Choreographing People

Water. Sun tan lotion. Hats. Chair.

This has been the unexpected mantra of the group as we try and stay safe in the heat. It has been tough work, but the group still love being outdoors in the park (phew).

Moments stand out: a rippling arm echoes a brief and rare breeze through the trees. Dancers support and help each other over the undulating ground. And one dancer, waiting alone in the field for a dancing partner, with clarity and intent.

It is easy to get bogged down in the practicalities of dancing in a heatwave (trust us, there are many), and yes, part of the rigour and clarity of movement naturally gets lost in the heat. But what replaces it is satisfying: a choreographing of people. Not just watching out for movement, but taking care of them.

You need a chair? No problem. Water? Yes, that will go into section 2. Responding to needs leads to some fun and unexpected moments in the piece. And really, any event like this is all choreographed, from booking the hall to sending the invites. We create the pathways and the movement where people meet and share.

The group has been amazing, upbeat and supportive.

Here is to tomorrow. Let me just grab the suntan lotion.

Should I stay or should I go?

So my life is immitating lyrics at the moment and none more so than of course the 1994 Blur classic ‘Park Life’. Even to the point that this morning (Wednesday) I was rudely woken by the dustmen!!!!! And then we go further back to The Clash classic, ‘Should I stay or should I go?’….

Five months of planning and five days of creation (two so far) will be the sum total of ‘Park Life’ and will draw the boundaries of the work Anita and I have put into it. Last night I mused over what stays and what goes during this process and on this occasion much has gone as the project was worked and reworked, before the arrival of the participants. Even the location at one point was a moveable feast as partnerships with local schools fell through, much to our dismay.

And even now with the participants ideas and phrases come and go. But like our post it notes on day 1, which one by one fell to the floor loosing their stickiness in the heat, the ideas that are the strongest always survive.

But by Friday 5pm we will know for sure what has stayed and what has gone.

Hot. Hot. Oh, and did we say it was hot?

Park Life is go!

The group arrives. I am nervous. How do we carry them all through this process? We ran ice breaking games (er, melting?), set some playful tasks, and it became clear that support for each other was building from within. Sometimes you need to set the structure and then get out of the way to allow a new group to breathe and come alive.

Armed with sun hats and high viz jackets, we took a walk around the park to show the group our “theatre” and test out the ground. Quickly, the trams that pass through and cut into the space and sound, worked their way into the structure of the piece.

“Hot”, “dry”, “arid” and “desert” are not really the words that you would associate with a park in South Norwood, but the sun has baked the ground to a crisp, and it is a very different space than than the one we explored at the start of the month.

We had planned for heat, but I was not prepared for the effect of heat on the creative process: my thinking felt really slow. But the group took it in their (good natured) stride and worked hard and generously all day, and we did get through a lot.  We mapped the first section and spent some times on duets. We decided to stay indoors in the afternoon, where we did some group map making /drawing. This allowed the group to enjoy talking together, and, as someone said, enjoy the “sociable” aspect of the work. We also started work on some fun “picnic rug” duets.

One idea that stays with me, is the idea that the piece is “unplugged”, we are only using the soundtrack that exists in the park already. One participants talked about how she loved this opportunity to unplug from everything and enjoy the space as it is.

Rain or shine: six days and counting

Naturally being British Anita and I planned a park based dance piece with slight in-trepidation, mainly asking ourselves ‘will it be raining in July?’. Now with less than a week to go do we exchange umbrella’s and wellies for sun lotion and ice lollies? 

Come what may this will be a week to remember for the 20 local Croydon residents who will be dancing alongside Rick Rodgers from Candoco (and co-incidentally former Croydon resident). And of course on top of that the audience members which includes the Mayor of Croydon! 

This will definitely be a first for South Norwood Country Park and hopefully not the last site-specific dance piece it encounters. 

Park Life

The park is “booked”, the invites are going out, Park Life is up and running people!

Gemma, Sophie and I took another visit to the park. Pathways, crossings, sight lines and maps are all emerging. There are some interesting spaces where the audience can see “through” to other layers behind, and the the tram cuts througn the space, bringing sound and speed.

As well as the dirt bikes 🙂