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

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.

TRINITY LABAN AT RESOLUTION 2017

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Image: Simone and Elizabeth

Alice White reports

From the 12 January – 25 February 2017 the UK’s biggest dance festival for emerging artists will return, bursting with Trinity Laban alumni and current students. Resolution is The Place’s annual, New Year festival of short live dance and performance. Resolution demonstrates the best of emerging talent, with previous participants including Trinity Laban alumnus Luca Silvestrini, who co-founded the incredibly successful Protein Dance.

There are a huge number of Trinity Laban music and dance artists involved this year – over 50 – made up of choreographers, performers and musicians – and I will be one of them.

Having graduated from Trinity Laban in 2015, I’m really excited to be sharing my new work in collaboration with Zoe Bishop (together known at Bite Dance). Our piece Still Laughing focuses on the act of laughter as a choreographic device, looking at laughter as ‘readymade’ movement material. I will also share my experiences as a performer with Watts Dance, who will debut WLA No.657005 in the final week.

Over the course of the festival I will be documenting and sharing the experiences of both myself and my fellow performers. For the next six weeks I will continue a rolling blog, letting you know what pieces to look out for, conveying behind the scenes info, giving advice for aspiring choreographers, and sharing personal experiences.

Week One

The opening week of Resolution 2017 sees Trinity Laban’s alumni and current students both presenting and performing in new dance works. Alumni Simone and Elizabeth will perform Impressing the Grand Duke on Friday 13th Jan with RAE Dance Collective presenting Unravel, le Bolero the following night.

2016 graduate Camilla Isola choreographs on RAE Dance Collective, which is jam-packed with Trinity Laban dancers, featuring 2016 graduates Giulia Avino, Clara Sjolin and Laura Calcagno with current students Theo Arran, Kieran Covell, Giordana Patumi, Phillip Hewitt and Viola Ranghino. Camilla works within the deconstruction of movement and sound, whilst always retaining a sense of humanity and compassion. Her new work Unravel, le Bolero interrogates what drives humans to desire contact. In a dark room where bodies tangle together, only the audience is allowed to see them losing control.

Catching up with Camilla ahead of her performance, she commented:

“I have been interested in the arts for my whole life, but found a particular curiosity with choreography. Last August I decided to challenge myself and apply for Resolution with the creation of a brand new work. Two weeks later, I received an email saying that my application had been successful and I had a place in the festival. When I opened the email I was overjoyed; it gave me the right energy to begin exploring and developing my ideas.

I feel proud of this achievement and lucky to have this opportunity. I am very thankful to all those who are supporting my work and also to Trinity Laban, who over the past three years have fully prepared me as a dance artist. Trinity Laban gave me the skills and space I needed to grow as a choreographer and equally as a person.”

 

Here are the performances by and featuring Trinity Laban students and alumni to look out for:

Week 1:

13 Jan: Simone and Elisabeth

14 Jan: RAE Dance Collective

Week 2:

17 Jan: J7s Dance Company

18 Jan: Andrew Race Dance Company & Clara Sjolin

19 Jan: Laura Calcagno and Camilla Isola

21 Jan: Clélia Vuille

Week 3:

24 Jan: Jannick Moth and Company

25 Jan: Awake Dance Company

26 Jan: Jayne Port & Emmeline Cresswell Company

Week 4:

31 Jan: Orley Quick and the Hairy Heroines

1 Feb: Bite Dance & Thomas Michael Voss

2 Feb: Jan Lee

3 Feb: Laura Ganotis

Week 5:

14 Feb: Elisha Hamilton Dance & Natalie Sloth Richter

15 Feb: Scatterlings

Week 6:

21 Feb: Watts Dance

22 Feb: Zjana Muraro and Gianna Burright

23 Feb: Maria Lothe & Co

Keep up to date on Trinity Laban’s involvement in Resolution by following my weekly blog for news, reviews and more. For now, the rehearsals continue…

To find out more information and book tickets for Resolution, visit The Place website.

 

Happy New Year, Healthful Hints for 2017!

Here we are again, the start of another brand new year, time for turning over a new leaf, resolutions and planning the year ahead, bring on 2017!

At Trinity Laban Health we want to make sure performing artists are supported in their training and professional careers, and what better time for us to give you a few hints and tips to help you get off to good start this new year.

Supplementary Training, make it more than a resolution…

Supplementary training can benefit you as a performing artist and help to enhance your performance in a variety of ways. Whether you are new to training outside of your performance art, or whether you are getting back into training after a well-earned Christmas break, you should consider asking yourself which areas of your performance you would like to improve or support, for example do you want to boost your cardiovascular fitness to support playing a wind instrument? Or perhaps you want to work on lower limb endurance ahead of an upcoming dance performance. Whatever your new year goals may be, we have facilities which could help you towards achieving them.

As a student of Trinity Laban you would have access to our Conditioning Studio and FREE classes such as Yoga, Pilates and Strength & Conditioning, which could help support your training and help you stick to those supplementary training resolutions.

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Look after your performing body…

Being a performing artist can mean that there are certain demands placed upon your body which may increase risk of injury. At Trinity Laban Health we have a variety of treatments which can not only help you if you do become injured, but can also aid in the prevention of injury. Tell me more I hear you say! So what treatments do we have to offer? Well firstly, all of our therapists/practitioners share a particular interest in performing artists’ health. They are highly skilled and experienced when it comes to working with those in the field of dance, music and musical theatre. Our treatments include Physiotherapy, Sports massage, Acupuncture, Acupressure massage, Craniosacral, Feldenkrais, Reflexology (look out for future blog posts for a more in depth discussion of the therapies and practitioners). There is a treatment to suit all aches, niggles and pains and treatments for example, Sports massage can be a good way to help prevent injury.

Along with all of your other 2017 resolutions we also hope you plan to look after your overall well-being by ensuring you get enough rest and sleep – giving your body time to unwind and relax can really go a long way to help make sure you are optimising your performance. Nutrition, including hydration is also incredibly important, once a term here at Trinity Laban Health we have Nutritionist Jasmine Challis, who runs a clinic and specialises in performing artists’ diets. Ensuring your food and fluid intake is supporting your activity level is essential to maintain a healthy you!

If you would like to know any more about our Conditioning studio, treatments or for any other queries please contact the health department via the Trinity Laban website www.trinitylaban.ac.uk/health or email us health@trinitylaban.ac.uk . We look forward to hearing from you and wish you a very happy and healthy 2017!

Felicity Beach

Graduate Intern Health

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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