Sunday, 18 July 2010

Island Crossing, Victoria Gardens REVIEW

I attended the site-specific performance Island Crossing in Victoria Gardens, Brighton on 10th July 2010; a contemporary piece which involved 50 young performers inhabiting a large square of grass interrupted by two trees. Choreographed by Charlie Morrissey, in collaboration with Carrie Whitaker and Jason Keenan-Smith, Island Crossing explored the dynamics of a city through the concept of people passing, transitioning and interacting; an artistic segment of Brighton and Hove. Clever choreography moved bodies organically and naturally through the space to create stimulating stage pictures. The innovation of these images proved talent and an eye for detail are key in structuring such art work which was beautifully complimented by the humble nature of the young performers. What worked most brilliantly in terms of site-specificity was the landscape of the trees and the way in which they informed the piece. The sense of rhythm and tempo provided by the enveloping music was set against the natural noises of passing cars and seagulls overhead which further flattered the perception of the performance. Immaculately timed and very professionally delivered, these members of various youth dance groups including T21, Brighton Hove Young Collective and Hampshire Youth Dance Company, did impressively well in producing such a mature performance as Island Crossing.

Dancing In The Streets: South East Prove They Can Dance Big

Saturday 10th July 2010: Brighton and Hove

My day began as a witness (and part participant I must admit) to the Bollywood and Samba / Carnival workshops held at the Lighthouse in the morning. Just over 20 people arrived to learn from the expert Bollywood dancer Charlotte Jalley, who has featured in many Bollywood films whilst mastering a very patient and clear instructing technique. As a dance new to many of the participants, what Charlotte said was true; “If you’ve got a big cheeky grin then the rest doesn’t really matter” and the last thing the room lacked was cheeky grins. ‘Guaranteed to make you laugh’, this workshop did not disappoint and encouraged many of the class to stay on an extra hour for the next workshop: Samba / Carnival led by Rosaria Gracia. Rosaria taught not only the exotic rhythms of this sensual Afro-Brazilian dance, but also threw in lessons about the history of its origins, making for an enlightening and educational hour. Having taught across the world, Rosaria has a wonderful understanding of people and the way in which Samba can bring out one’s sensuality. One participant who had attended both workshops described the dance expressions of the different cultures ‘uplifting’. The vibrant atmosphere and the buzz as the workshops came to an end said it all; these people wanted more.

Following the workshops I spent lunch time in central Brighton helping to organise the three flash mobs which occurred, known as Little South East Dance Goes LARGE... Thirty people apparently spontaneously dancing the exact phrase of choreography to ‘We Are Family’ by Sister Sledge was a spectacle to anyone walking past and in many instances brought people to an abrupt halt. Attendees of the morning workshops joined us, as well as children and youth workers from workshops during the week in which the phrase had been taught. The atmosphere was electric and I for one had a fantastic time. The audience that had gathered were eventually asked to learn the dance, which a few did, and then it was performed again with a bigger group of people. It was a shame that more people did not have the confidence to come up and learn but the flash mob certainly got people talking about South East Dance and worked as a wonderful attraction to promote the free performance that afternoon in Victoria Gardens. The fun-loving and vibrant atmosphere made it an exciting event to be a part of and succeeded in bringing together different areas of the community.

A Day Dancing With Brighton’s Community; One Not Easily Forgotten

Tuesday 6th July 2010: Brighton and Hove

As a young journalist volunteering as part of Big Dance South East I was invited to witness the free workshops taking place across Brighton and Hove between 1 – 10 July in the run up to the main dance event on 10 July. These workshops; free to the community, funded through the government and lead by professionals in the dance world are an opportunity for those who would otherwise miss out on the joy and exhilaration that dance can provide. My role was to investigate the nature of the workshops and the impact they had on various sectors of Brighton’s population; what influence does dance have on the community? To my delight, the answer was resoundingly positive; excitement and encouragement was at full flow in the areas touched by South East Dance. It was only a shame more people could not have been reached.

The first part of my day was spent in the company of the over 80’s residing in Muriel House Residential Home in West Hove. To my surprise I entered to a full house, as not only were the occupants of Muriel House present but Sandlers House Residential Home from across the road had eagerly joined the group, as well as one individual who had travelled from across town on a bus to take part. I had been told that the group had been given a choice of workshops including ballroom and sequence dancing, but the dance of choice for this vibrant bunch was line-dancing. An energetic and engaging routine ensured laughter filled the room, and whilst there were only around 7 out of the 30 people dancing, the keen supporters lining the outskirts of the dance arena made for a social and warm gathering; a strong atmosphere of community and togetherness if only for that short hour. It cannot be voiced strongly enough how important sessions such as these are in getting the residents out of their individual flats and together in fun activity. The group are lucky to have Nina as their scheme manager; her colourful character reflected in her purple dress and her jolly laugh bouncing off the walls was enough to keep anyone smiling. It was she who had organised this event with Big Dance South East and whilst this was one of the few workshops currently available to the group, with the reaction we received from the participants there is promise that these wonderful members of our older generation will carry on dancing; River dance is next, or so I’m told.

I was then taken on to a far younger group of people aged 8-11 who were to learn Street Dance with Anneli Smith in the Church of the Holy Nativity in Bevendean, Brighton. The small group of 6 girls was made up of three youth groups from across the Bevendean area, although the participants knew each other from school. The girls were shy in talking to me but confident in their dancing as they took on the steps with focus and dedication producing an outstanding level of dance by the end of just one hour. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and was astonished at the talent the group possessed. Although there were a couple of participants clearly less keen on the routine and more interested in kart wheeling across the space, the majority reported that they would love to do a similar class again, particularly as not many had been offered such opportunities in the arts before. It was refreshing to see children genuinely interested in something for a full hour. For Anneli to keep their attention for so long was an impressive feat; one not easily achieved, but well worthwhile.

My final stop was with the teenagers of Brighton Youth Centre for a ‘Glee’ workshop with Hayley Coppard. Here we had a group of 7 girls aged 11-16 strutting their stuff to Lady Ga Ga’s ‘Bad Romance’ in the style of ‘Glee’ i.e. Musical Theatre. Originally a hip hop dancer, Hayley used her own technique of hip hop blended with a musical theatre approach to give the girls an amusing and energetic routine with plenty of charisma and attitude. Many of the girls had been involved with rehearsals for school productions all day so unfortunately the energy levels were low but this did not take away their enjoyment. The group had been established from three youth theatre groups originating from the Brighton Youth Centre so the teenagers were used to attending such classes, although not at this high a level. Hayley, who has been teaching youth groups for the last 2 years and dancing for the last 8, not only got the girls giving it everything they had, but even got the youth workers up and involved making for a very engaging and therapeutic hour of honest fun. Every one of the girls who participated agreed that they would do the class again, however it was clear something was troubling them in saying this. Upon further probing it was difficult to hear how they could not afford to go to dancing lessons, reinforcing the importance of what Big Dance South East does in its community work.

Watching all these varying participants of the community engage in dance workshops of all genres was rewarding but most significantly it was a clear illustration of how vital dance and the arts are within communities. It cannot be underestimated what Big Dance South East provides for people who would otherwise be ignorant of the pleasures and thrills dance can bring and I for one was deeply honoured to be even the smallest part of it.