First up “Us” at Bristol Old Vic’s Weston Studio earlier in April, featuring us Adult Company in a piece of theatre which tapped into a presentation of our fundamental sense of self as opposed to the adoption of a role. A valuable exercise in performativity, in that we riffed on our individual and collective identities in the creation of theatre.
Moving across town to the Trinity Centre. Everything I’ve seen at this venue (admittedly as a volunteer steward) has been powerful, flagging up uncomfortable aspects of society, social injustices and prejudices ignored by policy makers. https://www.3ca.org.uk/activities/ignite Scottee’s “Fat Blokes Show”, Jackie Hagan’s “This is not a Safe Space”, Rachael Young’s “Nightclubbing” and Darren Pritchard’s “Rent Party” all part of Trinity’s Ignite seasons, have made a lasting impression on me. Scottee so much so that I plan to sign up for his Notepad Warrior course. And certainly dig deep and encourage my friends to do so for future performances.
Likewise the “Full Bloom” festival last weekend. I went on the Saturday, took part in a panel discussion, then was totally in awe of Bristol-based Gerry’s Attic Dance Company and Cardiff’s Striking Attitudes.https://www.3ca.org.uk/whats-on/2019/full-bloom-festival-saturday This festival showcases the contribution older men and women make to innovative, contemporary dance in the UK., a diverse range of dancers commanding the space and storytelling with immense clarity and sincerity. I was struck by the confident interaction and solidarity within the Gerry’s Attic company in pieces such as “When the Dust Settles” and “Traveller”. Both works were strong, assertive statements, underscoring the creative potential of the company and making you wonder what they would go on to explore next.
“Bloomin’eck” and “Seaside” could be perceived as falling into the “light and fluffy” category of entertainment but I did not find them so, both having depth. For example, the three dancers in “Bloomin’eck” were so physically and emotionally energised by the beautifully overblown strains of Elvis’s “The Wonder of You” that they transmitted to us the audience the same sense of transcending the routine of our everyday lives.
Striking Attitudes’ “Time Breaks the Threaded Dances” made an equally strong impression on me. The integration of music (Bach), poetry (Auden) and the fine detail of the choreography combined to create what seemed to me to be an elegy to the dignity yet vulnerability of women in later life.
Gerry’s Attic Dance’s “The Line Up” carried forward this essential vulnerability. For me it captured what is known as ‘ identity stripping’ as we age. A loss of the social identities that once reinforced our sense of self. Their substitution with the role of ‘Carer’ was performed with a thoughtful simplicity, each facet of the carer’s life mimed then passed on from one dancer to the next. That they were seated at this point made this more effective, given that the role of carer is inevitably perceived as low-status. I m reminded of an expression I discovered some time ago; “The Carer on the Couch”, sat there being spoken down to by social care professionals.
All told it was reassuring to see dance works that conveyed a sensuality and an ease and delight in movement. A big contrast to the type of social dance advocated for older people, research studies of which I’ve come across in the past. For example formulaic styles such as Line or Circle dancing, the benefit deriving from the being together and taking exercise rather than any creative process. Fortunately the tide is turning, the artistic potential of older men and women is in the ascendant.
Massive thanks to Julia Thorneycroft, artistic director Gerry’s Attic Dance, Vicki Hearne, artistic director Untold Dance and assistant director with Gerry’s Attic and of course all the performers who made this such a great event.