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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A weekend of fun with our 2nd family workshop!

This Saturday we welcomed our family group back into the studio for the 2nd in our series of family workshops and we had loads of fun!

Laura was assisting me with the workshops this weekend and we were also joined in the studio by Nicola Flower. We began by leading the families through a dynamic warm-up which got them moving around the space and working with others in the room. We then revisited The Princess Alice narrative and I was really impressed that two of the youngest people in the room (5 and 7 years old) were able to articulate the narrative brilliantly with specific details.

This week we worked on some beautiful character work. The participants were encouraged to think about how it might feel to be on an exciting boat trip and create a series of gestures. Using their own personal gestures they then worked in pairs or small groups to create a movement conversation. Their creations were all so beautiful and each group had developed their own narrative which they expressed through their movement conversation. Laura and I were blown away! Every person in the room contributed their own unique ideas, demonstrating the power of working with an intergenerational group.

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As well as creating movement, the family group also had the opportunity to work with Nicola this Saturday. We rotated the groups so that some were dancing whilst others were crafting! Nicola has been working on a piece in response to The Princess Alice narrative. The work takes the form of a large umbrella which is embellished and appliquéd to reflect different elements of the story. Nicola had drawing and sewing activities prepared for the participants, which she will then include in the final work.

It was a wonderful afternoon and we are really excited to continue working with the family group next weekend!

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The last part of the research and development project is a two week intensive with young volunteers at the National Maritime museum, culminating with a performance at the museum. The space we are performing is amazing, but the acoustics mean that the spoken sections of the piece will not be heard. Our solution is to record the speech and include it on the sound score. Sunday morning, we all met at Hannah’s house where Dan had set up a mini recording studio for us. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast, courtesy of the wonderful Hannah, and then got down to work. We really appreciated being able to use Dan’s great equipment and got some really great recordings to send across to Portia the composer.

What a great weekend! Roll on the next family workshop!

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Inspiration…Dance that does more!

An exciting part of The Princess Alice project is the engagement with the local community. We are really excited to be inviting participants to join us in the studio. Working in this way has been a dream of mine for some time and I am delighted to finally be using dance to empower others. In this weeks blog post, I would like to highlight some of the fantastic companies, projects and artists who continually inspire my practice and The Princess Alice project…

Back in 2006 I watched a Channel 4 documentary called ‘Ballet Hoo: Ballet Changed My Life’. The documentary followed a group of disadvantaged young people as they trained to join Birmingham Royal Ballet on stage in Romeo and Juliet. I remember watching it with my mum (we both ended up in tears) and it had a profound affect on me. It was the first time I had seen dance used as a tool for social change and inspired me to make this part of my future. Have a look at this short documentary and check out this article to find out what the young people did next.

When I graduated from training, I had the pleasure of working on an intergenerational dance project called The Little Witch. The project was choreographed and directed by Marie Forbes and Sophie Nüzel and involved a range of people form different backgrounds. I worked as a dancer on the project throughout the research and development and finally in the full production at The Place. The Little Witch project invited a range of participants into the work as part of the research and development as well as the full production. It was amazing to see participants find their own creative voice and grow in confidence. The result was a truly magical. sensory dance theatre experience.

Last year I had the pleasure of working with Urban Playground Team as a project manager on a section of their tour. Their current work STEAM has been touring the UK and has recently toured India. In each location they visit they recruit a group of participants to perform alongside them in the choreography. Their ethos focuses on using performance parkour to empower young people. When I worked with them I was inspired by their dedication to using their craft to inspire change in areas of low artistic engagement.

A company that is very close to my heart is Loop Dance Company. They inspired me as a young dancer and I now work for the company. Their ethos is simple…”Do what makes you heart sing”. Loop engages communities in each new piece they develop and also offers an extensive outreach program. Here is a short documentary about the company’s latest work which engaged the local residents of Margate.

I am also continually inspired by a range of other companies and also visual artists who engage communities in their work…

Breakdance Project Uganda use hip hop and breakdance to empower disadvantaged youths in Kampala, Uganda. In the face of many challenges, their work makes a huge difference to the communities they engage.

- Visual artist and activist, Ai Wei Wei, uses his work to comment on social issues and uncover people’s stories.

- Visual artist, Greyson Perry, creates work inspired directly by the communities he engages with. He often creates flamboyant and embelished work reflecting the everyday stories of ordinary people. Check out some of his documentary films on Chanel 4

I have listed just a handful of artists who have inspired me, there are of course many more. Which artists have inspired you?

 

1st Family Workshop

I was both excited and nervous in the lead up to the first of our family workshops on Saturday. Holly was assisting me this week and without knowing the group we would be meeting, it was tricky for Holly and I to plan accurately.

We were delighted to welcome a dynamic group of families into the studio. Holly and I expected that we would need to break the ice and bring people out of their shells, but we were pleasantly surprised to find the group were lively and enthusiastic. The ages in the room ranged from 5 years old to 60+ years old and it was wonderful to watch these different generations work together and share ideas.

We lead the group through a warm up that encouraged the group to get to know each other and work together. We then introduced The Princess Alice project and discussed what it might have been like to be on board the boat; what was the atmosphere on board? What activities might have been taking place? How were people enjoying their day trip? The group had some really great ideas. They were then set the challenge of recreating some of their ideas in a creative task.

It was amazing to see The Princess Alice research unfolding in a different way as the families came up with some of their own ideas. They were confident enough to show the rest of the group their creative work and it was inspiring to see how they had interpreted the task. It has certainly given me food for thought and I am really looking forward to seeing the group again after half term. This group are truly incredible… I am excited to see where this leads us next!

Keep your eyes peeled for more updates!

The Princess Alice R&D Wk6

Week 6 was our final week in the studio together. The process has been an absolute pleasure from start to finish; the dancers have worked incredibly hard to explore The Prince Alice narrative in a number of different ways. Their open mindedness and curiosity has allowed us to work collaboratively as we tackle a choreographic narrative for the first time.

The audience feedback we collected at last weeks sharing has directed this weeks explorations. We revisited particular sections and tried to apply the feedback received. This inspired new explorations and ideas. Much of the feedback related to the development of the work; sound, costume, design, extending the choreography. Therefore we will be able to revisit this feedback when we are back in the studio for the development of the work.

We also spent some time this week discussing the development of the research project and how we will be working with the community groups. The next stage is the family dance project; a series of workshops with a group of families. This is a unique opportunity to work intergenerationally and explore The Princess Alice narrative in a different way. We are really looking forward to meeting the families who will be joining us in the studio for our first workshop on Saturday.

As the first stage of the research and development draws to a close, it feels like the start of something exciting…

Daisy Farris Dance Collective