BANANA CASE AT THE BARBICAN

George Jackson, conductor and previous holder of the Trinity Laban Sir Charles Mackerras Junior Fellowship in Conducting (2015-17), describes what it’s like to get ‘The Call’.

George Jackson portrait B&W © Alexa Wilding

Sunday morning.  It’s 6:30, and for some reason, I am wide awake.

I have just spent a week on tour with the Orchestre de Paris, where I have been Daniel Harding’s assistant: Cologne, Dortmund, Luxembourg, and Brussels.  The week before that, my first Schumann Symphony No.4 with the Transylvanian Philharmonic in Cluj; the week before that, the first leg of the Orchestre de Paris tour, at ‘home’ in Paris, and then in Vienna.

I was grateful for my first full day off in three weeks: Sunday lunch planned with a couple of schoolmates, followed by the new Ricky Gervais show on Netflix.  Bliss!

I manage to doze back off at around 7:30am, but was woken by my phone ringing at 8:21am.  Unusual, I thought, for a Sunday morning…

The previous day, I’d had the pleasure of conducting the premiere of Jasmin Kent Rodgman’s ‘The Letter’ at LSO St Luke’s, as part of the Barbican’s ‘Open Ear’ Festival.  A Jerwood Foundation composer, Jasmin curated an inspiring afternoon featuring performances by the best of London’s spoken word community, culminating in the premiere of her own piece with Salena Godden’s poetry and a quartet of LSO musicians. During the break, I had jokingly quipped to a colleague: ‘Let’s hope Francois-Xavier Roth’s plane takes off tomorrow morning…’.  One of the LSO St. Luke’s plasma screens was advertising Sunday’s Panufnik Composers’ Workshop, where eight brand-new pieces would be publicly workshopped with the orchestra.

As my ringtone echoed into the slumber, I realised how cold it was.  Which means snow.  Which in the UK (and, incidentally, Frankfurt) means travel chaos…

I answered about three octaves lower than usual.  Natalia, the LSO’s artist development associate projects manager, greeted me with her chirpy and friendly tone (she had managed the Jerwood project too).  ‘Morning George!  It’s Natalia at the LSO.  Francois-Xavier’s plane has been temporarily grounded in Frankfurt.  Do you fancy coming in and starting the session this morning?  How far away are you?  Can you get here?’

The slow-motion realisation of what this meant dawned upon me: the chance to spend the morning with one of the world’s finest orchestras, conducting music by the most talented young composers in the UK.  ‘Yes. I’m at home in Hanwell. Can you email me pdfs of the scores? What’s the dress code?’

I scramble around: batons are still in my bag from yesterday; I throw on the only non-creased shirt I can find, some jeans, the nearest shoes.  I make an espresso, but then ignore it, since the adrenaline buzz is already doing the coffee’s work.  An Uber is ordered: ‘Driver completing journey nearby’.  It could take up to 18 minutes…..

I risk it, thinking that if the Uber arrives at 9am, with a 40-minute drive to Old Street, I should have a little bit of time to run through the PDFs at the piano at home, before looking at hard copies in the conductor’s room.

Perfect!

At 8:50am, Uber cancels the order – there are no drivers available.

I call two minicab companies with no luck.  The third one answers and can send a car in 15 minutes.  9:05, so I should get to Old Street at 9:45.  Great.

I attempt to find some last-minute sustenance, and eat all that I can find in the house: a square of Dairy Milk, three Jacobs’ cream crackers and two Trebor mints.  I call Natalia: ‘Please can you leave a banana in the conductor’s room?’  I am incredibly grateful for this later on.

The taxi driver clearly thinks I am mad.  I tell him that it is an emergency, and can he race through London (he agrees, and does a wonderful job).  I spend the next 40 minutes roughly ‘conducting’ my way through the scores, metronome app open in one hand.  Yes, he thinks I am mad.  No time to think about that.

I am now informed that Francois-Xavier’s ETA is 11:15am, which means I will definitely be working on the first two pieces of the day: Grace-Evangeline Mason’s Beneath the Silken Silence and Han Xu’s Buddha Holds the Flower.  I focus on these two, identify a list of questions for each composer, and make sure I can at least work my way through any tempo and metrical changes.  ‘Does “the new minim is the previous crotchet” mean that I should just stay in 2?’  Those sorts of questions.  The things that Simon Rattle likes to call ‘dental hygiene’.

We arrive at the Old Street roundabout.  The friendly driver, for some reason, misses the turn off for St. Luke’s, so we have another go round the roundabout.  Just to keep the adrenaline running.

I race out the car, get to the conductor’s room, and thank Natalia for the banana – which comes in a rather dashing banana-shaped plastic case.  The scores are there, and I race through, underlining, highlighting, making notes.

I have a couple of very welcome visitors to the conductor’s room before we start.  The LSO’s managing director, Kathryn McDowell, says a friendly hello and wishes me luck, and Colin Matthews, who is mentoring the composers, pops in for a quick chat: he gives me a few invaluable bits of advice about the two pieces, and describes how the workshop will run, as a form of public conversation between myself on the podium, principal second violin David Alberman, and the composer in the hot seat.

At 9:59am, the orchestral manager knocks on the door.

Time to go and face the music…

Winner of the 2015 Aspen Conducting Prize, London-born conductor George Jackson will make his Opera Holland Park debut in June conducting a new production of Così Fan Tutte. Other forthcoming highlights include his debut with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.

www.georgejackson.net

[First produced on Jessica Duchen’s Classical Music blog. Image credits: Alex Wilding)]

Transitions 2018: Q&A with company member Kieran Covell

Ahead of Transitions’ 2018 international tour, we caught up with dance artists and company member Kieran Covell.

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Image: Kieran Covell (Credit: Chris Nash)

How does it feel to be dancing with Transitions as it celebrates its 35th year of touring?

I feel very fortunate and lucky to be a part of this fantastic company! It’s been a fun and exciting experience creating the three pieces for our tour and I look forward to seeing what’s in store when we set off!

What can audiences expect from the Triple Bill?

They can expect energy, relationships and a clear sense of story driven movement material. Each company member has embodied the three pieces with their own artistic voice, so it will be interesting to see how each performance will be and how it evolves over the length of the tour.

What is your favourite piece to perform and why?

My favourite piece has been “The Art of Moving Forward” by Hagit Yakira! Her unique and vibrant personality along with her extensive choreographic knowledge have not only made me enjoy the piece and process of making it, but inspired me to think about how I can use my own voice to perform and what performance means for me.

What are you most looking forward to ahead of the tour?

Travelling to different locations and experiencing the different atmospheres of each place. I’m also looking forward to experiencing how a professional company tour works and the different roles and responsibilities that everyone will have during the processes.

You were a BOA student and have frequently performed in Birmingham. What’s it like to perform in the city and what will it be like to be performing there with Transitions?

Performing in my own city has always been important to me, not just as a dancer but as an artist. The experiences I had in this city have shaped who I am today and got me to this point in time. I am really looking forward to going back and seeing just how much the dance industry has changed and also reminiscing about my own journey that started in Birmingham.

 

By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)

Transitions 2018 Tour | 19 February – 24 May

For full tour details and to find out more about Transitions Dance Company, visit www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/transitionsdc

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

Variety of Uses for Sports Massage

What is sports massage? 

Sports massage is a type of therapy that focuses on the soft tissues in the body. This includes skin, muscle, tendons, ligaments and fascia which is a form of connective tissue that lines other soft tissues. Sports massage involves the manipulation of these soft tissues and can also include different massage techniques and types of stretching

 

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Image: Sports massage, JK Photography 

What is sports massage suitable for?

Sports massage can be suitable for dealing with many different conditions from sport related overuse issues, to back pain from your office chair. These benefits can be split into four main areas; injury, maintenance, pre-event and post-event.

Injury:  Sports massage has many benefits that can help reduce the risk of injury as well as be used for remedial purposes to help reduce tightness and pain. Sports massage is great at helping to detect muscular imbalances and any potential deep tissue damage which can result in a reduced risk of injury. A key benefit of sports massage is increasing blood flow through the tissues which can lead to faster recovery times and reduce the delayed onset of muscle soreness (or DOMS for short).

Maintenance: Having regular massages can help to keep muscles healthy and supple and can reduce the need for future treatment. Studies have shown that having regular sports massages can help to improve range of motion and flexibility. This in itself can also contribute to lowering injury risk, especially among dancers, for whom flexibility is desired. Having regular massages can also help to identify any particular areas of tension or stress and can increase your overall awareness and education surrounding your body. This can in turn help you to improve your performance and self-manage any conditions you have.

Pre-event: Feeling nervous and tense before a show or performance? Sports massage can stimulate circulation through the body and reduce tension which can be beneficial to help you be on top form before that audition!

Post-event: Sports massage can be just as useful after an event! It can help speed up recovery times, remove toxins and waste products from the body, de-stress you and help fight any delayed muscle soreness you may feel the following day. 

 

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Image: Sports massage, JK Photography 

Sports massage is one of those treatments which can be used in a variety of different ways, and is most effective when used regularly. So whether your a performer, office worker or athlete sports massage can be a useful tool to help maintain a healthy body and banish those tense muscles when they arise!

 

Written by Rebecca Appleton 

Graduate Intern for Health 

 

 

 

 

Transitions 2018: Q&A with choreographer Richard Chappell

Ahead of Transitions’ 2018 international tour, we caught up with renowned British choreographer Richard Chappell who worked with the company on brand new piece ‘When running starts and stops’. 

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What have you most enjoyed about working with the Transitions dancers?

I would say their generosity in working with me. I like to work with a mix of improvisation and task-based work which I think is a hybrid of my own training and the dancers have adapted to that with a lot of energy and willingness to challenge themselves. As it’s relatively early on in their academic year, they’ve got to know each other throughout the creation process and this has been a real pleasure to be a part of. They bring their own skills, styles and qualities to the work as well and it’s been a pleasure to get to know them.

The 2018 company is truly international – do you think this has had an impact on the style of the company and/or the way you worked with them?

Definitely! Training isn’t necessarily the same across countries so naturally there will be differences and it’s such a unique and enriching experience for them to learn from each other. Lots of the company don’t have traditional dance backgrounds either which I think is really interesting. My own background is ballet and contemporary dance, but I’m also influenced by forms of capoeira, improvisation and martial arts so I like that the dancers come with different movement qualities as it allows for a varied interpretation of my practice. But for all the diversity, I think there is a good balance in skills which combine nicely when the company work together.

In brief, how would you sum up your piece?

My piece is a movement response to the themes and relationships of some of the characters found in Watership Down. I’ve used moments in the text and narrative as a point of departure to create something which lives by itself outside of the story though. The work has its own journey and abstract narrative between the performers and involves a lot of physically challenging movement.

What was your inspiration behind the work?

The work is influenced by Richard Adams’ Watership Down, but it’s not a literal interpretation. I wanted to bring out elements of the relationships between the characters and how their personification makes them relatable to us as a people. Themes of the book such as death, struggle and migration have immense resonance with us as human beings at the moment, and I wanted to explore that sense of personal struggle and journey with the dancers. I work a lot with text and this is a book which I’ve recently rediscovered throughout the creation process which has been a joy to explore, especially as Adams passed away last year.

Why did you decide to do this particular piece with Transitions?

I’ve had the idea for the work in my mind since last year when Adams passed away. The book had an immense impact of some formative moments of my childhood and when I came to really unpicking it, I felt that the energy and themes really suited Transitions. They’re at the start of a really exciting artistic journey and I think it’s a special time to work off a story which resonates both with childlike fantasies and very raw and power human emotions, such as loss, suffering and family.

Transitions was the very first student touring company and recently celebrated 35 years. Do you think it has had an impact/what impact do you think it has had on the dance landscape?

Student companies allow dancers to process their training to date and it’s also an incredibly formative time within a person’s career and life. I know from friends and colleagues experiences’ that they grew as performers and dance artists during their time within various student companies and it’s also a prime opportunity to gain insight into working in a professional repertory company. I’ve had the privilege of working with several graduates from Transitions and its impact on the international dance seen is I’m sure felt by everyone in a very positive way.

It’s almost impossible to get gigs in the industry without having some kind of professional experience, so companies like Transitions offer that bridge and allow for dancers to learn new skills and challenge themselves in a supportive environment, whilst connecting with makers who have a direct interest in working with artists at the beginning of their careers. It’s something I’m very supportive of and feel strongly about. Since 2014, I have always employed recent graduates in my own company.

 

By Robyn Donnelly (Press & PR)

 

Transitions 2018 Tour | 19 February – 24 May

For full tour details and to find out more about Transitions Dance Company, visit www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/transitionsdc

To find out more about studying dance at Trinity Laban, visit our pages.

Interview: Tara D’Arquian

Ahead of the world premier of the collaborative performance piece ‘Bad Faith’, we caught up with the work’s co-creator and Trinity Laban alumnus Tara D’Arquian. 

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Image: Tara D’Arquian (Credit: Joel O’Donoghue)

Your works often explore identity, what can you tell us about your inspiration for creating Bad Faith?

Bad Faith is part of body of work which started with In Situ, part of Compass Commissions, Trinity Laban and Greenwich Dance Partnership. This is the epilogue of Quests which was the second piece of the trilogy and commissioned by Greenwich Dance.

The whole trilogy is an exploration of identity, the conflict of identity to be more accurate.

We, as human beings seem to be constantly striving to define our self while the self is indefinable. Bad Faith focuses on womanhood and conflicts of identity related to being a woman and the social pressures they are confronted to.

As a young woman, I’ve been exposed to the profound psychological and emotional suffering of older women in my life. The feeling of powerlessness which I experienced as a result led me to put it into movement. By doing so, my aim was first to make sense of these distressing states and attempt at creating value from it. Each piece is the result of a long and collective investigation.

Can you tell us about collaborating with poet Jemima Foxtrot during the creative process?

Collaborating with Jemima has been a great joy. Not only is she a brilliant poet, she is generous and authentic both as an artist and as a person.
It is empowering working with all these strong women, both in the creative team and the cast. I suppose it has also nourished me and my work.

All in all, this has been one of the most human and heart-warming creative process I’ve been part of.

What message would you like people to take from the work?

Hope. Always hope. This time it’s about freedom and courage. I’d like for Bad Faith to make people feel free to be what they want to be and to come to realize that the only limits in life are those of our own mind, which are self-delusions.

Your previous works (In Situ and Quests) have been site-sensitive/specific, can audience expect the same of Bad Faith?

No. Bad Faith is conceived for a more traditional stage environment. That being said, my previous site-sensitive explorations are certainly informing my process while making Bad Faith. Consequently, although it is a piece designed for a traditional stage, we encounter the space as site. Our protagonist is an actress.

 

Bad Faith | 14 & 15 MAR 19.30h | Laban Theatre

For more information and to book tickets, visit our what’s on page.