Historical Project: Recreating Hofesh Shecther’s Sun

Hofesh Shechter is recognised as one of the most exciting artists working today, renowned for composing atmospheric musical scores to compliment the unique physicality of his movement. He is Artistic Director of the UK based Hofesh Shechter Company, formed in 2008. The company are resident at Brighton Dome and Shechter is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells Theatre. His works for his company include Uprising, In your rooms, The Art of Not Looking Back, Survivor (in collaboration with Antony Gormley at the Barbican), Sun, Political Mother, and Barbarians.

Sun premiered in Melbourne in 2013 and Hofesh Shechter Company has toured the work internationally for over three years. The extract performed for the Historical Project is a stripped down version that takes its inspiration from various sections of the original work, in which the performers portray perhaps the last remnants of a lost and crumbling society.

Winifred Burnet Smith, Sam Coren and Philip Hulford are the Rehearsal Assistants staging the work, who said:

“We are so thrilled to be restaging and reinvigorating an extract of Sun with the Trinity Laban undergrads – dance legends one and all. All the students have worked so hard, and have been a joy to teach. We cannot thank them enough for their perseverance and positive attitude to learning Hofesh Shechter’s unique style.”

Second year student Sara Maurizi is one of the dancers performing in the work, she said:

“The process of learning Sun by Hofesh Shechter is challenging and inspiring me both as a human and as a dancer. The qualities of movement, the different intentions and the characters are intriguing in the piece and it has a percussive rhythm. I have to let my whole self be driven by the piece and dance without judgement and fear. I am very glad I had the chance to be part of this project.”

Emma Lane is another dancer in the work, she added:

“The experience is both physically and mentally challenging as I am being taught new ways to move my body and new ways to connect with emotions authentically. Finding a way to move my body in totality and having to constantly shift the dynamics of my movement has allowed me to reach new extremities that I will take with me for the rest of my training and career.”

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

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Image: Sun by Gabriele Zucca

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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Image: Women, Sasha Waltz, Historical Project 2014

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

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

 

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

Performance Anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Cooldown

The term cool down is frequently referenced within our dance practice, it’s seldom incorporated into our dance sessions by practitioners and is often expected to be a component of our personal structure.

So what is it all about? This article aims to provide you with a background on the subject and to offer suggestions as how to implement informed strategies into your daily dance practice.

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Here’s the science bit:

Cool down is also referred to as ‘active recovery’, this involves reducing the heart rate slowly after exercise. The intention is to avoid a sharp decline in heart rate which in turn will facilitate circulation, the removal of waste products, avoiding muscle soreness and cramping.

Some extra information:

During exercise that is predominately focused on your legs, your heart will send blood to those muscles to ensure that you are able to fulfill those movements. This means that there will be a lack of blood circulating from your heart to your legs and back to your heart.

If you were to sit down straight after your dance session your heart rate will plummet and the blood will not effectively circulate back to the heart. The burning sensation that you may often feel after leg intensive exercise is caused by blood lactate, some level of this is beneficial, but if it remains present in your leg muscles after class, it may result in muscle soreness, cramping and poor recovery.

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You could instead try the following:

  • 10 minutes of slowed down dance specific movements from the choreography you were performing, followed by 5 minutes of your favourite stretches
  • If you have just done a workout of weights/ running, cool-down with 5-10 minutes of light jogging on the treadmill/ cross-trainer/ exercise bike
  • Do this at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate (use fitbits, apple watches or the heart rate monitor on gym equipment to help you calculate this)

Here’s an example:

If you are 18 years old

  • Subtract 18 from 220

220-18= 202

  • 202 beats per minute (bpm) is your maximum heart rate for intense exercise/ dance

 

To work out the your heart rate for optimal cool-down benefits (60-70%)

  • 60% of 202 bpm= 0.60 x 202= 121 bpm
  • 70% of 202 bpm= 0.70 x 202= 141 bpm

 

So as an 18 year old if you reduce your heart rate to between 121 and 141 beats per minute, you will have the best chance of reducing blood lactate and heart rate.

Your benefits:

  • Following this process will help you to recover properly from your dance classes
  • It will optimise your next performance level
  • Make your body feel more energised and less achy
  • Make you feel less tired and feint after classes

 

Common issues:

“I don’t have time between classes”

If you are heading across to another class your heart rate will reduce anyway. The important thing to remember is to stay lightly active for 15 minutes, this is preferable to sitting or collapsing on the floor.

“But I stretch after my class, isn’t that cooling down?”

Stretching is part of the cooling down process but not the entirety of it. Try to follow this rule:

  1. Light activity at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate
  2. Dynamic stretching
  3. Static stretching

In conclusion, developing a better understanding of the cool down process will help you to understand your body. You will be able to control your recovery better during those busy times at university and take care of those dancing legs.

 

Seema De Jorge-Chopra MSc

Dance Science Graduate Intern