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

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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.

A video review of Walking Stories

As some of you know, as part of my free-lance work outside of Charlotte Spencer Projects, I am leading Next Choreography – a year long course in Choreography and contemporary arts with Siobhan Davies Dance for young people.

We have 15 wonderful people on the programme this year, and as part of the project we also run a blog. Some of the group are working towards the Silver Arts Award qualification and Maddy Schofield, has created this lovely short film about her experience of doing Walking Stories in one of our first sessions last September. I thought it would be nice to share it here as well. If you’re interested to read more about what we get up to, then have a look at our blog: http://blog.siobhandavies.com/

Touring around

We’ve been dashing around the country(ies) this past month. I’ve got very good at untangling headphones and charging mp3 players, checking weather forecasts and examining google maps. Two of our destinations were in Brittany, France. We were invited first to Brest and then to Sarzeau on the Rhys Peninsula and I felt extremely privileged to be there. Laure Bachelot was a wonderful and quite frankly essential translation and artistic support, given that my French is embarrassingly terrible (MUST do something about that!) The equally wonderful Petra Soor also joined us in Sarzeau where we presented Embodied Drawing as well as Walking Stories. The sun shone, the walks were received with delight, the French appeared to make sense (well done Anne-Gaelle Thiriot!) and we adventured Walking Stories onto a white sand beach, the grounds of a Castle and a lost garden. Thank you to Dansce Dialogues 2 for supporting the tour and making the initial connections.

Here are a little collection of photos from the trip to the Rhys Peninsula care of Petra Soor.

In the meantime, if you are Yorkshire/Northern based, then we are in Roundhay Park, Leeds this coming weekend 14/15th June. If you haven’t already experienced Walking Stories, then now’s your chance! Roundhay Park is huge and beautiful – come and join us for a  walk in the park. Booking HERE!

Great review

Thank you to Rachel Blackman from Fringe Review for writing such a beautiful piece about Walking Stories in Brighton Festival. She gave it the ‘Outstanding Show’ stamp and her brief ‘low down’ looked like this:

“Contemplative and profound, Charlotte Spencer Project’s audio walk through woods in Stanmer Park draws you effortlessly into an experience of natural choreography. It is a choreography of groups and solitude; of the natural world and the rhythms and patterns that emerge from everyday living. It is one of the most calming, quietly beautiful and evocative outdoor pieces I have ever experienced.”

This together with unbelievably beautiful weather, and a collection of delightful audiences, meant we couldn’t have hoped for much more at Brighton Festival! To read the full review click me! Weekends like that make me feel so privileged to have the job I have…

And so the tour continues – we are back in Brittany, on the Rhys Penninsula next week and then Walpole Park in Ealing on 1st June before heading north to Leeds.

The walks in Ealing are FREE! 1pm and 3.30pm To reserve your place, please email Alys Hughes: HughesA@ealing.gov.uk

7th and 8th June, Leeds: If you’re looking for an opportunity to get a bit more deeply involved with Walking Stories, how we made it, and how you can become involved in some of the performances, we’re running a performance project workshop in Roundhay Park, Leeds. More information and Sign up here

Walking Stories will be in the same park on 14th and 15th June, with four shows per day. To find out more and to book your place click me!

Ok I think that’s enough plugging for now! Enjoy the bank holiday weekend…

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Summer Shake Up in pictures

As part of our activities in Greenwich this august, Rohanna Eade, Sally McKay and I led a series of workshops for children. Using Walking Stories as our starting point we moved freely between all art forms both outdoors and in the studio. We danced, we drew, played with clay and wire and string, we made installations in the park and went for treasure hunts and at the end of each day we packed everything back into our suitcase. It was great, and here are a few pictures to show it off!