Heading down to the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival last weekend I didnt know what to expect. I couldn't quite believe that I would be able to see Dance Theatre of Ireland, StopGap AND Punchdrunk all for FREE! Apart from not knowing the Canary Wharf area that well and getting lost a few times it was a really nice afternoon and now I know what I need to do when I want to make an outdoor piece of dance:
1. One needs big bright objects
2. These objects should build something and be able to be knocked down so one can build them back up again
3. One needs to be able to jump on the objects and also be able to throw them around
4. One needs to smile a lot or have big facial expressions (or in Dance Theatre of Ireland's case- have a big voice and scare the audience into clapping along and when they stop shout at them again!!! jokes)
To be honest I know I sound like I am joking buuuut the formula does work and the audience do love it and the best thing about the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival is that the majority of the people there were families who have probably never seen/heard of contemporary dance before so really I think it is a clever way to both promote the art form and get people wanting to see more (and hopefully paying next time) and also to purely entertain people.
I wish I had more time to go see other events that were on but being a purist I only saw dance events and also I was performing that night myself so I had to go prepare myself! ha ;-). I returned on the Sunday to the festival to see Marc Brew's highly anticipated piece Nocturne. I had seen the duet version he did with the amazing Bettina Carpi last year at the Liberty festival. It was great to see how it has developed and grown (dancing in it now is: the beautiful Dani Larson with Marc and Tilly Webber and Graham Adey)
Yes, it ticked all of the boxes fore mentioned. It had big objects (2 beds) that built bigger objects (the beds joined together and the duvet unfolded) that were bright (the duvet when unfolded was a culmination of blues, turqoises, teel) and that could be jumped all over (yes). Luke Pell worked along side Marc in designing the piece and also helping develop the dramaturgy. He also wrote a poem which became part of the soundtrack. Stunning.
Luke is an amazing artist and is one that I am sure we will be hearing more and more from in the future. He is currently Education Manager for CandoCo (my boss!) and I love working under his direction because he doesn't do things by the book. He breaks the rules in nearly everything he does. Ok well maybe I should say he stretches the boundaries and challenges peoples perceptions of what should/can be expected from dance, performance and education in both youth and professional sectors.
This piece is an example of this as the piece could have been a big spectacular jump around the beds shebazz spectacular but instead they created a piece that had a beginning, middle and an end- A story. yes I know StopGap's piece had a story too but this piece was I suppose more serious. I am not saying serious makes it better, not at all it is just different. The entertainment value is different. It reaches different types of people in different ways.
It made me think, being an artist, if I would prefer people who have never seen contemporary dance before to see- Marc and Luke's piece, DTof I piece or StopGap's? Which is the better representative of what the art form can achieve?
One person I spoke to said something along the lines of how it saddened him that some choreographers feel they have to dumb it down for their audience. Half of me agreed with him but the other half thought well actually yes you do! Maybe it isn't dumbing it down necessarily but it is literally making it more accessible for people who would generally watch Britain's Got talent and think thats the only way to dance (Respect to Diversity innit!). It is entertainment that people are after. If you have twenty minutes you need to grab people's attention and if they happen to walk by 10 minutes into the piece it should be easy for them to automatically know whats going on.
I feel Nocturne achieved something different than all the other pieces. They were all equally as effective but Nocturne for different reasons.