Going out with a BANG in Barking!

In September our 2018 tour went out with a BANG in Barking! The final performances of our 2018 tour took place at Boathouse Creative Studios in Barking and featured outstanding students from All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham.

The performances were part of Totally Thames Festival, an annual festival celebrating all things River Thames! The Great Thames Disaster featured as part of the Rivers Of The World exhibition taking place at Boathouse Creative Studios in Barking. As part of the project, Totally Thames Festival linked DFDC up with the amazing Performing Arts team at All Saints Catholic School in Dagenham. Dani Kelly and the rest of the teachers were incredibly supportive of the project and actively encouraged their students to get involved.

In the week leading up to the final performances, Daisy went into All Saints School for two days to work with a group of Yr9 GCSE Performing Arts students. The group were outstanding! From the very start they were confident and enthusiastic, taking on each creative challenge with flare. Their characterisation was fantastic and they were confident speaking on stage. All of the students really rose to the challenge of using physical theatre as a way of expressing a narrative. I could see each individual challenge themselves to try something new and the result was a dynamic and exciting opening to the show.

When it came to the performances, the students showed true professionalism and focus when performing alongside the professional dancers- they are definitely the next generation of performers! It was a pleasure to finished the tour on such a high with a truly inspirational group of young performers.

Finishing the tour in Barking felt significant and important. The community of Barking played a big role in The Princess Alice disaster. The paddle steamer went down not far from the mouth of Barking Creek. Many survivors of the disaster were taken on small boats to Barking; they were welcomed into people’s homes, local pubs and shops, where they were offered warm clothes, food and shelter. Many people had lost families or become separated from their loved ones and the people of Barking looked after them in their time of need.

We finish the tour with a huge sense of pride in what we have achieved over the last few months. After months of planning and fundraising, the project moved from strength to strength and touched the hearts and minds of audiences and participants from the Isle of Sheppey to Barking. We will now be taking some time to reflect upon the impact this project has had on us and those we have worked with. Keep your eyes peeled for many more pictures, videos and feedback from the tour. In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has supported and worked with DFDC over the last few months- thanks to you, The Great Thames Disaster will leave a lasting legacy.

 

LV21 Performances

On the 4th and 5th August, DFDC took over LV21 in their most ambitious performances to date. Audiences were welcomed on board the ship and immersed in the story of The Great Thames Disaster as it unfolded in a promenade style performance around the ship.

For these performances, DFDC were joined by a very talented young lady named Esther (13). Esther had worked with us to develop her own solo which opened the show. She had never danced before and took on the challenge with a unique flare for performance and fantastic characterisation. Esther’s solo started on board, with the audience watching from the shore. The space was challenging, but Esther handled it like a professional and charmed audiences with her performance.

Audiences were led onto the deck, where they found themselves swept up in the jovial atmosphere of a Victorian boat trip.

 

The dancers then dissipated and the audience were encouraged to explore the boat and discover dance happening in different places. For us this was the nerve racking part, as you can never plan how an audience will move around or react. Luckily it was successful, and people enjoyed the freedom to move around and discover the boat. It is a different way of presenting dance as it is up to the audience to go and find the dancers, which adds an element of chance and unpredictability to the performance. Using the venue in this way allowed audiences to get closer to the action and feel a more personal connection with the performers and with the ship itself.

   

There were some areas of the ship, such as the lookout, which were too small to allow audience into. We created a short film in the lookout which was played on a screen downstairs. This allowed audiences a peek into another part of the ship and also challenged the viewers sense of the and space.

Finally, the audience were gathered back together in the saloon deck for the final section of the performance, where disaster strikes and chaos ensues! The choreography uses the obstacles and obstructions presented by the space to add a new physicality to the movement, making it specific to this unique venue. We found that the narrative was even stronger when presented in this context as it gave the choreography a sense of time and place. The fate of the characters is revealed at the end of the performance in a particularly moving section. Many people commented on how emotional they felt being so close to the performers.

 

Many people were interested in finding out more about the disaster after watching the performance. We had some of our fantastic research packs available for people to read through and find out more about the historic story. These research packs were created in partnership with Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust and include striking images from London Illustrated News which were drawn at the time of the disaster and depict the disaster with dramatic beauty. We were also selling two beautiful books by Joan Lock who wrote both fiction and non-fiction about The Princess Alice disaster. Joan herself came to the Saturday performance and was able to talk to audience members in more detail about her research when writing the book.

At the end of the performance, the audience were invited down into the hull of the ship to see Nicola Flower’s haunting installation work. Nicola’s work is based on the aftermath of the disaster. It was reported that when people arrived to help with the rescue operation, all that was left was a flotsome of clothes and objects that had floated to the surface of the black, toxic water. These objects were collected, organised and displayed in what became known as the ‘Black Museum’. People searching for family member would go to the Black Museum to search through the objects and if they found something they recognised they would be taken to identify the body. Nicola used pink fabric against the hard, black floor of the ship to create an installation that is striking yet moving. Juxtaposing the performance and the installation offers different interpretations on the disaster, both thought provoking and moving.

We had an absolutely amazing time working and performing on the boat. Myself and the team have been overwhelmed by the support from LV21 Crew, Gary and Päivi, who were always on hand to help us bring our crazy ideas to fruition! What better place to bring The Great Thames Disaster to life- thank you to everyone who came to be part of this wonderful journey with us!

We are now on a break until September. Our next stop is Barking at part of Totally Thames Festival. Keep an eye on our website and social media for updates!

 

The LV21 Countdown!

It is just two days until we take over LV21 to present a site-specific, immersive version of The Great Thames Disaster. LV21 is a retired Light Vessel ship which has been transformed into an arts venue. It is the perfect location to reimagine The Great Thames Disaster.

You can find out all about the history of LV21 on their website.

Myself and the team have had our work cut out transforming and adapting the choreography to fit this unusual site. Back in July we spent a VERY hot weekend working on board LV21 to rework the movement. We set ourselves the challenge of using as much of the ship as possible, the result is an immersive promenade performance where the audience move around the boat as the story unfolds.

Adapting choreography to a site is very different to making work on a site. You have to make a choice about which elements of the movement need to remain as close to the original as possible, and which sections are more flexible. There is a danger of forcing choreography to exist in a place where it simply isn’t working (‘square peg in a round hole’) and there were a few occasions where we had to completely re-work particular sections of the choreography so that they responded to the site. It was exciting to see the work take on a new life in this unique location!

We worked with local young people from Northfleet and Gravesend  who joined us in the studio to create their own interpretations of The Great Thames Disaster. One of these young people will be joining us on LV21 and opening the show with a beautiful solo she has worked really hard on.

If you haven’t got your tickets yet then hurry! Capacity is limited and tickets are selling fast! You can book your ticket to be part of this unique performance experience via The Woodville Box Office.

Audiences are in for a treat! You will discover this amazing venue and see dance in a way that you may never have seen it before!

Here is a sneak peek at the company in rehearsals on board LV21. Photos by Gigi Giannella Photography:

 

 

The Great Thames Disaster- 2018 tour kicks off!

2018 is set to be a very exciting year for DFDC. After months of planning and fundraising we are now finally getting our teeth into our 2018 tour of The Great Thames Disaster! 

The project began at the end of June with a period of development for the creative team. Myself and the dancers went back into the studio to develop the choreography following the successful 2017 research and development project. It felt great to return to the work a year later with fresh eyes and renewed perspective.

The 2018 tour follows the route The SS Princess Alice would have taken along the Thames and in each location we are working with local young people to involve them in the performances alongside the dancers. Each performance is taking place in an unconventional location and we hope that by taking dance out of its traditional theatre settings we will attract a new audience to contemporary work.

Last week was our first residency week working with students from Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey. From Monday- Thursday a group of dynamic and talented students worked with me after school. In this short space of time, they learnt about The Princess Alice disaster and were lead through a series of tasks to encourage them to develop their own interpretation of the story. On Friday, the students spent the entire day with the team of dancers, rehearsing together in preparation for Saturday’s performance. Myself and the team were really impressed by the focus and drive of these young people and during Friday’s rehearsal we saw them rise to the challenge of performing with professionals.

 

Saturday was a brilliant day! Despite being in competition with amazing sunny weather and the World Cup, we managed to pull an audience to The Criterion Blue Town Music Hall for our performances.

The Criterion Blue Town Music Hall and Heritage Centre is a unique and special place. Originally a Victorian Music Hall- somewhere the passengers on The Princess Alice are likely to have visited- the original site was bombed in WW1. In recent years, the Music Hall has been lovingly restored by volunteer support and now once again hosts a variety of entertainment for the local community. This was the first time Blue Town Music Hall has hosted a dance performance event, so it felt both risky and exciting!

DFDC transformed the Music Hall into a performance space, seating the audience close to the action. The performances were outstanding; the Oasis students performed with professionalism and flare during their curtain raiser. The DFDC dancers told the story of the disaster with incredible energy and compassion.

We had some amazing feedback from the performances. One audience member said “I don’t usually understand contemporary dance, but I followed the story of this…it was beautiful”. We also received a glowing review from 10 year old Sophie!

Nicola’s installation was upstairs in the Dockyard Room for audiences to enjoy. Nicola will be developing the installation as the project continues, involving all project participants in its development.

This was a wonderful way to kick off our 2018 tour! It was a true meeting of arts and heritage and we hope it is the start of dance being programmed in museums, heritage sites and other unconventional locations.

Next stop…Gravesend!

ISPA Conference in Montreal, CA

Back in May, colleague and close friend, Brian Solomon, got in touch and kindly invited me to join him at the next ISPA (International Society for Performing Arts) Conference being held in Montreal, Canada. This was the start of a rather unexpected adventure…

ISPA hold two conferences a year; one in January in New York, and another in May which takes place in a different city each year. This year the British Council in Canada brought together a Peer Connections group; four Canadian artists were asked to invite artists from the UK to attend the ISPA conference in Montreal with them.

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The theme of the conference was ‘Identities’, a huge topic in the performing arts, raising questions about diversity, politics and the importance of the arts in fostering individual, communal and global identities. The week began with ‘The Academy’, an ISPA program ‘dedicated to developing the next generation of talent’. Eighty Conference Delegates came together to share ideas in an interactive workshop lead by Esther Charron and Judy Harquail. Through their guidance, challenging and complex conversations arose which sparked many further conversations throughout the week. I found these first two days really interesting as we were able to network with lots of different people. I met some incredible people who I had the pleasure of spending more time with during the week. Montreal is an incredible city, bursting with arts and culture and I feel ISPA programmed a conference that really allowed Delegates to experience the city and its incredible arts venues.

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Wednesday lunch time, the official ISPA Conference began. Across the rest of the week there were some fantastic speakers tackling the topic of ‘Identity’ in a number of different ways. Highlights included; Ahmed “Knowmadic” Ali, a spoken word artist; Charles Koroneho, an artist working in performance, multidisciplinary collaboration and community cultural participation; Despina Tsatsas, Executive Producer of Punchdrunk International; Rebecca Devi Leonard, a social circus instructor; Simon Brault, CEO of Canada Council for the Arts.

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The week was very inspirational and I have returned to the UK with many questions, thoughts and ‘light-bulb-moments’ thanks to the above speakers.

However, I also found myself questioning identity in a number of different ways…

Canada is made up of many indigenous communities, with a myriad of languages, traditions and cultural identities. Whilst in Montreal I had the pleasure of meeting and socialising with many of Brian’s colleagues, most of whom are indigenous artists. I learned a lot from this group of people, about their history and the identity of the indigenous arts scene in Canada. An improvement I feel ISPA could have made, is to include more diversity in its programmed speakers, to reflect the indigenous artists working in Montreal and across Canada.

I had the pleasure of having lunch with Dena Davida, a dance educator and curator with Tangente Danse. She was keen to hear about The Princess Alice project and suggested I contact choreographer Sarah Dell’Ava, who is working in Montreal and currently creating work on a number of community groups. I was very lucky to arrange a meeting with Sarah on my last day in Montreal. She kindly invited me into one of the workshops she runs with a community group. I was able to watch this beautiful and generous group of people improvising and also joined in some of the tasks myself. It was such a special way to end the week.

I have returned from Montreal with my head buzzing with questions and thoughts on our responsibility as artists. Art should reflect society; individuals should see themselves reflected in the art we produce. As our communities are divided by politics, the arts act as a catalyst for change and bringing communities together. I will be carrying these thoughts and ideas forward into the work I create with DFDC, with a developed understanding of our role as artists both in the UK and internationally.

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Easter Intensive Wk2- Final performances!

We hit the ground running at the start of week 2 of the Easter Intensive. The young people did incredibly well remembering all of the material they developed the previous week. The two week intensive culminated with performances at the National Maritime Museum and at Woolwich Pier as part of Tall Ships Festival 2017.

As part of their Bronze Arts Award, each of the young people had to deliver a 10min workshop inspired by an artist of their choice. This inspiration could come from dance or any other at form. Last week they planned their workshop and this Monday and Tuesday we started the day with their sessions. I was absolutely blown away by the quality of their delivery! Not only was the content of each workshop interesting, well thought out and fun but each of them lasted nearly 30mins! These truly are the arts leaders of the future!

Monday and Tuesday afternoons were dedicated to bringing together the choreography and putting both the professional dancers and the young dancers in the space together. Tuesday was the first time all 9 of the performers were together and it was really exciting to see the choreography flourish!

Wednesday was our technical rehearsal on the Great Map in the maritime Museum. It was the performers first opportunity to work in this beautiful space and hear the sound track soaring out across the Map. All the performers worked incredibly hard to ensure they were ready for the public performances. Once again I was impressed by the young people as their focus and professionalism was fantastic.

Thursday was performance day at the National Maritime Museum! The Princess Alice was performed at 11:30am and 2:30pm with a total audience of approximately 450 people. Each performance was followed by a workshop where anyone could step into the performance space and dance with myself and the performers. Children as young as 3 joined in these workshops and we had great fun exploring The Princess Alice story! The performers were outstanding! They blew the audience away with their dynamic and moving performances. They also joined in with the workshops and you could see that the children taking part were excited to be dancing with the performers. The feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. Thursdays performances and workshops capture the essence of how I would like The Princess Alice project to grow in the future and is certainly an exciting new direction for DAISY FARRIS DANCE COLLECTIVE.

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Friday was the final performance at Tall Ships Festival. The Princess Alice was performed at 11:30am next to Woolwich Pier. This was a particularly special location to be performing in as The Princess Alice disaster itself took place on the bend in the river just East of Woolwich Pier. Most of the victims and survivors were recovered at Woolwich Pier and the community of Woolwich found itself at the heart of one of the most tragic peace-time disasters in British History. The atmosphere down by the river for Tall Ships Festival on Friday was lively and many people stopped to watch the story unfold. This was a really special and memorable way to finish The Princess Alice research and development.

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Easter Intensive Wk1

On Monday 3rd April, we began our two week intensive with young people in partnership with the National Maritime Museum. The intensive is the final stage in The Princess Alice research and development project.

On Monday we welcomed a group of young people into the studio. None of them knew each other, some had previous dance experience whereas others were taking part to try something completely new. They are from a range of different backgrounds, bringing different knowledge and experiences into the studio. The aim over these two weeks is to work with the young people to develop their own responses to The Princess Alice disaster and integrate these into the choreography to be performed alongside the dancers. The performances will take place at the National Maritime Museum on Thursday 13th April and Tall Ships Festival in Woolwich on Friday 14th.

Having never worked together before, on Monday I decided to throw lots of tasks and ideas at them to give them an overall impression of the piece and get an idea of their ability. I was extremely impressed! The group responded amazingly to each and every task I gave them. They worked brilliantly together and developed some really creative work.

Throughout the two weeks, the group are also working towards a Bronze Arts Award certificate. On Tuesday morning, I gave a short presentation to the group about my inspirations, including choreographers, visual artists and collaborators. They then had time to research someone who inspires them and begin planning a mini workshop using their inspiration as a starting point. On Tuesday afternoon we continued to work on creative tasks in relation to the choreography.

Wednesday was a fun and exciting morning. The team visited the Greenwich Heritage Centre for a workshop about The Princess Alice disaster. Kayleigh Edun, from the Greenwich Heritage Centre, gave a fantastic presentation about the disaster, with interesting details and great images. We were then given the opportunity to try on some Victorian clothing which was brilliant. Finally, we visited their archives to look at some original photographs of the wreck and original newspapers from 1878. This was a really important morning as it allowed the young people to gain a deeper understanding of The Princess Alice disaster and the events surrounding it.

On Wednesday afternoon we were joined in the studio by Nicola Flower. She displayed her work (which is now a rather large installation and continually growing) and the young people were invited to contribute some of their own ideas and drawings. We also spend the afternoon developing personal characters using this mornings research session as inspiration.

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Thursday morning, the young people went to see The Insect Circus. As part of the Arts Award they have to experience the arts in many different ways, one of them being as an audience member. They then had to review and critique the show. In the afternoon we were back in the studio and today we began piecing together the opening section using the material they had created.

Friday we were back in the large studio and able to plot out the performance space. We finished the disaster section and linked it to the opening section. By the end of the day the young people had got through over half of the choreographey and were performing their version with amazing physicality and characterisation. This week, the DFDC dancers will be joining us in the studio and we can begin to put all the performers in the space! Exciting!

This morning will be lead by the young people as they lead us through their mini workshops. This afternoon we will be joined by two of the dancers from DFDC as we work on the final section of the choreography!

Keep your eyes on our social media for more updates and make sure you come down to one of our performances this week!

Daisy Farris Dance Collective

Family Sharing!

What a fantastic afternoon we had on Saturday! The families and all the dancers came together for the final workshop followed by a performance for their family and friends. We were in the beautiful Borough Hall at Greenwich dance and were joined in the studio by film maker James Williams (Moving Productions) and photographer Gigi Giannella to capture this special moment in the project.

We began with a warm-up and some movement games before rehearsing the structure of the performance. As we worked together, I felt incredibly proud of this wonderful group of people; they have all found their creative voice and have grown in confidence over the weeks. It was beautiful to see all the dancers from the collective working alongside the families, dancing and laughing together!

At 5pm, their families and friends arrived to watch their performance. The movement material in the performance was entirely made by the families and their ideas. Myself and the dancers set them creative challenges and helped direct them, but all of the performed movement came from them- which made this performance even more impressive!

After the performance, Nicola invited the audience to participate in some crafting tasks and have their own input into her art work. It was wonderful to see the families and friends mingling and coming together after the performance and enjoying this unique combination of dance and visual art.

Working with the families has been a huge inspiration for me. I have come away with so many new choreographic ideas as to how an intergenerational cast can transform the way that the story of The Princess Alice is told. I have been blown away by the creativity and open mindedness of the family group and hope that we can all work together again very soon! A huge thank you to the families involved!

What have you enjoyed most about The Princess Alice workshops?

“The opportunity for intergenerational, collaborative, creative exploration with my 5 year old daughter. It has also been wonderful to see the sensitivity with which the family groups interacted under the positive guidance of Daisy and her dancers.”

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4th Family Workshop

This Saturday was our 4th family workshop. The group are really growing in confidence and working together brilliantly. The children and parents from different families have bonded and clearly enjoy working together.

The focus of this weeks workshop was to gather together all of the movement material the participants have created and form a structure. We began with their lively pictures and duets, depicting what it might be like to be on board The Princess Alice. These joyful scenes soon dissolve into the disaster section, where the families are able to showcase the beautiful movement material they created last week. Structuring the material in this way gave context to their ideas; the result was really moving to watch.

We were joined again this week by Nicola Flower, who brought with her an array of creative tasks for the families to get involved with. We had a couple of people missing this week, so were a slightly smaller group. As a result, we decided to have the whole group work with Nicola for 20-25 mins rather than rotating. Everyone had worked so hard on structuring the choreography, that sitting and crafting was a welcome break! As everyone got stuck into their detailed crafts, conversations began to evolve and little snippets of peoples lives emerged. The atmosphere in the studio was really calm and everyone seemed to enjoy the opportunity to get to know each other a little better.

After such a wonderful rehearsal, our youngest participant (5yrs) told me she didn’t want it to be home time! If only we could be in the studio together everyday!

We will be back together again on the 25th March, when our usual workshop  will be followed by a sharing. This is an opportunity for the group to perform in front of their family and friends. They will be joined by the dancers from DFDC as well as Nicola, James (film maker) and Gigi (photographer)! It will be a busy but fantastic afternoon!

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3rd Family Workshop!

This week Hannah and I had lots planned for our wonderful family group and they well and truly rose to the challenge.

After a fun and dynamic warm-up, we began by revisiting some of the creative tasks from previous weeks; the picture task and the duet task. I was really impressed with how well everyone remembered their creative work after a couple of weeks.

We then began a new creative task focussing on the disaster itself. Myself and Hannah explained how we abstractly represent the disaster in the choreography. The dancers, slide, run, lift and fall on a diagonal line, building a momentum that gives a sense of people being tipped, rocked and thrown around. I gave the group of task of creating 4 images of being pulled in different directions. I was amazed at their responses to this simple task; everyone went above and beyond! Each group created detailed, sensitive interpretations, many representing a narrative and characters. Their use of space was wonderful and the movement they produced evoked a sense of this terrible disaster.

This week we were also joined in the studio by James Williams from Moving Productions. He is making a documentary film capturing all the different elements of the research and development for The Princess Alice. At the end of the session we interviewed some of the children for the documentary. I was really proud of how articulate they were about The Princess Alice disaster and the work we have been doing in the studio over the last few weeks.

I left this weeks session inspired by the wonderful families I have had the pleasure of meeting and working with for this project! Looking forward to next Saturday’s workshop where we will be joined by Nicola Flower again.

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