I am currently working with Lucy Stevens (Actor, Opera Singer and Writer) developing and directing her wonderful new production, Kathleen Ferrier:Whattalife. Taken from diary entries and letters home, this one woman play with music tells the story of Kathleen Ferrier, a Lancashire lass turned national treasure. The narrative invites the audience to travel with Kathleen as she is launched on to the British and world opera scene. In turns comic and tragic, this beloved contralto icon shares the joys and her pain of her short but extraordinary life.
Throughout my involvement with this show, I have fallen in love with Kathleen, and Lucy’s amazing attention to detail makes my job of facilitator a breeze.
Keep an eye out for tour dates, and check out the website.
To be clear from the outset, I’m a Movement Director. I am not a Choreographer.
That is not to say that, if you needed a piece of 16th Century dance within a theatre production, I couldn’t do a whole shed load of research and come up with something appropriate and (although I say so myself ) pretty damn good. However, If you are working on a Dance piece I could do some dramaturgy work and maybe tinker, but the person you require is a choreographer.
I am regularly in awe of the grace and athleticism of dancers. Less so with the storytelling contained within dance generally. I am now preparing for an avalanche of abuse from folks who love dance and feel I’m just missing the nuance … or looking for the wrong stuff within it … That I’m blind or stupid or heartless.
To all that I counter … Maybe so.
From the vantage point of an interested fellow professional … someone who shares a similar but distinctly different skill-set … , to use an analogy which came to me while wandering in the countryside considering how to frame this blog, someone who understands the terrain but knows full well he wouldn’t last five minutes if he had to try and survive out there on his own … from there I know that I miss stuff, and I am happy to learn from anyone who will teach me. After all, every day is a school day.
Some years ago I had the opportunity to see a production of Swan Lake. I’d been to other productions of this ballet and enjoyed, to varying degrees, the staging and the fluidity of the performers.
This one however was a production choreographed by a guy called Mats Ek.
If you haven’t seen his work and you get the chance, do it.
His ability to find and transfer story through congruity and incongruity, through attraction and repulsion is breathtaking and speaks with a voice that is simultaneously wholly the dancers, wholly his own and wholly the audiences. I could go on.
Since then I have seen all I can of his stuff. It’s one of the very few things that make me think I’ve been wasting my time on all this other stuff I can do, when clearly I should have been …. Ah, but that way madness awaits.
This vid is not from that production. It is of some work by Hubbard Street Dance Chicago … But Mats choreographed it and … well, just watch it and see.
This video, produced by The Royal National Theatre, features Vanessa Ewan.
I had the pleasure of being guided by her as I formalised my own processes as a practitioner and completed my Masters Degree.
She is an extraordinary facilitator, allowing and encouraging the actor to explore and discover through that exploration strong and manifest character choices which they understand and own.
A consummate professional.
A few years ago, I got the opportunity to work on an opera … Although I am capable of carrying a tune … in a bucket … I’m not anything like the standard necessary to perform this level of art. My role was one of building and performing as part of the circus troop which is a large part of the story of Smetena’s The Bartered Bride.
It was a great experience and just hearing the orchestra tuning up was enough to make a physical warm-up almost redundant.
One of my favourite things was getting to see the Conductor physically draw the incredible score from the musicians. It was like he was dancing ever so slightly ahead of the wave. Spellbinding.
Years later I someone showed me this amazing footage of the great Leonard Bernstein conducting a reprise of the 4th movement of Haydn’s Symphony No 88 .
He knows and loves the musicians so well that he decided to conduct using his FACE (!)
It is an astounding chance to watch how expressive and profound the music is when lived by someone who truly knows it.