by Neil Nisbet
Making Statements is a six member, all female dance company and the second outing for a project designed to give new professionals their first taste of working and performing away for the relative security of the training environment in Newcastle upon Tyne.
Pictured left to right (image not present in the archive) Sarah Morgan(23), Josie Lucas (21), Imogen Bostock(25) Kelly Wilson(20) Tertia Underhill(21) and Shelley Campbell (not pictured) speak to Article19 about their new life in the uncertain dance world.
Article19: Tell us a little about making statements what’s it all about?
IB> We are basically putting a piece together that we are going to tour around schools. We are all recent graduates so it’s our first company. We are being supported by Dance City but we’re actually setting up our own company and we’re doing our own funding. So we are doing the managerial side and all of the practical side, such as the choreographing and obviously dancing. We’re holding it together ourselves.
Article19: Do you all have a specific job or is the responsibility all shared?
JL> Everyone gets an equal input. Some weeks it will be someone’s choreography time and then another week it will be someone else’s turn. Everyone is choreographing all of the time but in those two weeks their answerable and for the next two weeks the next person is answerable so that it’s fair. One person is not in charge all of the time.
SM> We have also allocated different tasks to different people. So for example I’m making arrangements in schools [for teaching], someone else is doing funding, and someone else is handling the bank account and the money.
JL> It’s all very democratic [laughs]
Article19: how have you found the transition from student to professional?
IB> Exciting, very exciting. It’s the real thing after doing all the training and now it is actually happening. It’s nerve-racking because it’s the first thing that we have done so we want it to be good but also it’s actually what we really want to do.
TU> It doesn’t actually seem quite real to me yet I don’t think. It just seems like [at the moment] we are coming in and making stuff up. I don’t think it will start to be real for us until we actually go out and start performing and working in schools.
IB> The main difference is that we are not making a piece hoping to get high grades. This time we are making a piece that is going to reflect on all of us so we want to make a piece that has integrity but also that we can take around and actually feel proud to show people. Because we are going into schools it can actually help kids because we are looking at exclusion. It’s a topical issue that affects everyone. We are certainly aware that we do want to make a difference.
Article19: What does your education work involve?
KW> We’re using discrimination as a topic for our choreography and we are also doing workshops that will run alongside using that creative theme with the kids after we have done the performance.
IB> Basically we will go into a school and perform and then afterwards with the students who have been watching we will run a workshop in dance but also covering some of the issues. Every school has their own bullying policies so it’s just [a matter of] fitting in with each school and what their policy is.
Article19: How will approach this particular topic/ theme in schools?
JL> Because of the topic I’m not sure which set of kids we will get. It covers PSRE (Personal, Social, Religious Education) issues and health issues because it’s physical activity. So it depends which department we are going into. We will probably talk through this with them [the students] to see what they got from it and then move on to teach them in a group to be responsible for their actions and the actions of others. So it’s covering a wide variety of tasks and themes.
If you are going into a P.E (Physical Education) group it’s going to have a different angle in terms of what they want from a workshop compared to a personal and social education group who will be looking at the theme of the work not just the activity. We will be covering both anyway but there may be a different emphasis depending on what the school wants.
Article19: So what about the creative element, your own choreography?
TU> As Josie said earlier we have split it up so different dancers are leading the choreography for two weeks at a time. It’s then up to the dancers that are leading the choreography to establish how they want to go about it and what element of discrimination/exclusion they want to focus on and at what kind of level. Like do they want it be really obvious or do they want a narrative, subtle theme with the underlying message?
JL> We have been a little reluctant to say “I am definitely going to do this” because we have been very open to each others ideas. Tertia and Sarah have said when it comes to their choreography time they might just build on something that is already there or they may bring a new idea in and see what happens.
Article19: How did you arrive at the theme you are using?
TU> We had some choreographers come in to work with us before we really started doing things. Vivian Wood, when we worked with her, did this kind of thing, and not on purpose I don’t think, but quite a lot of the stuff we did was about [personal] isolation . such as me begin left out while the others were doing dances [laughs]. So she [Vivian] just said that it would be a really good [idea] .
JL> That was when we picked up on the theme of teaching this in schools. I think at schools those issues are always going to cause problems. The issue of whether you are popular or you’re not, at some point you are going to be excluded from something.
Article19: So it’s not just about bullying?
JL> Yeah, it’s just about how groups come together and also relationships I suppose in a certain contexts. But we are trying to stay away from the things people have done in schools before where you go in a do the whole relationships thing and kids go [roll’s eyes] “yeah great!”
Article19: Have you found exploring those themes difficult because there are no males in the company?
IB> No I don’t think so because it is focusing on one person being excluded. In fact, some of our funding problems have been…… I’ve had people on the phone saying “is the exclusion based on people being black, is it because they are disabled?” [and I say] No! it’s just for whoever it is. We are six white women which doesn’t go in our favour for funding but at the end of the day this is what we are. The point being that this is who we are and everyone is excluded from something. Certainly in the first piece that we have worked on was the idea of when you are in schools, quite often, certainly if you are a girl and a kid, you hang out with six girls. So it is just one part of society reflected in us and it’s just as it is, we are six women.
Article19: do you feel that agenda’s may be forced onto the company.
IB> Yes, in a way. I mean where the government sends their funding is what they want to promote in society. My point being that if half of us are not Asian, black or disabled then I’m sorry but we still want to dance.
Article19: What is Making Statements bringing to the north that wasn’t there before.
JL> Well there’s us [laughs]
TU> I know there was a Making Statements before us but I think we are all very enthusiastic and this is what we really want and all of us want to take it into schools and have lots of fun with it.
SM> It’s a great learning curve as well for us because we are all recent graduates. I’ve only being doing this for a few months but I’ve learnt so much already. Even just learning about how to apply for funding and writing to schools and so on.
JL> Because everyone is coming into this from different angles we have united in the idea of what we want to achieve with it. I have a particular interest in the teaching side of things and someone else might be more interested in the choreography side. So it’s bringing together a lot of different elements that are important individually into one big project which I think is unique.
IB> I think the main benefit for the North East is the fact that we are actually doing it. So all the graduates from Newcastle, and they have just started up the degree course, can say there is something that we can do because they’ve done it. So we are getting out there and showing that it can be done. Even the young kids coming into the youth group know that they can move on into something else.
JL> When we had finished the courses the association with being professional was that unless you just wanted to teach you had to go somewhere else and I just don’t believe that that is true. It must have started everywhere else somehow so unless someone is prepared to start it here [in Newcastle] then it’s always going to be in London or Manchester.
Article19: What’s the most important thing you will take from the project as individuals?
SM> For me personally it would be teaching practice and the experience of going into schools. So far most of the teaching that I have done has been part of my degree so this is something new for me to actually do it professionally.
TU> I think I will take away all of the things that you need to know about being in a company. It’s not just coming into the studio and dancing, making up a piece and performing it. There are so many other tiny things that you have always got to be thinking about. And also time management as well. Yes we need the studio and rehearsal time but then you forget about organising time to sort out funding and planning and all the rest of it. The business side of this is also going to help a lot.
JL> Because I have done quite a bit of teaching now the most valuable element of this project for me is working in a group and choreographing and actually having to take responsibility for things which is something I prefer to avoid generally. [laughs]
KW> For me it would be all the little things that are to do with the company just as Tertia said. But also creating work on a group of people that I haven’t work with before.
IB> I hope to choreograph and try to develop as a choreographer and see how that goes. Also the business side, I hope to do an MA in cultural management so I am hoping that this [Making Statements] will feed in and help give me the basis of what management is about.
Article19: What about when the project is over, where would you like to go from here?
JL> We have talked a little bit, as a group, about trying to keep it going. We are going to have other work commitments, if we are realistic about it. But we would like to keep the group going even if it is just for a couple of days a week going into dance schools or maybe women groups. Sarah and I have being doing some work with Virginia [Kennedy] working with special needs. So I think we would like to go on.
TU> Also, I know there is a lot of pressure on us but I don’t think it would be good if we did just do this [Making Statements] and then left and went our separate ways. So I think we are going to try and carry on like Josie said and do other things.