California comes to Trinity Laban | Brooke Smiley and Gianna Burright on their home from home

In April 2017, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance hosted a performance by The University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) Dance Company. The programme included works by renowned choreographers Jose Limon, Anna Halprin, Andrea Miller, Stephanie Gilliland and Trinity Laban MFA Choreography student Gianna Burright. Gianna is a UCSB alumnus and was the key individual in facilitating this visit. There was also a roundtable discussion about the work of Anna Halprin and Limon repertory masterclasses.

In November 2016 Gianna returned home to California for an eight-day residency with the current UCSB company members. This was extremely special for Gianna as she was previously a member of the company, graduating with a BFA in Dance, in 2015. Gianna was able to use her practice in body-to-body transfer and evolving MFA research which she has developed during her time at Trinity Laban with the dancers from UCSB.

The UCSB Dance Company’s evening show closed with Anna Halprin’s The Paper Dance from Parades and Changes (1965)directed by California native and Trinity Laban alumnus Brooke Smiley. Brooke graduated from Trinity Laban in 2008 after completing an MA in Dance Performance (Transitions Dance Company). After graduating, Brooke danced with Michael Clark Company, Ventura Dance Company and Fabulous Beast Dance Theatre. Her choreographic works have been shown both in the UK and USA. Brooke also holds a California Contractors License and has trained in super adobe earth architecture. We caught up with Brooke and Gianna to find out more about their comparable journeys.

Brooke: “I was in Europe auditioning and my mentor brought me to Trinity Laban. I took a ballet class with Transitions and they asked me to consider joining. Being from California, Transitions was the first time I was around a lot of people from different countries. I loved learning that there are as many different ways to do something as there are people. The friendships formed this base of community and meaning for me in dance. Working with David Waring (Artistic Director, Transitions Dance Company) was amazing as it allowed me to be with my own research and thoughts. Dr Martin Hargreaves was a mentor for me too and meeting these dance researchers who had a plethora of experience was wonderful to ground into.

Gianna and I met through Mira Kinglsey, a previous Professor of Dance at UCSB. She invited me to teach a workshop to the seniors at UCSB, and the next year they asked me to teach improvisation. She put me into contact with Gianna and through this series of random circumstances has come magic.”

It was interesting to find out more about how Brooke & Gianna connect between the UK & US:

Brooke: “I feel like we’re redefining what’s possible together rather than being separate. With the National Endowment of the Arts potentially being absolved through Trump, everybody’s scratching for that funding which makes things very competitive. There’s more funding in Europe which is why I worked here. Saying that, New York has really shifted and changed from 10 years ago when I graduated. In this new constriction of times and thrashing of systems we can find a way for institutions to have the heart to find one and other.”

Trinity Laban has recently forged a number of international partnerships, resulting in major exchange projects with the likes of the Korean National University of the Arts, the National Taiwan University of Arts, Beijing Dance Academy and the Hong Kong Academy of the Performing Arts. Trinity Laban’s “Brexchange” featured visiting students from the Netherlands, Italy, Austria and Sweden, and Trinity Laban also recently became the first UK conservatoire to partner with the Fulbright Commission, offering the new Fulbright-Trinity Laban Award in Music and Dance.

Brooke: “Gianna has made this connection between Trinity Laban and UCSB and I’m very excited about how we are beginning to come together. When it comes from the heart of a person it’s real but I don’t think there’s necessarily a drive to connect on a bigger scale, but on the local micro scale there is. We’re finding our own way. Water works like that – a little drop, a little trickle, and it begins to carve out the rocks over time. I feel like that’s what Gianna has done. It’s powerful.”

Gianna: “It’s so great to see connections being made between institutions internationally and is something which needs to continue to happen.”

Gianna’s piece for the UCSB dancers, Anywhere I Can See the Moon, is deeply relevant to this discussion. The work investigates the common thought and concern of “home”.

Gianna: “I’ve come to realise home isn’t what we think home is anymore, you can find homes in many different ways. It’s interesting to notice how that shifts and how temporary the word really is. I’ve always wanted to live internationally and have an international career so coming to Trinity Laban seemed like a good starting point. It’s a really great place that allows you to apply many different approaches to whatever you’re looking at, and supports you to be creative in the development of your research.”

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Image: Anywhere I Can See The Moon taken by Steven Sherill

Upon graduation from UCSB, Gianna was awarded the Tonia Shimin Award for Excellence and Promise in the Field of Dance and The Corwin Award for Choreography. Gianna is a proud recipient of the Trinity Laban Postgraduate Dance Award 2015-2017, a Leverhulme 2016-2017 Scholar and the 2016 recipient of the Lesley-Anne Sayers Research Award.

Gianna: “Receiving the Lesley-Anna Sayers Research Award has been a highlight of my time at Trinity Laban. I was able to take myself and 3 dancers to Amsterdam to work with choreographer, performer and movement researcher Ria Higler. That week was completely life changing for me and has shifted the way I work, the way I see the body and the way I live in my own body. I’m so grateful for that opportunity.”

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

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.

Produced by Step Out Arts

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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 brought by Bedford Creative Arts. 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

TRINITY LABAN AT RESOLUTION 2017

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Image: Simone and Elizabeth

Alice White reports

From the 12 January – 25 February 2017 the UK’s biggest dance festival for emerging artists will return, bursting with Trinity Laban alumni and current students. Resolution is The Place’s annual, New Year festival of short live dance and performance. Resolution demonstrates the best of emerging talent, with previous participants including Trinity Laban alumnus Luca Silvestrini, who co-founded the incredibly successful Protein Dance.

There are a huge number of Trinity Laban music and dance artists involved this year – over 50 – made up of choreographers, performers and musicians – and I will be one of them.

Having graduated from Trinity Laban in 2015, I’m really excited to be sharing my new work in collaboration with Zoe Bishop (together known at Bite Dance). Our piece Still Laughing focuses on the act of laughter as a choreographic device, looking at laughter as ‘readymade’ movement material. I will also share my experiences as a performer with Watts Dance, who will debut WLA No.657005 in the final week.

Over the course of the festival I will be documenting and sharing the experiences of both myself and my fellow performers. For the next six weeks I will continue a rolling blog, letting you know what pieces to look out for, conveying behind the scenes info, giving advice for aspiring choreographers, and sharing personal experiences.

Week One

The opening week of Resolution 2017 sees Trinity Laban’s alumni and current students both presenting and performing in new dance works. Alumni Simone and Elizabeth will perform Impressing the Grand Duke on Friday 13th Jan with RAE Dance Collective presenting Unravel, le Bolero the following night.

2016 graduate Camilla Isola choreographs on RAE Dance Collective, which is jam-packed with Trinity Laban dancers, featuring 2016 graduates Giulia Avino, Clara Sjolin and Laura Calcagno with current students Theo Arran, Kieran Covell, Giordana Patumi, Phillip Hewitt and Viola Ranghino. Camilla works within the deconstruction of movement and sound, whilst always retaining a sense of humanity and compassion. Her new work Unravel, le Bolero interrogates what drives humans to desire contact. In a dark room where bodies tangle together, only the audience is allowed to see them losing control.

Catching up with Camilla ahead of her performance, she commented:

“I have been interested in the arts for my whole life, but found a particular curiosity with choreography. Last August I decided to challenge myself and apply for Resolution with the creation of a brand new work. Two weeks later, I received an email saying that my application had been successful and I had a place in the festival. When I opened the email I was overjoyed; it gave me the right energy to begin exploring and developing my ideas.

I feel proud of this achievement and lucky to have this opportunity. I am very thankful to all those who are supporting my work and also to Trinity Laban, who over the past three years have fully prepared me as a dance artist. Trinity Laban gave me the skills and space I needed to grow as a choreographer and equally as a person.”

 

Here are the performances by and featuring Trinity Laban students and alumni to look out for:

Week 1:

13 Jan: Simone and Elisabeth

14 Jan: RAE Dance Collective

Week 2:

17 Jan: J7s Dance Company

18 Jan: Andrew Race Dance Company & Clara Sjolin

19 Jan: Laura Calcagno and Camilla Isola

21 Jan: Clélia Vuille

Week 3:

24 Jan: Jannick Moth and Company

25 Jan: Awake Dance Company

26 Jan: Jayne Port & Emmeline Cresswell Company

Week 4:

31 Jan: Orley Quick and the Hairy Heroines

1 Feb: Bite Dance & Thomas Michael Voss

2 Feb: Jan Lee

3 Feb: Laura Ganotis

Week 5:

14 Feb: Elisha Hamilton Dance & Natalie Sloth Richter

15 Feb: Scatterlings

Week 6:

21 Feb: Watts Dance

22 Feb: Zjana Muraro and Gianna Burright

23 Feb: Maria Lothe & Co

Keep up to date on Trinity Laban’s involvement in Resolution by following my weekly blog for news, reviews and more. For now, the rehearsals continue…

To find out more information and book tickets for Resolution, visit The Place website.

 

FROM STAGE TO SCREEN AND BACK: INTERVIEW WITH RAYMOND-KYM SUTTLE

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Image: Raymond-Kym Suttle

Raymond-Kym Suttle graduated with his MA in Dance Studies in 1996 after originally training as an actor. Since graduating, he has worked as a dancer, choreographer and burlesque artist before moving to Los Angeles to pursue his film career further. Here he talks to us about his work so far, including his use of semiotics – discovered during his studies – in acting.

Tell us about your time at Trinity Laban.

I originally auditioned for the Transitions Dance Company (MA Dance Performance), but was offered a place on the MA Dance Studies on a scholarship. I had some professional choreographic experience – though for theatre rather than dance – so thought this would be a good opportunity to develop. It was great having access to rehearsal spaces, real dancers and a theatre space to work in. Discovering the field of semiotics was a revelation and one that I’ve grown to love more and more as I observe it in action every day in the people around me.

Ultimately I got a lot out of my time at Trinity Laban, but it also reaffirmed my sense that one should never conform to someone else’s ideals – stick to your guns and create what feels right for you.

Thanks to my MA, I’ve been able to teach choreography and dance at prestigious venues such as the Skyros Centre in Greece.

I now perform regularly under the banner of ‘male burlesque’, as my alter-ego Major Suttle-Tease, though what I do isn’t pure or classic burlesque by any means. I combine dance with stand-up comedy, song and inventive clothing removal performed to complex pastiches of music, recorded dialogue, projected imagery and sound effects.

I embed strong socio-political messages in my work – although my work is fun, there’s a serious point I’m making. My hope is that I’ll reach people who wouldn’t usually go to a serious play, and present them with something meaningful to get them thinking.

You originally trained as an actor; why did you decide to do a Masters in dance?

It’s a good question, because after I finished my BA in English & Drama I swore I was never going to study again!

I’d always been an actor who dances, and still am. I’ve also done a lot of physical theatre in which actors use their bodies and props to create an environment or a mood. I have always been aware of the power of the human body to convey things that the voice and words cannot – and vice versa.

The primary benefit of being both an actor and choreographer is that when creating movement as part of a play, I have an understanding of what actors are comfortable with – actors are very different to dancers. Dancers, in my opinion, are better at taking criticism because they’re used to being told/shown what to do and how to do it, whereas that’s not the case with acting. One of my strengths is finding a way to make actors feel like they’re part of the choreographic process so that it’s acting through movement, rather than ‘dance’, because a lot of actors have a strong belief that they’re not dancers and therefore freeze at the word ‘choreography’. When you help them to see that everything they do on stage is choreography you get great results. For example, I was asked by a director to create the transformation of 8 actors from courtiers into a pack of blood-thirsty hunting dogs. That result was one of my best reviews to date, with my choreography described as being “reminiscent of the great Pina Bausch”. Ironically, at the time I got the review, I’d never heard of Pina Bausch (!) so it took me a while to realize how much of a compliment that was!

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Image: Raymond-Kym Suttle

Your methodology for acting based on the semiotics work you did during your Masters sound fascinating! Please tell us more.

I aim to help actors become consciously aware of the processes that most actors use instinctively, because they’re using them in every day life: body contact, physical appearance, facial expressions, and other non-linguistic aspects of speech.

Many great actors use these indicators unconsciously – they instinctively know what to do but couldn’t explain to you exactly what they did, why they did it, or why what they did works. It’s my belief that knowing why you did what you did is more useful than just using instinct and hoping for the best.

To begin with, I get the actors to sit at a table, with their hands flat on the table and feet flat on the floor, and deliver a highly emotional extract of script, with no particular emotional force, just focusing on making sense of the words. They are instructed not to gesture with their hands, not to do anything deliberately with their facial expressions, not to move/shift in the chair/tuck their feet under them, etc. They are told they can do whatever they like vocally.

Most people, in this first stage give me clues as to where their emotions ‘bleed’. It may be an involuntary lift of a finger off the table, or a tap of a foot, or a lift of the chin. This emotional ‘bleed’ may well be anxiety, or it may be a response to the text. Wherever that ‘bleed’ is noticed I then make them aware of what their body does unconsciously to release tension (physically or emotionally).

I then ask them to do the scene again, this time concentrating on finding a moment, just one single moment, when they feel the strongest desire to change one of the semiotic indicators: one hand gesture, change their orientation use a head nod/shake, etc.

We gradually build and build until when we get the actor out from behind the table, hopefully they are now highly aware of whether whatever gesture they’re doing is absolutely necessary, or if they’re making choices in an attempt to be ‘interesting’ rather than emotionally true.

There’s a lot more to the process and it’s not effective on every actor but it’s a useful tool for becoming conscious of how we do what we do and what works to make something seem convincing.

What are your future career plans (dance, acting, and more!)

I moved to the USA primarily to further my film-making career on both sides of the camera. I have a feature film script that is semi-autobiographical, that I converted into a stage play to help me sort out some issues I was having with the chronology and details of the plot, as well as to see how some characters needed to change. I produced the play in London and that was very useful when I rewrote the film script. Ironically I now have a producer in LA who’d like to see a stage version of the new script, and someone who saw the play in London would like to do a translation into German and direct it in Germany.

THE POWER OF MUSIC: INTERVIEW WITH ANTHONY DRAKE

 

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Image: Anthony Drake

Alumnus Anthony Drake graduated with a Masters in 2009. Here he talks about his love of music, post Trinity Laban activities, and how he is making a difference to disadvantaged students in South Africa. 

Can you start by telling us a little bit more about yourself/your background, and how you became interested in music?

I became interested in music at a young age. Having played recorder and sung in my local church choir, I started formal lessons on the piano at 11 and on the clarinet at 14. I was so inspired by incredible clarinet players such as Jack Brymer and Michael Collins (both of whom I was later fortunate to meet) that I knew I wanted to pursue music as a career.

After studying music at Goldsmiths (University Of London), I undertook an internship in the office of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. But then my circumstances changed, leading to a complete change in career, and I moved into the field of IT and Telecommunications.

In 2006, I realised the need to do something which would touch the lives of others, and going back to music was the obvious choice. I was accepted for the Postgraduate Diploma at Trinity Laban, where I studied with Victoria Soames-Samek, then with Joan Enric-Lluna and Ian Mitchell, playing in the principal orchestras and ensembles. I was a recipient of the Leverhulme Mentorship in collaboration with the BBC Concert Orchestra, received scholarships from Trinity College London and a bursary from Trinity Laban, and graduated with a Masters in 2009. Both during and after my studies I worked as a clarinet and saxophone teacher, music lecturer and freelance clarinet player with various groups including the Galliard Ensemble.

How did you become involved with The Keiskamma Music Academy?

I had visited South Africa on holiday with my partner every year from 2007 and realised that I wanted to settle there. In 2012, an opportunity presented itself and I took the plunge. I spent some time as the Co-Principal Clarinet of the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and as a teacher at Durban Music School. A student of mine alerted me to an advert for the post as Manager of Keiskamma Music Academy (a programme of the Keiskamma Trust); I applied, and have not looked back since.

In 2014, I became the Head of the Academy, taking over from founder Helen Vosloo. I am now responsible overall for the programme’s activities including fundraising, financial and project management, student relations, strategic planning, and staff recruitment as well as teaching clarinet, flute, saxophone and recorder and conducting the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra. In addition, I am one of the Senior Managers of Keiskamma Trust, involved in decision-making for the entire organisation. When I started, there were 47 students at the Academy; there are now over 125, since we started our newest project at a school for disabled children. Since I started, students have achieved some of the highest marks in music examinations in the Academy’s ten-year history, supported by quality of teaching awards from the University of South Africa (UNISA).

Achievements include co-founding the Keiskamma Youth Orchestra in December 2015, which recently completed a six-day national tour. I am extremely lucky to have a very supportive team of teachers and administrators who have made all of this possible.

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Keiskamma Music Academy students on tour in Bloemfontein, July 2016

What are your plans/goals as Head of The Keiskamma Music Academy?

My plan for the Academy is for it to grow further to create yet more opportunities for many more young people in South Africa. The Eastern Cape suffers some of the highest poverty levels in the country, and boredom plays a role in the development of major social problems such as drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy and HIV/AIDS. I realise the huge value of music education in addressing this issue and uplifting society and believe that music has the power to unite people and work towards greater social change. Uniquely, within the Keiskamma Trust we combine programmes such as art, education and health, creating the powerful scope for drastic social development. Some of our first graduates are now studying science and accountancy at university. The Academy and other programmes of the Keiskamma Trust – with the help of committed donors – have supported these students in achieving success.

Can you tell us some more about your plans to travel to Europe next year?

In 2013, the Academy successfully applied to the SA National Lottery for funding for an international touring project which will research the culture and music of some of the original peoples of Southern Africa, the San, culminating in performances both nationally and internationally. Since we have links with Germany and I have links with the UK, a tour to Europe seemed the obvious and exciting choice. It will give us an opportunity for cross-cultural dialogue, collaboration and an opportunity for young people on both sides to learn about life in the different countries paving the way for future partnerships across the two continents.

What was your time like as a student at Trinity Laban?

My time at Trinity Laban was an incredible experience. The level of cultural diversity created many opportunities for me to experience other cultures, and to form lasting personal and professional relationships. The high quality of teaching and support received really helped me to channel my desire to succeed. It also opened many doors for the development of my career. Balancing my studies whilst working part-time in three other jobs as well as performing was a challenge, but it helped me to really focus on time-management and offered me the opportunity to develop a very wide range of skills.

Do you have any future plans to perform yourself?

My main focus currently is to extend the opportunity of music education to as many people as possible here in South Africa. I am very interested in helping to build the province into becoming one of the musical hubs of the country. I am also very interested in developing my skills as a conductor and producer. But should the opportunity to perform again, I would certainly seriously consider it. After all, it is what I have trained for at Trinity Laban!

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.

Natalie Su Company Broadway March 2016-3

– 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

 

Hearing Dance in the Body: Interview with Jack Philp

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Photo: JK Photography

Trinity Laban alumnus Jack Philp meets me straight after finishing another discussion of his project, a dance-meets-neuroscience study with City University. Clearly tremendously passionate about this collaboration, he is excited to show me diagrams and research papers. So what’s it all about?

First, tell me about your time at Trinity Laban.

It was really exciting to be here. It was fast-paced – so much so that my time went really quickly. I feel really lucky to have networked with valuable contacts; I formed pretty strong relationships at Trinity Laban and it’s been really worthwhile leaving with those. It was a great time to play, have fun, explore ideas, and test myself and what I can do. I’m really humbled and grateful to have trained here – I never expected to be lucky enough to do so.

How has your choreographic career developed since you graduated in 2015?

Since completing my undergraduate degree, I’ve been teaching a lot. I’m lecturing in a few colleges and I’m co-directing a few youth companies which is really exciting. It’s been great to work with a wealth of new people since leaving. At the same time, I’m working with my own company, which I developed at the end of my second year of training. Part of that involves continuing to form links, and pushing our work in the public domain.

Now we’re running a collaborative project with the cognitive Neuroscience Research Unit at City University, so that’s been the bulk of my creative time. Aside from that, I’m working on some new pieces with a youth group at the moment to fundraise for the Red Cross at a charity showcase. I feel blessed to still be doing what I enjoy.

How did your collaboration with City University come about?

First of all as a maker, I’m really interested in working collaboratively with music, and I knew I wanted to make a piece with that vision at the core. So in thinking about how I could unpick that relationship with sound a little bit more, I had a conversation with the Dance Science department at Trinity Laban. The staff encouraged me to meet with Dr. Corrine Jola who’s a Trinity Laban graduate and neuroscientist. I then took part in a performance cognition lab with her and La Fabrique Autonome Des Acteurs in France last summer, where there was a wealth of different artists – from theatre to dance to language specialists. It was exciting looking at how we can embed cognitive processes within theatre as a learning tool.

Next, I met with Dr. Beatriz Calvo-Merino at City University, and we started to develop a direction for the project, and unearth what questions we could answer; how we could analyse cognitive processes in relation to sound. We’ve since been running some pilot tests, including a performance by my company at Resolution (The Place’s annual dance festival) of an exploratory work, Psychoacoustic, which was a really useful platform to help me think about how to develop the project. Now, we are pushing the project into its next phase.

Jack Philp 2

Photo: Alex Galvez-Pol

What’s the next stage for the research?

We’re interested in running another period of Research and Development (R&D) in the studio to really develop the work that we started for Resolution, and reshape it to form a more gallery-suitable, immersive piece. I’m interested in running a piece of performance and research at the same time. What we want to do is expand the initial pilot test* on a larger scale, and thus widen the data pool. Our concept is to place an immersive project in a gallery for people to walk through, with big body outlines on the walls for the public to draw on and highlight where they feel particular activations and sensations. So we will be giving the spectator a role in designing the space that they’re in, as well as generating research and art at the same time.

*Jack explained that the pilot involved getting participants to list words they associated with emotions. In the next stage, these words were morphed into abstract sounds. When participants listened to these sounds, and watched short clips of abstract dance, fascinatingly they tended to highlight similar areas on body outlines relating to where they felt a response, in line with previous research on bodily mapping.

How do you hope for the research to progress?

In summary, we are interested in learning how you can assess emotional responses in an audience, based on specifically crafted music and sound; how they can work coherently together to suggest a particular emotion. So we’re testing whether those emotional responses are proven within a spectator, and whether they’re coherent across a larger number of people. Furthermore, we want to understand what causes those reactions specifically. Is it where an audience member looks? We can observe this through eye tracking. Or is it perhaps driven by a sound?

I would like to then take the work back into the theatre in the long term, and maintain it as an immersive piece, giving the audience a role in the project. I’m really keen on making work that’s accessible for people. The ‘tagline’ for my choreography is that it’s both collaborative and physical, but I also strongly believe that it’s really important to burst the bubble of contemporary dance. Sometimes it can be a bit closed, and hard to read. With this project especially, it’s fusing with neuroscience, which is already so heavily academic. We then have to question how we make that accessible for the general public – for both specialists and non-specialists.

Essentially I would like to plug my audience in, perhaps with GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) watches and other gadgets which measure your body’s data – your heart rate, your pulse – and use that data to control the projection and the lighting of the space. So for example, if the audience’s pulse increases, the projection becomes faster. Much like performing the work in a gallery, the audience members still have a creative role in their watching, thus making it accessible because they are invested in it. They are creating part of it.

I would also like to culminate all of the work in a paper or a journal, so there’s an academic resource created at the end of the project. It would be great to combine all of the research, knowledge, movement and sound, so it becomes a coherent package of information that can then be used academically and creatively. I’m interested in not only making a piece for myself, but making work that serves purpose, that people can utilise, and that supports the field’s sustainability in the long term.

London 16 Januray 2016 - Jack Philip Company present Psychoacoustic as parto of Resolution 2016 at The Place.

Photo: Danilo Moroni

Do you see the research influencing your choreography in future?

For sure. I’ve always been interested in collaborative thinking and I’ve always been a bit of an academic as well, so it’s been brilliant to be able to collaborate with some real academic minds. For me, that’s really shaped how I approach choreography. I’m still learning, and that’s the beauty of it – I’m learning so much from them, but also about myself, and how I approach the studio and reconsider both creative and academic choices. I think it’s great to have experience of working with people who are outside of your industry. With that, they bring their own specialism. To employ that in what I do is really exciting.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Jack Philp is Artistic Director of Jack Philp Company. You can find out more about his research on the City University website.