The GOLDs visit Trinity Laban

GOLDs

Earlier this month, we celebrated International Older People’s Day on Thursday 1 October, here at the Faculty of Dance.

Our over sixties classes, Dance for Health and All Singing, All Dancing!, both part of the Retired not Tired programme were visited by 10 members of GOLDs Company, from Canberra, Australia, for a day of sharing work and dancing together.

As the newly appointed Graduate Intern in the Learning & Participation (Dance) Department, the GOLDs’ visit also signified my first solo shot at coordinating, managing and leading a project for TL.

GOLDs in performance

Photo: Mary Hinchey

Joined on the tour by Artistic Director Liz Lea, the GOLDs is a performance group for over 55s established in 2011 by Canberra Dance Theatre. Their visit to Trinity Laban’s Faculty of Dance was just one stop on their grand tour from 20 September to 10 October, spanning from Brighton to Edinburgh and even flying over to Vienna in between – a tour schedule that, as a performer myself, struck me with envy! Their black and gold company t-shirts were also the object of our TL groups’ desires.

GOLDs rehearse at studio 1, Laban Building

Photo: Mary Hinchey

After a short meet and greet between the groups, the GOLDs were whisked off on a tour of the Laban Building. Our visitors were given a glimpse of various undergraduate student classes and discovered the building’s architecture and accessibility, which gave them a real itch to get into the studio to move and explore – a vitality which remained constant throughout the day.
The GOLDs were joined by our Trinity Laban dancers for the first session of the day, led by All Singing, All Dancing!’s lead dance artists Natasha Lohan and Donna Ford. Once introduced to their voices, the dancers were invited into movement and vocal explorations through a voyage across a river, dissolving the three groups into a mass choir of movers and singers. The session ended with a screening of Lifestream, a short film created by All Singing, All Dancing! based on the themes explored within the morning’s class. A great first session to kick off the collaborations.

GOLDs

Photo: Mary Hinchey

The second session was led by Trinity Laban Alumnus Elisabetta d’Aloia. Improvisation-led tasks built up throughout the class, resulting in playful stop/start duets. Dance for Health participant Ian Russell recalled a group improvisation task:

“If one stops everyone does.
If one sets off everyone does,
Only one person at a time moves,
Only one person at a time is still.”

Trinity Laban Dance Artist Donna Ford gives her account of the session:

“Elisabetta welcomed us all and invited us to join her and bring the space alive, be together and explore together. We began with breathing, the whole body breathing, not just the lungs. The whole room breathing together and not just individuals.

We observed the way we could negotiate the space together following different rules, such as the whole group sensing when to come to stillness, having one person moving whilst another had to be still at any one time. We partnered up and played number conversation games, replacing words with claps and stamps and our own devised movements.

This movement dialogue then developed into duets which became set and then shared with each other. Marcia and Lucy’s duet was a particularly memorable moment as one played the other like a puppeteer, producing dramatic movements that were communicated across the space. Everyone remarked on how the session had felt like playing which in turn was very stress relieving.”

The third and final session, headed up by Dance for Health’s lead Dance Artist Lucy Evans, channelled the group’s creative curiosities into creating foil sculptures which in turn became a collage of silvery silhouettes against the wall – an artwork which formed the basis of spirited improvisation.

GOLDs rehearsing in studio 1, Laban Building

Photo: Lizzie Croucher

The day ended with a sharing of two contrasting works from the GOLDs; Air Kiss and Pop Art. Dance for Health participant Savitri Gaines sums up the performance and her experience of the day;

“Delightful to watch and hear … they also integrated some of us in the performance – I was blown a kiss and the person next to me was asked to join on the dance floor … it ended with all of us smiling, laughing. We were truly entertained.
(The GOLDs) were truly rich with two way conversation; one of whom was celebrating her 80th birthday. An inspiration to most of us—so pleased I was there.’”

For more information on how to get involved in Trinity Laban’s Over Sixties activities, visit the programme page, or email rnt@trinitylaban.ac.uk

Lizzie Croucher

Graduate Intern

Learning and Participation (Dance)

Retired Not Tired and Older and Wiser

By Ian Russell (Retired Not Tired participant)

On Friday 7th February I attended Trinity Laban and the Older People’s Arts Network’s Specialist Training Day Older and Wiser.  This one-day mini conference was offered to creative practitioners interested in working with older people.  Kate Wakeling (Trinity Laban Research Fellow on the Retired Not Tired programme) invited me to join her in a Q&A about Dance for Health and All Singing and Dancing.  My partner and I are participants in both, and before I retired I was a creative practitioner (and may be again!)

Can you tell us a bit about how you first got involved with ‘Dance for Health’ and ‘All Singing and Dancing’?  What were you looking for / expecting?

My partner had brain surgery in 2004 and after a time had to retire early.   I caught her up as soon as I could, so we’re both only just “older people”.  When Sheila pressed me to find somewhere we could dance I wondered whether Trinity Laban might have anything for us.  The very day I looked on the website was also the first day of Dance for Health and when we saw All Singing All Dancing we thought we’d go to that too.

We knew about dance at Trinity Laban because our daughter had danced with the Youth Dance group.  As a primary teacher (and later a music specialist) I had very much appreciated the opportunities I had to attend showcases of Trinity Laban dance practitioners’ work with children. We knew what special work is being done on Trinity Laban’s Learning and Participation programmes and our expectation that we would be making art that is fresh and contemporary has certainly been met.

How would you describe the kinds of activities that take place at the two groups?

In both groups the practitioners take great care to help us warm up our bodies (and our voices) and to avoid discomfort and strain.

At Dance for Health Stella often teaches us sequences of movements and we make use of these in longer dance pieces.  A good deal of the time we invent movements in response to tasks she sets us and to the feedback she provides.  We do this alone, in pairs and in groups.

At All Singing All Dancing Maria works in a similar way and, additionally, vocalization and body percussion are a part of our dance vocabulary. Natasha’s approach to voice work also emphasizes the voice in the body.  We have sung songs from different genres with lots of encouragement to shape an arrangement and to think about how we use our voices and other musical resources. We have invented and shaped our own vocal pieces.

What do you get from attending the groups? (i.e. what keeps you coming back?)

Dancing was mainly a “spectator sport” for me (but Sheila has always danced).  I wanted to do new things after I retired and exploring how my body works and how I can use my body expressively has been a very welcome nearly new experience.  I’ve also very much appreciated mixing dancing and music making; I think these are too often separated (other cultures do much better). 

How would you characterise the way the two groups you attend are run?

I’ll answer this question in a different way: “How do you run a group?” is – of course – a key question for (prospective) practitioners.

For convenience I’ll talk about music groups, but similar things could be said about any arts group. A group will attract individuals with very different experiences. To elaborate just a little – they may have been and may still be active musicians in one or several genres; they may be listeners, chiefly, with particular musical preferences, perhaps with little experience of making music.

So, some of things a practitioner needs are as follows:

  • To have well thought out plans for a sequence of sessions, but also to expect to get to know the strengths and expectations of the participants, and to signal this intention;
  • Also to seek and respond to feedback BUT talk straight about her responsibility for (and experience in) leading activities that are satisfying for the group as a whole.  It’s not a good idea to create the expectation that each individual will get everything s/he asks for;
  • To signal the expectation that the group will develop its own particular way of working, with twists and turns along the way, but also to share objectives so that if the activity in any one session isn’t satisfying in itself then participants know where it’s heading.

What would you say have been particular high points of being involved in the programme?

I think it’s very significant that Trinity Laban have employed Kate to research the Retired Not Tired programmeWe get a strong message from the practitioners themselves, but Kate’s work reminds us that the people running the Learning and Participation programme are also reflective practitioners who want to hear our voices and are open to the feedback she helps us to offer.

One of my goals in dancing myself is to gain more insight into the dance that I pay to watch. Developing a critical response to our own work and process – attending to issues of quality – is very rewarding in itself and also helps me to get more from the dance performances we like to attend.

It’s also been very stimulating to watch and learn from such experienced practitioners as they negotiate the complex issues I outlined and give us such good time.