It seems fitting somehow to say “cheerio” to our senior dancer Effie, after such a successful run of events to celebrate our 10th anniversary season. Our season will continue into the spring of 2017 with new dancer Sarah joining Catrin, Natasha and Julian, whilst Effie is moving on to pastures new.
Effie has been with the company for 5 years, having met us at our Winter Intensives. We were so impressed with her that we offered her a place to learn some of Gary Lambert’s work for the company, to replace Lucille Tappa in Synapsequence.
Effie has created and danced many lovely roles for the company over the years, but I think it was Missing Pages, that really brought out her lyricism and technique more than any other.
Effie has been a wonderful workshop leader and teacher too, with her quirky ways of motivating children and young people; especially noteworthy is her “bananas of the world unite” and her numerical jogging pattern warm ups. We will miss her zany music in professional class, Dr Who will never be the same again!
The image by Paul Trask that is featured above, carries a story, I’m sure that Effie won’t mind me sharing it. The company was in Llanhilleth Wales, shooting some images for our tour Inspired: Paul wanted to shoot somewhere local and out of the studio. This obviously caused a bit of a stir in the village and gathered quite a lot of spectators who were generally supportive and also inquisitive. After a little while, word got around and we were hailed with some children shouting “come over here boys, there’s a stripper down by the railway station” The photo above and some others too, were the culprits of this mistaken identity. We laughed about that one for quite a time, as you can imagine.
So finally it’s time to say a very fond farewell. We wish Effie well in her future pursuits and will miss her tremendously as a wonderful dancer and warm, faithful friend. Please keep in touch.
So once again we found ourselves arriving at Namedy in the pitch blackness after a long trek on the Ffin Dance minibus, thankfully with a few less accidental detours! Being greeted by Gary and on stepping into the castle, it was nice to feel less at odds with our setting, having a sense of knowing where we’re going and easing back into our Namedy lifestyle has been a swift process. Overall, there is a distinct feeling of sameness with a healthy new edge of difference (not least exhibited in a new fringe being sported by myself!).
With performances speedily upon us this year (on Wednesday and Thursday evenings) we have been cracking on straight away today, starting off with company class lead by Mike. We were also joined by Ben’s dancers Jessie and Manon which was lovely in having a bigger community feel – it’s always great for a new vibe and a different energy to be introduced when working alongside some new faces.
Our Ffin team for the week is reminiscent of last year’s Namedy quartet, consisting of Megan, Mike, Catrin and myself. While this in itself dwells on the idea of sameness, it does in fact constitute a different cast from the preceding leg of our Inspired tour – Catrin takes on the role of partnering Megan in Axiom Tangent while Missing Pages takes on a trio form.
Whilst last year I was highly affected by the cast change part way through our season – with a new partner and undertaking a new role – this year I am probably the least directly impacted so it is interesting to come at the change with a very different perspective. My partnership with Mike feels grounded with solid roots and having consistency has allowed us to develop a much better sense and awareness of one another. Our challenge now is to keep this high sensitivity to each other but also being able to devote enough attention to the other couple in the space so that we can dance as a unit of four rather than two couples.
I’m certainly looking forward to performing again at Namedy but already there is a tinge of bittersweet in the knowledge that we will be saying goodbye to both Axiom Tangent and Missing Pages – I’m not sure I’m quite ready to let go of the Inspired repertoire just yet! Catch it while you can…
So we are now nearing the end of our first week of studio time with Gary Lambert recreating his work Axiom Tangent ready for the Inspired triple bill. Each morning has also seen us take class with Ben Craft, who has travelled all the way from Arnhem to work with us.
This is certainly a treat, not only in terms of the wealth of dancing knowledge that Ben is sharing but also as it gives us a little bit of respite from planning/ leading classes for each other in addition to our jam-packed day of rehearsal!
One of the approaches that Ben uses has been to teach a simple phrase which can be repeated alternating between sides (right and left); once we know the movement he gives us several different directional facings in which to dance the material. This means that we have to really keep our minds in gear and be thinking ahead as to where we are facing next, it is easy to get confused in the middle of a phrase. I think this learning device has been a really useful challenge – it has helped me to build in coping mechanisms whereby even if I do make a mistake, as long as I stay calm, I can quickly adapt and correct myself using visual clues from the space around me and the other dancers. This is also handy for the rehearsal process with Gary as there are lots of repeated variations of phrases to learn often with a sneaky change of facing to catch us out!
In terms of the studio time we have with Gary, it is a very different process compared with last year working on Synapsequence – this time around we are recreating a pre-existing choreography of Gary’s and so must use video footage to learn the material we will be dancing. This in itself demands a very different skill set from us – rather than generating material on our own bodies, we are having to pick up as much detail as we can from the videos (slow-motion playback is particularly handy!) before transferring this into physical information.
Within the piece, there is a lot of duet work and for the most part we are working within the same partnerships that we established in Missing Pages during our last rehearsal period. In Missing Pages rehearsals, Mike and I had to learn several of Adam and Meg’s duets and vice versa so we have already had some experience of learning and adapting material to work in our partnerships. What I have found really interesting in our current studio practice, reconstructing duets from video, is how much more quickly Mike and I have been able to make connections more organic between us allowing the duet material to find a flow. Part of the reason for this is that we are all in the same boat – it is not a case of Meg and Adam already having created their duet and being familiar with it before we try to pick it up. When this was the case, there was always a sense of looking over to Meg and Adam for clarifications – it felt like we were paying more attention to them than each other and as a consequence would miss the real sense of combined momentum by not focussing on one another. Certainly reconstructing from video has been a lot of work for our minds and bodies but I feel that there has been a really positive impact on how Mike and I are relating to each other as dancers.