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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Walking Stories in Dance Umbrella 2015

Walking Stories DU

Dance Umbrella is London’s international festival for Dance. It has been running for almost 40 years and in that time built up huge reputation and international profile. It is therefore an absolute pleasure to have been invited to bring Walking Stories to this years festival with 35 shows no less across 15 days in 4 London Parks!

It will be somewhat of a marathon and I’m praying daily to the weather gods already, but I’m totally up for it! In several of our planning meetings, Artistic Director, Emma Gladstone offered that we had one day off a week or something – ‘won’t you get tired?’ she kept saying. We both loved the idea that Walking Stories would be happening somewhere every day of the festival and that the question would not be ‘when’ but ‘where’. And so there we have it, from the first Saturday of the festival – 17th October until 31st October we will be there, come rain or shine. I will sleep for several days in early November…

For those of you who don’t know, Walking Stories, it is an hour long audio walk for parks. You don’t come to watch Walking Stories: you live it, breathe it, build and dismantle it. Suppled with an mp3 players and headphones, this audio walk for parks gives you a completely immersive experience that removes you from the clutter of everyday life. Moving between watching, listening and following instructions, this piece take you on a journey with yourself and your companions. Almost before realising it, you will be absorbed into a spontaneous walking dance.

We look forward to sharing this work with you in October. All bookings are through the Dance Umbrella Website

The whole festival programme is really exciting – in particular I’m looking forward to catching Dan Canham’s new work, Of Riders and Running Horses.

image by Kimbal Bumstead.