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DanceLive Writing Programme

Citymoves invited dance writers and artists to apply for its first dance writing programme as part of DanceLive 2020. The selected writers were asked to review two shows in the DanceLive programme, as well as write a more reflective piece. They were mentored by dance writer Róisín O'Brien.

As well as this professional programme, Citymoves also ran a Youth Writing workshop for young writers interested in learning more about journalism. These three writers each reviewed White & Givan's Worn. 

You can read their work as well as find out more about the writers below.

DANCELIVE WEEKEND creative writing works

Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic

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Photo: Xavier Núñez

Reviews

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Reflective Pieces

Julia Zlotnick


The Citymoves DanceLive Festival shows how well dance can be exhibited through the digital platform. Despite the recent increase of accessible online dance content, unfortunately a lot of orginisations haven’t quite mastered presenting digital dance and forget the importance of creating a shared experience for the viewer.

The DanceLive Festival showcased a variety of great performances paired with artist Q&As. The festival also screened various short films in the Aberdeen Art Gallery. On DanceLive’s Dance Writing Programme, we had an open ticket to all performances and Q&As as well as an opportunity to discuss our experience of the previous day’s performances in an online open forum discussion each morning with our fellow dance writers. The QA element to the festival made the experience more enriching and immersive, allowing the audience to engage with the artists. Additionally, the morning online forums for the writers, created a community feel amongst us. Having a virtual space for people to get to know each other and discuss their engagement with the dance works was a truly wonderful experience.

This festival strengthened my view that in order to gain the most from a dance performance we should engage with it fully. There are many ways organisations can facilitate an experience in which the audience can engage more fully while watching dance digitally. For example, they can create easy access to programme notes, artists’ websites and social media handles, showcase footage of rehearsals, trailers or interviews, as well as setting up Q+As and spaces to discuss work. The DanceLive Festival also highlighted the importance of talking to other people about the shared experience of watching a dance performance; experiences are often more meaningful and memorable when shared with others. This festival is a shining beacon of how to present and enhance the digital dance experience.

Writer Biography: Julia Zlotnick is a creative practitioner and interdisciplinary artist, who works predominantly as a performance maker across dance, theatre and comedy. Julia also enjoys writing and editing short copy, scripts, interviews and dance reviews.

@juliazlotnick




Angelos Angelidis


This past week I have been thinking about Rebeca Hilton’s concept of “dancerness” which is an attitude towards life, or a “je ne sais quoi” as they would say in France. Dancerness is a way of approaching the new and the other as if they were a pair of boots and we were meant to slowly slide our feet into them. Wiggle in the toes, adjust the heel: how do they feel? Looking good, I bet you’re ready to flow! And as we dance around in these new shoes, as our feet mould into them, we feel like a different person, our proprioception changes.

proprioception (noun)

the process in which nerve endings in the muscles and joints are stimulated (= made to operate) when the body moves, so that a person is aware of their body's position

- Cambridge Dictionary

For me DanceLive2020 has been a vessel of dancerness, a container of iterations of our past, present and possible futures. As well as creating a sense of tranquillity and grounding within the chaos, the festival’s pieces recreated the sense of touch in our minds. They brought to the fore a craving for intimacy that we are all thirsty for during the pandemic. I remember after Janine Harrington’s piece Practice Presentation: Screensaver Series, there was a comment by one of the attendees about how they were shielding for some time and how much joy it brought them to witness touching on their screen. As part of the same show, Vanessa Abreu delivered a short exercise in symmetrical movement. Exploring the possibilities of movement from a seated position I imagined myself having octopus tentacles. Despite the constraint of not being able to move the lower half of my body, my senses tried to expand beyond the walls of my room touching and momentarily feeling with my suckers a fleeting world that I am never going to fully grasp.

Similarly the festival’s screenings, workshops and Q&As gave us the chance to expand a little, take in a breath of fresh air (in the case of Laura Booth’s and Katie Taylor’s clearing, we were invited to literally take in some fresh air by the beach) and feel connected. From the cheeky meanderings of Penthouse Hickies, to the intimacies explored through Katrina McPherson and Harold Rheaume long-distance collaborations, to Shaun Stickland’s insights into the impacts of mental health issues on a person, we are reminded that we are all spinning around the same sun, all facing different versions of the same questions and conundrums.

Overall, despite physical distancing, Citymoves managed to create a lovely space for people to come together and witness, be curious, learn and feel, all of which are vital to keep us sane and hopeful in the midst of an era when our governments are constantly failing us. The capacity to keep accepting shifts in our perspectives and putting on new (metaphorical) shoes at times of hardship, makes changes in life more bearable, easier to deal with and embrace. It’s like a dancer improvising, following a rhythm, a rhythm beyond their control, fearlessly!

Let’s keep improvising, let’s keep dancing and watching and listening, because our bodies are our truest homes - and they can’t take that away from us!

Writer Biography: Angelos has been exploring dance and dance writing independently since he graduated with a degree in human geography. He is currently a writer for Dance Art Journal and is fascinated by the transgressive and therapeutic possibilities of movement and words and their relationship to the human body. @rebelliuschaperone




Jenna Corker


From live to digital and back again

Over the last ten years there have been major developments in the way audiences view live theatre work. Many theatres have moved performances into the digital domain, both through public spaces such as cinemas, and our homes via online platforms. This evolution has been further propelled by the global pandemic and restrictions put in place on performance spaces, leaving producers little choice but to embrace digital technologies.

In acknowledging this fundamental shift, one cannot overlook the ripples of change that are occurring around access. Online theatre presents us with the chance to reduce geographical bias, ableism, and financial barriers. However, this can only happen when marginalised viewers and artists are collaboratively involved in the planning and production of online events.

Citymoves Dance Agency took an active approach to improve accessibility for all when producing DanceLive 2020. Events across the festival included live BSL interpretation both during performances and Q&A sessions, while Audio Described performances were made available to stream – giving viewers the option to make sensory adjustments and pause for breaks. Captioning of work helped to remove language barriers and improve access for those who are d/Deaf.

But of course, digital does not automatically equal accessible, and online spaces bring their own barriers to engagement. Whilst 79% of adults reportedly own a smartphone, a fifth of the population are still without access to digital devices. Connectivity and demand on digital skills pose further obstacles, and these infrastructural problems which hinder access to live work online cannot be overcome by theatre producers alone.

Theatres and performance makers who are improving access for digital viewers aren’t employing radically new ideas. However, these considerations for audience access are rarely seen in staged productions. Why not? These opportunities should not be exclusive to online spaces, and online productions should not act as a quick solution to the barriers that exist in theatre spaces. Rather, as we slowly move back into old spaces, let’s take these learnings and steps towards inclusivity with us.

Writer Biography: Jenna is an independent dance artist currently based in Edinburgh. Her work often includes text or spoken word and writing forms a large part of her practice, helping her to think, reflect and plan.

@jcorkerbloo




Laura Booth


Writer Biography: Laura Booth is a Scottish dance artist and yoga teacher, drawn to the possibilities of play and healing within movement. @laurie__j




Chloe Snelgrove


After watching White & Givan’s contemporary dance film Worn, I was inspired by their physical pursuit of bodily value and worthiness. The piece strongly resonated with me on how important it is to find strength in vulnerability and how it is only when we acknowledge and accept these imperfections that we find strength. This witnessing of such strong physicality and conveyance of emotions also made me nostalgic at the loss of theatre so recently, and how much I miss the beauty that lives within live work. Worn’s message was delivered so poignantly that it stayed with me post-performance and reminded me of how we have lost, and continue to lose, appreciation for the arts sector.

With the recent lockdown(s), we have seen theatres and dance studios closing down all across the country. Jobs are being lost every day and the infrastructure of the arts itself is being destroyed, with freelance staff losing work and so many venues and organisations collapsing. However, the arts have been suffering long before the pandemic: we have seen massive cuts in government funding, the loss of creative subjects in educational settings and an overall lack of appreciation towards the creative world. Despite the entertainment industry’s massive contributions to not only the economy but also towards the physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing of the people, we are still viewed as unviable.

It is infuriating as an artist to witness the continuous prioritisation of STEM subjects, and a barely existent elevation of creative subjects. It is infuriating to see subjects being ranked in unfair and unequal hierarchies, deeming science, finance, computing, and business to be above writing, performing, creating. Even at Colleges and Universities we are seeing a lack of offering creative courses, and the limited ones that do exist are deemed to be at the bottom of the chain. At my own university, my dance degree now no longer exists due to university cuts and more recently we have even seen Roehampton University also cutting the funds for performing arts, putting jobs at risk and damaging the future of research and education. As a dance student, I was always aware that my specialisation was seen as ‘lesser’; this was evident within the reduction of technique classes and cutting of modules that ran within the course. The conversations around the campus would usually reflect upon the perceived ‘easiness’ of my course: dance meant flailing around to the latest music, no reading, no writing, no books, no thought. This of course could not be further from the truth because dance is an academic subject. However, this stigma continues to lessen the chance of the arts’ survival within educational settings.

During a time of uncertainty, we all turned to being creative. The arts kept us grounded, connected, and gave us time to enjoy moments of creativity and exploration. Despite this, we continue to lack appreciation for these forms, especially as career choices. Countless of times, friends and even family have questioned what it is that I could be doing with a dance degree, confused as to how dance could be my chosen career when I could instead pursue teaching or nursing. This throwing of doubt when moving into the creative field is irrevocably damaging. Just because it is something that evokes enjoyment, and is something that we are passionate about, does not make it any less of a job.

Not only does the government need to endorse the importance of creativity, but we also need to transform our articulation and perspective of the arts. Every day we take the industry for granted. We all expect to be able to come home to a television full of films and programmes, to be able to listen to the radio or our favourite playlist, to be able to pick up a book or buy the local newspaper. We need to realise that behind all of this, are hard-working, skilled and talented people, who have spent years honing their crafts and often doing so for free or with very little pay. Does this commitment not deserve validation?

We need to restore the civic role of the arts, and start to look beyond the West End shows, the ballets, the cinema, and provide support for all the individuals that form the CREATIVE FORCE of this amazing sector. We need to revive and give space to the arts, allow it to be taught, fed, and valued as a worthy pathway, and support our local communities that are full of many artists who have fallen through the cracks during the pandemic. So many freelancers have lost out on grants or been ineligible for funding. I have struggled as someone who has just finished their degree and have received no support in transitioning out of student life into financial security.

We all indulge in the arts whether we realise it or not, therefore we must transform our dialogue and start this new conversation. Is there anything else that can evoke and convey such beauty, emotion, and wonder, and allow us as humans to move and be moved in whatever form we wish to experience? We must recognise that not only do we need to save the arts from collapse, but that we need to support the path for its future.

Writer Biography: Chloe Snelgrove is a dance artist, a writer, and a training yoga teacher based in the South East. She has a degree in dance and her work specialises in the contemporary dance and looks at the intrinsic links between nature and the moving body.

@chloesnelgrovedance

Chloe's Website




Mhairi Allan


The medium of film has a strong power of expression with which to convey messages to an audience. Different screens affect ways of looking, listening and responding to choreography as well as the individual discussions around the work itself. For me, this year’s online DanceLive Festival highlighted themes of connection; ideas and images of space, time, landscape and humanness connecting through the dancers and the choreography.

Space …

As a viewer, witnessing the short pieces of work on a large screen at the Aberdeen Art Gallery involved sharing the space with a transient audience of many different ages. What a privilege and feast for the senses, from being in a theatre normally surrounded by and feeling the energy of those witnessing the works (now denied to us), to the peace and stillness of the Cowdry Hall. The effect of this enhanced the presence of the dancers, some in distant lands creatively responding despite restrictions of movement across global space. For example, in #STATE by Daniel Navarro Lorenzo, the dancers moved in cities and inside homes, personal but familiar all negotiated by the same choreography.

Time…

Creative and collaborative relationships exist over time and distance between choreographers. Contexts are continually shifting and changing, and ideas develop and re- emerge. This was evident in the work between filmmakers Katrina McPherson and Harold Rheaum. Dance can continue after restrictions, and some of the work explored different outcomes, changes of pace, transitions, repetition, and rhythms, within personal and physical journeys that continue to re-evolve, interspersed with moments of stillness in this ‘new’ reality.

Landscape…

Many of the pieces of work engaged with, negotiated and connected with natural environments. For example, Robbie Synge's Forest Floor, and Katie Taylor's The Soul Species and The Free Three. There was a real sense of a close and sensitive connection and relationship with nature and its elements: land, sea, earth, air, and forests, all with their own rhythm, dynamic and textures. From the intimacy of the viewing up close on a laptop or stepping back to view on the big screen, my experience of witnessing the work constantly shifted.

Humanness…

There was a real sense of human connection, diversity and openness observed throughout the festival. The many discussions that asked creators questions on their process, of the struggles, effort, and uncertainty, or their shared feelings of isolation, resilience, and reaching out for more connections, were sprinkled with moments of humour. There was also a shared sense of exploring these connections through the physicality of the choreography. The intimacy of the camera revealed personal journeys, the brave and fragile, the rawness and struggles of mental health such as the journey portrayed by Shaun Stickland's in Frayed. Skye Reynolds and Susan Worsfold challenged and opened up the discussions around themes of death, grief, loss, acknowledging the fragility of the self in their work Alive. The intimacy of the camera throughout the festival also invited a closer connection to the body and the senses and emphasised how rich the medium of dance is with its different textures enhanced by and with relationships to choice of sounds, colour, light and music.

More than ever connections are needed as current restrictions discourage us from being together through our creative exchanges and interactions with others or through making work in shared spaces. Close connections between people are formed by bonds and interactions, bonds that grow from and are strengthened by mutual experiences. This year’s DanceLive Festival allowed distinct but mutual experiences of dance to continue to be shared and shaped this year through a virtual tour, keeping us connected to what matters.

Writer Biography: Mhairi Allan is an Aberdeen based, independent dance artist and Hatha Yoga teacher. Her movement research has been enriched through many collaborative partnerships, mediums and practices and she continues this exploration in her current work 'Listening to Birds'.





Youth Workshop

Worn Review by Zoë Maunder


Danced and choreographed by contemporary dance duo Errol White and Davina Givan, Worn is a striking, intimate piece, searching for beauty and acceptance for the marks and scars we all carry through life. Debuting in DanceLive 2020, this contemporary dance film - an adaptation of a work made for live theatre - was an unforgettable end to the festival. Worn begins with an eerily faint, electronic rendition of Gavin Bryars’ “Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet” (music by Tiago Cerqueira) - a looped recording of an unknown homeless man singing his tragically hopeful song on the streets of London, accompanied by a shifting chord sequence. White and Givan enter, holding tightly to one another and swaying side to side. They shuffle across the stage, which is lit up by a path of golden light that resembles cracks or veins. Worn is greatly inspired by the art of kintsugi – a Japanese art form wherein broken pottery is often mended by filling the cracks with gold in a celebration of the beauty of broken objects. Already from this opening the imagery is strong with the gold lighting resembling the patterns created on ceramics by kintsugi and the two performers clutching on to one another so tightly, as if bonded together. This mellow opening sets the atmosphere and the foundation for the style in which the rest of the piece grows. White and Givan shift through a sequence of poses, as if trying to find a way to fit together. One dancer is always leaning on or supported in some way by the other and yet there is a great deal of resistance both within the dancers’ own movements and between the two dancers. This resistance is maintained throughout much of the piece, creating a constant feeling of tension and discomfort. The interlinking pose sequence is repeated multiple times through the dance, each repetition being different in some way – faster, more free, jagged, separate – as if they keep returning to it to try again, each time more frantic than the last but without success. Returning to these movements makes it easier for the audience to watch the piece – Worn is a relatively heavy performance, but returning to something familiar helps the audience to not get lost or overwhelmed in the weight and intensity of the performance. One moment that particularly stands out is a sequence in which White, under a blue tinted spotlight, dances low to the floor, as if moving through clay or in an atmosphere much thicker than our own. Givan edges her way round the outside of the spotlight creating a square shape; upon reaching each corner, a golden strip of light appears, glowing on the floor, to map out her journey. Givan is committed to her movements to the point the audience can almost feel what she is feeling in this moment. She is hunched over, her hands rest just above her knees, as if some weight is bearing on her shoulders. She walks slowly and does not look up until the full golden square is formed. Throughout the piece, the lighting seems to be controlled by the dancers, as if they are painting it onto the floor - particularly in this moment. The gold outline surrounds the blue/white spotlight as gold surrounds ceramic pieces in kintsugi, while the performers seem to be broken in their movements and feeling the toll of being separated from each other; this leads me to question whether the gold is indeed helping to mend, or perhaps it represents what is keeping them apart. Altogether, the technical design and mesmerising performances come together to create an immersive experience that makes you think and is truly memorable. White and Givan’s connection is so strong, they almost become one. I am eager to see if they do make a live production – as they had originally planned - and how the piece will evolve through that transition. As a film, however, Worn is most definitely worth a watch and I enjoyed it greatly. Zoë Maunder is a current member of Fusion Youth Dance Company and past member of Pulse at Citymoves.




Worn Review by Rose Jones


White & Givan’s Worn was definitely one of my favourite dances of DanceLive 2020. It was thought provoking, intriguing and beautiful. My favourite part of the whole performance was the beginning, the darkness of the stage slowly melting away revealing mysterious figures that do not clearly portray any specific character, leaving you to question their position and figure out what they represent for yourself. The use of a folk song at the start definitely caught my curiosity, as well as helping to portray the themes of love, marriage and growing older beautifully through the age of the singer and the overall tone of the music. At first I wasn’t sure what to expect because the beginning was very slow and didn’t give much away, but a few minutes in and I was really enjoying it. The contrast between the slow gentle movements of the dancers interspersed with sudden bursts of activity was very interesting and I loved the many circular movements that the dancers incorporated into the choreography, perhaps symbolising the circle of life and drawing back to the theme of growing older. The way that the couple supported each other was captivating, as they seemed to be holding each other up and helping one another through the dance which I felt conveyed strong feelings of love and understanding between the two. The repetitive nature of the choreography was another aspect of this performance that I found intriguing and made me notice the small details of the movements that I wouldn’t normally have, forcing us to slow down and engaging the audience further. The grace of the performance was one of the things that made it so enjoyable. For instance, the woman swooping downwards like a diving bird, and then being pulled up was very beautiful, and the strong circular movement of the arms contrasting with slightly stilted movements on the floor added a layer of contrast to the dance that was stunning. If anyone has the chance to watch this dance, I couldn’t recommend it enough. Dance is inspirational, uplifting and an incredible form of expression: Worn is the perfect example of why dance is so important in portraying emotions and telling stories as well as a creative art that builds strong connections between others. Rose Jones is a current member of Fusion Youth Dance Company and past member of Pulse at Citymoves.




Worn Review by Katie Crabb


Anguish.
Trauma.
Depression.
Reflection.

The provocative and breathtaking performance of Worn, performed and choreographed by Errol White and Davina Givan, mesmerized the audience with its repetitive slow movements and a dominant focus on floor work. The contemporary piece is inspired by the ancient Japanese art of kintsugi, which involves broken pottery being mended with gold and silver. The piece first develops atmospheres of tragedy and trauma, however as the piece continues, themes of depression and slow recovery are explored through the music choice, dramatic lighting and deliberate, graceful movements.

The stage is illuminated with constantly switching dim yellow lights connoting hope and recovery and deep, dark blue hues connoting tragedy and depression. The sound in the piece morphs between the despairing song ‘Jesus blood never failed me yet’ by Gavin Bryars and a minor pulsing beat with jarring notes and modern crackling. This creates a haunting atmosphere of mystery which develops the plot of the story from the very opening section where Errol White is seen to be protectively embracing a traumatised Davina Givan with her back turned away from him. The movementis generally slow and takes place predominantly on the floor with rolling and sweeping motions. It is also sometimes deliberately awkward, as when White and Givan seem to try to embrace but ultimately fail to.

Themes of bad mental health and depression are furthered when the soundtrack switches to speech where a man describes the embarrassment associated with depression. The monologue is used to show the historical beliefs and views about mental health, in depression in particular, and how times have changed since then for the better. White and Givan portray this change in attitude through the use of levelling and contrast in the piece, while ultimately showing that depression is difficult to recover from and recurring. When Givan repeatedly twists and turns on the floor, it demonstrates someone struggling with depression, the downward movement linking to decreasing mental health.

Overall, Worn has multiple different layers, all explored beautifully by White and Givan’s intricate dancing. The piece is very effective and clearly displays a story to the audience while allowing each person to have a different interpretation of the meaning behind the haunting movements.

Katie Crabb is a current member of Fusion Youth Dance Company and past member of Pulse at Citymoves.