Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Diane Parks caught up with choreographer Rosie Kay ahead of her company’s performance of Fantasia at Salisbury Arts Centre in November.

Choreographer Rosie Kay’s new work Fantasia is just that – a colourful mix of fantasy, magic and surprise.

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Rosie, who is perhaps best known for her works 5 SOLDIERS and the Commonwealth Games Handover to Birmingham, is this time using dance to play with ideas, expectations and reality in the show which comes to Salisbury Art Centre on Saturday 16 November.

Set to music by classical composers including Beethoven, Bach and Vaughan Williams, Fantasia features three female dancers in a piece inspired by concepts of ideals and beauty.

“I had a sense that everything I was going to see, whether it’s dance or theatre or movies, was actually quite miserable and ugly and about how terrible everything is,” says Rosie.

“So I started thinking about beauty and I was reading philosophy and Nietzsche who talks about how beauty is so much more than we think it is now. The Ancient Greeks believed there was a strong relationship between beauty and truth but beauty now is seen as very shallow.

“Today beauty is just about superficial appearance but actually it’s about so much more than that. Beauty has become separated from all the other ideas associated with it. For example, beauty can be terrifying – if you think about nature it can be beautiful yet also awe-inspiring at the same time.

“There are three women dancers in the show and I play with the idea of them looking ‘pretty’ and presenting themselves but there’s a relationship between beauty and philosophy and melancholy.”

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To explore these ideas, Rosie’s choreography sees the dancers performing together and breaking off for solos in a series of different scenes inspired by the idea of a classical fantasia.

“I used to play the piano a lot and I always loved Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor – I was fascinated because the structure of it is really crazy!” Rosie explains. “I discovered that a fantasia is a piece of musical composition that breaks all the rules.

“I love fantasias that take you on flights of fantasy. The most famous is Disney’s Fantasia film but a fantasia generally is a chance to play and explore. Also, the word is just magical – we’re not in a ‘fantasia’ world at the moment. If we stop in rehearsals to talk about the news of the day we have to stop and remind ourselves we really want to be looking at truth and beauty!”

Rosie was born in Scotland and trained at London Contemporary Dance School. After performing with companies across the world she formed Rosie Kay Dance Company in 2004. Based in Birmingham, her works have included site-specific productions such as The Great Train Dance on Severn Valley Railway and Ballet on the Buses with Birmingham Royal Ballet.

And she has taken on some difficult subjects to explore through dance. Over the past decade Rosie has created and toured a trio of works all looking at the human body and how it is affected by external forces. In 2010 she created 5 SOLDIERS: The Body is the Frontline which examined war and the body, and which earlier this year was expanded into the larger production 10 SOLDIERS. In 2012 she choreographed There is Hope which looked at the body and religion, and last year she toured MK Ultra which focused on the body and politics.

For Rosie, Fantasia is a breath of fresh air after tackling such weighty subjects.

“These have all been really big narrative pieces and, as a choreographer, after creating these works, I need to not make work about ‘stuff’,” she says. “I need to come back to my craft and why I’m a choreographer and not a director. It’s like a physical need in me to make a piece which is just about dance.

“That’s the start point for Fantasia – I really wanted to make really complex dance material. And then it’s a question of ‘what is that about?’ which led me to Fantasia.”

That’s not to say that Fantasia isn’t also packed full of ideas. Rosie has been busy researching sources as diverse as philosophy, composition and art through to neuroscience and theories of modern beauty – then bringing them together into the work.

“We’ve been looking at John Berger’s book Ways of Seeing from the 1970s and how we bring our own perspectives when we look at art. For female dancers, who use their own bodies in their art form, this has been revelatory. We’ve also been talking about the Baroque artist Artemisia Gentileschi. She was a contemporary of Caravaggio and her work is just as beautiful as Caravaggio’s but from a female perspective.

“Her father was a painter who trained her to paint and his assistant raped her when she was a teenager. She took the man to court but she ended up getting tortured to see if she was telling the truth or not – despite the fact the crime was done to her!

“So in the piece we are finding moments where we can be a picture of beauty but we’re also looking at what’s really going on behind that picture. There is the Baroque beauty but there’s also anger and sentiment and pain and inner monsters – and then back to beauty again.”

Rosie has long been fascinated by the links between our minds and bodies and has worked with neuroscientists to test how people respond to dance emotionally.

“I was part of a big research project in 2009 which was trying to discover whether you have an empathetic connection with the dancer when you watch dance. I choreographed a piece which was then tested with detailed verbal feedback and also with brain scanners.

“The same three-minute dance was danced to Bach, just to breath and to more modern techno music. The research showed humans have a strong reaction to dance to classical music, but we also have a strong reaction to the dance just with the breath – it seemed to fire up a part of the brain which was the body-to-body response.

“So when people say they respond to dance such as 5 SOLDIERS from the gut, they really do – it’s an empathetic response to what they are seeing.”

All of these ideas and the music of composers from Vivaldi to techno have helped Rosie create Fantasia. But although the context is rich, Rosie is clear that audiences will respond to the piece even if they know nothing beyond its name.

“The dance, the performance and the performers will speak for themselves,” she says. “You could just come in and watch the whole thing and it doesn’t matter whether any of this research is in your mind. A lot of it doesn’t matter for the audience – it’s for us, as creators and performers, so we know what we are playing with. The audience doesn’t need to know it – but they should feel it.

“There should be an emotional journey, it should have peaks and troughs and climaxes and quiet valleys. I want people to feel really emotional but also to laugh and find it funny but by the end of an hour it should be like they hear the world and look at the world anew.

“In some ways it’s quite a traditional piece of dance, it’s even got tutus, but it also breaks all the rules so it surprises us. I’ve gone off in my own direction – this piece gives me the liberty to challenge myself as much as possible.”

Rosie’s work has seen her play venues across the country and she is looking forward to returning to Salisbury.

“We have a very strong relationship with Salisbury because of the army and its connection to 5 SOLDIERS,” she says. “We took 5 SOLDIERS there in 2010 and took 5 SOLDIERS there again earlier this year. Now we hope we’ll get some soldiers to come and see tutus! And I love the venue, it’s such a beautiful church – for us it feels like a little home-from-home going there.

“I’ve always wanted to keep challenging myself and Fantasia is just that. It’s like a cornucopia of so much dancing – everyone will be filled to the brim. I don’t think I’ve ever made a piece with so much non-stop technical dancing and yet it’s in this beautiful baroque world – it’s a real Fantasia.”

Rosie Kay’s Fantasia will be performing at Salisbury Arts Centre on Saturday 16 November at 8.00pm.

For tickets see https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/salisbury-arts-centre/ or call 01722 320333.

For more information on Rosie Kay Dance Company, please visit: http://rosiekay.co.uk/

Fest West Young Reviewers

We asked some Young Reviewers to come along and review shows they wanted to see as part of Fest West, our annual celebration of new work from across the South West. On Thursday 21 February, Amber, one of our young reviewers, watched Leviathan. Here’s her review.

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Thrilling, energetic and powerful, multi award-winning choreographer James Wilton’s dance performance, Leviathan, is truly breath-taking. The performance blends athletic contemporary dance with the Afro-Brazilian martial art of capoeira, which combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music.

With inspiration taken from Herman Melville’s novel, Moby Dick, Leviathan illustrates human thirst for power and also examines mankind’s relationship with nature, and how our progress has come at its expense.  The story follows Ahab, performed by Wilton, a ship’s captain who is determined to capture the whale, Moby Dick, danced by Sarah Jane Taylor. Ahab’s crew, performed by Norikazu Aoki, Jacob Lang, Sean Monroe and Beno Novak, follow their captain on this adventure, drawn to his unhinged charisma and his power.

The dancing is incredible: they make their moves look effortless and the partner work is exquisite, using different levels and lifts throughout the performance. Each move is executed with precision and admirable control and the dancers act their parts convincingly, clearly depicting the evolving relationships and changing status between the characters.

Ahab and his crew dance powerfully, demonstrating control and strength, and using facial expression and voice effectively to display the different emotions felt during the perilous journey towards almost certain destruction.

Sarah Jane Taylor, portrays Moby Dick to be dangerous as well as serene and beautiful beyond imagination, like the sea itself. Her dance moves are fluid, showing the calm strength of the whale in comparison with the more combative movements of Ahab and his crew.

The lighting by Alan Dawson is very effective, with harsh, white side lights used, which add to the dramatic effect. The performance is accompanied by an incredible electro-rock soundtrack by Lunatic Soul, further adding to the suspenseful storyline.

The ropes are initially used by Ahab and his crew to try to capture Moby Dick, but later Ahab becomes entangled in them, which symbolises his loss of strength and control.

The lack of partner work towards the end of the production seems to show the crew’s independence from Ahab. However, I still would have liked to see a bit more of it, perhaps to emphasise his isolation.

I really enjoyed Leviathan, not only for its incredible dancing, but also because it tells a story, which distinguishes it from a lot of contemporary dance productions.

This dance performance was ingenious and thought provoking, and I would sincerely recommend it!

Fest West ran from 14 February – 2 March 2019 at Salisbury Playhouse, Salisbury Arts Centre and at Pound Arts in Corsham and Trowbridge Town Hall Arts.

Without Walls: Rosie Kay Dance Co

We’re looking forward to four days of free entertainment in Salisbury as part of our Lift Off! Weekend from 24-27 August. There will be free theatre and circus on the streets of Salisbury from Without Walls, the UK’s largest commissioner of outdoor art. Here we’re profiling each of the companies in turn. Today it’s the turn of Rosie Kay Dance Company which is bringing its interactive performance Modern Warrior to Salisbury on Sunday 26 & Monday 27 August.

Rosie Kay Dance Company (Modern Warrior)

1.      Tell us about your show

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Modern Warrior is a fast-paced urban takeover inspired by vintage martial arts films, kick-ass Kung Fu moves and captivating storytelling. It tells the tale of two opposing groups, the Modernists and the Traditionalists, as they meet for an epic stand-off before finding a peaceful resolution. Audience members are invited to join in the action by training with our professional dancers to become ‘Modern Warriors’, or you can simply watch as the legend unfolds. It’s great fun for all of the family!

2.      Who will the show appeal to?

Modern Warrior is a fun, action-packed martial arts adventure and appeals to adults and families who enjoy high energy performance. If you’re a fan of Kill Bill, think you have what it takes to become a Modern Warrior or are looking for something that the kids can take part in, come and join us!

3.      Where have you performed it already?

We have performed it earlier this year at Birmingham International Dance Festival, Pavilion Dance South West’s Discover, Play, Dream: Dance! in Bournemouth, and Brighton Festival.

4.      What’s been the audience reaction to performances so far?

We’ve been thrilled with how many different people we’ve had dancing with us. From CEOs of companies to energetic seven year olds, Modern Warrior has opened up dance-meets-martial arts to such a wide community. As soon as the music starts and the storytelling begins, it’s great to feel the energy from the audience and participants growing as the two sides battle for victory. It’s an exciting show to experience with a definite feel-good ending.

5.      What do you hope audiences will take away from the performance at the Lift Off weekend in Salisbury?

Modern Warrior by Rosie Kay Dance Company - Credit Dani Bower PhotographyModern Warrior is a story about two tribes that at first seem completely opposed and can’t see eye to eye. But as they clash and gain an understanding of each other, a mutual respect develops enabling them to reach a higher ground. It’s a fun piece to perform and take part in, but there is a moral subtext for those that are looking for it.

6.      Anything else you want to tell us?

Modern Warrior is a story about two tribes that at first seem completely opposed and can’t see eye to eye. But as they clash and gain an understanding of each other, a mutual respect develops enabling them to reach a higher ground. It’s a fun piece to perform and take part in, but there is a moral subtext for those that are looking for it.

Modern Warrior will be in the Market Square, Salisbury on Sunday 26 & Monday 27 August. For more information, visit our website https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/lift-off/lift-off/.

Without Walls: Candoco Dance

We’re looking forward to four days of free entertainment in Salisbury as part of our Lift Off! Weekend from 24-27 August. There will be free theatre and circus on the streets of Salisbury from Without Walls, the UK’s largest commissioner of outdoor art. Here we profile each of the companies in turn. Here it’s the turn of Candoco Dance which is bringing its performance Dedicated To… to Salisbury on Sunday 26 & Monday 27 August.

Dedicated To… by Candoco Dance

1.      Tell us about your show

Dedicated To… is a new duet choreographed by Caroline Bowditch. The piece reveals the extraordinary bonds we make throughout our lives. It’s a touching portrayal of female strength, support and friendship and how people come in and out of our lives and evolve and can shape us. GDIF 2018 Dance

2.      Who will the show appeal to?

This is a piece for all ages, dance fans and those new to dance. It will particularly appeal to people who have had an important friend or relationship and can empathise with the evolving nature of that friendship and the deep emotional impact it can have.

3.      Where have you performed it already?

Our first full-length performance was in Cairo at D-CAF festival in March 2018. Since then, we have performed the piece at Brighton Festival, Hat Fair in Winchester, International Dance Festival Birmingham, Greenwich and Docklands International Festival and Stockton International Riverside Festival.

4.      What’s been the audience reaction to performances so far?

In the words of one of our audience members in Brighton: “My 4-year-old daughter declared that it is the coolest thing she’s ever seen! Brilliantly captivating.”

5.      What do you hope audiences will take away from the performance at the Lift Off weekend in Salisbury?

Candoco Dance Company’s work seeks to redefine expectations of what dance can be and who can do it. This is a particularly emotive piece, we hope audiences leave feeling touched by the moving narrative and motivated to discover more of Candoco’s work.

 

Dedicated To… will be in the Guildhall Square, Salisbury on Sunday 26 & Monday 27 August. For more information, visit our website https://www.wiltshirecreative.co.uk/whats-on/lift-off/lift-off/. 

 

Take Part participants take over Salisbury Playhouse

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Resident contemporary dance company Dance Six-0

Salisbury Playhouse is showcasing its Take Part participants this summer with performances from Beginners Please schoolchildren and BTEC students, Stage 65 Tidworth, Mind the Gap and Dance Six-0. Performers of all ages will be treading the boards, from 6 year olds to those in their 80s.

The annual BTEC summer showcase returned with a musical twist. The Play’s the Thing which featured wedding scenes from various plays was presented by 27 BTEC students on Wednesday 14 June in the main house.

Stage 65 Tidworth – the arm of the youth theatre that meets weekly at Wellington Academy in Tidworth – performed on Friday 16 June, also in the main house, with a walk through production on the history of theatre through young people’s eyes.  Expect Greek mask work in the foyer, Shakespearean language in the auditorium and a fairy tale on the main stage.

June sees a massive celebration of Beginners Please, Salisbury Playhouse’s year-round project with primary school pupils.  Over five weeks, nearly 1,000 school children from 19 schools will perform to families and friends. Schools have been working on a huge variety of themes, including ‘Strictly’, rock musicals and traditional tales.

Then, in July, community groups take over The Salberg for a week of fabulous performances:

On Monday 17 July there will be a chance to hear the results of our first Original Drama competition.  Over 50 young people from years 7, 8 and 9 have written new pieces of theatre. Following judging by teachers, directors and writers, the top six will be performed as rehearsed readings.

Our over 50s theatre group Mind the Gap and 16+ Stage 65 Youth Theatre members are collaborating for one night only on Tuesday 18 July. Join them for a theatrical journey exploring the magic, mysticism and memories of our unique local landscape, inspired by Salisbury Museum’s British Art: Ancient Landscapes exhibition.

On Thursday 20 July Salisbury Playhouse’s resident contemporary dance company Dance Six-0 performs in The Salberg.  The group has worked with choreographers from Lila Dance and renowned performer Liz Agiss to create what promises to be a surprising and entertaining evening to challenge perceptions and demonstrate we are never too old to dance.

Finally on Saturday 22 July, Tom Sherman, Performing and Production Arts course leader at Salisbury Playhouse, will be taking to the stage. Tom has himself gone back to school and is undertaking a Master’s degree through Staffordshire University.  For his final project he is staging a production of She Stoops To Conquer, working with Playhouse staff, exploring collaborative and embodied techniques for producing a classical play.

Take Part Programme Manager Louise Dancy said: “It will be a Take Part takeover of Salisbury Playhouse from June to July. This is a celebration of the diversity of the projects that we run.”

A playful exploration of how we perceive time

We asked Sylvia Rimat to tell us a little about her latest production, This Moment Now.

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What inspired you to create This Moment Now?

I’m very interested in processes of the mind. With previous projects I explored for instance memories/remembering and decision making. The show on decision making, If You Decide to Stay, opened up a number of questions around time and the universe so I felt inspired to develop a new project that looks at time more closely. I’m interested in our personal experience of time, which changes depending on situations and over a lifetime. But I’m also fascinated by broader concepts of time, in physics and philosophy, such as entropy and Einstein’s space time. I wanted to explore how/if we can connect our personal experiences with those concepts and wanted to raise questions around what time is as such.

What can audiences expect from the production?

this-moment-now-photo-credit-paul-blakemoreThere will be live drumming, video interviews with young and elderly people, movement/dance, Skype calls to test space time, a very special guest and some nice cups of tea.

What do you enjoy most about creating work in the south west?

I love the network of inspiring athis-moment-now-6_18098667966_ortists and arts organisations which have been crucial for developing my work. I live in Bristol and am a member of artist collective Residence. We share space, equipment, knowledge and opportunities. We support each other rather than seeing each other as competitors for funding and opportunities. This is crucial, especially in times when it’s harder to get funding.

This Moment Now is in The Salberg on Thursday 16 February as part of Theatre Fest West. For tickets or more information please contact the Ticket Office on 01722 320333.

Photos by Paul Blakemore.

Destiny, choice, friendship… and tap dancing Vikings.

Award-winning comedy cabaret duo House of Blakewell will be spending a week in Salisbury working on a new musical as part of Theatre Fest West. We asked Harry and Alice to tell us a bit more about the production and the process of creating the show.

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Tell us a bit about yourself and your relationship with Theatre Fest West

We’re Harry and Alice, also known as House of Blakewell – we’re a duo that make alternative musical theatre with a strong comedy-cabaret flavour. Harry went to school in Salisbury (his first job was as a Box Office Assistant at the Playhouse!) and has worked here as a composer/sound designer on Bike, Hedda Gabler and Night Must Fall. Alice also trained in Bristol, but strangely we haven’t performed in the South West until now, so we were really excited to be included in the programme. It’s such a great opportunity for us to share our work with an audience while we’re still in the process of making it.

Could you briefly describe what your show is about?

thor-loki-2It’s loosely based on the Norse gods Thor and Loki, as described in the Eddas (collections of myths written by Icelandic poets in the Middle Ages.) It’s about the two characters and their attempts to prevent the day of Ragnarok – the end of the world – but really it’s about destiny, choice, friendship and embracing change, in order to create a better world. With tap dancing Vikings.

What do you expect audiences will take away from your piece?

Hopefully they’ll leave with a smile on their face, humming the tunes!

What’s been the biggest challenge/most exciting moment so far?

We normally work as a duo, but in this show we have a cast of five. It was initially slightly intimidating allowing other people into our creative process, but the first time we had the full company in a kick line singing in four-part harmony was amazingly joyous!

How important are Research and Development weeks and sharings when creating a new musical?thor-loki

Very important! There’s an old showbiz saying, ‘Musicals aren’t written, they’re re-written’. This is probably because there is so much to coordinate – music, lyrics, choreography – while also making sure that the dramatic rhythm works and the story is clear. Some of these elements are things you can only discover once the show is being performed live in front of an audience. In the old days, musicals used to have out-of-town tryouts, where things would get rewritten and restaged before going into town, but the advantage of workshop performances is that they allow us to try stuff out, adapt and gather feedback as part of our writing process. We can’t wait to share it with you!

House of Blakewell will be sharing Thor & Loki  at 6pm on Friday 17 February as part of Theatre Fest West. Tickets are FREE and can be booked via the Ticket Office on 01722 320333 or at www.salisburyplayhouse.com.