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‘ABOUT US’ Research and Development project, curated by Dance Research Studio. Choreographed and directed by Jacky Lansley with film artist Roswitha Chesher, Composer Sylvia Hallett, Dramaturg Ramsay Burt and Performers: Vincent Ebrahim, Ursula Early, Lucy Tuck, Esther Huss, Ingrid MacKinnon, Maria Ghoumrassi and Fergus Early. The first performance was on 2nd November 2016 at Siobhan Davies Studios.

…So this performance brings voices, genders, age and politics of the personal and the universal in to a space that is held and lifted with love. This is the type of activism and protest we need in this time of unrest.

-Audience feedback

Director’s Notes

As the initiating artist of this work I decided to use strategies evolved at DRS over the last fifteen years, which combine artistic practice with emotional and political awareness. More and more I have understood how the personal is political and how important it is to listen to each other’s stories. Talking to each other has become vital to the artistic process – and I encourage artists not to leave their personal ‘baggage’ at the door – but to bring it in!

As a starting point to the R&D I invited all the performing artists to bring a ‘story’ to the studio that was either joyful, distressing or mundane. We reminded ourselves how these categories of experience blur – there is obviously no single emotion in any story – nevertheless all were rich and distinctive. We then explored these shared experiences through a range of physical and vocal disciplines to evolve live performance material, some of which was then filmed by Roswitha Chesher in different locations. The oral telling of the stories was recorded by Sylvia Hallett, which she used as source material.

The title ABOUT US emerged post Brexit. I, like millions, felt frustrated about the divisive outcome of the EU referendum, which seemed, in part, the result of a lack of communication and story telling between different communities. As artists we can best contribute to these wider issues by doing our work well and being aware of what is going on ‘out there’. I felt the Crossing Paths project, as a whole, was at least attempting to break down barriers and that the resulting ABOUT US research was, perhaps, creating a useful model for exploring personal and political aboutness. As our dramaturg Ramsay Burt says: “Are we perhaps choreographing hope when we research new ways of making connections that are interdisciplinary and interpersonal, and that are about not closing down borders and not fearing differences?”

Further Resources

Film Extract from ABOUT US: Moustaches

Images and quotes: ABOUT US at Siobhan Davies Studio

Jacky Lansley-After Thoughts: after-thoughts

Ramsay Burt-The Reluctant Dramaturg: reluctantdramaturg

I was particularly impressed by the integration of ages, without having to underline the case. They were a wonderful mix of performers who were there for their skills, not because they ticked any boxes.
– Audience Response
I loved the aesthetic – minimalistic and clean lines – there were lots of cultural references – pop culture – but they were all subsumed in this overall ‘minimalism’, which worked for me.
- Audience Response
The space and close proximity with the performers was powerful and beautiful. This really excited me because it brings the audience and the performers together in a way where the performance becomes an active participation from all who are present.
- Audience Response
A central concern is the physicalisation of dramatic material, with experienced performers who have the knowledge of how to emotionally embody movement.
- Ramsay Burt
Several of the personal stories, while unique to the individual artists involved,
foregrounded the everyday choices we all make around loss, joy, anger, pleasure, fear; choices which may feel ‘free’ but are in fact often determined by our personal histories, the economic system and by societal expectations.
- Jacky Lansley

The next phase of work on the project will see us refining the ideas and material we have generated and taking them into the creation of a fully realised performance event, accompanying exhibition and learning programme. The final work will have built in flexibility and so be suitable for a variety of spaces; it will be available for touring from late spring 2017. For further information or to be placed on a mailing list to receive updated information on the project please contact Gwen Van Spijk on the following co-ordinates: / 01869 338458 or contact DRS: / 02076 130341

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