Reflections on Dance Umbrella

Harking on about Walking Stories is, I promise coming to a close. Our presence in Dance Umbrella in London last month was a beautiful marathon. I felt very privileged to have the opportunity to spend 15 consecutive days in some of London’s finest parks and witness the seasons changing. The colours grew in intensity and gradually the leaves dropped from the trees. When we finished, it was November and the rain came.

A few things I noticed. I was struck by how many people came who I didn’t know. I was struck that relatively few of my peers and colleagues from the dance community came. Initially I wondered why they didn’t come. Did the work not feel relevant to them? Was it because they were busy? Were the tickets too expensive? Self doubt rising, it reminded me of being a small child, worried that no one liked me, and no one will turn up to my birthday party… But gradually I came to realise, that we had made Walking Stories to try and appeal to people beyond dance centric communities. The fact that I didn’t know the people who were coming, was surely something to celebrate!

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In the final week, after the clocks had gone back, the last walk of each day was in the twilight zone. Starting in daylight and ending in the dark. And each day palpably darker. I never anticipated what a beautiful staging that would provide. I felt a closer connection to small details of changes in the natural environment which often pass me by in the busy, largely indoor life that is normal for many of us. I watched the moon rise and fall. We all loved the huge pink full moon rising whilst we were in Springfield Park.

Mostly the reviews were good. Except one, that was extremely bad. Reviews are strange. I was left wondering for days about the hatred one; trying to work out what I could take away from such a torrent of dislike, that might be somehow useful or generative for me. I still haven’t found an answer. Reviews are so very public, and in this digital, online age, I have little control over who writes, and who reads. They don’t disappear either, just get slightly buried.

On a more positive note, if you feel you aren’t completely sick to death of reading about Walking Stories, I was invited to write something for Julie’s Bicycle last month. Julie’s Bicycle are a global charity bridging the gap between environmental sustainability and the creative industries, and if you don’t know about them, then look them up, they do loads of great stuff. Anyway, if your curious, have a read of the article that I wrote for them →

Many many thanks to Emma Gladstone at Dance Umbrella for coming to Walking Stories in Brighton Festival back in May 2014 and programming it on the spot. Her enthusiasm and commitment to this project, has been truly amazing, and I am very grateful. Thanks also to all of the CSP team and Dance Umbrella team for making it happen so smoothly. The next post will be about something else – I promise!

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