Artist Award announcement, and a new milestone of readership

We are delighted to share that the Theatre, Dance and Performance Training blog has now surpassed 20,000 views. Whilst this is only one measure we hope this is indicative of the many fine posts and comments being contributed to our site and we thank all the contributors who have made content for us so far.

To add to our growing community we have been supporting a handful of contributors through our Artist Awards. This week sees a new post by The Wardrobe Ensemble, our first Artist Awards recipient and the first post by Asha Jennings-Grant, who received the third Award.

The Artist Awards were conceived to highlight and support the most innovative creative practice in the field of performance training. Accordingly, we are excited to share Wardrobe’s reflections on the work that Complicite say, ‘fills us with joy and reminds us of why we love working in theatre.’

The two posts from The Wardrobe Ensemble trace two weeks in the development of their most recent show, Education, Education, Education, and the way training informs their remarkable ensemble dynamic.

Our second Blog Artist Award takes us to a territory that has remained relatively uncharted in the field of performer training. Please join dance artist Marie Andersen on a series of posts on Motherhood in/as training exploring a number of perspectives, including female artistic identity and embodiment, training beyond disciplinary boundaries, and training when there is no time.

Marie has currently posted two of a series of three posts that combine creative video and reflective writing in an innovative approach to this neglected topic.  The two posts published have already elicited stream of comment and discussion.

Finally, Asha, in her first post introduced the work she is developing on movement training for Motion Capture and will continue to post in the next coming months on the workshops she will be leading.

Visit the TDPT blog to follow this and other engaging threads, join the conversation by commenting on any of the posts, or even submit your own piece of writing to the blog to share your own practice.

Also look out for a series of reviews of the meeting of the Performer Training Working Group at the TaPRA Conference (Theatre and Performance Research Association) in Salford in September 2017.

The TDPT blog was launched in November 2015 to encourage a growing community of artists, academics, practitioners and researchers to share practice and debate issues that are currently alive within the disciplines of theatre, dance and performance training. One of our aims was to engage a new audience for the TDPT journal while also creating an online space that encourages spontaneous and productive conversation and debate.  With one milestone reached, these aims are becoming a reality and we hope that the TDPT blog is achieving its aim of offering a vibrant and engaging hub for discussion of the leading edge of theatre, dance and performance training.

1, 2, 3… 4

1, 2, 3: The footage
For this second film, I wanted to think about training as a studio-based activity and set myself the obstruction of using only video footage recorded in a dance studio.

1) Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD), Leeds, June 2005. I recently rediscovered this recording on a Camcorder DV tape. It contains footage of a contemporary class taught by Sue Hawksley and a ballet class taught by Vivien Wood, both for 3rd year students. I had got a friend to film the classes to keep a memory of our final days as students at NSCD.

2) Independent Dance (ID), London, May 2016. The footage shows the sharing from my assessment on the ‘Investigative Practice’ module, the final taught element of my MA Creative Practice at Trinity Laban. The module was a ‘research intensive’ that allowed each student to challenge their own practical research and dance-making through the encounter with the practice and ideas of an artist—in my case Siobhan Davies. The assessment was the culmination of this five-week creative project.

3) University of Leeds (UoL), April 2017. The footage shows my daughter Lisa and myself playing and dancing, and was filmed with the intention of making a record of the negotiation of our relationship in a studio setting. I brought paper, markers, string, food etc., to create an environment where we would want to interact with each other and investigate the materials within the scope of the studio space.

I initially thought this last footage (number 3) might work on its own for this blog entry, to link to and follow up the previous film and post, which has Lisa at the centre of the film. The rediscovery of the NSCD material changed my mind: I seemed to me the old footage had relevance to my theme. Once I managed to get hold of the ID recording, the composition of the studio training film started to crystallise.

1, 2, 3: Types of training
Training in a formal sense of ‘being in training’ usually has an outcome in mind (training for). It has a purpose. It is undertaken with the intention to develop or perfect a skill using a pretested form or structure of activity.

1) The ballet and contemporary classes in the NSCD footage are a good example of the development of technical skills seen as essential to becoming a proficient dancer.

2) With regard to the ID footage: technical dance skills were a prerequisite for the MA Creative Practice, which took these for granted, so that study could focus not on technique but on the develop of artistic ideas. The footage does not directly show the process of acquiring artistic skill, but nevertheless gives an insight into an early stage of the creative development of material.

3) Dancing and playing with Lisa felt like stepping out of training. We played without a specific outcome in mind and came closer to being equals as we took turns to lead play and generate ideas. ‘Being in training’ with a child does not work like formal training. Lisa does not enter a game or play with the intention of ‘getting somewhere’: she simply ‘does’. Momentarily I had the experience that our mother/daughter relationship was suspended and that our usual roles were put on hold. When I look back at this footage I watch myself go along with Lisa’s play and encourage messiness in the studio to a greater extent than I would do at home. The mother/daughter relationship never really ceases, of course – as is evident in a moment in the film – but perhaps in the ‘neutral’ studio setting it was overlaid by another connection between us where we could be creative co-players.

… 4: Mixing time
Playing with the footage in the editing process and confusing the chronological timeline shifted the meaning of the material. By ‘stacking’ the clips, commonalities between footage was highlighted and I stopped seeing training for something and began to see training as play. As the individual bits of material became detached from the timeline, the content of the training was ‘presenced, revealed in itself and not only as a piece of ‘historical’ evidence. The decision to edit extracts of the material together in a non-chronological order, and to compose in split screen, reflected my interest in playing with temporalities. I suspended the temporality of chronology—the sequence and gaps of time between the different footage—in order to favour temporalities of simultaneity and rhythm. I decided to foreground shared timing between images, analogies in the use of space in the studio and matching actions. This, I felt, challenged the idea of training as an activity that always ‘looks forward’ and instead allowed the juxtaposed images to give each other new meaning in the ‘present’ of training-in-itself.

1, 2, 3…. 4: Motherhood talks back
The film revealed to me a paradox that only became clear after its making. I took motherhood into the studio to investigate being with Lisa within the setting of a training space: by doing so a clash of temporalities emerged. Being with Lisa is about being ‘for now’, while dance training is ‘for the future’. The dance studio commonly frames the training that is concerned with a forward trajectory but in the case of Lisa and I, the studio became a playground where training is being-for-now, so being in the studio with Lisa meant the framing of one temporality in the space where another typically takes place. And so, for me, the composition of 1, 2, 3… 4 adopts the structure of motherhood as a non-linear and playful activity, a being-for-the-present. The question then becomes, if the footage of Lisa reveals the playful and being-for-now in the other footage, what does that other footage reveal about the footage of Lisa and I? How does that other footage talk back to motherhood?

Motherhood In/As Training
1, 2, 3… 4 is the second of three blog posts under the title Motherhood In/As Training. This project explores the correlations and tensions between being a dance artist in training and a mother at the same time. To read my first post and get an introduction to the project please read here.