learning and engagement

Sadler’s Wells distills Elixir at Age on Stage

Sadler’s Wells’ Elixir festival will be among the examples of best practice in highlighting the contribution of older dancers to be presented at Age on Stage this summer.

Following successful editions in 2015 and 2017, Age on Stage – the brainchild of Swedish choreographer Charlotta Öfverholm – returns with a one-day festival of activities on 2 June in celebration of dancing at a mature age. Taking place at Dansens Hus in Stockholm, the event includes a documentary screening, performances by dancers over 45, talks and presentations.

Among the speakers is our Director of Learning & Engagement Joce Giles, who will discuss the Elixir festival at Sadler’s Wells. The festival, which we programmed for the first time in 2014, recognises the contribution to the art form made by older dancers and challenges assumptions about who can dance. By showcasing the richness and benefits of creativity in later life, it wants to promote discussion on the value of dancing at an older age, and to advocate for more work created and performed by older artists to be made and shared with wider audiences. It also hopes to encourage more older people to take up dancing as a way to be physically and mentally active.

Our commitment to this issue is longstanding. We have been running two initiatives aimed at engaging over-60s in dance at Sadler’s Wells for many years: the Lilian Baylis Arts Club and the Company of Elders. The Lilian Baylis Arts Club gives participants the opportunity to learn more about dance and our programme through weekly meetings with artists and performers, workshops and visits to shows. The Company of Elders, established in 1989, is the embodiment of the social and health benefits of dancing at 60+. The company has worked with internationally renowned choreographers and performed in prestigious venues across the UK and overseas, from the Houses of Parliament to the Venice Biennale.

The Elixir Festival was born as a natural continuation and expansion of our work with older dancers. Following the success of its first edition, we presented the festival again in 2017, with a successful four-day programme of performances, workshops and events.

Other speakers in attendance at Age on Stage will be Christopher Roman, former Associate Artistic Director of The Forsythe Company and Artistic Director of DANCE ON ENSEMBLE, who performed at Elixir last year; and Cecilia Ferm-Almqvist and Ninnie Andersson from Luleå Tekniska Universitet, who will present the results of their research on workshops for people aged 65+.

Dance artist Liz Aggiss will be performing excerpts of her show Slap and Tickle, while Charlotta Öfverholm will also give a special performance, in addition to hosting the mini-festival.

Age on Stage is part of Dance On, Pass On, Dream On (DOPODO); a European-wide partnership project devoted to challenging preconceived notions about age and promoting a model of sustainable career and audience participation that values older people on stage and, generally, in society. DOPODO involves nine dance organisations, including Sadler’s Wells, from eight European countries, and receives funding from Creative Europe, a European Union programme supporting the cultural sector. The Elixir Festivals in 2014 and 2017 were kindly supported by the Baring Foundation.

Dance Writes Sampled review: a diverse and life-affirming show

Sadler’s Wells has launched Dance Writes, a new initiative giving Islington residents the opportunity to experience dance performances and gain new skills by writing about what they have seen. Part of our community engagement programme Get into Dance, the pilot scheme is designed to help participants convey their thoughts and feelings about a performance, and to offer them a chance to learn or improve their writing skills and deepen their engagement with dance.

Dance Writes member Joanna Greatwich was at the opening night of Sadler’s Wells Sampled in February. Here is what she thought…

A heady new world awaited you as you entered Sadler’s Wells’ building for its annual Sampled festival. Samba beats and drums, feathered headdresses wafting above. Dancing and smiles all around. The random nature of the mosh pit’s movements and noisy teenagers. And music warming us all, with a booming 70s’ club feel.

Each piece was introduced by a video clip, featuring interviews with the artists to help you better understand the work and its context.

Nederlands Dans Theater 2 grabbed the stage with stop motion, sheer elastic tension. The dancers moved with precise lightening muscle blurring pristine shapes, their strength and control like a speeded up silent movie, all gesture and style. Wir sagen uns Dunkles then changed pace, deftly weaving in short, lyrical phrases. Finally, a masterly male dancer summed it all up, with a surprising touch of sadness. A dazzling, brave performance.

Mass Effect’s cheeky, smoothly stitched moves won us over. BBC Young Dancers Jodelle Douglas and Harry Barnes shared their youthful perception with sharp, quirky ‘look at this’ body sequences. They melted across the floor with sass and humour, shifting the mood up.

Winner of BBC Young Dancer 2017 Nafisah Baba gave us an insight into her fascinating inner life, as she showed layers of potential and playfulness in her creation Inescapable.

In Kin, a duet by Sadler’s Wells New Wave Associate Alexander Whitley, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Jenna Roberts curved sinewy gazelle limbs in flowing classical waves.

Jesús Carmona brought a pure flamenco blast of ‘duende’ (spirit) in sound and charismatic stage presence. He teased, sulked and stomped us all fully alive, from earth to sky.

An excerpt from Humanhood’s Zero   looked at gravity and the physical laws governing the universe through a spellbinding duet. The dancers played with imaginary molecular forces, spinning inside and around two bodies.

As a contrast, Zenaida Yanowsky shone in the high ballet purity of The Dying Swan, but I stopped short of tears.

Candoco’s pieces are often slow-burning  revelations. Dedicated to… was no exception. Its touching choreographic vocabulary and shapeshifting reminded me how contemporary dance is still evolving and broadening our view of how it is presented on stage.

Yeah Yellow’s barnstorming, assured and joyous Yeah Yellow Sunshine blended moves from a variety of hip hop disciplines, from popping to b-boying. It shook the theatre like pepper, with a sing along to ‘Let the Sunshine in’ and crackling moves one after the other. A fitting finale to a wonderful chocolate box of dance.

Our week with Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch

Cecil Rowe was among three members of the Company of Elders cast as extras by our International Associate Company Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch for their recent performances of Viktor on the Sadler’s Wells stage. Here, he reflects on their extraordinary week with the renowned company.

There are not many shows that come along that are actively looking to cast older gentlemen as extras, so when that show happens to be a Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch production like Viktor and is being staged at Sadler’s Wells, then the Company of Elders is not a bad place to start looking for such gents.

When the  invitation arrived to audition on Sunday afternoon the 4 February for a coveted walk-on role in Viktor, three men from the Company of Elders took up the invitation and were absolutely delighted to make it through. What an amazing week we have had!

The audition was hardly out of the way before rehearsals began, just hours later! We had to work fast, Opening Night would take place on the Thursday evening, just four days later. The elder extras were divided into two groups: those ostensibly invalided by a disaster of some kind, who would be carried across the back of the stage by the younger extras in what is known as ‘the chaos scene’, and those who would be dressed in white doctor’s coats, pretending to make their way over shifting ground with two planks of wood, using them as stepping stones.

Each came with its pros and cons. Being carried across the stage at speed, slung over the shoulder of a young man, might sound a doddle, but if you were picked up and carried off without having established a comfortable posture, it was no fun having a hard shoulder digging into your ribs for the entire journey. Those of us in the doctor’s white coats, had to keep low and try and balance on the two tricky planks of wood we used as stepping stones.  It was murder on the knees! And woe betide you if you got caught up in the traffic jam that would sometimes develop as you headed for the wings and the music cue to exit caught up with you.

Our favourite scene by far was in the second act, when all the older gents gather around a table to quaff some wine and play cards while some of the women in the company grab hold of rings hanging from the flies and swing back and forth out into the auditorium, their heels not far from our heads as they swing back over the stage.  The wine was real and very drinkable and the card games totally fictitious but great fun.

We all, also, just before interval, had the opportunity to waltz briefly with a member of the company. That was pure magic! At the end of each performance, what a thrill too, to take a curtain call on the main stage at Sadler’s Wells, hand in hand with members of Tantztheater Wuppertal! For all three of us, I think, a huge honour to share the stage, if only for a few minutes, with them.

All in all, a week etched in our memories and one we will treasure and never forget.

“To work with the company was truly amazing, the work ethic of them all is awe-inspiring and they are all so friendly. And to stand on the Sadler’s Wells stage at the end and be part of the company receiving the audience’s appreciation was just wonderful. It is an experience I shall not forget, especially the chaos section!” Christopher Dunham

 

Image: (L to R) Company of Elders members Cecil Rowe, Christopher Dunham and Damien Murphy.

East London Pupils Take Part in Rambert Dance Workshop

Dance company Rambert enthused pupils from an east London school with a workshop held on Sadler’s Wells main stage during the run of its production A Linha Curva & Other Works.

In November, a class of 11 year-10 students from Bow School in Tower Hamlets worked with Laura Harvey, Artistic Director of Rambert’s youth dance company Quicksilver, to learn and perform an extract of A Linha Curva, one of the iconic works in the company’s repertoire. Choreographed by Itzik Galili, the piece was inspired by the Brazilian carnival and is part of the GCSE Dance syllabus.

The pupils had been learning sequences of the work in class since the beginning of the month. Working on a stage for the first time at Sadler’s Wells gave them the opportunity to learn more about performance and projection techniques, and to experience the professional environment the Rambert dancers perform the piece in. After the workshop, the young participants enjoyed the matinee performance of the show.

The students will now use sections from the extract they have learnt as part of a group project, which they will present in examinations for their GCSE Dance qualification.

Bow School is the first Associate School Sadler’s Wells has appointed in east London. This forms part of the Learning & Engagement work that we are developing with young people and communities in the area, ahead of the opening of our new venue as part of a new cultural and education district in Stratford’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Pupils explore solar system through dance

Following the successful premiere of his latest work 8 Minutes on our stage in the summer, Sadler’s Wells’ New Wave Associate Alexander Whitley has worked with Islington pupils to engage them creatively with the science curriculum through dance.

Alexander was inspired by solar science research to create 8 Minutes, a full-length piece combining dance, music and film to investigate concepts such as gravity, orbiting and magnetism through movement. Supported by our Learning and Engagement team, his eponymous dance company devised workshops to be delivered alongside the stage production.

In October, the company spent a week at the Gillespie School in Islington, one of Sadler’s Wells’ associate schools, working with a class of year-5 students to explore the similarities between artistic and scientific processes and using each of them to shed light on the other. The aim was to introduce the children to often abstract and complex scientific concepts by illustrating them through the medium of dance.

The participating class worked with two professional dancers from Alexander Whitley Dance Company, as well as a scientist and a choreographer, to explore solar science and specifically the themes of planets, scale, magnets and orbits through choreography. At the end of the week, the students presented their work to the whole school.

In November, the class performed in our Lilian Baylis Studio to an audience including parents, patrons of Sadler’s Wells and our Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding. Alongside the students’ performances, the evening included a speech from Alexander Whitley about the project, a Q&A with Alexander and the students, and the performance of a short excerpt of 8 Minutes.

We were proud to support this project and work closely with Alexander to encourage primary school students within our local community to approach their science curriculum in a creative way, and to emphasise the role of dance in inspiring curiosity, imagination and knowledge in young people.

Images by Stephen Wright

Sadler’s Wells participates in Japan conference on how art benefits the elderly

Sadler’s Wells staff and members of our Company of Elders discussed how the arts benefit the over 60s at an international conference in Japan in September. The four-day World Gold Theater Kickoff symposium at the Saitama Arts Theater featured workshops and panel discussions with performers and speakers from Japan and the UK, who shared programming and best practice, as well as exploring the role of ageing communities in the arts. Besides Sadler’s Wells, other UK organisations in attendance included London’s performing arts centre the Albany and Entelechy Arts, a participatory arts company working with older people from diverse communities.

Our Director of Learning and Engagement Joce Giles, Lucy Clarke-Bishop, Projects Producer in the Learning and Engagement team, three members of our Company of Elders – Betsy Field, Chris Havell and Catriona Maccoll – and the company’s rehearsal director Simona Scotto gave a presentation on Sadler’s Wells’ over-60s programme. They shared an overview of our work with the Company of Elders, our outreach activities, including the Silver Routes community group, and the Elixir Festival, which celebrates lifelong creativity and the achievements of older dance artists. Joce also took part in a panel discussion alongside David Slater, director of Entelechy Arts, which was chaired by Yoshiyuki Oshita, chief director of the Center For Arts Policy and Management for Mitsubishi UFJ Research and Consulting. The debate looked at how theatres’ future programmes could focus on creative opportunities for elderly people.

Simona led a Company of Elders’ taster session and three introductory dance workshops designed for the local over-60 community in Saitama. There were 20-30 participants in each workshop, who were given the chance to learn introductory dance skills and some of the Company of Elders repertoire.

Sadler’s Wells’ relationship with Saitama Arts Theater is a long-term one, centred on a shared vision of connecting older audiences with dance. The Japanese theatre’s late artistic director, Yukio Ninagawa, founded Saitama Gold Theater, an over-55 theatre company that has been performing and touring internationally since its inception in 2006. Saitama Arts Theater has also been involved in ambitious community engagement: in 2016 it delivered the 10,000 Gold Theater project, which saw 1,600 professional and non-professional performers over 60 from the local community perform a new production at Saitama Super Arena.

We were thrilled to be able to discuss how arts and culture can contribute to elderly people’s mental and physical wellbeing with international colleagues. We look forward to continuing our work with the Saitama Arts Theater and other like-minded organisations to support and promote lifelong creativity worldwide.

To find out more about Company of Elders, visit the website

Community dance group and NYDC alumni create piece inspired by Lyon Opera Ballet show

If you are coming to see Trois Grandes Fugues by Lyon Opera Ballet at Sadler’s Wells on 20 October, make sure to arrive early to catch a special performance by community dance group Silver Routes and alumni of National Youth Dance Company.

Silver Routes meet weekly at the St Luke’s Centre in Islington and are part of Sadler’s Wells’ outreach programme for over 60s, while NYDC is one of the artist development programmes we run to nurture the next generation of talent. Both projects are part of our Learning and Engagement work, which aims to make dance accessible to all and to inspire new and existing audiences, young people and communities by connecting them with dance and our programme.

The curtain raiser ahead of Trois Grandes Fugues sees 21 dancers from Silver Routes and alumni of NYDC collaborate on a thought-provoking piece inspired by the Lyon Opera Ballet production. Similarly to the three pieces in the programme, it responds to Beethoven’s Grande Fugue op.133. The work has been choreographed by Catarina Carvalho, a former dancer with Company Wayne McGregor.

This is a joint initiative between Sadler’s Wells and Dance Umbrella, an international dance festival celebrating 21st-Century choreography by presenting dance across the capital, including the performances of Trois Grandes Fugues on our stage.

The intergenerational project aims to bring together dancers of different backgrounds to create work in response to our artistic programme. There are two opportunities to watch this piece, at 6:45 and 7pm on the Mezzanine level, before the Lyon Opera Ballet show begins.

We hope you enjoy it!

Over 60s enjoy Caribbean inspired social at Sadler’s Wells

Our Lilian Baylis Arts Club (LBAC) helps those over 60 connect with the arts and our Sadler’s Wells programme. Participants have the chance to hear talks from dancers, choreographers, designers and singers and to take part in workshops. Over the summer, members of the club enjoyed activities such as a trip to the Islington Museum to see the Sadler’s Wells archive, and heard a talk by Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding about the Autumn 2017 programme.

In partnership with All Change, a charity which delivers innovative arts projects that bring together artists and communities in north London and beyond, LBAC threw a special Caribbean-inspired Rub-a-dub social celebrating the end of the summer term. ‘Rub-a-dub’ is a style of reggae developed in the late 1970s preceding dancehall.

The event included a dance workshop by Candoco, a dance company comprised of disabled and non-disabled dancers with a focus on rethinking what dance is and who can dance. Candoco has been working with residents of The Mildmay Extra Care Centre and they were joined at the workshop by Hackney Elders Group, the Holloway neighbourhood group and the African and Caribbean Senior Citizens organisation at Mildmay Community Partnership.

Donald Edwards, Co-Founder of Phoenix Dance company and RJC Dance Theatre, ran a workshop engaging participants with rock’n’roll, calypso, reggae and ska dance.

Tony Nwachukwu, member of the trip-hop band and production outfit Attica Blues, provided the music whilst the members took over the dancefloor to show off some of their best moves. There was also a delicious rum cake, baked in the Sadler’s Wells kitchen, for everyone to enjoy!

The event was a fantastic send off after a packed summer term for the club, and we’re looking forward to welcoming everyone back for the autumn term!

 Find out more about how to get involved in our Lilian Baylis Art Club here.

 

Images: Lauren Matthews for All Change