learning and engagement

Swan Lake curtain raiser is ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ for students

Our Learning & Engagement team and our Resident Company New Adventures worked with 18 students from our Associate Schools programme over two weeks this month to create a short piece inspired by Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake. Following intense rehearsals in our Studio A, the project culminated with the students premiering their new piece on our main stage before the company’s Swan Lake performance on 11 January.

Emily Massey, a student at City and Islington College, wrote about her experience taking part in the curtain raiser:

“When I first heard about the opportunity to audition for Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, I couldn’t contain my excitement. The thought of getting the chance to perform on a stage that thousands of amazing dancers have danced on was simply unbelievable. Come audition day, I was a bundle of nerves, yet once the audition started they all seemed to fade away. I was made to feel so comfortable and supported by the instructors and my fellow peers that the dreaded word, audition, no longer seemed so scary.

After rehearsals had started, that’s when the real fun began! I have personally always been taught that dance is about technique, but this experience has taught me that it is so much more than that. Dance is a combination of movement and storytelling, and throughout this adventure we were pushed to the limits not only to improve technically as dancers but to develop our characterisation. Trying to embody a swan is a lot harder than you would think, but we were given suggestions on several strategies to employ in order to be able to do that along the way, and lots of support. By far the most challenging, yet rewarding part of the curtain raiser was getting the chance to create our own swan motifs. We were pushed to think like swans, which is hard given we’re human, but with extra guidance, we all created swan-like movements that were incorporated in the dance

“The lessons I’ve learnt along the way from both dancers and choreographers will stay with me.” Hannah Rose

I also met some of the best people I will ever meet in my life and that’s thanks to this whole experience. Having come from four different schools, we originally started off quite separated, but within a day or so we all quickly became very close and supportive of each other; it was an amazing environment to be in.

“Having the chance to be part of such an amazing experience reminds me of why I love to dance and what I would like to achieve in the future.” Isis

Getting to dance on the Sadler’s Wells stage was incredible! I have never done anything like it in my life and will never forget it. It was like I was dreaming the whole thing because it was so great. The most amazing part was meeting the man behind it all, Matthew Bourne, who choreographed Swan Lake for his company New Adventures. I was in absolute awe, it was a totally surreal moment.

“We gained insight into how a professional company works.” Mia

Getting to meet the professional company before dancing was unreal. They are our idols, the people we are striving to be, and meeting them as well as dancing on the same stage as them was too good to be true. It was truly an unforgettable experience and I will cherish the memories of it forever, as well as hope that I get to do it again next year!”

“The curtain raiser was fantastic! I saw most of my students afterwards and they were really buzzing and so excited about the whole experience. Thank you for facilitating this project, it makes such a difference to the students’ whole approach to dance and its possibilities.” Siobhan White, dance teacher at City and Islington College

“Wow – what an evening! Our students are so inspirational and I’m sure I’m not alone in saying their performance was incredible. Blown away by their talent and performance abilities! Thank you so much – opportunities like these are second to none and your support has played a great part in helping our young dancers to find and enjoy their passion.” Gemma Anderson, dance teacher at Bow School

My first NYDC residency: I feel achy, accepted and privileged

National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), the UK’s leading incubator for young talent run by Sadler’s Wells, has started to rehearse its new piece, MADHEAD, under Botis Seva’s artistic guidance. The ensemble had their first residency at DanceEast in Ipswich in October. Among them is Harriet Musgrove, a 18-year-old dancer coming from Exmouth in Devon. Following the residency, she shared her thoughts on how it feels to be a NYDC dancer.

“Prior to the first residency, I felt a variety of emotions: I was anxious, excited, tense and also quite overwhelmed! I can remember walking through the doors of Sadler’s Wells and all the other 37 members of the company had already arrived. But everybody welcomed and put me at ease immediately – it was a great feeling!

We arrived at DanceEast in Ipswich after travelling from Sadler’s Wells and headed straight into the studio, where Botis Seva and his dancers Jordan and Joshua greeted us. We were thrown straight into the deep end with some challenging repertoire and some crazy improvisation tasks. Even after the first day of the residency, I felt incredibly inspired by the energy of Botis and his team.

NYDC first residency. Image: Manuel Vason

A typical day during an NYDC residency begins with a warm up led by members of the company followed by six hours of dance class with Botis and his team. Training was interspersed with breaks to re-energise and recharge our bodies. Our days would end with our Zen for Ten, which gave us time to reflect and write down anything we wanted to – an exercise I really appreciated. We also had something called Toolbox sessions, extremely insightful discussions led by the NYDC team each evening about auditions and applications for dance schools.

I left the first residency feeling very achy, yet accepted and privileged to be part of NYDC. My aim for the next residency is to absorb as much information as possible from Botis, and also learn from all the dancers around me. They all move so powerfully! I am so excited for the upcoming year and I can’t wait to see how the piece will turn out!”

MADHEAD will premiere at Dance East in Ipswich on 20 April 2019, followed by a nationwide tour and a final performance at Sadler’s Wells on 19 July 2019. 

Header Image: Manuel Vason

National Youth Dance Company announces new cohort

The National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) has started to work with 2018-19 Guest Artistic Director Botis Seva on a new piece titled MADHEAD.

Twenty-eight new members – 19 female and nine male – were selected through experience workshops held throughout the UK over the summer. They joined ten returning dancers from last year to form a company of 38.

Image: Manuel Vason

Far From The Norm Artistic Director Botis Seva will lead this new cohort. His appointment followed the world premiere of his recent highly acclaimed piece, BLKDOG, commissioned as part of Sadler’s Wells’ 20th anniversary’s triple bill, Reckonings (Oct 2018), which also included works from Julie Cunningham and Alexandra Seutin. Seva has also recently collaborated with filmmaker Billy Boyd Cape to produce Reach, a short film commissioned by Sadler’s Wells as part of Channel 4’s Random Acts series.

The company will premiere MADHEAD at Dance East in Ipswich on 20 April 2019, followed by a nationwide tour and a final performance at Sadler’s Wells in July 2019. The new commission will blend contemporary dance, physical theatre and hip hop.

Established in 2012 and run by Sadler’s Wells, NYDC is the UK’s flagship company for young dancers aged 15-24, bringing together and nurturing the brightest talent from across the country with the aim of shaping the future of dance.

NYDC’s dancers are mentored during four intensive residencies in school holidays to rehearse the new piece. Read here new member Harriet Musgrove’s personal reflection on the company’s first residency held at DanceEast in Ipswich in October.

What the NYDC programme offers to its young members is a unique insight into the dance profession and the invaluable opportunity to collaborate with professional dance artists and their creative teams. The year-long experience in the company has proved successful in providing dancers with the necessary skills and techniques to find career opportunities. Over 80% of NYDC alumni have either gone on to undertake further dance studies or work professionally at established dance companies such as Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, Cullberg Ballet, BalletBoyz and Rambert2.

Find out more about NYDC and its upcoming projects at https://nydc.org.uk/

The 28 new dancers for NYDC 2018/2019 are:

Selako Jade Ackuaku, Berkshire (17)
Harvey Burke – Hamilton, Epsom (17)
Kendra Chiagoro – Noel, Ealing (18)
Erin Dallas, East Grinstead (17)
Sekou Diaby, Brixton (17)
Karim Dime, Hampstead (23)
Maia Faulker, Brighton (16)
Sarah Golden, Horfield (17)
Mark Halton, Ambleside (16)
Orla Hardie, Bath (17)
Connor Humphreys, Thatcham (17)
Ethan Hurip, Brighton (16)
Kit Ibbott, Great Bington (18)
Hannah Joseph, Stratford (16)
Ewelina Kosinka, Ashford (18)
Florence Lennon, Brighton (17)
Amelia Long, Nunhead (17)
Sandra Maduoma, Kelvedon (17)
Faye McLoughlin, Montpellier (17)
Mathilde Mellor, Lewes (16)
Harriet Musgrove, Exmouth (18)
Zara Philips, Greasby (17)
Ned Ratcliffe, Helston (17)
Anna Smith, Lingfield (18)
Millie Smith-Hashim, Saltdean (16)
Mollie Stebbing, Erith (18)
Harry Wilson, Intake (17)
Grace Young, Hull (18)

This new intake joins the 10 returning NYDC dancers:

Gemma Baker, Wantage (17)
James Cooper, Blackpool (17)
Daisy Dancer, Hexham (17)
Lola Evans, Brighton (17)
James Hall, Cambridge (17)
Samara Langham, Nunhead (18)
Eleanor Roberts, Dartmouth (17)
Esme Tothill, Brighton (16)
Paul Davidson, West Dulwich (21)
Beth Gardiner, Wollaton (24)

Header Image: Manuel Vason

Life is a dream for over 60s joining Rambert on stage

Over-60 dancers took to our main stage for a workshop delivered by Rambert, to coincide with the company’s run of new production Two last week.

Group picture at Rambert’s workshop. Image: Emma Bellerby

Company dancer Joshua Barwick led the session, starting with a gentle contemporary dance warm-up. He then taught participants some steps from Rambert’s production Life is a Dream, the retelling of the 17th-Century play of the same name choreographed by two-time Olivier Award-winner Kim Brandstrup. At the end of the workshop, the group performed duets from the piece.

This event welcomed complete beginners and gave them the opportunity to explore performance techniques with professional dancers against the backdrop of our main auditorium.

Working in pairs to learn dance steps from Rambert. Image: Emma Bellerby

Participants warming up.  Image: Emma Bellerby

 

Participants felt enriched by the experience. “How wonderful this morning’s workshop was. I really loved it! Josh was a real inspiration and I appreciated his patience,” said Margot.

“I just want to say how much I enjoyed the Rambert workshop today,” added Norma. “It was so joyful and we had such a brilliant teacher.”

“I dreamed of running away to dance at Sadler’s Wells when I was a little girl, ” admitted Rosey, “and to have achieved that aim was thrilling. Even though it took 60 years, I got there!”
“I think the outreach Sadler’s Wells does is fantastic and long may it continue,” she concluded.

The workshop was supported by our Learning & Engagement team, as part of our ongoing work to connect our local communities with the work we present on our stages, and to bring dance to the widest possible audience.

A teachers’ workshop with Hofesh Shechter Company

Charlotte Conroy Legge teaches GCSE dance at Bohunt School in Liphook, Hampshire. She recently took part in a teachers’ workshop we delivered with the company of our Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter, who returned to our stage this month with his latest work Grand Finale. Here, Charlotte shares her thoughts about the experience.

“As a dance teacher in a secondary school, I was excited and intrigued to participate in the Hofesh Shechter dance teachers’ workshop at Sadler’s Wells in July. I didn’t know what to expect, but I was hoping to at least learn some repertoire from Hofesh’s latest piece Grand Finale. I have been teaching in schools for three years now and try and take any opportunity to improve my practice. This in turn helps me to inspire my students and have an impact on the future generation in dance – something I’m always aspiring to do. I looked upon this workshop as a chance to expand my knowledge and gain a better insight into Hofesh Shechter Company.

The workshop was run by Bruno Guilore, the company’s Associate Artistic Director, and Merel Lammers, a long-time dancer in the company. “The spine is a b****!” said Bruno as the class were improvising, attempting to move every muscle they could on all fours. The day started with a session based around how Hofesh Shechter Company dancers usually start their rehearsal. Hofesh works a lot with improvisation and this was what our first session was based around. As we went back to basics and really worked through the body, it reminded me of my training at university, back to a time when you really had to know your body. Reminiscent as it was, it prompted me to think about why I had chosen to pursue dance in the first place. As teachers, we often run out of time in our busy week to take classes for ourselves.

After our improvisation workshop, we were able to watch some of the company’s rehearsal. To our pleasant surprise, they were doing the exercise we had just finished in our first session. This was a nice touch and solidified the feeling we were really getting the full experience. Of course, the dancers were ‘nailing it’. I almost wished we could have watched them before our task, so I could have cheated – although I feel like Bruno was canny and would have known!

Back down to the studio, we got ready to learn some repertoire from Grand Finale. I’ve always enjoyed Hofesh’s style and embodying this was challenging but different. You could see the fatigue and sweat of the fellow teachers around you, but continued to push through. With its high energy and quick, dynamic changes, it was exhausting, but I felt like I was getting my money’s worth! Merel pushed us and really wanted us to keep the integrity of the movement – meaning that, although we were sweating buckets, we were still striving to improve. It wasn’t “here you go, here’s the repertoire, get on with it”; it was “if you’re leaving with this repertoire, it will be in your body and it will be performed how it should be”.

Having two company members take the sessions was fascinating, especially when they talked about the origin of the movement content and the way in which Hofesh works. Going back to primal ways of moving and creating organic, authentic movement came across vividly. Finding the groove and allowing the body to move instinctually was very much encouraged. At the end of the practical session, we took a much-needed breather and sat down. We were then shown the costumes from the show and had a Q&A session with the dancers. This was an opportunity for us all to listen to the first-hand experiences and interpretations from the company members. In another valuable part of the day, nothing was left unaddressed and we had plenty of time to get as much out of the session as what we had come for.

And it wasn’t over. After what seemed like a long but engaging day of moving and improvising, we took a break before arriving at the theatre. We were greeted by welcome drinks, when we were able to network and chat about what we had experienced so far. To top off what had already been an incredible day of learning, we got to enjoy a performance of Grand Finale. I couldn’t help but pick out the repertoire I had just learnt as I watched. What a wonderful way to bring the whole day together and come back around full circle. A truly immersive experience, which not only benefited me but will benefit my students.

The event was advertised as a teacher workshop in support of the new A-Level specification, but what I got out of the day was far greater.”

Inspiring Future Theatre Day: Over 400 Young Dancers Prepare to perform at Eden Project

On Inspiring Future Theatre Day, we’re excited to announce a performance by over 400 young dancers that will take place at Eden Project in Cornwall on 17 July, in collaboration with National Youth Dance Company and Dance Republic 2.

Space Time will see 41 of the most talented young dancers in England from the National Youth Dance Company travel to Cornwall to take part in this unique dance event, joining young dancers from 10 Cornwall schools and the ‘Propeller’ young dancers training programme.

Throughout the afternoon, the Eden Project’s Mediterranean Biome will host performances by the young dancers, specially created for the space.

Each dance group will explore a particular theme related to space or time, located across chosen sites at the Eden Project such as the Lime Steps, Spiral Garden and Avenue of the Senses, culminating in a spectacular finale with 450 young people dancing on and around the bridge near the Core Building.

The finale to the piece was choreographed by dancers and artists from National Youth Dance Company during a residency at Falmouth University in May, and is now being taught to primary school children all over Cornwall in preparation for the performance next month.

Elaine Foley, Projects Manager for Learning & Engagement at Sadler’s Wells, says: “The National Youth Dance Company residency at Falmouth University in May was brilliant. We loved meeting all the dancers from Propeller and were so impressed by all the material they learned in just two days. In the spirit of Inspiring Future Theatre Day, much of the choreography was taught by NYDC dancers themselves or generated in groups using improvisation. Everyone was open-minded, hard working, and brought loads of creative ideas to the session. It was a beautiful example of artistic practice driven by young people. We couldn’t be more thankful to Propeller and AMATA at Falmouth University for the opportunity to bring everyone together in this way. It’s going to be amazing seeing it all come together at Eden Project later this month!”

Space Time begins at 1pm on 17 July, with the finale at approximately 3.30pm.

There’s also a chance to see National Youth Dance Company on tour this summer with their latest work Used To Be Blonde choreographed by Guest Artistic Director Sharon Eyal. Upcoming performances include Latitude Festival on 14 July, AMATA Falmouth on 18 July and Brighton Dome on 20 July. Find out more here.

The Ageless Quality of Dance

Sadler’s Wells’ pioneering Company of Elders – whose dancers range from 60 to 89 years old – has been pushing the boundaries of dance for over 20 years. The dancers’ powerful performances in the UK and internationally have inspired similar companies to be created around the country, offering more and more people in later life a chance to dance. In this interview with The Elder, Sadler’s Wells’ Director of Learning and Engagement Joce Giles talks about the ageless quality of dance, the power of performance and the importance of challenging perceptions of what people can achieve and do in later life.

When and why was the Company of Elders set up?

The Company of Elders dates back to 1989. Back then, Sadler’s Wells started an arts club for older adults, and through that programme, workshops were held with visiting companies. Out of that, some ad hoc performances were organised for anyone in that group who was interested. That just snowballed, and by 1992 the Company of Elders was formed as a proper group.

The Company of Elders actually predates the current building at Sadler’s Wells, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, and really it’s at the heart of how the organisation has grown over the last three decades.

I’ve been in my role at Sadler’s Wells for just over a year and a half, but I had been aware of Company of Elders for many years before that. I have always worked in dance, and the company really captured people’s imagination in the dance sector. When its dancers first performed they were pioneers – nothing else existed like that. Now groups inspired by the company have sprung up around the UK and internationally.

Is the Company of Elders made up of former professional dancers?

There are no professional dancers in the group. They come from a range of different backgrounds; some may have danced when they were younger, and this is a chance to reconnect with that. For others, dance is something they have taken up since retiring. The age range is people over 60 – but within that, there are dancers in their late 80s.

At Sadler’s Wells, we want to present dance in all its different styles, and for that to be reflected in the work that we do with programmes such as Company of Elders. So along with contemporary choreographers, the dancers have worked with hip-hop choreographers and people who work in South Asian dance styles, for example – they are very versatile.

Is there anything different about dance in later life?

Obviously there are some physical considerations, but actually, we ask the choreographers to come in and give a true sense of their work – and not to hold back. Company members are always clear to say if anything needs to be adapted for them – they want to be challenged.

I think one of the main considerations though is communication; speaking up if people have difficulty hearing, repeating information and maybe taking a bit more time to go through the movements.

In dance, we are used to seeing young performers at the height of their physical capability – and that’s fantastic to witness. But I think there’s something that an older performer, non-professional or professional, brings to the stage, that only they can – and that has a different quality. The presence that they bring to the stage is something that audiences find very powerful.

Read the full interview on The Elder website.

Company of Elders perform in the Lilian Baylis Studio on Friday 6 July (sold out).

Photos: Company of Elders in rehearsal (c) Johan Persson

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.