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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From Senegal to Sun Pier- A summer of dance!

What a fantastic summer of dance 2016 has been.

In July, I got on a plane and flew to Senegal, West Africa, to embark on a completely unique dance experience- The March! Hosted by Lanla Moves, The March is the first international workshop of its kind; bringing together dancers from all over the world for two weeks to explore the technique of Germaine Acogny.

Founded by Germaine Acogny herself, the technique fuses the traditional Senegalese dance form, Sabar, with Western contemporary dance styles. With influences from Senegal and Togo as well as contemporary dance, Acogny technique is inspired by the world around us- nature, animals and human behaviour. The March was an opportunity to dive head first into this technique and to explore its physicality and creativity. Across the two weeks we took classes in Acogny, Ballet Acogny, Sabar, Contemporary and traditional dance from Togo. We had the pleasure of working with teachers from all over the world: Aida Diaz (Spain), Ise Verstegen (Netherlands), Alessandra Sutin (SA/UK/Zimbabwe), Rokhaya Throne (Senegal) and Raoul Tchakondo (Togo). We also completed a series of creative tasks in groups. At the end of two weeks we performed a presentation of our work which was attended by people from the local town of Toubab Dialaw and beyond.

For me The March was an exciting new challenge; taking on a completely new movement language was just the start of that challenge. I expected to be physically challenged and to be taken out of my comfort zone. What I did not expect was for my entire perspective on what makes dance ‘good’ to change. Firstly, The March completely removed my judgement towards movement; I stopped looking for something to be ‘correct’ and started to simply feel my own movement and observe how other around me were moving. Teachers Aida Diaz, Ise Verstegen and Alessandra Sutin would often tell us to ‘dance your truth’. At first I wasn’t sure what they meant by this, but gradually I began to realise that it is about being present with WHO you are not what you think you should be. I was also struck by the amazing sense of community that was created. I felt myself grow and change as a mover due to the trust and respect of the people around me and I could also see this transformation taking place in others.

Ultimately I realised that dance is about more than aesthetics. Real dance brings people together, it has soul and, most importantly, each persons ‘truth’ is unique and THAT is what makes their dance.

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Aloopho- The beautiful outdoor sand studio
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Post performance picture
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Myself and Germaine Acogny

Whilst I was away in Senegal, the dancers of DFDC were busy back in the UK. On the 9th July Holly, Hannah and Sarah returned to Sun Pier with Nicola Flower to perform a re-worked version of ‘She’s Like A Forest Fire…Unstoppable’. The performance was part of Big Dance Medway, a bi-annual dance event hosting local dance groups as well as performances from professional companies. The dancers performed 3 times throughout the afternoon and the film was also shown on the big screen in Chatham town. It was very special to be taking the work back to Sun Pier a year after it was first shown there and I was thrilled to hear such amazing feedback about the work.

The final part of my summer was a visit to Mozambique to see some very special friends. Whilst there I had the pleasure of teaching two workshops at a small local school. It was a pleasure to teach kids of a variety of ages and to see them get stuck in with dance and movement!

Overall this was a summer of seeing the power of dance around the world!

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Big Dance 2016
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Big Dance 2016
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Big Dance 2016

Re-visiting Bluebell…

Today we spent a wonderful day in the studio at Greenwich Dance Agency, reworking ‘She’s Like A Forest Fire…Unstoppable’.

DFDC has been invited to perform ‘She’s Like A Forest Fire…Unstoppable’ at BIG DANCE 2016 in Medway. The live choreography will be performed on Sun Pier in Chatham, returning to the site that inspired it a year ago. As well as the live performance, the film will be screened on the Big Screen in Chatham throughout the afternoon.

DFDC are excited to present a reworked version of the original choreography which is now performed by 3 dancers. The choreography has taken a new form and it was wonderful to revisit Bluebell’s quirks today in the studio. Between now and then we will be working toward the performance at BIG DANCE so keep your eyes peeled for more updates.

Catch Hannah, Holly and Sarah performing ‘She’s Like A Forest Fire…Unstoppable’, Saturday July 9th on Sun Pier, Chatham. The performance is part of Medway’s Big Dance 2016.

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The Princess Alice- R&D

Those of you who have been following the progress of DFDC over the past few months, will know that we are embarking upon an exciting new project called The Princess Alice. Earlier this month, I spent a fantastic morning in the studio with three of the dancers from DFDC: Laura, Hannah and Holly. This extended rehearsal allowed us to delve much deeper into the research for the project.

I started by sharing with the dancers the mood board I am working on for the project. I find that this is a really effective way for me to process my research and ideas. When in the studio, I enjoy working collaboratively with the dancers; the board works as a visual tool for both myself and the dancers to be able to work from. At the beginning of the creative process, when ideas are buzzing around, I find having a creative output helps me to order my thoughts and clarify the roots of the idea.

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It is impossible to tell the story of The Princess Alice without portraying the devastating effect of the water; hundreds of passengers died fighting for their life in the Thames. When working with such a tragic narrative, I am conscious of portraying this in a way that captures the magnitude of what happened but with sensitivity.

We experimented with how we can capture the effect water would have on the body. Starting with experiential group improvisation, using contact to achieve a sense of movement happening to us rather then being initiated by us. We then worked towards re-capturing these sensations individually. These tasks were really challenging and presented a lot of ideas for future explorations.

We then moved on to using props to give the impression of water. We began looking at how the visual effect of water can be achieved using props and finished by experimenting with how the sound of water can be recreated using different materials. I wonder if you can guess how this mini score was created?…

This morning of R&D gave us the opportunity to be highly experimental and tackle the research in a number of different ways. Working through several tasks has thrown up ideas for development and exploration of material. I am so excited to get back into the studio again and see what the next instalment brings.