Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

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The Brunton
Musselburgh
November 1st, 2019


With each industrious embellishment of her principle themes, Rosie Kay has created a ‘Fantasia’ of delights. I caught her touring production at the Brunton last Friday, & am extremely glad I did so. With November, & thus the drawn-out Scottish Winter just beginning, the sheer quality of colour in Kay’s routines & costumes was a real warming tonic to the wettening, darkening world.

Fantasia is danced by three sharp, superfit young performers; Shanelle Clemenson, Harriet Ellis & Carina Howard. Together they perform Kay’s Bohemian, Baudelairean creation – sometimes together, sometimes alone, & at all times fusing the tapestry with slickness & variety. From the staccato box-ballerinas of the opening piece, to the operatic energies of the garish, Bedlamic finale & its false-endings, we are poked & jabbed & dragged into Kays’ bubbling cauldron. I swear down, when it came to arm posture, I am sure I witness’d the complete gamut of human possibility.

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There is more to Fantasia than the dance. The stage is sublime, with a mirrored floor below them like a clear lake, & with shadows fractalising behind, our three dancers are everywhere at once – very clever! Then there is the music, OMG, the music, what a wonder, what a somatic symphony! Each of Annie Mahtani’s compositions (based mainly on Vivaldi, with Telemann & Bach making cameos, among others) is a classic in its own right. When entering into symbiotic fusion with the dancers, when the littlest sonic nuances are absorbed & acted out shimmeringly before us, it is a splendid spectacle indeed. Close your eyes a moment & drift off to the atmospheric 18th century; open them & let the music transport your psyche to a full appreciation of the choreography; or dwell somewhere inbetween – all are just as a good a way to experience Fantasia.

Fantasia lasts for an hour, which is just the right length, everything feels explored & enjoyed to satisfaction. With costumes changing at regular intervals – the tassl’d mummies were amazing – & the aforementioned mixing up of the number of performers, one’s imagination can never settle on any sense of true understanding of the piece, & instead simply relaxes & nibbles on the cornucopia before us. Many complements to the team involved – a fine, fine production.

Damian Beeson Bullen

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INTERVIEW: ROSIE KAY

An Interview with Rosie Kay

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On November the 1st the Brunton welcomes
Rosie Kay & her quality dancers, currently
Touring the UK with the wonderful Fantasia


Hello Rosie, first things first, where are you from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
I’m originally from the Borders of Scotland (from a tiny place called Chirnside), I grew up near London, in Devon and then in Edinburgh. I spent a few years working aboard as a dancer in Poland, France, Germany and the USA and I currently live in Birmingham, where I’ve lived for the past 16 years.

When did you first develop a love of dance?
My parents say I danced before I could talk, and for me dance seemed to be integral to my understanding of myself and the universe. I began ballet at 3 years old, and although I took it incredibly seriously, dancing through my teenage years, I never thought it would or could be my career. I discovered contemporary dance when I was 17 and realised this was what I wanted to do. I feel very lucky to be doing what I love everyday, but it can be tough at times.

How did you get into choreography?
Making dances was always really important to me- I used to do it in my parents living room, and then I started making dances in the school gym after lessons. I loved dance, theatre, art, music and history, and I felt that dance had a special way of saying something to the world. I saw as much dance as I could, particularly growing up in Edinburgh as a teenager there was amazing companies coming to the International Festival each year. I trained at London Contemporary Dance School, where I learnt choreography and loved making dances, although I never got very good grades! Then, throughout my career performing I made small works- solos and duets that I performed at Edinburgh Festival Fringe (often at Dance Base). It was after I moved to Birmingham that I began to really create larger, longer works and get funding support which meant the company could grow. Currently we are Associate Company at Birmingham Hippodrome, one of the biggest theatres in the UK.

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Photo: Brian Slater

You’re currently touring a show around Britain, can you tell us about it?
A ‘Fantasia’ is a composition that breaks all the rules and I wanted to have something that was on the surface purely about music, dance and the experience of live art, but underneath would have more layers, meaning and research. It’s a wonderful way to spend an hour, watching three incredible dancers at the peak of their performing and technical powers, but in another way it’s to think more deeply about beauty, empathy and the world around us. We premiered the show in Birmingham and it’s then been to Liverpool on tour. The response has been incredible- it’s so wonderful to come out of a theatre and everyone is talking and laughing- there is a real sense of joy and exhilaration by the end. After Musselburgh we tour the UK until the end of November.

How do you think Ballet is adapting for the 21st century as an artform in general?
Gosh- that’s a huge question, and it depend which perspective you’re looking at it from. I am a contemporary based choreographer, but I have danced ballet since I was three, and even been a performer in a ballet-theatre company. It is an extremely important dance form to me personally and in Western art. When I was a student, choreographers like William Forsyth were really modernising ballet and taking it to totally new places, which was so inspiring. I thought this would naturally continue, and you can see some elements of this, for example in the way that in the UK Wayne MacGregor is Associate Choreographer to the Royal Ballet. He is a contemporary dance choreographer, but his work translates on to ballet dancers bodies. To be honest, I thought there would be more cross-disciplinary work between ballet and contemporary; it’s such an exciting area of development, but for quite a few years I haven’t seen as much of it as I’d like. Maybe that’s why I decided to attack it myself.

What compelled you to create Fantasia?
I’d finished a huge trilogy of works that explore really big, serious political issues. These were the body and war (5/10 Soldiers), the body and religion (There is Hope) and the body and politics (MK Ultra). I’d had to be very concerned with their meaning, their narrative qualities and the reception from audiences who might confront issues they may know about, but have not seen in such a way before. This has been hugely rewarding and taken me to places I’d never would have expected (particularly with the Army). However, I really wanted to focus my choreographic powers on a purer form, so chose music, dance and emotion as the starting point. Music, dance and emotion are probably always my starting point, but using them alone forces you to think more creatively, and to push yourself choreographically. I wanted to test what I could create, what the dancers could accomplish, and to challenge the audience in what they see and hear. I spent several years working with neuroscientists on a project that examined how people perceive music and dance in the brain, and what effect this has on them. This research has been a strong starting point for me, and I followed up with a visit to the center for Music in the Brain in Denmark. This approach, that is both pure but also deeply researched has been the starting point for Rosie Kay’s Fantasia.

Can you tell us about your research for the piece?
With the Watching Dance Project, I created a 4-minute work of dance that could be performed identically with either Bach, silence (and the dancer’s breath) or to electronic music. We performed it and conducted intense audience research with the viewers. We then repeated the experiment with people watching the dance on video screen while they were in an fMRI scanner to see how their brains reacted. The biggest contrast was between the Bach and the breath/silence dances. When people watched the dance performed with the Bach music, they talked of the pleasure of finding patterns and repetition and putting the music and dance together in their heads. This was backed up by the scanners, which showed that the areas of the brain that lit up were connected to pattern recognition and mathematics. When people watched the breath/silence dance, some people talked of loving it because it felt real, authentic, visceral; they could see the effort of the dancers and they felt connected to them as humans. Other people talked of how much they hated seeing the dance in silence- because it felt raw, visceral and sweaty! This was backed up by the scan results which showed a very different part of the brain that lit up- that which is linked to body-to body connection- what one could call gut response. People love that feeling or hate it- I can’t control that but I can understand that people will take different things from the same piece of dance and music.

Who are your dancers & how are they doing?
My dancers are three female artists, whom I have worked with before and love working with. Carina Howard joined the company last year for MK Ultra, Shanelle Clemenson and I started working together about 4 years ago and she has been in MK Ultra, Modern Warrior and Fantasia. Harriet Ellis joined the company in late 2016 and has performed in MK Ultra, Modern Warrior, 5 Soldiers and 10 Soldiers. It been such a lovely experience for all of us- we all love to work really hard, and somehow this piece has pushed us all way out of our comfort zones- it has been really challenging as each part of the show has had to use different methods to be made and requires different skills from the performers. Working with an all-female cast has been so great- we’ve all laughed a lot and cried a little bit too!

What music have you chosen & why?
The whole structure of the work took several years of listening to music and dancing to the music. I created a playlist of about 200 tracks and then spent time alone dancing to them, seeing what came out of my body and finding the tracks that moved me and stimulated my ear choreographically. I then whittled this down to about 25 tracks and handed it over to the composer Annie Mahtani. She made the final choice of tracks (although I had some rules on what had to be in there and in which order) and then she handed back a playlist in the order she felt gave the right balance to an hour show. It needs thought to have highs and lows over the length of time, so she put it together like an evening’s concert. The show’s bedrock is Baroque music, which encompasses Vivaldi, Bach, Purcell and Telemann. We break this up with some 20th century piano by Hungarian composer Kurtag, and we also have works by Beethoven (Moonlight Sonata) and Vaughan Williams (Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis). There are strong links through the use of piano and Vivaldi, but each piece of music had to move and inspire me individually as well as work as a whole concert.

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Photo: Brian Slater

Has Fantasia changed much in the weeks it has been on the road?
I love seeing the dancers start to play with it. At first you really don’t know what reaction you will get. There is a lot of humour in it, but in dance, you are not too sure if the audience will get the playfulness and humour or not. It was wonderful to hear people laughing and in Liverpool they really got it! I always rehearse the day before and on the day of the show- it is so technically demanding, we have to keep making sure certain sections are getting tighter and tighter and more detailed. The dancers can’t kick back and let go- they need to stay very tight and on it.

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell Fantasia to somebody in the street…
Forget all our current troubles- come and watch some beautiful, emotional, clever, intelligent dance. I guarantee that by the time you walk out of the theatre you will feel better about the world and maybe even want to dance yourself!


Rosie Kay’s Fantasia

Friday November 1st

The Brunton, Musselburgh

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www.rosiekay.co.uk/project/fantasia/

Collective Endeavors

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Glasgow Art Club
September 20th, 2019


A new configuration of Collective Endeavors performed at the iconic Glasgow Art Club on 20th September to coincide with Glasgow Open Doors. This dance/music ensemble consisted of new dancers as their main dancer Aya Kobayashi has recently become a mum and was there to support her fellow collective members. So we were witness to Nerea Gurrugtxaga and Molly Danter who took us on a wordless journey where all sorts of themes and human emotions were enacted to a sold-out captivated audience.

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What a great venue for this throbbing, experimental and haunting experience. Nerea and Molly entered from different sides of the audience dancing solo, interacting together and making moves that held grace in their poise and impossible body flexibility. Both these performers look young but their experience in dance looks far more mature than their years.

Behind their youthful faces lies a plethora of knowledge, experience and control showing wisdom beyond their years. Gurrugtxaga from Basque country in Northern Spain was an artist in residence in Kinning Park Complex three years ago. Her isolation ( movement of one part of the body independently from the rest) is incredible to witness. Molly Danter (ShoreditchYouth Dance Company and London Contemporary Dance School) was phenomenal in her physicality and ability to envision the most complex forms with her body and make it look painless and ethereal.

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Full body extension dancing when linked with the barefoot guitarist Reid was a surprise. We saw the two join together in an intense embrace and the juxtaposition of the movement and melody became one. They entwined in a cross-disciplinary marriage that was fleeting yet mesmerizing. The dancers reconnected with each other as we entered the next chapter of the performance. The disjointedness was elegant and surreal. Also meditative like tai chi grounding us in the human experience, making us slow down and savour the moment. Giving in to the performance. A playful atmosphere changes dramatically as the violinist creates a thumping crescendo which in turn heightens the pace of the bass notes of Ried’s guitar. The dancers run, chase and jump on each other and through the crowd. Elea Inei abstractly plays alongside Reid’s experimental guitar. The pulsing rhythms of the extraordinary music pulls the viewer into a sense of comfortability only to be thrown into chaos mirroring life’s rich tapestry.

Clare Crines

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Knot

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Assembly Roxy
Jul 31 – Aug 25 (14.45)


I absolutely love The Assembly Roxy Upstairs Venue on Drummond Street, there’s such an air of expectation about it, with the sloping seats going right up to the stage ceiling. I chose a seat right up level with the lighting, somehow exciting in itself. The two protagonists, male and female, were dressed in thick woolly jumpers as they started proceedings by sharing a quiet conversation about their relationship with each other, the domestic ins and outs. They began to dance, shedding a layer of clothing and we watched as they wound themselves around each other. She climbed onto his head and as they stood tall and strong, their muscles sinewing athletically as they used their bodies to represent the great tussles of life and love, their give and take, their total support for each other. He would frequently catch her just before it seemed she would slam into the floor. It was passionate and enthralling, intimate and dangerous. We gasped.

The theme was the quest for love between man and woman, whether it can be total and uncompromising. But as they talked, the plot seemed to turn on its head as they revealed that their relationship as lovers wasn’t what it seemed; that it was in fact a lie. He announced he was gay and she that she hadn’t taken a lover for over two years. There came a shift after these admissions, when she became the support for him to climb around. We empathised with the honesty, the struggle to be true to yourself as well as to your commitment. I found this performance utterly enthralling. An hour of total engagement with amazing choreography and the grace of art, making you forget time and your own worries as it weaves its spell on you. Beautiful and uplifting, like a gift. I feel grateful for having seen this show.

Daniel Donnelly

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Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer

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Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh
Edinburgh International Festival
21 August 2019 to 24 August 2019


4844.jpgLet’s face it, the bastion of baffling pretention known as ‘Interpretative Dance’ is at the very pinnacle of the pyramid of thespian charlatanary that are the Edinburgh Festivals. Interpretative Dance tackling the, ahem, laugh-a-minute Norn Irish ‘Troubles’ sounds like a ‘Legitimate Target’ or at least a fleg up for a spot of recreational rioting. However, and I can’t believe I’m writing this (I’m as surprised as you), Oona Doherty’s ‘Hard to be Soft: A Belfast Prayer’ is one of the best fifty minutes I have ever spent in a theatre outside of the bar.

Full disclosure. I’m from Belfast (and Hard as Fuck). I arrived with a mouth full of sarcasm and a hipflask full of whiskey. I left in a daze, genuinely and deeply impressed by what I was sure was going to be a load a ballax. Gobsmacked by a piece of work which at one level is just punters prancing about on a stage but on another is an eloquent understated yet (gulp) powerful physical drama.

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That David Holmes, top-end Soul Techno Gay House DJ producer, soundtracker to Hollywood proper Belfast Boyo and all round good egg himself provides what is termed the ‘soundscape’ doesn’t hurt. The whine of paranoia and chopper,s the unmistakable whirr of the tyres of the armoured cars on the streets, samples of various Spides and Millbags (ask somebody from Belfast), sweeping electronica, the music (soundscape my arse) sets light to some great dancing and a genuinely poetic portrayal of the daftness of the last forty years telescoping from the personal to the political.

A Belfast Prayer doesn’t just avoid cliché , it dingies it altogether.(Love that word)

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No body gets done, nobody sings about Colleen’s or dogs or some Boyo on a horse that fucked off years ago because he clocked you were a psycho and fifty texts a day at least. No-one glosses over the barbarity. And praise be to St Michael Alec Joey Van Barry and the lord Georgie Himself nobody bores anyone to death about the alleged politics. Amazing. Just one gripe ‘Soundscape? Really Davy…. Soundscape?, aye dead on mate… yer from East Belfast for fucks sake. Have a wee word eh? Plus it was a bit smoky in there, alright? Up The Hoods!

Irish Adam

five-stars

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Milan’s Game

Action 6


At the excellent Grand space at the Surgeon’s Hall, I have just witnessed some of the most comprehensively entertaining, eyeball-tickling physical theatre of the Fringe, if not my life. Milan’s Game is the name, & while the structure is simple, the content is fabulous. Like a garden trellis full of mid-summer blooms. It is has been brought to Edinburgh by AllouAqui company, a classy duet directed by Samuel De La Torre, starring Delicia Sefiha & Xavier De Santos. They play a couple – Lucas & Zoe are their names – who are losing romantic passion & cruising thro’ routine.

Inbetween snippets of domestic domiciles, from the follies & the dust we are given daydreaming scenes straight out of Baron Munchausen. These are danced with vigor, flair & high artistry. I especially enjoyed Delicia’s tall & golden visitor from another world, brought suddenly crashing to earth with Xavier’s entrance with shopping bags & a cry of, ‘what the fuck are you doing!?’

Also danced with perfect passion & unflinching theatre are several real-life interchanges between our couple. It seems even in the spleen-churning realms of domestic unbliss, it is still possible to find heavenly art, including an astonishing, primevally stag-antlered ‘battle’ scene to Mozart’s Requiem. An eclectic & entertaining music selection for each scene, I must add, was an important accompaniment to this bold show. 

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There is more to Milan’s Game than meets the eye – I could sense an assault on the patriarchy in there somewhere. The variety of the dream-dances is also a lively concept which ensures our constant attentions. As the pommels of clear marble that are our two talented dancers translated idiosyncracies with ease, I totally adored the jagged thrusts & rippling fire-field arms which penetrated the spaces between them – a cosmic & entrancing mix. Milan’s Game, yeah, you’ve just got to see it really, its a beautiful soap-opera for the soul.

Damian Beeson Bullen

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Milan’s Game

the Space @ Surgeons Hall

19th – 24th August (10.00)

READ THE INTERVIEW

Kooch

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Paradise in Augustines
Aug 19-20 (19:20)


The amazing Kooch graced the stage at Paradise in Augustine’s in the form of a four piece band (guitar, drums, bass and saxophone) with the wonderfully dressed vocalist, Shirin Majd, at the centre. They played as they took their places, drawing us in to what felt like an exotic world of beauty, unfamiliar yet so natural. The genres seemed to range from western opera to Italian tragedy, mixed with a kind of fusion jazz, mixed with folk and they played new and old songs in Farsi, Turkish, Spanish and English. The folklore spoke of a love so endearing as to climb to the angels and announce it.

Shirin would touch the air gently, swaying her hips as she sang, a voice I have never heard the like of before. The music would stop mid song and start again seemingly out of beat, in constant free motion, creating a stunning vision of love and passion. Accompanying the melodies they played videos on a large screen, depicting images of hardship, war, displacement, suffering, so that the music took on the meaning of all the things that displaced people’s hope for – peace, love, belonging. Until the pictures eventually became more light-hearted and echoed the great emotions that the lyrics spoke of.

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The ensemble’s final embellishment was the appearance of a belly dancer in full jingling garb of beautiful, original design, expressively telling the stories through dance and making several costume changes where each new garment was even more spectacular than the last. You could feel that this plush space had found the perfect show to live up to the surroundings – a truly magical masterpiece which raised beauty to such a height as to make it hard to believe that it came from the simple act of singing and playing and dancing. Ancient, modern, brilliant, passionate, honest, beautiful, amazing in every nuance. In fact a master class.

Reviewer: Daniel Donnelly

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