Monday, 30 March 2009

Match in Holyoke

Match made an impact in Vancouver it seems. The Vancouver Sun picked it out as a 'perfect example' of the programme's 'arty sport films or sporty art film'.
There was something illicit about seeing such intimate physical contact between two men in a competitive setting.

Meanwhile in Holyoke, on the other side of the American continent, Matthew and I performed the live version of the piece, part of an evening of Irish work called Irish Cream, which despite its title was a selection of interesting contemporary dance from Ireland. As well as Match, the programme included Rex Levitates' 'Shared material on dying' and Legitimate Bodies' 'Hanging in there'.

I wondered what these aesthetically, stylistically and conceptually different pieces might communicate about contemporary Irishness, particularly as they were gathered under a title that suggests sickly inebriation or a tiger toe-tapping extravaganza. When we introduced the work to a group of school children in an afterschool club, the common theme that emerged was conflict: Match's gladatorial combat, Shared Material's subtle violence, and Hanging in there's post-conflict resolution strategies. I feel a particular kinship too to the reticence of Liz's piece: its suggested violence is restrained and all the more shocking for its emergence from the fluid movement style that characterises much of her work.

Holyoke itself was a strange place. Birthplace of volleyball, host of the second largest St Patrick's Day festival in the US, it was one of the first planned industrial towns. Its industries are mostly gone now, leaving a lot of empty factory buildings and a downtown that is bleak and populated by working class Puerto Ricans. The gigantic mall across the road from our Holiday Inn has sucked much of the life from the city centre it seems.

There are plans to use the arts as a vehicle for regenerating the downtown. The Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts who invited us are planning to reopen a big theatre there. I saw all of the warehouse space by the canals and thought what wonderful artists' spaces they could make.

But I did wonder what we were doing jetting in and out of the city. I worried that we weren't making a meaningful engagement with the place, didn't have time to understand the context in which we were performing. Matthew reminds me that these brief introductions can be the start of unexpectedly fruitful relationships and I'm sure that's the case - but I'd prefer to give more thought to helping those long term relations form.


I found this bog entry which suggested that there was more going on behind the scenes at MIFA than we realised at the time

Monday, 16 March 2009

Things I've been thinking about: Pick'n'Mix,

I've been at home for over a month and thinking about what it would be like to make more work here. I've started to think about being Artist in Residence in Waltham Forest, by which I mean, I've been starting to look at the Borough in which I live and see the stories and ideas that its people and places convey. Part of the reason for thinking about Waltham Forest in this way is to decrease the necessity for me to travel so much. And it's a good time to reflect on the possibilities here as the borough has the focus of Olympic development turned on it.

Meanwhile, the Council is developing a new arts strategy that should give some focus and may provide some resources for the arts in the borough. I've been trying to identify potential rehearsal spaces in Walthamstow (keeping wealth in the borough is how the council could think about it) but so far unsuccessfully. So Hackney's economy will profit from my work.

Out of this thinking about what could be done in Waltham Forest, an idea emerged. Some people mentioned the empty Woolworth's sites in the borough and I thought what fun it would be to programme an evening of performance events from Waltham Forest under the title of Pick'n'Mix. With choreographers like Kim Brandstrup and Tom Dale in the borough it could be an eclectic mix - and Matthew Bourne grew up here (and appropriately, I was a Liquorice Allsort in his version of the Nutcracker).

I'm chasing permission to use the Woolworths and wondering how to make it work, but I'm excited that we could make it happen and that the empty space could be full of unexpected dance and performance.