Last month I was warmly welcomed into my new city of Edinburgh (woohoo!) and was selected to take part in a week-long residency with the seminal artist, Lindsay Kemp and his wonderful company dancer, Daniela Maccari.
Lindsay’s fascinating career as an actor, choreographer, mime artist and dancer seen him influence artists such as David Bowie, Kate Bush, Peter Gabriel and Mia Farrow and despite still regularly performing in his home of Italy, Lindsay has barely worked in the UK for the past 15 years. This was, therefore, a very unique opportunity to work with such a pioneering artist.
Along with ten other Scotland based dance artists, we spent the week training, learning and developing choreographies and rehearsing in preparation for the end of week Showcase at Dance Base as part of Illuminate Festival.
Whilst staging, orders of choreographies and timings would often change from one hour to the next, Lindsay’s absolute dedication was to release our presence as performers and push us to commit every part of our being to the performance. Every minute detail of our rehearsal was interrogated and the stage was referred to as “holy ground”. A simple raise of our arm was invested in, celebrated as joy of movement and our interaction with each other and the audience was taught to be at once completely devoted and genuine.
This training throughout the week made the sold out Showcase an electric and emotional space for me, particularly as I have not performed in a theatre environment for over five years. Lindsay and Daniela’s teachings were at times difficult to feel connected with in the studio, yet with an audience, it all made complete sense.
It was a true honour to have worked with such a legend and this experience has absolutely encouraged me to return to live performance more often and become a better seducer, hypnotist, hero and light-giver…
I ended the summer on a high last Friday, wrapping up the final day of leading a 2-week dance film project at the prestigious Roundhouse.
The project targeted young people aged 14-19 years old with experience or an interest in music, film, movement or spoken word/poetry, focusing on skills development in their art form, collaboration and creation of a dance film (two to be precise!).
Our process was driven by ideas taken from the mesmerising immersive installation +/- Human by Wayne McGregor and Random International, which we visited on the first day. Supported by a brilliant team of artist tutor’s, the group started building creative responses based on key themes such as:
It was an intense and exciting two weeks leading the young people, as they challenged themselves to understand the nature of experimental film production and as they got to grips with modes of collaboration to create work which truly embodies a synthesis of art forms.
The group got to share their experiences and final films The Real Aliens Are Us & Spectrum with a jam-packed audience in the Summer Show, which also acted as a celebration of the two weeks and a farewell to the incredible young people and artist team. Whilst the final product of this project was not our focus, the films the young people produced exceeded my expectations – they are incredibly avant-garde, creative and considered pieces of work that capture both innocence and skill in dance filmmaking.
It was an honour to have worked at a venue such as the Roundhouse, particularly to share my love for dance film and eagerness to engage young people further in it’s creation!
After a blissful 4-month long break from all things work-related in Southeast Asia, I returned to London in June and amongst other projects, began working with my beautiful dancers from Diverse Dance for their performance at the Lambeth Country Show, which also acted as my final day with the organisation.
Diverse Dance is an inclusive community dance organisation which I have had the pleasure of co-directing since September 2013. In collaboration with Andrea Swainson (Founder & Director) we have developed and strengthened the organisation’s remit considerably over the past two years, offering regular activity for mainstream young people and weekly classes for young people and adults with learning disabilities/difficulties.
I have choreographed and facilitated integrated performances for Diverse dancers at the Southbank Centre, LOST Theatre, Big Dance (Routes to the River/Siobhan Davies Studios) and Big Dance Bus (commissioned by Big Dance Nine Elms Vauxhall Partnership). Andrea and I have also worked to support other local artists and teachers in their professional development by the creation and delivery of Inclusive Dance Practice Training at Studio b. in Brixton.
With exciting plans for my near future taking place I am sad to say goodbye, but will cherish the memories all of the dancers, projects, partners and performances leave me with and wish the very best of luck for Diverse Dance’s bright future.
During an epically busy November and December, I was asked to design and deliver a 5-week dance programme at the incredible Dragon Cafe in Borough. The Dragon Cafe is a weekly space that is open to all, offering a range of creative and wellbeing activities with a focus on mental health and recovery.
My sessions were attended by a variety of participants ranging from 17 – 85 years old, from all walks of life, some who couldn’t wait to show me their skills and others who said they hadn’t danced in over 20 years. One regular participant who blew me away with her resilience and determination was Jacqueline. Just like her smile, with each week Jacqueline’s confidence, awareness and mobility grew and she became a sweet reminder of the broader significance of community dance and a personal reminder as to why I work in this field.
Jacqueline wished to give me this testimonial, but not before capturing her photo!
“First I want to say that I have Parkinsons and have had multiple strokes. It gets me down and fed-up. Sometimes when you’re ill and you have a family, they just see you as someone to look after, but Natalia made me feel that I am part of society again. Since I started dancing in her sessions I feel so much more relaxed and it’s dramatically helping my balance. I just started taking only one tablet a week, it used to be four and I think that’s because of dance. In the first class I was nervous that no-one would want to dance with me, but Natalia made me and everyone else here feel so welcome and she created a community on this little dance floor.”