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DANCE RESEARCH PROGRAMME: Round 2 (May 2022)
In the second phase of Dance Consortia North West (DCNW)’s Research Programme, another seven dance artists, practitioners and organisations have been commissioned to re-imagine the region’s dance ecology, this time with a particular focus on creating new digital products and exploring how audiences experience dance.
These projects span various dance styles and practices, from Contemporary Dance to Bharatanatyam; with each commission focused on creating opportunities for North West dance artists and increasing audience engagement with dance locally, nationally, and internationally.
The commissioned artists and companies are: Josh Coates, Connor Elliman, Ludus Dance, Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI), Lucy Nicholson, Swati Dance Company and Rosie Watt.
Part of a two-year research programme, DCNW is supporting the North West’s dance sector to help artists and audiences adapt to life beyond Covid-19, reduce inequality in the sector and increase resilience by generating employment and sustainable business models. Two rounds of commissioning (to date) will engage more people dancing from more backgrounds in more dance styles. The commissioning panel for this round was made up of dance artists, and dance professionals: Leah Biddle, Sue Harrison, Shelley Owen, Chris Rodriquez, Josh Slater, Eckhard Thiemann.
About the Commissions
Josh Coates, a theatre maker, performance curator and producer based in Liverpool, will develop his digital project, etude, commissioning North West dance artists to create new work to share online. Partnering each artist with an international mentor, the works will be shared via the etude platform, reaching audiences who can’t access live theatre. International critics in residence will also share their thoughts and reflections alongside the work, allowing audiences insight into the creative process, whilst developing international relationships for the dance artists to tour work.
Connor Elliman will create a new work, Baggage, exploring the notion that queer people are often perceived as arriving with trauma or baggage, and the way in which this affects queer bodies entering public spaces. Bringing together LGBTQ+ artists working in the North West, the commission will investigate the process of making new work with those artists and introduce new audiences to contemporary dance at Chester Pride 2022.
Lancaster-based Ludus Dance will explore how the development of a digital platform in Lancashire can support the evolution of youth dance in the North West. Based on the annual Big Up North platform, which celebrates youth dance across the region, which has been delivered online this year, Ludus are evaluating how to best create remote engagement, and how to present youth dance online, both live and archival. The pandemic has shown to Ludus Dance how digital engagement can be a way to engage and share practice for artists and families to whom socio-economic, geographical and time constraints are barriers, the project aims to increase access to youth dance across the region.
Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI) will showcase work by emerging and early career dance artists, using new interactive platform technology. Asking how the use of technology and digital platforms can enhance audience experience, for example by allowing the artist to connect on a deeper level through conversations, MDI will support the 21 dance artists currently part of their Collective programme, to work with these technologies. The platform will support MDI’s aspiration to become a production house for supporting independent artists with digital innovation in dance.
Lucy Nicholson (dance artist) and Jonny Randall (filmmaker)’s Moving With is an intergenerational dance film, inspiring communities to connect with nature in Cumbria in a new and creative way. A celebration of simple things: being together, moving together, listening, and watching. Lucy and Jonny acknowledge the power and grace in playful movement – without challenge, target or adrenaline we love, appreciate, participate and experience our natural world. The film, featuring Lucy and her five-year-old son, accompanied by a programme of guided dance walks, hopes to introduce new audiences to dance, engage those who might not normally connect with their local landscape and promote critical conversations about the relationship we have to our environment.
Swati Dance Company, Lancashire, will use their commission to explore the landscape of South Asian dance in the North, raise the artform’s profile and to promote better integration and links within the sector. Collecting information from practitioners, venues and organisations across the region, Dr Swati Raut will collate this research to inform and contribute to the development of a national conference on South Asian dance, to be held in 2023. Alongside this, Shifting Seasons will be a series of commissions for four professional / semi-professional dance artists, to create new work inspired by this theme, for example, interrogating the climate crisis. These commissions will explore how South Asian dance practitioners can use traditional dance techniques to tell contemporary stories.
Rosie Watt is interested in discovering what the people of her hometown, Blackpool, want from the dance sector. Ranked as the most deprived lower-tier local authority in England, Blackpool’s local resources could provide better contemporary dance provision which benefit residents. Rosie will connection across the arts and voluntary sector and work directly with communities to discover what type of dance they enjoy and want to see more of, through consultations, coffee mornings, and dance/creative workshops. Her research will be published and shared with the sector, and ultimately create connections allowing artists to tour work in Blackpool, and for local artists to have increased opportunities to develop work.
Panelist Eckhard Thiemann (The Lowry) said: “The artists commissioned in this round inspired us with their openness to collaboration and experimentation. They consult with communities, invite other artists into the creative process, create new works and also invite other artists to shared platforms or to expand their digital capabilities. They uncover and develop new artists and audiences in the region.
“The Dance Consortia North West Research Programme throws a light on the artists and organisations working in the region and their commitment to create new ways and new works.”
The Research Programme is funded by Arts Council England National Lottery Funding