Historical Project: Merce Cunningham’s MinEvents

Merce Cunningham (1919–2009) was a leader of the American avant-garde throughout his seventy-year career and is considered one of the most important choreographers of our time. With an artistic career distinguished by constant experimentation and collaboration with groundbreaking artists, Cunningham expanded the frontiers of dance and contemporary visual and performing arts.


Photo: Merce Cunningham in Changeling (1957) by Richard Rutledge

MinEvents 2017

A MinEvent is an uninterrupted sequence of excerpts drawn from the work of Merce Cunningham.  Each MinEvent is unique, and is designed to suit the particular space in which it is presented. Trinity Laban MinEvents are arranged and staged by Daniel Squire expressly for the dancers of Trinity Laban. Daniel said:

“This is the third year in a row for which I have created and staged four MinEvents using Merce Cunningham’s choreography for Trinity Laban. Each year, several sections have been pulled from various works ranging from the 1958 to 2002. This year we will include one section which appeared in Trinity Laban MinEvents 1, 2, 3 & 4 in 2015: this is from un jour ou deux, which was originally performed by the Paris Opera Ballet. The sections will be shuffled differently for each of the four performances, making each one unique. Some sections will be double – or triple – cast within each work, though all fourteen dancers will appear in each MinEvent.

Music is being composed and will be performed by Trinity Laban students; the décor is by Sarah Batey, a student from UCL, Slade School of Fine Art. I am very much looking forward to seeing Merce’s work and in this case a collaboration with the musician-composers, the artist, lighting designer, and costume designer to create four works never before seen but rather recontextualising extant choreography by Merce Cunningham.”


Photo: Daniel Squire by Ed Chappell. Interscape (2000) by Merce Cunningham: décor & costumes by Robert Rauschenberg

Second year student Jon Hope is one of the dancers performing in the MinEvents, he said:

“Working with Daniel means that every day is an adventure in itself. He teaches us material at a fast pace and has high expectations of our technical ability. This has made me aware that we must always strive to improve and never settle with what is safe or comfortable. In the choreography we use chance procedure which challenges our minds as we cannot rely on memorising the movement; each time it’s different. We have to learn all the possible outcomes and be ready to do any one of them when the opportunity arises. This way of creating ever-changing dance really intrigues me.

It’s great to have such an intensive time with one technique, one teacher and one piece. It allows for full focus, quick improvement and it’s refreshing to work with a different group of people than I usually do.

To get a full experience of MinEvents I urge the audience to keep a keen eye on the details, to look for the relationships between the dancers and movement, and to enjoy the co-existence of the dance, the sound and the set. Expect to see a new combination of extracts from Events created by Cunningham in a different setting and in a different time.”

Next week we delve into the process of recreating an extract from Hofesh Shechter’s Sun.

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Trinity Laban’s Celebrated Historical Project 2017

Our second year undergraduate students will perform works by choreographers who have made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary dance in the 20th and 21st centuries.

During Historical Project, students are immersed in an intensive period of study. As well as restaging the dance pieces, students learn about the artistic, historical and cultural contexts in which they were originally created and performed. The result is an experience which integrates theory and practice, and which exposes students both physically and intellectually to important dance works of the 20th and 21st centuries.

hp lead blog

Image: Highland Fling, Matthew Bourne, Historical Project 2016

Final year student Orion Hart (pictured above) performed in the restaging of Matthew Bourne’s The Highland Fling in last year’s programme. He commented:

“The Historical Project was one of the highlights from my whole time at Trinity Laban. It challenged me to discover new aspects of myself as a performer, and allowed me to go beyond what I thought I could achieve. If I could go back and do it all again I would!”

This year, students will be staging seminal works by:

Merce Cunningham: MinEvents 9, 10, 11 & 12 arranged and staged by Daniel Squire

Martha Graham: Panorama (1935) restaged and directed by Jacqueline Bulnes

Dore Hoyer: Affectos Humanos (1962) reconstructed and staged by Martin Nachbar

Hofesh Shechter: Sun – An Extract (2013) arranged and staged by Winifred Burnet-Smith, Sam Coren & Phil Hulford

Rudolf Laban: Drumstick re-imagined, staged and arranged by Alison Curtis-Jones

Martin Nachbar commented:

“It is always a joy and challenge to teach students to approach these dances and reconstruct them with the idea of meeting them rather than working on looking exactly like the original.”

Alumna Zoe Bishop performed in an extract of Sasha WaltzContinu titled Women, as part of Historical Project 2014. Zoe said:

“I found the process of learning the repertoire to be most inspiring as company dancer Mata Saka really took us on a creative journey over the 3 weeks. It allowed us to gain rich insight into the feel of the work.

I feel that Historical Project provides the first real opportunity to perform at a professional level within the undergraduate course. This opportunity is invaluable as it exposes the students to different styles of dance within the Contemporary Dance bracket, whilst working with professionals in the industry. It also provides the chance to work and dance with fellow students we may not have previously danced with and ultimately allows the students to perform repertoire of a professional level.”

Check back next week to follow the process of this year’s works.


Image: Women, Sasha Waltz, Historical Project 2014

For more information and to book tickets visit our Events page.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR


Hearing Dance in the Body: Interview with Jack Philp

Jack Philp JK

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.

Be part of …in the middle with you

In anticipation of Hagit Yakira’s final performance of …in the middle with you at Laban Theatre on Thursday 19 March, Hagit discusses the autobiographical elements of the piece in this Q&A:

hagityakiradance's Blog

What does ‘being in the middle’ mean to you?

…in the middle with you is a piece based on personal stories, a celebration of human experience.

We would like to invite you to contribute to the piece, to enrich it by offering your own stories, photos images, songs, thoughts on what ‘being in the middle’ means to you.

Our collection of stories will help us in developing the piece and will follow us on tour as a foyer installation.

Feel free to comment to this blog post, send us an email hagit@hagityakira.com or send us your stories via our facebook page.

Help us make …in the middle withyou live beyond the stage.

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Film festivals screen Senior Dance lecturer’s films


Two films by Trinity Laban dance lecturer Susan Sentler, featured at UK and European film festivals recently.

exposed (2012) has been shown at Dancing bodies, moving images (2012) for Decoda at Coventry University, HangArtFEST (2012) in Pesaro, AWA Gallery Overtoom 301 (2013) in Amsterdam, and the Open Screening Whitechapel Gallery (2013) in London. It was also exhibited at Light Moves Screendance Festival in Limerick in November 2014.

See, Sea was first shown as an installation at Trinity Laban. The films have been further exhibited at HangArtFEST (2013) and SBAM (2013) in Candelara, both with Trinity Laban alumnus Masako Matsushita performing a live physical response.

Susan took time away from her busy schedule to talk about her films, the creative process and her influences.

What are the films about?



“exposed was created through a starting point of light and working with interiors/rooms, predicaments, memory, layers, grids, and gaps. The dancer is transported through explorative improvisational journeys of light falling into four episodes: welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence (absorbing moisture from the atmosphere until it dissolves). A personal abstract voyage is revealed through the rhythmic play of still and moving images.”

“See, Sea is influenced by a significant episode with water that I experienced at the age of 5. At my aunt’s swimming pool, I took a step too deep and found myself underwater, drowning. In the moments I was under the water I remember it to be a calm, joyous sensation. My mother pulled me out, and saved me. From that moment on, I have had an extraordinary relation with water, wanting to stay in it for as long as I could. This has developed into a meditative and positive relationship with the sea and with the activity of swimming. The films can be shown alone or with a response from an external performer. In this mode, the viewer is encouraged to allow time to open to the sensorial association.”

How did you get into film?

“While I was studying my Masters in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban. I took two modules – Dance & the Moving Image taught by Tom Paine and Investigative Practice with Rosemary Butcher – which were life changing. Frankly I was more into visual art before I started dance so I felt that I was revisiting a past love of mine. And that’s a key thing I want to highlight about these films – despite the fact that my dance career has influenced and guided these films, I’d describe it more as visual art than dance, or a beautiful blurred vision of the two. My MA opened up a new creative mode for me.”

So, are your past interests a big influence?

“Yes. I’ve always found visual art interesting and used to take photographic stills when I was a student. I find that there’s a

Sea, See

See, Sea

sense of rhythm and vibrational energy with them so a big feature of my films is juxtaposing the still image with that of the moving image.

“I also wanted to convey the beauty of the everyday and unnoticed.  There’s a Japanese term called Wabi-Sabi – finding beauty in the imperfections – which I think is apt for my work.

“However, although this work is autobiographical, there’s no narrative to my film – it’s all abstract and concentrates on a flux of emotions and rhythmic play of images. I try to stay away from using my body as a recognisable personal image in the films.”

And how do you go about constructing your films?

“I don’t work from storyboards, I work through improvisation, working directly with the dancer while filming. First I take stills and footage and collect them into groups. For example, exposed fell into the groups of welling/piercing in, revealing/exposing, refraction, and deliquescence. This then becomes the nest to form and give shape to the whole work. When it comes to filming, I specifically use a handheld camera so that it becomes an extension of my body. I have also used a GoPro camera in See, Sea, which is attached to my pulses, forehead and ankles.

“Sound is very important as well. In exposed, I worked directly with a score from the composers C-Schultz & Hajsch. This guided my editing process. In See, Sea, I worked collaboratively with Ronen Kozokaro who is an amazing musician and composer and one of our wonderful accompanists at Trinity Laban.”

Why use film rather than live performance?

“I still work with live performers but I enjoy the precision and detail of choice in the editing of film. However, even though I wanted complete control when making my films it doesn’t mean I have a particular way I want the audience to interpret it. I wanted to make sure the films were subjective and open.”

Who are your main inspirations?

“Rosemary Butcher and Tom Paine as my teachers were extraordinary. Their interests were very similar to mine so I found their work riveting. Looking more generally at visual art, Pipilotti Rist, Mona Hatoum, and David Claerbout, to name a few.

Trinity Laban offers a broad range of opportunities that can take you where you want to go, developing your unique voice and empowering you to take creative leadership. Many of our Masters programmes are pioneering and are unique in the UK, if not the world.


Heather Stephenson

Marketing and PR Intern

Compass Commissions Q&A Summary from 29 Oct 2014

A Question & Answer session for potential Compass Commissions 2015 applicants was held at the Laban Building, at 6pm on the 29 October 2014, and was led by Kat Bridge and Brian Brady.

The session began with a brief introduction to the Greenwich Dance & Trinity Laban Partnership by Kat Bridge.

‘The Partnership was established in 2011 when we could do more by working together, bringing together our separate skills and strengths as organisations. Through the Compass Commissions a trio of new works were commissioned under three separate strands, which championed high production quality and a very clear aesthetic. As a Partnership we have the facility and the funding from the Arts Council to offer substantial sums of money which can genuinely make a difference and have an impact. We anticipated an appetite for Compass, and indeed we received more than 140 applications last year.”

Brian Brady added:
‘We are very interested in artists with high production values, and those who are engaged in examining their process of creating work, and how they make dance.’

Kat also mentioned that dialogue with the audience has been a regular concern for both Greenwich Dance and Trinity Laban as programmers, and therefore it is imperative for applicants to consider their audience in their proposal.

Tara d’Arquian and Lina Johansson, both Compass commission recipients in 2013, talked about their Compass application and experience.

Tara emphasised how she received the Commission very early in her career, soon after graduating, and how Compass offered her the opportunity to do something much more ambitious. She also mentioned how she used the guidance of the Commissioners whilst taking risks with her work.

Brian added that Tara’s written proposal was succinct yet detailed, and compelling enough for the Commissioners to want to meet her in person.

Lina commented on the challenges of translating her artistic vision into words for the written proposal. She also spoke about pitching (for the next stage) and how she approached this is a structured way and planned exactly what she wanted to say. Lina also talked about how she approached other organisations to tell them that she was applying for the Commission and ask them whether they would make a commitment to booking the work should she be successful with Compass. This raised awareness of the project and gave her partnerships to follow up once she was informed of the news.

Brian and Kat indicated that all three successful proposals were specific and clear in writing, demonstrated inventive ambition, the video submissions enhanced the ideas expressed and helped bring the potential work to life and that all three interviews/ pitches were authentic and clear in their vision. The three works selected in 2013, In Situ, Bench, and The Point At Which It Last Made Sense, explored a clear aesthetic, were explicit about their creative process which evidenced an innovative approach and spoke intelligently about who the audience for the work might be. These aspects combined made for extremely compelling proposals.


How many new works will be commissioned?
At least 3.

Is it possible to apply for more than one strand?
Yes, though the applications must be different.

Can I apply for additional funding?
Yes. All three Compass ‘14 artists levered additional funding, including Grants for the Arts awards from the Arts Council.

At what point should I look for additional funding?
It is advised that additional funding applications will be much stronger if a Compass Commission has already been awarded.

When does the work need to be premiered?
By March 2016. The making phase however, needs to be completed by December 2015.

What if the work has been performed at a ‘scratch’ night?
If it is genuinely scratch work it would constitute R&D, which would be fine.

Is there a particular length of work you are looking for?
This isn’t specified. However we do stipulate a ‘standalone’ piece- an entire experience in itself. We would not expect a work to form half of a double-bill.

Do I need to propose a budget for my work in my application?
The application stipulates that you application includes ‘What you propose for this commission – your idea, who it involves, how you will make it happen, the site etc’.

Can the work for which I apply for a Compass Commission be inspired by my previous work?
Yes. We think that all work is inspired by what an artist has produced previously.

Would it be a disadvantage not to have produced a work before?
No. Tara d’Arquian’s work was only the second piece she had created after graduating.

If I am applying for a site-specific Commission, do I need to have identified a site before applying?
Being very clear about the site your work is to be presented in (or inspired by) may make your application more compelling.

Can the work be a solo?

How much of my video will be watched?
Up to 10 minutes. Please note videos which are longer than 10 minutes will not be watched in their entirety.

What should I include in my video?
Please include video which is integral to the communication of your idea. You can make reference to the video in your written proposal.

Do I have to include video in my application?
No. In fact if you feel that the video may not be a very clear example of your work, including it may undermine your proposal.

Information on Compass Commissions

Apply now

Creative Thinking: Creative Teaching: Creative Practice

StudyThe Learning & Teaching environment at Trinity Laban Conservatoire focuses on the creative and innovative. Our tutors are focussed on developing and embedding approaches within their teaching that enable our students to become emboldened in creative practice. When you walk around our distinctive buildings and experience the vibe of the learning culture what is obvious is that creativity in its multifaceted guise is the foundation, whether you are involved in historic performance practice or devising contemporary choreography. Alongside this, part of our ethos (as highlighted in our Learning & Teaching Plan) is celebrating engagement with the broader creative and Higher Education communities to enable our expertise developed in teaching and creative practice to benefit those wider audiences. Recently, two members of the Faculty of Music have been disseminating their work, at external events. Both promote the harnessing of creativity within educational and creative parameters and their presentations reflect the philosophies and strategies that underpin their teaching.

Tim Palmer, Senior Lecturer in Music Education, recently took part in an HEA sponsored seminar at the University of York. The event, ‘Creative teaching for creative learning in higher academic music educationheld on May 13th 2013 bought together experts in the field to discuss creative teaching approaches and strategies for developing creativity in music students.  Tim’s paper titled ‘Deconstructing and Reimagining Repertoire in Teacher Training’ was presented with the assistance of a current PGCE student and explored strategies to flip the conventional approaches to using repertoire as a teaching tool. Details of the seminar, including resources can be found on the HEA website: here

In another creativity focused event, Trinity Laban’s Creative Director of CoLab, Joe Townsend, presented at the Culture Capital ‘s ‘Research, Creativity and Business 2: Making the Extraordinary’ held at the Cass Business School on May 22nd 2013. Joe led a workshop called ’CoLab – Risk, Flow and supporting collaborative work’  which reflected on his experience from the past two years in leading the annual CoLab fortnight and explored the question of how organisations and artists can nurture a meaningful exchange as a part of a creative process. The workshop explored the challenges faced in leading collaborative processes and what competencies can be developed through this approach.  For further details of the event, please explore the Culture Capital website here.

Creativity comes in all shapes and sizes of endeavour, and the work our colleagues are contributing to the field excites and challenges us. In a time when pressures on creativity and space for experimentation is threatened, it is more vital than ever that we promote new ways of thinking, seeing and doing  to ensure that the 21st Century is as creatively rich as possible.