Part of my role as Director of Learning and Participation is to engage professional artists in Bungee-Assisted Dance. In my role I work closely with Wendy, our Artistic Director, to work out how we can better resource our company with the bespoke skills we need to make our work.
Usually when we begin a creative process to make a show, we very often face the same issues - the people we want to work with have little/no experience of dancing on a bungee. And why would they? Our signature technique is pretty niche.
For many months now we have been dreaming up a way to increase the odds of having experienced bungee-assisted dancers apply and attend our auditions. This would ultimately mean that we could begin all creative periods with a room filled with confident bungee-assisted dancers able to use the bungee creatively. Devoting the entire creative period to making rather than training when you work within such a niche genre could have a massive positive effect on our work and productivity.
We do of course run workshops in bungee-assisted dance. These focus on teaching appropriate exercises to effectively warm up the body ready for aerial work, space awareness and the teaching of certain skills and transitions. In beginner workshops we teach the basic fundamentals of the technique, and work towards a movement sequence which all participants can perform by the end. Everyone leaves with huge smiles on their faces and with a handful of skills.
With the work that Wired are currently doing in restructuring the company, we have been examining how we teach our aerial techniques. We are challenging ourselves to break down previous ways of doing things to see whether we feel there are better, more effective ways of working/learning/teaching. It has been some journey to get to here and we are still going.
During the summer I approached nine professional dancers/performers that lived locally or had links to our region. I offered them a free one-day workshop to explore play on the bungee. Four responded to say they were available to attend.
The session was planned as a safe place to explore creativity and moving on the bungee.
To begin with, I chose to share some safety points with the group, exploring the space available to them whilst attached, and bringing a sense of awareness within the group who were also sharing the studio space. I chose to avoid focussing on teaching particular skills in preference of leading them on an individual exploration of their body and how it could move whilst connected to a bungee. In some ways this was an exploration for me as well as them. The focus of the productions that Wired will be creating from this point forwards will be led and driven by lived-experience. Wendy and I are exploring whether an individuals body movements can lead skill development and movement technique. We were wondering if this approach could unlock another level/type/flavour of skills that we don’t yet know exist? Wendy often brings this level of exploration into the process after initial skills have been taught and refined.
The workshop began with participants working in their own space and progressed to working in pairs - both on a bungee, and later, one on and one off the bungee. I led their exploration using several questions and statements to allow them the space to find the answers for themselves. They had time to play with where they were in the space, to listen more to what the bungee wanted regarding lift and support and to find the moments to really sustain a movement to create more tension or thematic response to their play within their improvisation. No themes were set out for exploration, yet each explorer began to find their own language and this language was their own, their way, their play.
The dancers were incredibly generous in their energy and engagement and I found the day to be so rewarding as they created new and original ideas - some ideas needed longer to develop and others flowed as the dancers committed fully to their explorations. All dancers expressed a desire to continue to experiment and I am totally grateful to each of them for their open, honest approach and commitment during the day.
We will be hosting more of these workshops in the future. We have productions to create/re-create and more. If you would like to be kept up to date regarding opportunities to join in the fun/work/exploration, please sign up to our mailing list and follow us on social media.
Thanks to our participants Akiem T Buck, Eliza Macdermott, Jake Nwogu, Theo Rose
Thanks to Daniel Hall for taking photos and dodging out of the way of swooping performers