with everyone in the company – from the office staff to the dancers and artistic directors. I have been lucky enough to be involved with two works that, though obviously both have the Company Chameleon style, are so different to each other. Doing diverse work but being able to stay with the same company is a luxury you don’t always get.

Kevin Edward Turner, co-Artistic Director of Company Chameleon, has drawn from his own personal experience of Bipolar for the creation of Witness. How does it feel to be performing a work surrounding such real issues?

Working on Witness, a piece bringing awareness to mental health, has been both challenging and eye opening. Kevin’s story is personal so as a performer you want to be as loyal to his experience as you can while also connecting to it in your own way, so you can deliver something true. Although myself and a lot of the audience may not have experience with these issues, we have all at some point experienced the emotions and battles with ourselves that are shown in the piece. This helps you to empathise with the situation and hopefully makes the performance easier to connect to. It is so hard to talk about mental health, and what we don’t always realise is that we all have a mental health. I think anything that opens up conversations on this topic is a good thing and art is a great way to do it. I admire Kevin for tackling these issues.

What can audiences look forward to when coming to see the double bill?

Audiences can look forward to seeing two pieces that are totally different to each other and to go on a journey that will make you think, laugh, cry and hopefully more than anything – get you talking.

What were the most valuable things you learnt from your time as a member of Transitions Dance Company?

For me Transitions was pretty vital. I trained at a dance/musical theatre school prior to Trinity Laban so my actual knowledge of contemporary dance and the different techniques was limited. Transitions gave me the opportunity to learn new styles, perform nationally and internationally while still training, and improve my general dance and teaching skills.

How does it feel to be performing back at your alma mater?

I’m really excited to be back on the Laban stage. It’s great to perform in such a dedicated, respected dance house of England. And I like the pretty colours of the building inside and out!

Words Unspoken Trailer

For more information and to book tickets visit the Trinity Laban website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Performance Anxiety

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Stage fright, the heebie jeebies, a bad case of the willies. Call it what you will, but one thing is for sure, performance anxiety is the cruel mistress of many performing artists.

According to a recent survey conducted by Help Musicians UK, 75% of musicians said they had suffered from performance anxiety. Similarly, research from One Dance UK demonstrated that 92% of dancers had experienced psychological difficulty in the last 12 months, with over 30% experiencing performance anxiety. But what exactly is performance anxiety, why does it happen, and the big one we all want the answer to; how on earth do we get a grip of it?

Lets get down to the science-y bit. Psychologists seem to agree that anxiety manifests in two key ways; somatically and cognitively. Somatic symptoms are those we experience physically, such as sweating, racing hearts and needing the bathroom, causing us to feel agitated and uncomfortable. They’re all signs that our body is out of sync with its neutral state, signs of physiological arousal. These experiences are common in all pressurised situations, from test-taking, public speaking and sport, to the performing arts, dance and music. For some, symptoms occur long before performance, from early days in rehearsal. For others, symptoms hit us like a tonne of bricks, right out of the blue, when we’re standing in the wings.

Now here’s the interesting stuff. All of these symptoms have something else in common, something which differs vastly from anxiety. They’re all symptoms of excitement. Just like that feeling of waking up on your birthday, or falling in love, they are symptoms that are telling us that we are energised, ready for action, and prepared to experience something deeply rewarding, of great value.

But what about those cognitive symptoms, those we experience mentally such as worry, apprehension and nerves that ultimately can lead us to a mental block? There’s pretty solid evidence that performance anxiety occurs when an individual perceives an imbalance between the demands made, and their capacity to meet the demands. The key word here is perceived. What if we changed our perceptions of our symptoms, and our perceptions of performance? What if we changed up our mind-set and tried interpreting those symptoms as a sign of preparedness, and positive anticipation. Research we’ve carried out both here at Trinity Laban, and research by international colleagues, demonstrated that perceiving an upcoming performance as a challenge (a chance to thrive and demonstrate competency) rather than a threat (a chance to fail) lead to decreased anxiety experiences in both the days leading up to and very moments prior to performance.

Next time you have an assessment, performance or audition coming up, notice your immediate somatic response. Your interpretation is key. Is this related to a threat? Or actually, is this an optimal challenge? Is your mental investment really worry, or is thinking about an upcoming audition merely a sign that this is something of real value to you, an exciting experience? Learning to change mental habits is by no means an easy process, but a process it certainly is – which means time, patience and trial and error are key. Reframing your thoughts about your next performance may be the first steps towards managing your performance anxiety, and developing healthy techniques for looking after your psychological wellbeing is just as important as nurturing your dance or music technique.

 

Lucie Clements, PhD candidate Dance Science & Lecturer in Performance Psychology.

Concluding Trinity Laban at Resolution 2017

natalie-leadImage: Natalie Sloth Richter, Bedtime Stories by Lidia Crisafulli 

Resolution 2017 will conclude at the end of next week – and this week the rolling blog also comes to an end. There have been a huge number of Trinity Laban alumni and students contributing to the festival this year – well done to everyone involved!

You can continue to read reviews on The Place blog.

On Tuesday, 2015 graduates Zoe Bishop and Vikki Mead performed in Elisha Hamilton Dance’s piece RETALE. They shared the night with Natalie Sloth Richter, whose piece was danced by Olivia Edginton, Ingvild Marstein Olsen, Laura Ganotis and Victoria Rucinska – all 2015 graduates.

Natalie’s piece Bedtime Stories is built on recorded interviews from three generations of women. The choreography takes the audience on a journey of memories, drifting in and out of nostalgia and moving through bedtime rituals. On Wednesday Scatterlings took to the stage, a collective made up of Transitions alumni Leanne Oddy, Saara Hurme, Vanessa Michielon, Izzy Brittain and David Kam. Their piece All Over and Everywhere looks at issues surrounding nations, migration and belonging.

Next week you can see me dancing (and attempting to play the piano) with Watts Dance on 21 Feb alongside alumni Caitlin Murray, Zoe Moody and Robin Porter. The following day duo Zjana Muraro & Gianna Burright – both MFA Choreography students – perform their work Untitled 3 + x, and on Friday Maria Lothe & Co awaken our inner environmentalist with Can You Hear the Sound of The Flowers? Maria’s piece is danced by alumni Svenja Buhl, Victoria Rucinska and Fergus McIntosh.

This is Maria’s second year presenting work in Resolution, so I caught up with her to find out more about her experience:

“My experience of Resolution is that it is a safe and supportive platform to develop artistic ideas. As I am now sharing work for the second time I feel encouraged to take risks with my dance making and work on an interdisciplinary collaboration. It’s given me the opportunity to test and explore new ideas, acting as a base to continue the research and establish contact with venues & funding bodies. The first year I took part in Resolution provided me with skills related to administration and production. This has been particularly useful this year as I am working with a large group, collaborating with visual artists, musicians and performers.”

“As an evolution company (a company returning to Resolution), we get a certain amount of rehearsal space in kind – which has been very helpful. We were also lucky enough to receive the ‘K5 Res!idency’ by Joss Carter which provides us with free rehearsal space up until the performance. The Place also offers more financial security to evolution companies should they not sell enough tickets – but my sales seem to be going well!”

I asked Maria about how her time at Trinity Laban has influenced her as a dance artist:

“Studying at Trinity Laban supported my practice both as a maker, mover and thinker. It supported the development of my artistic ideas and interests both in practice and in communication. The thing stands out the most was my Independent Project in the final year, where I could indulge in choosing one specific area of research for a year. Having an amazing tutor – Marina Collard – to discuss my ideas with made me think further and helped me to realise my ideas. I am still working on the same research now: between movement and ceramics.”

Maria offered some final words of wisdom:

“The first few years after education can seem daunting with many different options and pathways to take. I find short and long-term goals very helpful in shaping the direction of the future you want to create. Things can take time – have patience and believe in your own individuality and uniqueness. If you get lost on the road (we all do at some point), there will always be people, known or unknown, who are up for helping you.”

It seems to be that Resolution has given many of us a platform to put the skills and creativity we gained as Trinity Laban students into practice, and the confidence to continue doing so. I will look forward to seeing students and alumni take the festival by storm again next year – as I’m sure they will do!

For more information on Resolution and to book tickets visit The Place website.

To find out more about Trinity Laban’s dance programmes visit our Study Pages.maria-lead

Image: Maria Lothe & Co. 

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Cecilia Watts at Resolution

Week 5

Catch up on last week’s reviews on The Place blog

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Image: Watts Dance

I caught up with Cecilia Watts, whose piece I will be dancing in next week with her company Watts Dance. The piece – WLA No.657005 – is inspired by the Women’s Land Army, which was made up of young women who worked as agricultural labourers during the Second World War. They took over the roles from the men who had been called up to fight, and their vital work as ‘Land Girls’ was at the forefront of the war effort, keeping the farms going and Britain fed. Cecilia commented:

‘I’ve always had an interest in the 1940’s era. My mum is a 1940’s re-enactor so I’ve grown up with a lot of knowledge and influence from that specific time period. At re-enactments I have dressed as a Land Girl before and I wanted to learn more about these women, so for my birthday my mum got me a book called ‘The Women’s Land Army’ by Vita Sackville-West. The WLA were often described as the unsung heroes of the Second World War and this was where the idea for a piece surrounding these women began to develop for me.

The piece has ended up as a narrative-based work, with a story that we built upon as we rehearsed and music composed specifically for the piece created alongside it. Our story revolves around a group of five women, and will show how the camaraderie of the group overcomes the sadness of war.’

The music for the piece has been composed by fellow Trinity Laban alumnus Robin Porter, who will be playing the music live on piano throughout the piece. Cecilia met Robin during her first year at TL and they continued to work together for her Independent Project in her final year.

Each section of music has been composed with a unique process – sometimes the movement material inspired the music or vice versa.

‘One of the best moments I experienced was when we were rehearsing a solo with Robin playing live for the first time. The solo was performed once, and when he had finished playing he turned to me and said that it was really lovely for him to see his piece of music come to life this way. This was wonderful to hear as I had felt exactly the same way. Watching the dancers and the music come together was like watching an idea of my own come to life.’

 

As I have found through my own experience and through discussing with fellow choreographers, Resolution teaches you so many valuable skills beyond creating a work. I asked Cecilia what she had learnt from the process:

‘There’s much more to the role of choreographer than getting into a studio and creating. I’d never truly appreciated before how much needed to be done to get a piece off the ground. As much as I enjoyed being back in the studio and creating again, there has been a lot going on outside of the studio. Admin, advertisement, costumes, lighting, music, scheduling rehearsals with dancers, musician, lighting designer – whilst working my job at the same time – and I’m sure the list goes on. It’s like the wheels in your mind never stop turning. Despite this I think what Resolution has really taught me is that the content of the work must be the most important thing, and all these other things, though important, are secondary to what you are creating.

I’ve learnt how much work is needed to be put in, the effort it takes to juggle everything, but also how to enjoy the process and not let it overwhelm you. The workshops that Resolution offered this year were a real factor in this – speaking with other artists involved in the process, we have all felt incredibly supported.’

I went on to ask Cecilia how her time here at Trinity Laban developed her practice as a dance artist:

‘My time at Trinity Laban was a huge turning point – I felt like a completely different person when I graduated compared to when I began.

I’d say the biggest developments I saw were shown in my confidence and understanding of dance. When I first started, I really had no idea what I wanted to do or if I was even good enough to work in the dance industry. That was the problem, I was always questioning if I was good enough, or if was going to fail, or if everyone around me were simply better. But at Trinity Laban, as well as teaching me everything you expect to learn from a dance institute, I think the most important thing I learnt is that when developing as a dance artist, even though having competitive energy around you isn’t a bad thing, you should never be focused on whether you ‘succeed’ or ‘fail’. You should focus on the journey. Instead of viewing fellow dance artists as competitors in a race where no one knew where the finish line was, I really started to view them as collaborators and people to confide in and support, which is something you really need when evolving as an artist.

As well as all this, Trinity Laban opened up my eyes to ways of performing and creating that were completely new to me. These new ideas opened up new doors of development, and suddenly the dance world, though bigger, seemed much less daunting, and much more exciting.’

What’s next for Watts Dance?

‘I could definitely see WLA No.657005 being extended and bringing back a lot of ideas we discarded during the rehearsal process. I’m already looking into possible locations for a tour of the work around September time, so I’d like to add one or two other pieces to our rep, as well as some possible new additions to the company. I know for sure that now I’ve been back in the studio creating again with this wonderful group of dancers, I won’t want to be stopping anytime soon.’

For more information and to book tickets visit The Place website.

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Image: Watts Dance

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR