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

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

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.

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.