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

The Princess Alice R&D Wk5

Week 5 has been one of the most exciting weeks so far!

After a brilliant day with Lou Cope last week, we had a lot to be working on and developing. On Monday we were joined in the studio by photographer Gigi Giannella. He captured some beautiful moments in the studio, some of which you can see below.

Wednesday was our first work in progress sharing with a small audience. As the work is currently in the research and development stages, it feels very revealing and nerve racking to be presenting it to an audience. We began by showing the structure we had put together for the sharing. I handed out postcards for the audience to write their initial thoughts about the work they had just experienced. We then opened up a discussion about the work and I presented a series of questions to the audience to encourage feedback on specific elements of the work.

Structuring the sharing in this way meant that we got some really valuable feedback from the audience. There were many positive comments about the work as a whole, whilst also offering specific suggestions for further development. Many people thought the narrative was clear but the characters could be explored further, allowing the audience to relate to them more. The audience thought the text section was very clear and effective, which was a huge relief as this was the section we felt the least confident with. Some people commented that they felt transported by the work, as if they were stood on the dockside watching the boat depart. There was also some fantastic feedback on the sound score Portia Graves has created. There was discussion about how we wish to develop the work, both as part of the R&D and beyond. Several audience members commented on how they saw the work developing in terms of sound, narrative and design.

After the discussion, Nicola Flower presented her work and we explained how the participants throughout the R&D will be contributing to it. Nicola is creating an amazing umbrella with appliqué detail that reveals different elements of the narrative and the research. Have a sneak peek of some of her work on her website. More pictures coming soon.

Just a few of the feedback postcards…

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Next week is the final three days in the studio for myself and the dancers. It is great that we have this time to be able to apply some of the feedback we received on Wednesday.

A HUGE thank you to everyone who came to our sharing on Wednesday. Your feedback, both written and verbal, is incredibly valuable to us. We hope to see you all again further along the journey of The Princess Alice project…

Photos by Gigi Giannella

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The Princess Alice R&D Wk4

The highlight of the week was having the dramaturg, Lou Cope, in the studio with us on Wednesday. Lou and I have been in discussion about The Princess Alice for several months now and she has been helping me structure the narrative and direction the work will take. Wednesday was the first time Lou had seen any studio research live. It was great to have her in the space and to hear her feedback.

Prior to Lou’s visit, we spent Monday and Tuesday working on the second half of the structure so that we had a rough sketch of each section to show Lou on Wednesday. Lou offered her thoughts and feedback on each section, which was really insightful. Not only does this feedback offer a glimpse into how an audience may perceive the work, but it also encourages myself and the dancers to think about the overall impact the work is having rather than focusing on one section at a time. Lou also made us aware of the dynamic ‘flow’ of the work and the journey the audience is being taken on. She was able to point out places where the audience might not be able to follow the action and why this might be. As a choreographer, it is easy to get so involved in what you are making that it become difficult to notice these dynamic shifts; when you have spent a lot of time working on a section, it is easy to assume that everyone who watches it will understand it.

The second half of the work involves text which Lou was able to advise on. This text is an important element in the audiences understanding of what happened, therefore it is important that this is framed appropriately. Through exploring this section with Lou, we found that a minimal approach was best in terms of movement. Originally the dancers were moving whilst talking. Lou pointed out that, although the movement is interesting, it applies meaning to the text which may not be exactly what we want the audience to understand, particularly when the text is detailed or emotive. We began to experiment with a more minimal choreographic language, which we will continue to explore next week.

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Exhausting and exhilarating, working with Lou on Wednesday certainly made me clarify the work I am currently researching. She encouraged me to see the bigger picture whilst also suggesting areas for further research. As this is the first time I have worked with a narrative structure, Lou’s input is extremely valuable.

Next Wednesday we will be presenting our work in progress at a sharing. This is a great opportunity for myself and the creative team to present our work and receive feedback. Personally, I am nervous to be sharing the work; after so much planning, I can’t quite believe that the time has come to share the research and development!

Keep an eye on social media throughout the week to find out how we are preparing for the first sharing!

 

The Princess Alice R&D Wk3

We are now half way through our studio research and we are loving it so far! What a pleasure to spend time the studio with dancers you admire and respect and who also happen to be really amazing people!

This week we were working for half days and suddenly time seemed to fly by. We still managed to be very productive and discover some new ideas.

At the start of the week our focus was on character. Last week the dancers spent a lot of time working on developing their character and thinking about how they could portray them through movement and/or text. This week we began to tackle this head on, looking at both movement and text. We soon faced an obstacle…naturalistic text! How do you put across the detail for the audience without compromising the movement or performance?

Luckily, I have the pleasure of working with dramaturg Lou Cope on The Princess Alice project. Lou and I had a Skype meeting mid-week; speaking with Lou enabled me to clarify some of the key areas of the R&D. Lou was also able to offer solutions and ideas for how text is used throughout the work. As a choreographer working on researching new ideas, my head is very much in a explorative and investigative mode. Working with a dramaturg helps me to see the bigger picture. Lou often talks about the end result; how it might look, who it might involve and the impact the work could eventually have once it is fully formed. This ‘long term’ perspective is very useful and helps me to ensure that the R&D, whilst being experimental, has a clear focus.

We also continued to look at the disaster itself- another area that has posed a lot of questions for us. How do you show this tragic event unfolding without being distasteful? We have decided to focus on the energy and force of water. We looked at how water might move still objects such as chairs as well as developing movement with a surging energy. It is safe to say I experienced ‘choreographers block’ when working on this section. I knew the general feeling I wanted to evoke but was struggling to know how to get there…a bit like when a word is on the tip of your tongue but you just can’t get it out! Moments like that make you appreciate the team you have around you- the dancers were able to try a number of different things until I saw the moment I was having trouble articulating.

Next week we will be joined in the studio by dramaturg Lou Cope for one day- so keep your eyes on our social media for updates!

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The Princess Alice R&D Wk2

Week 2 has gone by in a blur- but what a great week it has been!

This week myself and the dancers were focusing on developing characters. This meant a lot of challenges for both the brains and bodies! Working with narrative and character is a completely new way of working for us, therefore it was a really interesting process that will continue to develop as the work grows.

We began by exploring different ways of using speech when moving. We approached this through improvisation, trying to find a rhythmic relationship between our voice and movement. We then returned to the character profiles we started last week. The dancers were given a character to explore and discussed the similarities and differences between themselves and the character they were to embody. We also worked through a series of talking and questioning tasks to encourage the dancers to explore their characters story.

We physically explored the characters in a number of ways. We started by finding simply how each character walked and held themselves. The dancers were brilliant at jumping into a new identity. They found that the more they explored their character, the more questions they had about what their characters life would have been like in Victorian England. There were many discussions about questions that arose, many google searches on Victorian life, and many period dramas watched between rehearsals in order to try and understand their character.

To explore every avenue of their character, the dancers were asked to explore their characters in a number of different genres. This opened up new possibilities for the dancers and furthered their understanding of who their character might be. As a choreographer it was wonderful to watch the unfolding of these four very different characters and there was also some hilarious moments in the experimentation! Although we were mainly working with improvisation this week, the dancers did create some set material based on a character monologue. The use of text was interesting and added another dimension to the characters.

On Friday afternoon, we were joined in the studio by composer Portia Graves. Portia has been sending short music samples for us to use in the studio and this was an opportunity to see some of the material live and discuss her ideas with us. It was also really great to see all the material we have created so far- there is a lot! I can’t wait to get back in the studio on Monday to continue developing it and finding new ideas!

Keep your eyes peeled for photos on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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The Princess Alice R&D Wk1

On Wednesday we dived into the Research and Development of The Princess Alice project. After months of planning it was great to finally see ideas unfolding in the studio! We spent three days in the beautiful Minor Hall at Greenwich Dance, which is a fantastic space to work in.

We began by discussing the narrative of the work. The research has developed significantly over the past few months, therefore there are many possible avenues this work could take. It is important that we have an idea of how the final work will be structured, and more importantly what we want it to convey, so that our time in the studio is focused.

We explored how to portray the disaster itself unfolding. This is a key part of the narrative and there are a number of ways to present it through movement. We tried a number of different tasks and improvisations and got a little closer to understanding how we might tackle this key moment in the work.

The Princess Alice was a paddle steamer running day cruises from London to Sheerness. These cruises attracted a wide range of passengers, all excited for a day out on the Thames. The atmosphere on the boat would have been joyful with families enjoying food, drink and a live brass band. To capture this jovial atmosphere, we had great fun creating a contemporary/ folk dance fusion.

To best portray the story of The Princess Alice, we will be working in a much more theatrical style than we have in previous work. A big part of the research will be developing characters and their stories. We began exploring ideas for characters during Friday’s rehearsal. This involved creating character profiles through improvisation and discussion. Next week we will be developing individual characters further and creating movement that reflects their story.

Before we began our rehearsals on Wednesday, I received some fantastic music samples from composer Portia Graves. These provided brilliant inspiration in the studio and we are looking forward to seeing what develops with the sound score.

Developing character profiles
Developing character profiles

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Happy New Year!

2016 has been a year of learning, growing and big steps forward!

This year we re-visited work from 2015. ‘I’m Laughing At Clouds’ was performed as part of E-Luminate Festival back in February. In July, a re-worked version of ‘She’s Like A Forest Fire…Unstoppable’ was taken to Big Dance 2016 in Medway; both the film and the performance received wonderful feedback and it was great to take the work back to Sun Pier where it began!

The main focus of last year has been planning The Princess Alice project. In October, all this hard work paid off when we were awarded funding from Arts Council England Grants for the Arts and Greenwich Council Community Art Fund. This was the first time I had applied for funding for a project which we were initiating, so it was amazing news to find out that it was successful!

In August, Daisy Farris Dance Collective became a registered company. As a result we now have a fantastic Board of Trustees whose expertise and support have played a huge part in developing the company.
The research for The Princess Alice project has been fascinating yet epic. Considering the scale of The Princess Alice disaster and its tragic circumstances, there is very little public knowledge or acknowledgement. However, once you scratch the surface there are some incredible articles and books written about the fate of The Princess Alice. Through my research I have had the pleasure of speaking to some very interesting people. Recently I met with Joan Lock, author of ‘The Princess Alice Disaster’ who kindly shared some of her own research and findings with me. Through Joan, I was also put in touch with Mr Ellen, who is the Grandson of Henry Drew. Henry Drew was a passenger on The Princess Alice and lost three of his children and his wife in the disaster. The research for the project will continue as we begin working in the studio next week.
As we count down the days to the start of The Princess Alice project, I would like to thank all the individuals and organisations who have supported the project so far. We hope that this project will mark the start of an exciting journey for Daisy Farris Dance Collective and look forward to finally bringing it to life in 2017!
There will be a number of opportunities for the local community to get involved with The Princess Alice project throughout the research and development stages. The first of these is a series of workshops for families. For more for more information about this opportunity follow the link to the Greenwich Dance website.

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