Get Creative

“When you free your mind, that’s when creativity happens”: Sadler’s Wells Gets Creative with Clara Andermatt

Get Creative is a major annual celebration of the nation’s arts, culture and creativity, highlighting the central role that creativity plays in people’s lives. From 11 to 19 May, Get Creative invites the entire nation to get involved and share its creative talents.

We are passionate about the power of creativity and believe it offers something special for everyone. For the fifth year in a row, we will be taking part in the Get Creative festivities with two dance workshops on 13 and 17 May: one for over 60s and another for young children aged 2-4 and their carers.

Ahead of this, we speak to Clara Andermatt, renowned Portuguese dancer and choreographer, who will lead the first workshop alongside our over-60 resident company, the inspirational Company of Elders.

What does creativity mean to you? Why is it important?

Creativity to me is when you are able to transform somehow, to transform reality. I think everyone has the capacity to be creative. Creativity depends on imaginative minds, the ability to materialise and realise creativity in a personal and unique way. Sometimes you are more creative in your head than whatever you are trying to show in your materialisation, because the mind is so immense. I also feel that creativity never ends. There’s this sense of constant possibilities, and I think everything can feed this creativity. It really depends on the way you look at things.

Clara Andermatt. Image: Ines D’orey

How does dance help you to express, experience and explore this creativity?

I think dance has the capacity to open up channels in your body and in your mind. I have a phrase that I say a lot to my students: “The more you can free your body, you free your mind, and when you free your mind, that’s when creativity happens.”

It’s an amazing and beautiful thing, to dance, to move. When you move, you don’t need to think about anything. It’s also something you can use to get more in touch with yourself. And you don’t need to make it beautiful – you can move and it can be ugly but it’s so wonderful to yourself!

It’s also really a physical thing – you make all your systems and metabolism dance also. That is so important for your creativity. You are able to open and relax, and when your mind relaxes your creativity can flow. Your body expands, your creativity expands. As Merce Cunningham said: “When we dance, we feel alive.”

Clara Andermatt. Image: Ines D’orey

How valuable are the arts?

Art has the capacity to transform people, and to make them think and feel. When you watch or experience some form of art, you also become that thing somehow. You experience it in your mind and on your body, even if it’s just through observation. It’s fascinating really and I believe it’s been proven. Art enables you to discover yourself, to get closer to your own thoughts and feelings. It opens up many questions, and questioning things is really a way of getting to know yourself and discovering things about life. The more you know yourself, the more you can participate in the world around you. You can be part of the whole. There’s a lot to do in life, and I like to participate.

The arts are different from science and mathematics. There is no right or wrong. It’s something that can expand your own being and the way you express yourself. The more you discover in your interior, the more you can then exteriorise it. The arts have this amazing power to be able to do that.

In your opinion, do the arts offer something to people from all walks of life?

Absolutely – from all ages and all bodies. My work has a lot to do with that. We all have unique bodies. It’s the expression of this singularity, of each person and each body, which makes up the full potential of the performance and of the world. Otherwise we’re all the same, we all do the same, and that’s so narrow. What is beautiful is to showcase the many expressions of different bodies and personalities with different qualities. Different forms and deforms. The importance lies in mixing it all. We learn so much from experiencing and by watching and seeing. It’s important for us and it’s important for others.

Company of Elders. Image: Ellie Kurttz

Your career as a world-renowned dancer and choreographer spans over 30 years. What are the key ingredients for a long creative career spent doing what you love?

There’s no secret (laughs). When we have secrets, we don’t profit from them – the more you share, the more you gain! I would say my key ingredients are the passion and the love. My dad used to say that love is attention and dedication and the older I get, the more I understand this. So if you love something that you do you, put that energy there. The energy is precisely that attention and dedication you give, as well as the time you spend on it.

Clara Andermatt. Image: ACCCA – Companhia Clara Andermatt

Of course I can’t put luck aside. Luck is also something that life presents to you. It’s up to you to grab it, you know. And I jumped into life from my mother’s womb straight to a dance studio! There was no question about it. In a way, the questions only appeared later. Dance was something I always loved to do.

It’s also important to live in the present, to be fed by the present. That and the energy that other people give me keeps me going. I’m much more of a collaborative than a closed person. That’s where you really generate creativity. There’s no secret really – I just like to feel the intensity of life, to be in the world and not of the world.

Clara Andermatt (left) and Mickaella Dantas in collaborative dance project ‘A Educação da Desordem’ in 2018. Image: Alípio Padilha

What words of advice or wisdom can you offer to first-timers considering attending our open session for over 60s?

Again, as Merce Cunningham said: “The only way to do it is to do it,” (laughs) so if you are willing to experience something new, just come and have the experience. I think experiencing new things in life is a sign of being alive, of being curious about things. Of course it takes courage, but when you take that step you continue wanting to discover yourself, to keep transforming yourself and the things around you.

I also think it’s a very strong and powerful experience to actually be in a class with other people that are moving, and you are communicating and sharing things with your body. You don’t have to talk. There’s a kind of language you are using to communicate with yourself and the others.

Clara Andermatt. Image: Estelle Valente

There’s a first time for everything, and it’s important not to take things too seriously, to feel uncomfortable sometimes. Maybe you won’t like it, but maybe it will just connect with you and suddenly it may change everything. You have to be willing to continue finding different connections in life. Maybe it’s not dance, but you’ll never know until you try!

You can find out more about Clara’s work and keep up with her company via Facebook and Instagram.

The Company of Elders will perform a mixed bill of exciting works in the Lilian Baylis Studio on the 14 June. The evening will see a revival of Natural, a piece combining text and dance created by Clara for the company in 2005. For more information and to book tickets, click here.

Get Creative is led by BBC ARTS and What Next?, in collaboration with various arts, cultural and voluntary organisations across the UK. For more information about the campaign, and how we are getting involved, click here.

Over 60s Get Creative with dance workshop

A group of over 60s enjoyed learning new dance moves at Sadler’s Wells as part of the Get Creative Festival 2018.

Motionhouse Rehearsal Director Junior Cunningham led a free workshop in the theatre’s Rosebery room as part of the nationwide celebration of art and creativity. Thirty people joined him to try out some moves inspired by Charge, the company’s latest production currently showing at The Peacock, Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue. After warming up and contact improvisation exercises, participants learned a dance sequence that was then performed to music. You can watch a clip of them in action here

Motionhouse create and tour a wide range of inspiring and powerful dance-circus productions to theatres and festivals in the UK and across the globe. The company’s distinctive, highly physical style integrates elements of circus and acrobatics with breath-taking dance and digital imagery to surprise and delight audiences.

Originally from Birmingham, Junior was encouraged to study contemporary dance by his sister when he was 17. He joined the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 1999 and graduated in 2002 with a BPA (Hons) Degree in Contemporary Dance. Soon afterwards, he joined Motionhouse as an apprentice, before becoming a full-time member of the company the following year. He has since performed in a number of Motionhouse productions, including Broken and Scattered, which we presented at The Peacock in 2016 and 2017, respectively.

Sadler’s Wells also presented a performance of Motionhouse’s Captive – a blend of dance, acrobatics and aerial work set inside a large cage – as part of the Big Lunch in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June 2016. The family-friendly day attracted over 8,000 people.

Taking place between 17 and 25 March, the Get Creative Festival encourages people to try their hand at something new and creative. The annual festival is a merger of the previous Get Creative Weekend and Voluntary Arts Festival – now joined together to make one huge nationwide event.

Get Creative Festival is brought to you by arts and creative organisations and individuals across the UK and is supported by 64 Million Artists, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, the BBC, Crafts Council, Creative People and Places, Creative Scotland, Family Arts Campaign, Fun Palaces, Voluntary Arts, and the What Next? movement.

 

National Youth Dance Company celebrates Get Creative Day at Sadler’s Wells

On 2 April, hundreds of arts and cultural organisations in the UK marked Get Creative Day. Part of the BBC’s Get Creative campaign, the event celebrated and encouraged participation in arts, culture and creativity across the country. At Sadler’s Wells, National Youth Dance Company members invited people to join them in the foyer for a group improvisation. Audiences, many of them children and young people, danced along or simply travelled with the dancers as they performed throughout the building. A measure of the success of the day was the transition of some visitors from shy spectators to enthusiastic participants – from entering the building, in the space of less than half an hour they were jumping, crawling, clapping and moving with the 40 NYDC dancers.

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The company also offered the public the opportunity to learn a sequence inspired by its new work In – Nocentes, created by leading choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan, which had its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells on 7 April. NYDC is jointly funded by Arts Council England and the Department for Education from the National Lottery and Grant in Aids funds.

 

Images: National Youth Dance Company dancers lead the group improvisation at Sadler’s Wells.

Sadler’s Wells’ debate highlights benefits of dance

dance shaped their paths and how it can play a hugely beneficial role in society at all levels.

Carlos Acosta expressed his concern over costs associated with dance classes, which cause children of families unable to afford these to miss out on exposure to dance, and the skills of those having real talent not being recognised, nurtured and given the opportunity to thrive. He called on the UK government to provide the support necessary to guarantee access and exposure to dance to every child.

Jonzi D highlighted the ability of dance to unify and empower young people. He cited the invaluable role of hip hop culture in enabling youth to express their personality and emotions, in fostering a sense of community and in alleviating violence and facilitating conflict resolution, as battles serve as a mean to settle disputes.

Seeta Patel emphasised dance’s positive contribution to physical and mental well-being. She said her training in the in the classical dance form of Bharatanatyam had taught her the value of discipline and rigour, qualities needed not just to become a professional dance artist, but to be able to face life’s challenges. She stressed how the wide spectrum of dance styles available for people to enjoy and participate in – particularly in today’s globalised, digital-savvy and multicultural society – means everyone can try different styles and find the one more suited to their needs. She encouraged audiences to engage with dance with an open mind, suggesting performances can be experienced and trigger emotional responses, without necessarily being understood immediately in all their nuances.

Kenneth Tharp echoed Carlos Acosta’s comments in pointing out how schools are often the only vehicle for children from less wealthy backgrounds to encounter the arts and art education, and how dance’s absence as a subject in its own right in schools means some children aren’t able to access it at all. He credited dance with providing individuals with many of the soft skills employers are increasingly seeking in job candidates, particularly self-awareness, confidence and empathy. He noted how dance is intrinsic to human nature, as people interpret body language every day, inferring the feelings, mood and character of others from the way they move.

Pam Zinkin described how she found fulfilment in dancing with the Company of Elders, Sadler’s Wells’ resident over-60s company. She said she felt lucky to have been enjoying the opportunity to learn different dance styles, work with renowned choreographers and perform on theatrical stages in the UK and overseas, as this was not only keeping her active, but also feeding her imagination. From feeling “invisible” as a retired woman, rehearsing and performing with the company would transform her into someone creative, a dancer. She also explained how, by virtue of dancing together for many years, other company members had now become close and cherished friends.

The speakers were joined by a lively audience, who shared their views on dance’s benefits during a stimulating Q&A session following the talk. BBC London’s report on the event is available here

What has dance done for you? Share your story at #bbcgetcreative #whydancematters

Photo: Lucy White