The people Next Door

The people Next Door

Five months working as Dance4's Young Associate Artist. Here is my journey...

I was pretty overwhelmed. A completely open brief. A project, ran and managed by me that could become anything I wanted it to be! I knew that I wanted to work with local dance graduates and to build some kind of network, and I knew that I wanted to produce some kind of performance event for WEYA...but what? At first, I didn't even think that I wanted to be the one to create the choreography and final performance. I saw myself as a kind of producer - someone that created and delivered opportunities for others. Which I suppose in the end I was; I ran a some workshops and sourced paid work for a the graduates I was working with.

However, I soon realised that I was being a huge wimp. Why didn't I want to take this chance to create my own piece of work? What was I afraid of? Actually, I knew what I was afraid of. I was worried that I was out of touch with my creative soul and that all of the months that I had spent away, spending little time dancing, had been detrimental. But...I took a deep breath, ordered my thoughts and began creating my first ever piece of work as a graduate.

I was so excited, the prospect of sharing my work in a large, in fact, HUGE arts festival in my home city, Nottingham. WEYA (World Event for Young Artists) would gather 100 artists from across the globe too share their work in and around Nottingham. I was going to be part of this! wow.

Initial explorations began around the starting point given to all of the young associates (8 venues in Nottingham had a young associate scheme, similar to Dance4's, running in collaboration with WEYA) and this was The Sharing of My City

When I am thinking, planning and processing my ideas, I tend to scribble. I think I must be the world's most avid notebook user...or destroyer. I get through so many. A clear theme that emerged through my subconscious scribbles was the idea of home. Together with my dancers we began to use improvisational structures to play around with space and everyday household items; one of them being...a glass jam jar

Along the way, I made some decisions. My piece would be performed in a restricted space, mapped out by empty glass jars. It would be a duet and the choreography would grow from memories, experiences and shared thoughts and ideas that reflected our home - my usual way of working. I want my piece to reflect the real as closely as possible. I want it to be honest.

How do you collect over 100 jam jars? Neighbours, work colleagues, everyone you know! The funny thing is, pretty much everyone buys things that live in jars, but they take forever to be used up! But we got there in the end. I think my Mum went slightly mad soaking them for hours in the kitchen sink and then scrubbing at the labels, trying to peel them off. Thanks Mum! 

The creative process and rehearsals began. Alongside this I was fufilling other areas of my role as Young Associate and project managing the Young Person's tent at Dance4's regional flagship event, Splash Dance. This was a big job which involved me co-ordinating 10 youth dance groups from across the East Midlands. Phew! That was mind-boggling and really tested my organisational skills. As part of this, I was planning to show a work in progress of my piece and it would have been the perfect chance to receive some invaluable constructive critism! I think I may have made some rushed decisions as choreographer...I was trying to get something semi-complete, fairly well rehearsed and mildly presentable ready to show an audience. 

Cheers rain - Splash Dance was cancelled. I think I cried for the entire day, along with the rest of the Dance4 office.

I am not sure how it would have effected The People Next Door if Splash Dance had gone ahead. It was very early on in the process to be making decisions, yet I was forced to make them. I think this was at times a good thing but others maybe not. Some of those decisions made remained in the final sharing at WEYA.

So, after 3 and a half months of Jar collecting, moving, space booking, experimenting, stubbing and breaking toes, eating chocolate croissants, moving jars, large soya lattes from Nero and a broken wrist...September arrived, and along with it...WEYA!  

We performed in the City Arts Dome in Market Square. It was a really cool space. There was room for about 60 people and this included audience members sitting on cushions and blankets on the floor. Both performances were really popular; we even had to turn people away from the first showing! We had a great reaction and I was incredibly proud of both Hayley and Conrad and of course, myself. Only one minor hiccup – At the end of the final performance a jar smashed which was ironic as we have never had a breakage before! Not even during transportation!

This was possibly the best experience that anyone could have given me. Working alongside Dance4 has been incredible and an invaluable experience. I felt incredibly privileged to be a part of WEYA. The People Next Door was a huge milestone in my life and I am now excited at the prospect of taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2013. After seeing the piece, complete with an audience, at WEYA I am now keen to begin working on it again an developing it into something new, exciting and different!


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