The next in our series of Tutor Tuesdays is Stina Sommerlade, one of our lecturers in dance. Find her at @
Siobhan Mitchell from the University of Bath on Dr Angela Pickard’s book
There has been a great deal of work going on with the research side of our dance department.
4 Christ Church students have been working recently on The Avanti Project in Kent. It had been developed by Dance United artists and CUE in partnership with Kent County Council Early Help and Preventative Services and Canterbury Christ Church University and funded by Kent County Council. 8 young people, 4 students studying Dance Education at Canterbury Christ Church University: Katherine Button, Ben Hughes and Abbie Shepherd were engaged as role models throughout the project. Aaron Smith is currently studying Masters of Arts in Arts and Cultural Management was a dance artist for this project. Here is his account of working with them.
Through my time at The Avanti Project I had learnt a variety of skills and unknown qualities about myself as a teacher/performer, but it was through Avanti that I found a passion for teaching. The first week as a dance teacher trainee, I was very nervous but excited as I didn’t know what to expect, all I knew was that we’d be teaching dance to marginalised youth. This was very nerve racking because as I have experienced when I viewed myself as a marginalised youth, dance did not appeal to me as a male. This was because the friends I were socialising with were very against dance and saw it as ‘gay/only for girls’. The Avanti became very personal to me, as I have experienced the struggles that some of the young people were going through. It was only when I saw my first London theatre performance I was inspired by performing and changed my A-Level from training with the Football Academy to Performing Arts. It was since then that changed my life and found my passion for Performing/dance. Finishing my BA Hons (performing Arts) at Canterbury Christ Church University to now taking my knowledge further doing an MA (Arts and cultural management) has led me to believe that dance can change people’s lives; whether this is developing dancers/teachers or to evolve a variety of skills that is needed in everyday life.
From the first taster session at Avanti, I was thrown into the deep end and was teaching 3 exercises and a phrase of movement, as the weeks progressed my nerves subsided and I enjoyed working on developing dance and dancers. I worked on perfecting the choreography and offering support and challenge. With the support of Ellen Steinmuller and Kwesi Johnson and also everyone involved within ‘The Avanti Project’, I had an enjoyable and incredible teaching experience that I will never forget. From my view, projects like this provide an opportunity for youth with difficult backgrounds to sacrifice what they are, for something that they can become. creating an environment where failure is praised and achieving is worshipped.
‘Experimental Dance’ is a dance being developed for use in a science experiment by choreographer Matthias Sperling.
I would definitely watch this show again and would recommend it to anyone. It is a great project to support, and as a dancer in training it was great to see such a high level of interest from boys regarding dance.
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures have been behind a number of successful dance theatre productions including Swan Lake, Edward Scissorhands, and Nutcracker! The company are currently touring with their new dance production of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies.
In the original story a group of schoolboys find themselves abandoned on a deserted island – however now the story is presented with the idea of the boys being in a deserted theatre. Reacting to the circumstances the group find themselves in, with no adult guidance, they begin to make their own rules and civilisation. Over time, order breaks down and the story unfolds with a series of exciting and shocking events.
The cast is made up of the New Adventures dancers – also referred to as the professionals, and new young talent from all over the country. The main objective of this project was to increase boy participation in dance, this was set by The Arts Council, who help fund the production. As I saw this performance in Canterbury I decided to focus on the Kent cast of Lord of the Flies and their journey.
I was lucky enough to be able to speak to one of the dance ambassadors for this project, James Middleton, an ex Canterbury Christ Church University Dance Education Student. He told us how he and Chloe, the other ambassador, got to travel around Kent and teach workshops in a number of schools, they had around 300 boys to choose from but could only take 120.
The pair then had to choose only 60 boys to audition. This number then had to be cut once more into just 22 boys. With ages ranging from 9 to 22 amongst the final cast, I was told many of the cast had little/no training in dance.
I found this very hard to believe as throughout the show you could see the strength of every single individual on stage. Personally I felt the younger dancers were showing just as much stamina and strength as the professionals and this was an amazing aspect of the performance; it brought ‘realness’ and emotion to the show. The choreography wasn’t all flips, kicks and leaps; instead it was a story with real movement and emotion, a story you could not take your eyes off.
The set of the show was very simple; all that was present on stage was a ramp, a caged entrance/exit, and a set of apparatus that represented a mountain. New props appeared throughout the show such as boxes, petrol tins and a clothes rail. These were all used to enhance the events that took place. Throughout the show the background gradually changes from a large sun and a sheet painted to remind us of a beach, to a huge moon. This was meant to represent the original story in an abstract way as they wanted to touch upon the island setting of the book. However I felt that the painted background could have been left out since the story had been changed to a theatre already for a reason.
Music for the show was loud and enticing; the sound in the room for me was amazing. As a dancer I found some of the music very narrative rather than the typical soundtrack you would find people dancing to. Although this sounds like a bad idea, I felt it worked really well. The music helped carry the storyline just as much as the dancing from the boys which for me, was perfect. It is a hard task to tell an entire story, without one word being uttered, but in this show they managed it!
The whole performance exceeded my expectations. When I first heard about the process of choosing the dancers I was expecting a good show but at an amateur standard. I was so wrong. The character of each and every individual was present right from the offset and I could see that the cast carried one another as a company.
I would definitely watch this show again and would recommend it to anyone. It is a great project to support, and as a dancer in training it was fantastic to see such a high level of interest from boys regarding dance.
Reviewed by current student Demi Walters