Reflections from Mothers and Daughters: Painting the Canvas Together

Ayesha and her daughter Naya (6years) and Tonya and her daughters Dara (9years) and Mira (6years) have recently come to the end of the first phase of ‘Painting the Canvas’, a project, in its initial stages, developed via a Zoom collaboration with Maria Svensson. They concluded the 4 week intensive research period with a performance-in-progress at Echo Echo’s Studios for a small ‘live’ audience of family and friends, and a wider zoom audience.

We got a chance to chat to the children and find out more about the project:

“It’s all about painting with parts of your body as if they are tips of a paintbrush, with different colours” exclaims Dara. Naya nods “Yes! we are painting the space with different body parts”

“In the beginning we were in a circle and one person was dancing with no crayons, just painting the canvas and then passing the ‘Hey’ to the next person” says Mira. Dara continues “Basically just dancing across the circle, but when you are dancing you imagine that you are drawing something in the air, but not like a house or anything, more squiggles, imagining that every part of your body is leaving a trace.”

“You can dance with your hands, you can dance with your feet, you can dance with your head, or even your bum, with your eyes and your nose, your mouth and your tongue – anything!” Laughs Naya.

How does it make you feel?

“Excited!” Naya shouts.

“A bit like we are in a different world, a colouring world, an imaginative, calm but exciting world” says Mira.

“Like you are drawing your own world in your own little place” says Dara “In your own little gingerbread house” adds Naya.

How do you think the piece changed over time?

“Now we are actually drawing whilst dancing, your limbs are dancing and you have a crayon in one hand and when you go down low, it makes a mark on the canvas” says Dara “Its like click and then you know it, you know everything” says Mira. “If you do a swirly thing, you could turn it into a snail or a firework!” exclaims Naya.

What did you think about the process and all the technicalities of making a piece?

“I was quite surprised at how many changes were made. We’d decided something and then it was like, actually this part should be completely different and I was like …ok…..we’ve only got a day left!” Says Dara.

“and its going to be really weird if you just get used to one bit, and then it gets changed into a completely different thing!” adds Mira.

What is it like working with your Mums?

“I think we are really lucky to be able to work with our Mums” says Dara “Very lucky” adds Naya “as most people don’t even get to work with their Mums” exclaims Mira.

How has it been working on Zoom with Maria ?

“Great!” They all shout

Dara continues “Maria is a very good watcher and listener, she is good at understanding the movement and emotions that people put into movement”

How are you feeling about showing your work to a few people?

“Excited and nervous all jumbled up” says Mira.

“I always like to have little performances that i’m in, I love doing performances it feels really great” Dara smiles.

”I think I feel nervous and a little bit excited” adds Naya.

Now we turn to the Mums!

We asked Ayesha to tell us her interpretation of the piece

“The idea is that the mover is leaving a trace, painting the space with movement whilst thinking about colours and the energies and textures the colours can have.”

What has it been like working with your daughters in this professional capacity?

“This project has been a gift and a surprise coming out of lockdown. It’s been great but also very challenging as you play the part of mum, instructor and colleague. Because of how we make work, the girls have been very much part of the creative process. They are holding the work, alongside us.” says Ayesha.

Tonya added “I realised that my mind goes into two different states. On one level I am thinking ‘What can we try? how should we play – what can we discover?’ – This is the playful experimental part of the process. The other side of me is like the mother ‘How do I keep their focus? are they in a bad mood today? are they hungry?’ It is double the mental work! But because we are their parents I feel like we can ask for more things, be more direct with them as we know each other so well – and they know the way Echo Echo works, so in that way they are quite advanced. On the first day I was quite nervous as I thought they would think – oh it’s just Mummy, and they wouldn’t play ball, but instead they were really, really on it! – so I was very impressed. I think because it is two adults leading them, myself and Ayesha, it gives them the feel that this is not just like being at home with mummy – there is another person to help bring their focus about.”

We asked Ayesha what she felt about working virtually with Maria?

“I kind of felt, well at least we have zoom!! It would have been much better if Maria had been in the space with us, but it was a way of her being able to observe, check in, talk to us. We have a really good working relationship with Maria, we were able to bounce backwards and forwards workshopping ideas with not too much bother – we are all on the same wave length.”

What are your thoughts about the process over time?

“We had to go through different phases of the project. Firstly the practicalities and researching the right materials to use, in terms of the canvas and the paint and cleaning products. This was a bit tedious for the kids – they kept asking ‘when are we going to dance?'” laughs Ayesha “We came across many problems getting the right materials, we still need to do a lot of research in this area” Tonya added.

“Then we got the kids into the studio and we had to remind them of the basics like movement, phrasing, clarity, focus and how we connect through movement. They hadn’t been in the studio or in a kids class for 18 months and this is a long time especially for someone who is 6 years old! But they remembered so quickly – you just had to remind them once and they were alright. So we initially tried lots of ideas and then returned to a few of them. They don’t have any issues making sense of movement. They are just so quick and natural which is great.” Tonya said.

“We now have a loose structure for the piece – but that’s far from the final version. We have many, many elements that we would like to bring into it. For example audience participation and engagement. There are different possibilities here; it could become a piece that the audience are invited into – a bit like the work of Tanzfuchs or perhaps we could run family workshops associated with the performance” says Ayesha “It has been 4 weeks altogether now adds Tonya “but it feels like we have just covered one part of the process. We have many more ideas to work on – like we want to bring a musician on board, but again we will have to look into this at another time.”

The girls are planning to meet up with Maria in ‘real time’ for the next phase of the project in October and there has been some talk of performances for primary school children and within some theatre settings. Watch this Space for the next instalment.

To read more about earlier stages of piece and the work of Maria Svensson go to our earlier blog at the following link:

Click Here

Libbi Rose at Echo Echo Studios

Libbi Rose is a 23 year old Belfast born dancer who is currently studying Contemporary Dance at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. She participated in Echo Echo’s Contact Improvisation Festival in 2019 and since has formed a great relationship with the company and the Echo Echo Ensemble. Over the Summer of 2021, Libbi has been visiting Echo Echo on a regular basis, and the company have been supporting her exploration of movement and dance through the offer of studio time and space, in the form of a mini-residency.

We asked Libbi a bit about her background in movement:

“My introduction to dance came through exploring free movement and not through technique. Sometimes I struggle with communicating and voicing my thoughts. Dancing has helped me to open up and connect with others. I see it as a therapy. There are infinite possibilities within movement and this keeps it exciting and a constant learning process for me.”

“Over the past 7 years I have been afforded the opportunity to assist my cousin in teaching dance to  young children during summer dance camps. It was great to watch the young people move increasingly freely and creatively as they became more confident over time. I definitely learnt a lot  from this experience. Through attending formal dance classes I have been introduced to  contemporary, jazz and ballet techniques and principles and in 2019 I was very happy to have the chance to  partake in the Global Waters Project, with Maria Sinnecker.

When visiting Berlin I took part in a dance-theatre project and was instinctively drawn towards a dancing possibility. The approach to  dance and performance I encountered there was so different from anything I had previously experienced! I am very happy  to be now studying contemporary dance at the Irish World Academy in Limerick. My understanding of how  and why my body moves and of dancing in general has been evolving and growing through varied  experiences, and my passion increasing with each of them. To me dance is like a tree! The more I learn, the  more intricate and detailed the branches become, every branch being unique and interconnected.”

We asked Libbi about her experience of Echo Echo:

“Attending the Contact Improvisation Festival 2019 in Echo Echo Dance Studios in Derry was an unforgettable experience, I learnt  so much. It greatly expanded my understanding and outlook of dance, as well as connecting me with a vibrant community of people. When I first entered Echo Echo’s doors, I instantly felt welcome and inspired. The building itself alongside the people there provide a buzzy, yet open atmosphere. A perfect storm for creating work. Dance is valued as both an art form and a tool for bringing people together. I look forward to spending more time here!”

Body Wisdom Digital Programme Launch

As part of Echo Echo’s summer long Digital Programme we are releasing a free online course for over 50s. This course of 8 sessions is for anyone who is interested in dance and movement and offers a relaxed and gentle exploration of how to move in a more poetic way. The course is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and is led by experienced Echo Echo Ensemble member, Kelly Quigley.

Kelly says:

“The course starts from the perspective that the wisdom you have gained from life resides within your cells and is waiting to be accessed for the purpose of dancing and creating dancing”

You can sign-up for free to the Digital Body Wisdom programme at the link provided below and we will email you a playlist with the 8 sessions. The classes can be accessed online at any time from the comfort of your own home. Below is a little clip to give you a taster.

The digital course is an extension of Echo Echo’s popular ‘real time’ Body Wisdom class for 50 years+, which has been running for over 10 years. If you enjoy the digital programme, why not get in contact with us to try out our next ‘in-person’ Body Wisdom classes which will be starting up again this September and is open to new members in our dance studios on Magazine Street.

A regular Body Wisdom Participant says:

“I have a big smile on my face by the end of each session regardless of how I felt before. It’s a place I am accepted and encouraged unconditionally. Any perceived limitations are not the point, the point is to explore the limitless possibilities of my expression exactly as I am.”

Sign up for Digital Body Wisdom course here, we would love for you to join us:

https://www.echoechodance.com/whatson/echo-echo-digital-programme-body-wisdom-over-50s-2

Contact Echo Echo to find out more or register for their new ‘in person’ Body Wisdom programme this September

Website www.echoechodance.com

Telephone: 028 713 08883

Email: info@echoechodance.com

‘Painting the Canvas’ – research and development intergenerational project in collaboration with Maria Svensson

 

Last week Ayesha and Tonya were working in the studios with their beautiful daughters on a research and development project in collaboration with long term Echo Echo colleague and friend Maria Svensson (via zoom!).

We asked Maria about the project:

” I was originally awarded a bursary from the Arts Council of Ireland to research and develop a new dance piece for children, together with Ayesha Mailey, and to take time to up-skill my ‘Poetic Movement’ practice. The plan was to work both in the Echo Echo studios and in Culturlann Sweeney in Kilkee County Clare thanks to support from Clare County Council. As part of the bursary I would also attend the Baboró International Festival for Children in Galway. However, when I applied for the bursary I didn’t know I was about to get pregnant or that we would be experiencing a world-wide pandemic! Therefore, due to Covid restrictions and the reality of nursing a newborn baby, I had to rethink my bursary plans. Ayesha came up with the idea of me taking more of a director role which made a lot of sense.”

“I then had the idea of Ayesha working together with her daughter Naya, continuing a process I started in November 2020 when I was granted a HATCH 2020 Award from Dance Ireland. This award supported me to make a short video together with my seven year old friend Rosie Mc Hale Noone called Amongst Angels and Butterflies. In the video myself and Rosie move on a big bed sheet using crayons. This idea came from a piece I did for Cruinniú na nÓg 2020 funded by Creative Ireland Clare, which came from working together with visual artist Regina Carbayo as part of BEAG at Graffiti Theatre Company in Cork. Together myself and Regina created a short piece for children aged 0-3 called Paper-Pond Play. As part of the piece myself and Regina would use crayons, movement and sounds to unfold a simple story on a big sheet of paper. The children would then be invited to join us on the paper. I also created a piece using a similar idea with a group of students from Ardfert National School called Movement on Canvas which was performed outside the tourist office in Tralee as part of Cruinniú na nÓg 2018.”

“After speaking to Ayesha about having her daughter Naya join her, Ayesha suggested asking Tonya and her two girls Mira and Dara if they would also like to be part of the project which I thought was brilliant. I would join in via zoom. Because we share the same poetic movement approach I find that Ayesha and Tonya get me, and what it is that I’m interested in. Naya, Mira and Dara are all experienced dancers and also extremely talented which is helpful as the process is very short. It’s just beautiful to see them all at work. So far nursing my wee baby boy whilst directing these intuitive and brilliant dancers works really well and I’m excited to share our work soon with an audience in Derry as well as Clare, and perhaps with even more people thanks to technology. 

The piece doesn’t have a title as such yet but so far we’re using the term ‘Painting the Canvas’ which I’ve taken from dance artist Kirstie Simson. I love her work and the idea of painting the space with your movements.”

To read more about Maria Svensson’s work please see: www.mariasvensson.com 

The beginnings of a new site-specific work to be made in partnership with LUXe

This May the Echo Echo Ensemble began their research and development phase for an exciting new site-specific work which they are making in partnership with LUXe (Landscape Theatre and Processional Spectacle) and with the support of the Bank of Ireland #BeginTogether Fund. The work is to be made for, and in response to LUXe’s own home, a magical piece of land in Gortcormican, Burnfoot, Donegal. The Echo Echo Ensemble have spent their first sessions on this land exploring all its nooks and crannies, really letting the space speak to them and offer inspiration for their movement. To experience the energy of this space in its fullest capacity, the girls have been undertaking various outdoor pursuits connecting with the land and all the elements including climbing, swimming, kayaking, tree climbing and generally moving around.

The land is rugged and wild, boasting a wealth of trees, flowers, foliage and wildlife. In the middle of the plot is a large lake which surrounds an island. There is a pathway around the lake which has many additional pathways leading from it to a variety of spaces around the lake one of these being a natural quarry face, which offers a perfect performance space.

Ayesha Mailey of the Echo Echo Ensemble says:

“The research for this piece really builds on processes we started with our production of ‘The Cove’. The concept of embodied memory and imagination taken from experiences of the land is central to how we will formulate ideas for this work. It’s amazing to feel we are like artists in residence in this beautiful space and there is just so much creative potential within it.

Tonya Sheina from the Echo Echo Ensemble said:

“We talked about folklore and the fact that the Island was mainly woodland in ancient times, but this is no longer the case…..I really feel a sense of longing amongst the trees…..you can really understand why people might have invented spirits, elves and little creatures to inhabit such a place….especially at dusk when the shadows fall, there is kind of a different feel. All of this brings us back to a question that Mandy Blinco from LUXe put to us:

How does nature look at us?

There is always the idea of people looking at, and separating themselves from nature. It is natural for people to do this. But this question arises of how nature, which doesn’t have any good or bad, views a person with their sense of morality and all their ethics. This concept made us play with the idea of reflections and mirrors – to consider how we see nature and how nature sees us!”

A big thank you to The Bank of Ireland #BeginTogether fund for supporting the first phase of this project and to Mark Hill and Mandy Blinco from LUXe for their guidance and inspiration and gifting us their beautiful land to play in. We will keep you all posted on how this unique site-specific work takes shape.

Access improvements at Echo Echo Studios

Over the last few months Echo Echo has made an extensive range of improvements to accessibility at our home studios at Magazine Street on Derry’s historic City Walls following an independent access audit. The project was kindly supported by Derry City and Strabane District Council through the Department for Communities Regional Access and Inclusion Fund.

Toilets

Our upstairs and downstairs accessible toilets have been reconfigured to better suit the needs of people with disabilities. Works include – addition of full length mirrors, soap dispensers, paper towel dispensers, shelves and door operating instructions. Sinks have been lowered and moved closer to toilet basins with taps repositioned. Support rails, emergency alarm pull cords and reset panels have been relocated to be within the recommended distance from sanitary facilities.

Signage

High contrast wayfinder signage and individual room signage have been designed and added throughout the building.

Handrail

An extra handrail has been manufactured and added to the staircase leading to the theatre for added safety on the stairs.

Baby changer

A baby changer unit has been permanently installed in our downstairs WC.

Lift

A new lift has been installed restoring full accessibility to all floors of the building.

Hearing Loop

Both of our studios have been fitted with permanent hearing enhancement systems as well as signage advising of its presence. Our front door entry speaker system has had a hearing loop installed and we also have a portable hearing loop for box office and small meeting settings.

Additional

  • We have upgraded our means of escape provisions by procuring an evacuation chair for travel up and down stairs as well as providing training for staff and ensemble on the use of the chair.
  • All doors have had their opening and closing forces adjusted to the recommended forces.
  • Sanitary ware in WCs have had their tonal contrasts increased where required to aid people with restricted visibility.
  • A selection of seating with and without armrests has been obtained for our theatre.
  • Thermostatic mixing valves have been adjusted in all WCs and kitchen to ensure water temperature does not exceed recommended safety levels.
  • WC door opening/closing signage upgraded.
  • A non-slip all weather mat installed inside front door.
  • Tactile stair nosing has been added throughout the building for added safety on stairs.

Echo Echo Studios was previously awarded a ‘Change A Little Change A Lot’ Silver Standard Accessibility Award a few years ago so we hope that these extensive further improvements will make the centre fully accessible to all of our audiences, participants, colleagues and visitors as we begin to re-open in the coming weeks and months.

Access improvements will remain an ongoing process and we will continue to work with our broad range of users to ensure the building is as inclusive and accessible as possible.

Thanks

A big thank you to Echo Echo Technical Manager Barry Davis who co-ordinated and managed the project; thanks to the Department for Communities Regional Access and Inclusion Fund; and many thanks to Louise Boyce, Access and Inclusion Officer and all involved at Derry City and Strabane District Council.

“ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS” 22nd – 27th FEBRUARY 2021

Image C. Harley Zoo Creative

From 22nd to 27th February 2021 Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company offers a series of online events under the title “ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS” as a covid19-adapted alternative to the normal festival format. The events include livestreamed solo performances, talks by artists who had been commissioned to present work at the festival, an online retrospective of images from past festivals, workshops and a chance to meet and question the Echo Echo team about our work. As Covid19 restrictions ease later in 2021 and into early 2022 the company will be programming the new works commissioned for the festival, also under the title “ECHO ECHO FESTIVAL PRESENTS”.

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company Artistic Director, Steve Batts writes:

We scheduled the dates for the 8th edition of Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company’s Festival of Dance and Movement a long time before the Covid19 pandemic disrupted everyone’s plans. However, as it became clear that we couldn’t rely on conditions being in any way normal, we decided to change our plans to remain as flexible as possible to whatever situation might arise.

We really didn’t want to create a dance-film event or to present filmed versions of performances which really ought to be presented live so, with this in mind, we decided to build the festival around newly commissioned live work that would be as “Covid19 adaptable” as possible. To avoid any issues with travel restrictions, we put out an invitation to artists based on the island of Ireland to propose projects that would be as adaptable as possible but which retained a live performance element. The responses were imaginative and inspiring. Some people proposed tiny audiences, some proposed livestreamed work, some wanted to work outside despite the time of year, some wanted to incorporate social-distancing rules. We commissioned four artists from this process, Suzannah McCreight, Natasha Bourke, Katy Wilson and Zoe Ramsey.

While this process was going on Tara Brandel called me to say that her company, Croi Glan, had received support for a new solo, livestream, work featuring Linda Fearon and directed by Caroline Bowditch. She said that she had intended to apply for an Echo Echo Festival commission but was concerned that those should go to support artists who otherwise wouldn’t have resources, and would we like to present this new work without us having to commission it. This kind of creativity, adaptability, mutual support and generosity has been a feature of my professional experience throughout the past year.

So we ended up with five newly developing pieces by wonderful movement artists to schedule into our programme.

Then the turn of the year gradually brought the clear understanding that we would have to jettison all our planned live elements. With travel restrictions and work-place rules it became obvious that even a livestream from a private house, which needed a cross border trip and a technical crew in a small space, wasn’t going to be possible. We decided that the best idea was to create a series of online events under the heading “Echo Echo Festival Presents” and to save the live performances of the newly commissioned works for later in the year, when presenting them properly should become possible.

ONLINE TALKS

All of the artists whose work we had planned to present agreed to postpone their performances and each agreed to give an online talk during festival time, to give the opportunity for people to hear something about their ideas and concerns and a little about their creative processes and where they are at the moment with the work-in-progress. We hope these talks will whet the appetite for when we are in a position to present the performances properly.

LIVESTREAMED SOLOS

The programme also includes 5 livestreamed solo dances by artists from Echo Echo. These are modelled on the November Dances project that I undertook in late 2020. The format of short solo dances each evening proved very successful with well over 1000 log-ins from many parts of the globe, over the twenty one evenings. We decided to continue this format as a way to keep things live and to energise the connections between our local, regional, national and international audiences and colleagues. So, at 7pm each evening one of Zoe, Ayesha, Kelly, Tonya and myself will invite you to join the audience on zoom for a unique, one-off, solo performance designed for livestream.

WORKSHOPS

We are also presenting several online workshops, drawing on this year’s experience of how to make wonderful classes online. One workshop is for families, one for over fifties and one for anyone who want to explore phrasing in movement.

RETROSPECTIVE GALLERY

Our close collaborator, Simon Alleyne, who has been responsible for the photographic and video documentation the Echo Echo Festivals, is creating a retrospective exhibition selected from the beautiful images from the past seven editions. A version of this will be available as an online gallery between 22nd and 27th February. Later in the year we will mount the full exhibition of images in the lobby and gallery spaces at Echo Echo Studios.

OPEN TO QUESTIONS

Finally, on Saturday 27th Echo Echo is “open to questions”. All the staff and ensemble artists will be available online from 2pm – 4pm to answer (or at least try to answer) any questions you might have about the company. Maybe you are interested in the history, the idea of “Poetic Movement”, light and sound, collaboration, the organisational structure, funding, the experience of building a project slowly over decades outside a metropolitan centre, our views on art practice generally and dance in particular, the special challenges of the past year… or something else entirely. If you have a question, or just want to hear us respond to other people’s, then join us.

On reflection, The Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement is so fundamentally a live event with real presence and proximity that we can’t really think of this online,”Echo Echo Presents” week as the eighth edition of our festival. It feels like an in-between-time and that this is an in-between-event. It is a sort of “seven-and-a-halfth” festival.

Look out for programme details coming shortly on http://www.echoechodance.com and on social media!

Steve Batts Artistic Director

Some reflections on the first week of “November Dances”

I have been live streaming short solo dances every weekday evening since the beginning of November. I will continue to do so until Monday 30th. The first 6 evenings have had between 65 and 80 people attending. We have had audience from all over the world including Ukraine, Russia France, China, Italy, Australia, Germany, Ireland, England, Romania, Italy, Spain… and lots of Derry locals.

For details of the performances, and how to join the live streams, please go to: https://www.echoechodance.com/whatson/november-dances

Here are some reflection after the first week.

  • Too many online events are lesser versions of live events. I wanted to make something that made the best of online possibilities rather than replace the live events we miss.
  • Online live events are usually too long. The attention dynamic of watching online is totally different to really present live.
  • I didn’t want to post recordings online. When there are recordings people think “oh I’ll watch that later” or I’ll watch the rest of it later. This profoundly changes the relationship of performer with audience.
  • I wanted to encourage the audience members to acknowledge each other and find a mutual energy of support for the event. I wondered if that was possible online. I think it has been successful so far. Maybe this is at least partly because of the loyal and personal relationship Echo Echo has built with it’s audience members. People have generally left their video screens on during the performance and many people have stuck around afterwards for a chat. This is like what happens in the live theatre.
  • Keeping it live. I don’t post recordings of the dances online. So people become more like a live audience. Of course they can leave if they aren’t happy watching but the liveness means they have made a commitment of energy to themselves, other audience members.
  • The maximum length of the dances at 10 minutes seems good. It means that a degree of attention and intensity can be maintained. The first dance was only about three minutes. This seemed rather short given the energy and commitment everyone dedicates.
  • I am loving dancing to my favourite music tracks. Without excuse. Because each event is short, just dancing is enough. It doesn’t need a lot of conceptualisation or complex compositional process. In three to ten minutes those are contained internally in the dance. I think this is particularly true because I know each piece of music well.
  • It is great to see people coming back night after night. There are several who have come to watch all five dances. Someone suggested that anyone who can make it to all 21 should get an Echo Echo T shirt as a prize!
  • It has been very important for me to be alone in the studio, operating the technology myself. This means my focus is purely on the dancing and the guests. There isn’t a technician or colleague in the space with me. This makes it somehow very private as well as very public. I think that if there was someone else in the space with me the online audience members would feel that they were somehow secondary. Watching something from outside rather than a necessary element of the event. That is like live theatre performance.
  • My reference for the presentation and texture of this project is not an online business meeting, a pop video, a livestream of a live show with audience, a feature film or documentary. It is a family video call for a birthday or other special event. The question for me was (and is): How can that sort of relationship be heightened and poeticised by attention to the detail of the use of the technology and the way we engage with it? I’m not at all interested in competing with the aesthetics and production values of pop videos or tv productions, or feature films, or even live outside broadcasts. These things are very costly to make and adhere to conventions that are not very helpful to the kind of thing I want to create or that Echo Echo dance Theatre Company has been facilitating and creating over the years.
  • Keeping it simple: One camera. One lighting state. An easy sequence of actions to get the technology started. Live music in the space.
  • The support of Tonya, who has co-hosted has been great. It just means that letting people in to the meeting and checking that the archive recording is on and helping people with questions isn’t on my plate right before I dance.
  • Having a lovely studio space which can be set up to be warmly lit and simply presented is really important… and Barry Davis, Tech manager’s support with this and making all the technology work.

Music so far: Bach, Schubert, June Tabor, Sonny Rollins, Arvo Pärt and Renee Aubry.

More reflections coming after a few more performances.

Steve Batts 10 November 2020

Paidushko – Interview with Marty Coyle and Zoe Ramsey

A few days ago I had a very interesting chat with Marty Coyle and Zoe Ramsey about their project which led to the music and dance video released last Thursday 5th November. I didn’t know any of the details of the project and the more I asked the more fascinating it got.

To begin with they were quite restrained in what they had to say but when I probed I discovered such depths in the background and process that they had gone through together and which explain the beautiful and touching quality of the music, dance and video.

Marty’s band Basork had played a concert for the closing party of the 2018 Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement. It was a great gig and the festival attendees and participants, including Zoe, fearlessly danced their hearts out to the relatively unusual rhythms and melodies of Basork’s strongly Balkan influenced music. Watching from the stage was when the idea came to him of a collaboration with a dance artist.

The idea settled and germinated and was in development towards a live performance when Covid 19 struck. Like many other projects it moved ‘online’ and became focused on the creation of a dance-music video with an original music composition and newly created dance.

Marty and Zoe’s basic idea was to develop a piece of music and dance at the same time using a traditional Bulgarian dance rhythm as a primary source. They told me that they wanted to keep a respectful attitude to the source material but not be totally bound by the tradition as they developed their new work.

Marty has a very deep background in Bulgarian folk music and has been researching and playing the music with exceptional musicians from the region for years. He chose a particular Bulgarian dance rhythm called a Paidushko as the starting point for the research and development. The Paidushko rhythm is in 5/8 time and, traditionally,  has a particular dance step pattern associated with it which, until recent years has been exclusively danced by men.

Zoe was new to the Bulgarian tradition of dance and she told me it was a challenge to begin to learn the step by watching dances and instruction videos on the internet and getting to know a bit about the background folk tradition associated with the dance. She said that to begin with the rhythm, which can feel unusual to a western European, was challenging but that as she relaxed into it and understood it better she came to love it.

Once she’d got the basic pattern of the step she and Marty began to exchange videos and sound recordings, layering and feeding back to each other. Keeping it virtual as is the habit of the Covid days we live in.

The music began with just a rhythm track and as the exchanges progressed layers of melody and harmony were added as Marty watched the dance develop. Zoe listened to the developing music and  deepened the dance material in response, extending away from the original step patterns into extended improvisation.

The whole project had new elements for both artists. The project was designed for an entirely online collaboration. Something that was new to both. This was Marty’s first creative collaboration with a dance artist and he said that he was pretty nervous to begin with. He told me he was quite surprised by the degree of discipline and rigour in Zoe’s practice as a movement artist. It was Zoe’s first extended exploration of elements of a folk dance tradition and she was concerned to be respectful to the tradition and to honour it properly as the source.

After the video was completed and sent for comments to Marty’s Bulgarian colleagues, they were really happy to get the feedback that the substantial parts of the dance in the video where Zoe sticks closely to the original step are accurately done and well performed!

Steve Batts

Echo Echo Artistic Director

Watch now

Credits

Music by Basork and Dragni Dragnev

Dancer Zoe Ramsey

Lighting and Technical Support Barry Davis

Mixed and Mastered by Marc Forbes

Filmed by Fiachra O’Longain

Special thanks to Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company and Modal Citizen Records

Music from the track is available from 5th November 2020 on all popular digital outlets via Modal Citizen Records.

Grété Šmitaité in Šimonys Forest

Over the past months I have had the pleasure of mentoring former Artist in Residence at Echo Echo, Grété Šmitaité as she has been researching in Šimonys Forest, Lithuania, developing a new work. She has been invited to show the piece for the first time as part of a double bill to be shown in late November early December in Vilnius.

The mentoring has, like most of my recent dance related interactions, been done online. It always feels a pity not to be able to be “there”, in real life, sharing the space, the air the local sounds and smells, feeling the actual presence together. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’d have been able to make a trip to Lithuania under normal circumstances so I’m actually really happy and feel privileged that I was asked and able to say yes.

Grété invited me to mentor her because of an interest in the general framework of Echo Echo’s practice of Poetic Movement and particularly because of a connection with the landscape/environmental/outdoor movement work that I do. This form of practice was central to the creation of The Cove in 2012, to much of my work with the Body Wisdom Group, and has been at the heart of the work I’ve been doing with Echo Echo’s sister ensemble in Russia, over the past few years. This area of work doesn’t focus so much on site specific events and performance in particular locations, but more on the way in which sensory memory and imagination of particular places can be brought into the studio and activated there as a source for dancing. It was this process of “embodying memory” and recall that she wanted to engage with in her own way.

It has been a pleasure to be sent videos and texts to mull on and to meet in video calls to discuss and reflect. It is always so inspiring to exchange with someone who is full of interest, motivation and curiosity while having a certain restrained, patience.

The process is going to continue over the next month, leading up to the performances on 30th November and 1st December. Lithuania appears to be doing a bit better than around here with the current pandemic so we remain hopeful that the performances will go ahead. I feel sad that I won’t be there to see the first showing, but hopefully there will be chances in future. Maybe Grété will be able to come back to Derry and show the work here.

Here are some reflections from Grété on her process so far

“With the start of the pandemic I have moved to live in a house in Šimonys forest, Lithuania. It was most of the time living there, me and the dog, meeting the fluxes of air, growth of vegetation, comings and goings of wild animals. This was at the start of the pandemic, when how things will go on was not clear. I felt a strong desire to be connected to the place where I was and to stay in touch with people, amongst them with other makers of dance who at the time were isolated in other parts of the world. To do so I wanted to dance in the place where I was, study from books, videos, write, call colleagues, share thoughts of doing and living.

I did not know how to start dancing in a meadow, a forest. I was walking, observing, adapting, moving. While moving I looked for the sizzling restless feeling with which came some clarity of what I do and how I connect to where I am, the clarity in time and ability to trace / not get into the way for what will follow what, for how things will go on. I defined this as dancing and looked for it. 

When starting, I would walk for around 3 hours and the dance that I could dance was 30 seconds. It felt scary and exciting. Observing the changes of presence, movements that I do not control, the movement of attention was inspiring and frustrating. I was getting to know about the place through doing things in it – from walking, moving, dancing to picking herbs, planting vegetables.

Mostly being in this forest I walk the same paths. I realised that ‘in the practice’ I was trying to break this – I had many times taken a new way, thinking that I should do so since that is how I am more attentive and can make better choices choosing where and how to dance, observe. I would get lost. With time I realised that for the thing I was doing it does not make sense to try to break the ways I walk the place.

I was dancing ‘out in the open’, not setting any boundary for where the limit of space that I am within, is. Or setting boundaries and approaching ‘out in the open’ from there. My main partners being a vast sky and the vast ground in their meetings. ‘What you do feels very seasonal’ Steve has mentioned after watching some records from the meadow, some time later. 

The weather was always changing. Places changed from spring to autumn. Familiarity with the places grew. Pretending that I knew the places grew.

What would be the dance that stays, when places change? What could hold it?

I would like to now go to the studio and see, how could the dancing, the restlessness of it ‘out in the open’ become alive and reachable in the studio. 

Throughout the time in the forest I was reading Contact Quarterly dance journal 1975-1992 and ‘Being Alive’ by Tim Ingold. C. Q. encouraged me to appreciate simple things – breath, weight, senses, sharing thoughts. It also showed how much there is in each of these things, when actually getting to be attentive to them. ‘Being Alive’ supported the trust that dancing, observing as well as cooking, storytelling are ways of being part of the world and its worldling.

Through the 6 months I was sharing what I was doing with: Stephen Batts as a mentor, Christine Quoiraud as a very experienced colleague, who both have offered insights, encouraged me to be honest and real to do what I was doing as well as be fair and agree, when I am stuck / pretending to be doing what I am not doing. ‘A rigorous practice of dancing. | Don’t do anything before you know it’s that. When you are done – stop.’ I carry words from Steve. ‘Practice rhythms all the time, not just on stage. If you just do it on stage, for the camera, it is already too late. | Practice concentration all the time. Not just for stage as a human tool to be part of the world’ from Christine. 

Sharing thoughts with colleagues, Rūta Junevičiūtė, Hanna Kritten Tangsoo, Magdalena Meindl, Lyllie Rouvière, Forough Fami, Iivy Meltaus. Taking time for a conversation, for writing a letter. Through having these small and at the same time vast exchanges I realize, how important they are.

I am deeply thankful for this time in the forest”.

https://www.researchcatalogue.net/view/1003168/1003169

Steve Batts 22nd October 2020