“Dig Deep and Be Inspired”: Five Questions for Ned Bigham

Alumnus Ned Bigham is a composer with a chameleonic approach and an open-minded attitude. His career has seen him work across a wide range of styles including orchestral music, chamber music,  club music and electronica. We asked him some questions in the midst of a busy summer season of commissions. 

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  1. The RSNO have recently recorded a piece they commissioned from you with the support of Creative Scotland, entitled Staffa. Can you tell us a little more about that?

This is a multi-media piece, a collaboration with BAFTA-award winning film director Gerry Fox. Inspired by Mendelssohn’s journey to Fingal’s Cave, I have composed new music and Gerry has shot some amazing footage of the island and the cave in different conditions. This will be performed as an installation, with three screens arranged in a semi-circle and quadraphonic sound. It will first be shown in Edinburgh and then we hope rolled out to other venues in the UK including the Highlands and London. There is also the possibility of live performances, whereby images will be projected onto three screens above the orchestra as it performs the score.

  1. It seems you’ve never been bound by genres or musical styles, and this is reflected in your wide range of work. How has this benefited your approach to composition, if at all?

This is a difficult question to answer! It has meant that I have never been lost for inspiration. Music is a universal language which crosses borders unlike any other art form, and I find this diversity a constant source of fascination and energy.

  1. What did you learn during your time at Trinity Laban (Trinity College of Music at the time)?

I was lucky to be taught by some truly brilliant and inspiring composers: Daryl Runswick, John Ashton Thomas, Mike Garrick, Geoffrey Hanson and Gregory Rose. Not only did they have the patience to impart a lot of technical information, but they were also broad-minded and visionary and encouraged me to develop my own voice. At no stage did I feel any pressure to fit into a particular category or style of music. Trinity itself was equally open-minded. I had looked at some other conservatoires which were more restrictive: if you joined the composition department, they expected a modernist approach and tonality was the devil incarnate. And if you wanted to join a jazz arranging class you could only do that if you were part of the jazz department. But Trinity’s attitude was very much ‘if it interests you, do it!’

  1. What advice would you give to young composers today? 

Follow your heart! Dig deep and develop the kind of music that inspires you, not what you feel you ought to be composing. If it moves you then chances are that it will move others too. If you love Penderecki and also Country and Western, don’t be afraid, embrace the difference.

  1. What’s next for you? 

Two new commissions are being performed later this month: Music To Hear, an acappella setting of Shakespeare’s Sonnet VIII, being performed by the massed choirs of Chichester, Winchester and Salisbury Cathedrals as part of the Southern Cathedrals Festival. And Heaven shall call her from this cloud of darkness, a commission for the Brodsky Quartet, is being performed at Champs Hill and at St Mary’s Church as part of the Petworth Festival.

Further ahead, a commission from the Bernardi Music Group and Shipley Arts Festival: a ten minute piece for string orchestra which will hopefully include Trinity Laban string players. It will be great to collaborate with fellow Trinity Labanites!

Ned Bigham graduated from Trinity College of Music (now Trinity Laban) with a Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma in Composition in 1999. To find out more about Ned’s various activities please visit the Ned Bigham website

 

Marlowe Thornes-Heywood 

Graduate Intern – Press and PR

 

Internship Experience: Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

Anna May Williams

MSc Dance Science student Anna Williams (pictured) tells us all about her insightful experience at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries

Last year I was granted the wonderful opportunity to take up an internship at the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries in New York, USA. As a part-time student of the MSc Dance Science programme, I was on a ‘gap year’ and was looking for relevant work experience and productive ways to fill my time off. With very little industry experience at the time, and being based 5000km away, it was a very pleasant surprise to receive an email of invitation. Some people asked me why I resigned from my full-time job to head to the US for an unpaid internship, but I assured them that it was worth it. I hope to enlighten you as to why this experience was worth the sacrifices, how it has prepared me for further study towards my masters and into my career in the dance science sector.

After an eight-hour flight and two days of settling into my home for the next two months, the first day of the internship arrived. Receiving clearance from the medical and immigration departments at the NYU Hospital for Joint Diseases, I was ready to meet the Harkness team. On arrival I was warmly greeted by Trinity Laban graduate Leigh Heflin, who now works as Programme Coordinator at the Harkness. We had an informal meet and greet, spoke about my interests in dance medicine, and created my schedule for the next six weeks.

The internship mainly consisted of observing and shadowing many of the practitioners working at the organisation. I spent a lot of time at the Harkness’ Physical Therapy Department, where I shadowed many physiotherapists who were treating dancers following a variety of complaints and injuries. Some dancers had chronic, long term injuries, and others were in rehabilitation following surgical repair. Every therapist I worked with was friendly, ensured to involved me in the conversations with the patient, and were all happy to answer any questions that I had. As an intern, my additional duties in the clinic involved maintaining the general upkeep and cleanliness of the studio and ensuring that all equipment and resources were ready for use. I was always pleasantly greeted every day by everyone at the organisation, from therapists to reception staff; I felt at home almost immediately.

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I had the opportunity to sit in and observe many Injury Prevention Assessments; a service offered by the Harkness which involves an evaluation of dance technique, strength, flexibility and a review of injury history. These allowed the dancer to learn more about their strengths and weaknesses with the aim to prevent them from injury in the future. At the end of the session, the dancer is given an educational hand-out, detailing an individually specific exercise program. Upon completion of my internship, I had the opportunity to take part in an Injury Prevention Assessment myself, kindly offered by Athletic Trainer, Megan.

The internship allowed me to travel around New York and meet dancers from external organisations. I accompanied two of the Harkness’ Athletic Trainers to visit Dance Theatre of Harlem. As well as having the great opportunity to meet the company dancers (and get a sneaky peek of them in rehearsal!), I learned about the role of the Athletic Trainers on their twice-weekly visit to the company studios, providing immediate care to company dancers with a wide range of complaints. I also accompanied another member of staff to PACE University, to meet their dance students and observe a lecture and practical workshop on dance injury prevention. As well as visiting various locations around the city, I had the pleasure to take a picturesque train ride out of the city, and travel up-state to SUNY Purchase College, where I observed Athletic Trainer Lauren work with student dancers.

Another fascinating part of my experience was shadowing at the dance clinic. Most of the patients had been referred to see one of the orthopaedic physicians for an array of reasons, including diagnosis of symptoms, X-rays, MRI scans and also for surgical procedures. Likewise with the physiotherapists, all of the doctors I met were extremely friendly and happy to answer my questions. This part of the internship was particularly educational, as I had the chance to see some X-rays and scans, and to discover what injuries physically look like from the inside. It also taught me so many new anatomical terms, and educated me on several injuries that I had never heard of. A personal highlight was observing a patient successfully walking unaided for the first time after reconstructive knee surgery. Through the dance clinic I also met the Harkness research team, and learned more about their injury tracking research project, of which I got to assist with some data collection and data entry.

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Throughout the experience I met dancers of all ages, ranging from childhood to retired adults. They were from all dance disciplines, from classical and contemporary to hip-hop and breakdance. Every dancer had a different story; some were in full-time training hoping to dance professionally or were already performing in New York dance companies, some were teachers and others just danced recreationally. Some dancers I would only meet the once, others on a weekly basis, getting to know them quite well over the course of my visit. I loved the variety of the internship, I was learning something different and meeting new people almost every day. I liked making my journey on the subway every morning not knowing what to expect from the day ahead.

I would thoroughly recommend the experience to any student interested in progressing into or already studying dance science; or to anyone from other related fields such as physiotherapy or sports therapy who are interested in working with dancers. It was a highly insightful experience to learn more about and be part of the dance medicine field in the US – which further convinced me to continue my work in this rapidly growing field back home in London. I came home very excited for what my future career holds, looking forward to returning to Trinity Laban and diving back in to my MSc programme.

Working life abroad was an experience I enjoyed enormously, and would recommend to anyone. I had visited New York previously so was somewhat familiar with the city itself – but needless to say it wasn’t any less exciting! Although travelling so far completely alone was a daunting and apprehensive experience to begin with, I very quickly settled into the New York lifestyle, and made great friends with the people I lived with as well as great contacts in the field. I had the privilege to enjoy living in a fantastic city, all while participating in one of the most rewarding, educational and insightful experiences of my career thus far. I would do it again in a heartbeat!

To find out more about MSc Dance Science, please visit the Trinity Laban website.

More than just an assessment abroad: My work experience and Trinity Laban Health

Sitting in one of the first seminars of fall term at Trinity Laban (TL), I had no idea what to expect. While jumping into a year abroad as a study abroad student was stimulating enough, Trinity Laban had many assessments and opportunities I had never heard of before – one of these was the BA2 ‘Dance Industry Engagement.’ The idea of working in the dance field as part of the year’s assessment was something I had never heard of at my university in the States and as I began e-mailing professional companies and choreographers all around the UK in excitement, it wasn’t until I stopped and took a step back that I realized the perfect place for my placement was right here at TL.

On my first day at Trinity Laban Health, I was introduced to the Physio staff, Dance Science researchers, and PhD students. I had no idea so much was going on just a staircase below my Graham classes but once I discovered it, I was infatuated. From assisting with classes to transcribing audio recordings of dance science discussions, I learned not only the importance of research within the dance field but also how the studies coming from Trinity Laban’s Dance Science and Health departments were changing the way dance practice was being communicated not only at TL but at universities all over Europe.

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Transcribing notes on the advantages of safe practice, I realized how the research at TL had not only impacted the Laban students but moreover how different it was from what I knew at home. While in the States, Pilates and physiotherapy are available they are not as tangible and relatable as Trinity Laban Health seeks to makes them here. In my classes at TL before I had started my work placement, I noticed immediately a shift from the way I was used to training previously. As classes moved at a slower pace, they carried through with more attention to detail and focus on internal stimulus than I was used to. The concept of understanding movement on a deeper level and only continuing ideas when it felt right in the body was a break from the ‘all or nothing’ approach I was used to pushing through, and suddenly I began to see huge shifts in my dance practice.

Carrying over to my work experience at Trinity Laban Health, I assisted in many studio based workshops focusing on everything from rehabilitation to circuit strength training. In an evening class focusing on relaxation, I spent an hour experimenting with different types of breathing methods, the relationship between breathing in and releasing, and how combining these different ideas could lead to a personalized relaxation self-practice. Additionally, I assisted in Pilates workshops for musicians, staff, and students and was able to understand the different ways that Pilates could be tailored and shifted to be appropriate for a wide range of participants. Besides practical workshops, I also had the opportunity to experience the administrative duties of the health clinic, introducing me to the wide range of abilities and understandings that are necessary to work professionally at a research and health facility.

While my industry engagement may have been just a staircase away from my ballet classes and my Friday morning seminars, my work placement at Trinity Laban Health was more than I could have ever imagined. Combining dance understanding with cross training, rehabilitation, and research that is actively being promoted in the dance world, Trinity Laban Health allowed my experience as a study abroad student to be more than just another assessment abroad.

Alexis Palasciano, BA2 Study Abroad Student at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Five Questions: Natalie Su Robinson

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Image: Maresa Smith

Choreographer Natalie Su Robinson completed Trinity Laban’s Graduate Diploma in Dance Studies. She tells us what she learned and how she’s using it…

– Tell us about your experience of study at Trinity Laban.

My year at Trinity Laban was one of unknown growth that I would not fully discover or understand until nearly a year later.

Inspired by amazing tutors, I had my eyes opened to new mediums. I learnt how to collaborate with artists from different disciplines and I made lasting relationships which have led to alumni becoming members of my dance company – namely Liz Kirk-­Channing and David Kam, among several others. Plus, my violinist Henry Webster is a Trinity Laban alumnus.

I had freedom to critically engage and explore my artistic curiosity, which led me to encounter my own movement voice. The guidance of Susan Sentler (former Senior Lecturer) during my year-long independent investigation was particularly helpful. And Tony Thatcher (Programme Leader, MA Choreography) opened my eyes to film, which has sparked an ongoing exploration throughout my work.

– What were the most valuable things you learned during your time here?

Thanks to Trinity Laban I have learned some key concepts which have formed the foundation of my professional practice:

Let Process Guide

I learned never to take the first gesture or idea for my final outcome; I must travel through a world of many other pathways, even allow myself to divert from the theme and see where I can go. My most favourite work created at Trinity Laban was a pure accident, a diversion.

Consider Everything

Thanks to Rosemary Brandt (Senior Lecturer in Choreological Studies), Choreological Studies was my favourite module. She provoked me to rethink how I saw dance and helped me articulate my feelings with new language. Each session was a challenge and an adventure, and I never knew if Iʼd make it to the next assigned task or if I even ‘understood’ what I entered into with my body and mind. Rosemary is a glorious inspiration to me, often answering my questions with another question. She made my choreographic process into an interesting immersive pleasure that I still enjoy today. I now focus on every little detail: ‘why, what, because, does this need to be here?’

The simplest of gestures have become deep monuments within my work. As I add a breath of life to each of them, I learn simplicity is a fantastic tool.

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– How has your dance career progressed since graduation?

Since graduating from Trinity Laban I have been able to develop the pieces I created in my independent investigation and choreography projects to show in theatres.

I danced for a number of companies, continued my own dance studies and at the start of this year I formed my own professional company: Natalie Su Company.

During this year I have been in residency at the Broadway Theatre in Barking, where I have created and curated two performance nights. I have choreographed for music videos, and created a dance workshop for Sex and Relationship education. I have helped the Barbican deliver their Open Lab programme and demonstrated my companyʼs unique collaborative process at TEDx in Manchester.

– Tell us about your most recent projects.

Courage is our most recent work. We began with an R&D phase and followed an exploratory process to create our final pieces. This was a collaboration between my company and illustrator Joanna Layla, producer and composer Robert Logan, violinist and Trinity Laban alumnus Henry Webster and video artist Graham Robinson.

The concept is of three entities sitting on a bench, not related but in their own space and mind contemplating: “When content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that cannot be bought.”

The outcome of the process was described by Theatre Director Mark Civil as follows:

“Natalie put together a team of dedicated artists including film makers, fine artists, dancers, experimental musicians and singer/songwriters who set about exploring the performance potential of our space. The final results were a haunting mix of all these disciplines that thrilled the audience.”

Natalie Su outward

– Professionally, what’s next for you?

Expanding upon Courage, we are bringing the theme to an unused theatre.

Additionally this August we are curating a theatre take-over experience at the Broadway, Barking. Beyond Boundaries will offer creative workshops to young people, giving them the opportunity to participate in a performance alongside professional dancers. This will incorporate immersive performances and installations, dance companies, illustrators, photographers, musicians and behind-the-scenes access to all areas – no boundaries.

I have no limits on my creativity; I am blessed to continuously meet interesting inquisitive creatives from multiple disciplines. I will continue to be open, to engage and experiment with other art forms, especially those that I have no experience or preconceptions of. I will grow and keep pursuing my dreams, leading my company of inspirational dance artists who engage with societal issues. We will always create work that speaks to the heart, work that provokes a reaction, that informs the audience of what happens outside the theatre… life, poverty, injustice, gentrification, trafficking: the true stories of the people without a voice.

You can watch a video featuring extracts from Courage on Natalie Su Company’s website.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR