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.”

UCSB

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

Craig Lutton: Side by Side with Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

Craig Lutton

Image: Craig Lutton

In January 2017, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (BSO) and Trinity Laban paired up for the unique Side by Side series, in which principal BSO players performed alongside and offered mentorship to Trinity Laban students. We caught up with percussionist and Trinity Laban student Craig Lutton who was a part of this year’s series.

“I gained so much from the experience working Side by Side with the professionals. Sacha Johnson was leading the sectional – he was on bass drum and I was on cymbals – and when we were playing together it was really great, it sent shivers down my spine. The two day event ended with a sold out concert at Blackheath Halls which was really successful. I’m coming to the end of my studies and orchestral music is primarily what I want to do, so to learn from Sacha and play side by side with him in a concert was really special.

The experience was intense because you’ve only got around 8 hours of rehearsal and then it’s the concert – it’s just like being in a professional working environment. You’ve got limited rehearsal time and you’ve got to nail it straight away. It was a nervous excitement I was having, with Sacha beside me, literally side by side, it was a step closer to reaching my dream of being an orchestral musician.”

During a rehearsal’s lunch break, Craig was lucky enough to receive an impromptu cymbal lesson from Sacha Johnson.

“Sacha said that when you go into the profession this is what most of you would play in the main orchestras, so he said over the lunch break he’d spend half an hour teaching me and I thought ‘this is fantastic’. I was learning from a true professional, because he’s played with all of the London orchestras and toured the world. He taught me so many different techniques and sounds, it was really beneficial. I could then put that into the afternoon rehearsal and the evening concert. He was really digging deep into how I could make my playing better. He gave me a bit of a career talk as well which was really inspiring to hear. It was a really poignant moment.”

Craig spoke about his time studying at Trinity Laban:

“It’s been very special. I’ve had lots of amazing performance opportunities and I’m so glad I moved to London from Northern Ireland. There’s so many opportunities, London’s the centre of the universe for music! It’s been incredible and I’ve met so many people, I’ve made friends for life and made some great contacts. The Side by Side concert at Blackheath Halls with BSO was a really special moment and I’ve had so many others.

My current teacher Michael Doran coached me in the Ulster Youth Orchestra in 2009 – 2013 which is where I first met him. He encouraged me to audition for Trinity Laban and I knew straight away in 2009 that I wanted to study under him. Here I am now having nearly finished four years of his beneficial tuition!

In my second year, Michael got me in for two performances of La Boheme playing with the ENO and once again in third year – that was special and probably a highlight from my time at Trinity Laban. It was at the London Coliseum, and being in the pit playing the cymbals was really special. I remember the moment just as the curtain came down for the interval and I was standing on stage playing the side drum. It was amazing – I was absolutely buzzing marching out on stage. There were about 2000 people watching, it was insane! I had my dad in the audience for the first night so that was great, because I’d never really thought I’d make my professional debut in an orchestra. When I was younger it was always the dream, so for it to actually come true made it one of the best nights of my life.

The principal percussionist in the BSO is Matt King, who also studied at Trinity Laban. Sacha was telling me about him and it was really inspirational to hear about people with professional jobs in orchestra’s – principal jobs – who have studied at Trinity Laban. There’s a lot of them in the professional world and that’s another one of the reasons why I chose to study here.

I did another Side by Side series with the BBC concert orchestra. We had Alistair Malloy, their principle percussionist, who was playing beside me again. I could use things that I’d learnt from Sacha in January and bring it into that performance. I’d never really worked on cymbals until the lesson with Sacha, he said ‘if you want to be a professional percussionist you’ve got to nail this’, so I thought right, this is my moment. I then stuck at it for 2 months and it’s really paid off.”

To find out more about Craig visit his website: www.craigluttonpercussion.co.uk

For more information on studying with us please visit the Trinity Laban website.

Alice White

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Vibrancy and Transparency: Fascinations of a Fulbright Scholar

Headshot_Madison McGrew

Image by Megan Moore

Madison McGrew, a student from the University of South Florida, has received a US Student Fulbright Award to enable her to study MSc Dance Science at Trinity Laban. Here she talks of her journey as a dancer and her dreams in osteopathy.

What attracted you to study at Trinity Laban?

It is hard to say what first attracted me to study at Trinity Laban, but I think dance injuries had a lot to do with it. I accrued nine musculoskeletal injuries throughout my time training at a dance studio in small-town Florida. Side-lined, I often read articles from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries and the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS), and I noted that most of the research informing those articles came out of Trinity Laban.

Later in undergraduate school, I visited the Harkness Center in New York City where I met Leigh Heflin, alumnus of the MSc Dance Science programme; I was in awe of her vast knowledge-base and ability to cohesively communicate dance and science.

Not long after, I attended Performing Arts Medicine Association conferences where I met other notable scholars in the field of dance science who spoke very highly of the opportunities at Trinity Laban—and with it being the first institution in the world to offer a degree in dance science and subsequently contribute the most to dance science research, publications, and conference presentations—I could not dispute them!

I remember when I first visited the Laban Building in 2015, there were two themes quite literally built into its architecture: vibrancy and transparency—which not ironically, I find are values that streamline the conversation between dance and science and have been pivotal in my learning journey thus far. Moreover, with Trinity Laban situated in London, a pulsating, centralized hub of culture and innovation, there is no room for lag in applying scientific theory to community dance practice, and that is equally exciting!

What was your reaction to finding out you would receive the Fulbright Scholarship?

I was speechless. I held off telling anyone for a couple days for fear it was all a dream. Even today, it remains unfathomable. Sylvia Plath, Linus Pauling, James D. Watson…they were all Fulbrighters. And now I am one too? I cannot believe it.

How do you feel the Scholarship will change your life?

I feel it already has. I have always felt a sense of civic and global responsibility, but now with a Fulbright Scholarship and the support of two nations, the responsibility has only grown. In short, I feel empowered because someone out there believes I can make a difference.

The almost year-long application process alone changed my life. I was challenged to reflect on my experiences and examine how I can use those experiences to benefit others; it made succinct my views of the world and my purpose within it.

The Scholarship will allow me to uniquely explore, side by side, two research areas that are important to me but have long been remarked as being at completely opposite ends of the spectrum. Dance science as a field is largely unfledged in the US. While there are certainly pioneers and providers dedicated to dancer health and performance, nothing quite like Trinity Laban exists in the States.

But perhaps the most life-changing will be the people I meet. With this opportunity, there is a strong promise of friendship. At Trinity Laban, I will be surrounded by a diverse group of individuals all working toward the common goals of enhancing dancer potential and investigating the means in which dance impacts populations. And through the Fulbright Commission, I will join like-minded students called and inspired to increase mutual understanding between countries, cultures, and peoples in their own creative, thought-provoking ways. I cannot wait to exchange ideas and shape these relationships.

Kyle Scharf_Madison McGrew

Image by Kyle Scharf

What do you wish to achieve while studying here?

Beyond the curriculum of the Dance Science programme, I hope to use my independent time to get involved in other research and community initiatives. Recently, I worked with a ballet professor on a film using movement themes to raise awareness for human sex trafficking. The project helped me realize that as many times as I have relied on healthcare for my dance injuries, I have conceivably relied on dance as a form of healing far more.

How might you use your degree to further your career?

Witnessing my own relationship with dance, a healthcare system, and healing, I became interested in pain tolerance. Just as dance is a crucial line of communication, so too is pain. It has been said that dance artists experience the world differently, but perchance they perceive pain differently. I think dancers, and myself included, use pain as a behavioural motivator. Dance is so intimately linked to our self-identity that pain becomes an identifier by proxy. A constant subjugation to pain, however, alters our internal points for pain evaluation. Therefore, when medical intervention becomes necessary, the line of communication between dancer and practitioner can get altered as well.

I recently read an article online in which Marijn Rademaker of the Dutch National Ballet recounted being asked by a nurse: “Don’t you think it’s time to find another job? I don’t think your knees are going to be okay for this line of work.” I do not believe this sort of exchange should be encouraged between any individuals, much less between practitioner and dancer; but it’s this sort of dialogue that perpetuates miscommunication. While at Trinity Laban, I want to look at the psychological and physiological bases for pain tolerance in dancers, and evaluate the role these factors play in communicating pain. It is my greatest hope that upon completion of my degree, I will be able to contribute to the conversation on effective pain communication and treatment straight away.

In undergraduate school, I took all of the prerequisites (apart from taking the MCAT examination) to progress to medical school in the United States. I shadowed a great deal of osteopaths during that time and I believe their holistic approach to medicine echoes a dance science view of the integrated self—the mind, body, and spirit. The MSc Dance Science will provide me the keys to unlock a career as a judicious doctor of osteopathic medicine specializing in dancer care. I hope to continue to help build the dance science community in the States, and I hope that by being a physician housed under the Western model of healthcare, I can encourage others outside the field of dance science to embrace dance as a powerful tool of expressing and assessing sensation that bridges demographic divides.

Charlotte Constable

Graduate Intern – Press & PR

Investigating Cultural Diversity

investigating cultural diversity

What can we learn from other cultural understandings of the body, movement and dance? Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance has been asking this in a variety of ways and now Louisa Pestell, a Projects Manager for Learning and Participation (Dance), has been awarded a Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship to travel to East Africa this summer and work with three established dance organisations to promote knowledge exchange.  Laura Mercer (Administrative Assistant, Learning and Participation (Dance)) will be travelling with Louisa and both will visit Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda, where they will be hosted by key dance organisations including Guerrilla Arts (Uganda) Dance Forum Nairobi (Kenya) and Wesley Ruzibiza in Rwanda in connection with Amizero Dance Kompagnie and the National University of Rwanda.

The visit aims to exchange knowledge of the dance sector in East Africa with a view to developing further collaboration with key contacts in the future.  A particular focus on community and education work will be made because of Louisa’s particular area of interest and expertise in it. It also aims to research the ecology of dance in the East African geographical area in order to establish methods of working across a cultural divide in a mutually beneficial, ethical and productive way.

Key activities include:

  • Observation of grassroots engagement and  young dancers’ development and training support provided by partner organisations so as to identify areas with potential for future project collaboration.
  • Exploration of who the partner organsiations work with, how they find dancers from a young age and then how they train them and offer continuing professional development.
  • Research the potential of future cultural exchange projects and how they may (or may not) be of benefit to the key contact organisations and the British partners they work with.

Louisa and Laura’s visit to numerous dance organisations across Eastern Africa will provide an opportunity to profile the work of Learning and Participation (Dance) at Trinity Laban on an international platform.  Additionally, Louisa’s research project will offer her an opportunity to widen her knowledge and perspective of diverse activity in the international community dance sector, directly impacting on her role in Learning and Participation (Dance) and informing Trinity Laban’s understanding of cultural diversity within the Dance subject area. We will follow up with Louisa when she returns in the new Academic Year.

Louisa, who has a research interest in the manifestation of cultural identity in dance and contemporary and creative dance in education and community settings, is also artistic director of Arts Odyssey, a London Based Community Arts Organisation that ‘celebrates Unity through Diversity’.

To find out more about our Learning and Participation departments, visit our web pages here.

Further Information about the Lisa Ullman Travelling Scholarship Fund may be found here.

Promoting the Dance Scientists of the Future

Image

It is well known that the future success of students is not based on curriculum content alone. Higher Educational Institutions need to provide opportunities for learners to engage with and interrogate life after study, whether that is further postgraduate study and research or becoming a professional. Networking with those from beyond the student’s home institution and engaging with narratives of learners’ journeys help current students make decisions about their future in an informed way. In addition, the health and wellbeing of performing artists is a firmly established element of the provision Trinity Laban has been developing through a range of support mechanisms for current students and professional performers.  To incubate the future batch of specialists, trained in understanding the performing body, our Dance Science department is a world leading centre of research and teaching. As part of our provision for MSc students studying Dance Science, and undergraduates who may be interested in further study in Dance Science, an annual networking and careers day has been opened up to Dance science students and graduates from across the UK.

The first Dance Science Student and Graduate Networking and Careers Day, held on 12th June, enabled students to establish connections, share ideas and discover opportunities. Organised by Edel Quin, Programme Leader of the MSc Dance Science, the day served to provide a professional insight into the world of Dance Science. The programme included presentations by current and past students from a range of MSc Dance Science programmes. Helen Laws, the Manager of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science, also provided a talk on the educational, health care and research activities of the Institute and the role that Dance Science plays in the realisation of these endeavours.

One attendee noted ‘…the atmosphere created and the encouragement to share ideas and experiences with people from various institutions was great!’ and another commented on the inspirational entrepreneurship within the narratives of the past graduates as giving her ‘…confidence to find ways to share my knowledge with the dance world.’

For more details of our Dance Science programmes and provision for the healthy performer please visit the Dance Science website

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.

‘Eastwick Knows!’

MT_Witches_A5_flyer_2With the pressure of showcase and dissertations submitted…it’s time to focus on the final show of our training at Trinity Laban. Perhaps it’s just me; but I know that the next five weeks will be filled to the brim with a variety of emotions. We’ve been through highs and lows as a group…and we’re slowly realising that we won’t be together soon for much longer after three years. That sentimental moment aside – We are loving life in Eastwick so far!

I’m Marika and am playing the role of Eastwick’s first Iron Lady matriarch Felicia Gabriel. I am going to be blogging life direct from the rehearsal room when I can. Additionally, Lydia (Alexandra Spoffard – in short one of the three Witches who was played by Cher in the film version – yes she has big hair) is our resident rehearsal photographer to show you what we get up to every week day! ‘Hashtag Lydia Davidson : #RehearsalSnapper’

Since our graduate show was announced by Vicki (or Stretton as I affectionately call her), we have been so excited; particularly because a few of us were campaigning for The Witches of Eastwick to be our final show. It has been a while since a Musical Theatre graduating year has performed this show. There has been a buzz surrounding our production, before rehearsals began via social networking and friends at other institutions.

Our creative team seem to know exactly what they want and are working us all very hard. This is going to be a big production (arguably the most ambitious production that Trinity Laban has mounted – what with the flying…magic…various objects being thrown up by me, a church falling down…) We are all determined to make it the best it can possibly be.

Every rehearsal process begins with the read through. This involves us reading aloud through everything (yes, even the songs) in our various accents, marking cuts and discussing any changes that the creatives have made between the auditions and now. It was really exciting to hear everyone in their assigned roles and the dialogue coming to life off the pages before it has even been staged. (Exciting times!)

This first week has been full on; although it has been fun; we have all been drained because it’s such a high energy show. We have accomplished quite a lot already with learning most of the big ensemble numbers musically as well as choreographing them too. These include Eastwick Knows, Darryl Van Horne, Dance With the Devil and Dirty Landry. Damien (choreographer) has done a fantastic job especially with some ‘chair’ography’ and ‘tea towel’ography.’ (Of course…I won’t ruin what we have in store; but you will have to come and see us in action to find out)

One issue that some of us have been dealing with – Why aren’t dance shoes made more comfortable? The ladies of Eastwick are not asking much Capezio; sort out your stage heels out please! (We are suffering blisters, pinched toes, swollen feet…) It’s not beauty but we’re most definitely suffering pain for our art! Or in the words of Sondheim, ‘Art isn’t easy.’

We are very fortunate to have a fantastic voice coach Tom who is a MA Voice Studies student at the Central School of Speech and Drama. He is also American so we can trust that he can help us with words that we struggle with!  We are using standard American accents but in order to stay true to the text, we are incorporating New England vowels etc, so we can entrust Tom to guide us. He also has that ability to explain things in remarkable detail but simplify it.

Research is an integral part of anything we do as actors. We have been asked to find photos of what our various characters’ houses would look like and how we envision the town of Eastwick to be, from the clues given in the script. It’s like piecing together a puzzle. So far, it seems very Desperate Housewives, with a hint of coast line thrown in.

Naomi also work shopped us using improvisation for ideas on how we would set the opening scene – personally I find this approach awesome as often the best ideas derive from an organic process such as improv. Damian moulded our ideas into movement and before we knew it, we had choreographed the opening to The Witches of Eastwick! We also have been ‘actioning’ the script as developed by British director Max Stafford Clark. This simply means applying a verb to a text to achieve an objective!

As well as being a full scale production; the show itself is a very challenging one to learn in four weeks as we were told by Naomi (director) and Robert (musical director) on our first day. The graft doesn’t stop inside the rehearsal room; it continues outside too – we have script work, harmony learning, character research, going over choreography, accent practising and doing anything else we are asked to do by our team.

It’s full on and as we further immerse ourselves in everything Eastwick it will become even more intense. You find yourself humming various lines from the music almost every hour of the day or quoting lines that just stick in your mind. When you’re in a rehearsal room 9am-6pm every single week day and then going away to prepare for the following day…you slowly begin to realise that The Witches of Eastwick is taking over your life.

Stay posted for the next installment of everything Witches…

If you’re on Twitter, please hashtag #TheWitchesofEastwick @trinitylaban @tlmtweets;

Industry comps are available please get in touch!

Marika Visser
[Spotlight Pin : 9572-7861-4553]