Saturday, 19 May 2012

Guest Suites | Response from Sanna Ryg

After an audition in January 2012 I was invited to join the final stages of Jacky Lansley's research project Guest Suites. As the project was to be presented at The Clore Studio in mid-February the rehearsal period that followed was, for me, an intense one. It was partly re-constructing material from video; from dancer Ayano Honda; from Jacky herself, and partly mentally and physically exploring the musical landscape of Bach's Cello suites, played by Audrey Riley. It was also finding a dialogue and common language with the other dancers in the piece, none of whom I had worked with before.

It was a challenge, but during the process Jacky guided us through, explaining how she had researched the music and the movements between 2009 and now, and also how she had worked on previous pieces. Because of this my body felt at home in the vocabulary, and it fused with the music in such a way that that every time one piece was run, I found a new layer in the music and the movements could rest in that layer, to then next time find yet another layer and so on... Many people have a strong relationship with these suites, and because of this project mine is that I now listen to individual suites, remember the movements and the feeling from the performances and rehearsals, and then dive deeper into them to search for new details, which I hope will continue for a long time.

Yet another challenge and/or aspect to Guest Suites, was the three different venues we performed at. First was The Clore Studio at the ROH, where the stage was a conventional square with the audience as a "front". The space was opened up by us dancers always being "on stage", and at the same time watching our co-dancers and Audrey. This meant that for 70 minutes you performed in some of the pieces physically, but mentally in all of them, as your energy was a part of Guest Suites at all times, not only when dancing. In York Minster the audience surrounded the space. For me, this brought yet another layer into the pieces as the audience members seemed to direct all their energy towards us, to those sat opposite them and to the room. At the Barbican Theatre in Plymouth, Jacky had invited nine dancers to join us in some of the pieces. We had been warned that nine more dancers on stage could present a spatial challenge, but as a young and fairly inexperienced dancer I thought it would be an even greater challenge to, in one day, meet and integrate with nine new bodies, ideas and ways of expression. However, as Jacky had worked with the guest dancers on ideas in the same way she had worked with us, expanding the company for one performance turned out to feel like a natural step in the process. The work fed of it, and what I had thought of as a challenge became a very exciting experience.

The project also meant that I was given the chance to meet performers from different stages in life, an opportunity which I think any young dancer should jump on if given. The rehearsals, travels and post-performance time was open for discussion, not only about the work, but about dance as an art and as an identity. The main thing that has stayed with me is the idea that you are never "too old" to perform. There is a natural development in how you go at it, but as long as the longing to say or explore something is there, one is never done. This was reassuring and to a certain extent very liberating. I can try and fail and try again, search for as long as I want, take what is offered to me and not having to settle in my ways ever, unless I want to. There is no rush. For this and for 10 wonderful weeks of curiosity, openness and aha-experiences I can only say: Thank you. 

Sanna Eriksson- Ryg, performer in Guest Suites by Jacky Lansley, 2012

Monday, 30 April 2012

Guest Suites Response from Esther Huss

Three years ago, Jacky started the initial research process for ‚Guest Suites‘. I was part of this process in 2009.

Back then, I was very unclear about my identity as a performer, strongly doubting the purpose and value of dance performance in general. To resume with the development of ‘Guest Suites’ in 2012, proved to be a great opportunity to gently reflect on how my experience of the already created material had changed. In this way, I could clearly measure my development as a performer and human being since 2009.

Tim, one of the other dancers writes in his blog that with ‘Guest Suites’ he felt he was invited to be himself. I fully agree, and had a very similar experience throughout the rehearsals and performances. Working with Jacky, and the vocabulary involved, allowed for a very personal and human performance. I often felt that being a performer one was expected to be something other than human. Dance is such a human thing to do, it seems absurd to deny ones humanity on stage. Working with Jacky is very contrary to that. The invitation or expectation to be yourself is clear, and empowers each performer… ..

Jacky regularly uses imagery when creating new material, whether they are physical images or imagery that she verbally expresses. It is fun to collaboratively find ways to physically respond to these. And I thoroughly enjoyed her playful movement suggestions, and ability to physically demonstrate movements herself. A particularly pleasurable process was developing the ‘Alemande’ of the 3rd Suite, which is based on 12 images taken from magazines and newspapers. Again, Jacky invited to, as she would probably say, ‘embody the images’, which is a fascinating process of really becoming the ‘thing’, not simply appearing like it. How liberating!

At no point did I feel we aimed for a performance of ‘perfection’, rather we sought to respond to our environment and venue. This meant being spontaneous on the night, and left no opportunity to get too comfortable or familiar with the piece. Again, I believe it was this spontaneity that enabled a performance of 6 human beings that performed together, as opposed to a company perfecting their repertoire…

York Minster truly stood out for me, an experience where audience and performers seemed equally empowered by its surroundings. Also, the benefit of performing with people of different generations was one of the most pleasurable things of ‘Guest Suites’. It made us as a company richer, in age, conversations, experiences etc….If possible, I would jump at the opportunity to sign a contract where this was the case at all times….

And then, there was the music, which was key to any development and sensation of each performance and its process. It was delightful to work with Audrey and Jonathan, in a way they left no opportunity for the dance to become the prime focus of the performance. The music was far more than a layer in the piece, but continuously inspired me to keep pushing myself and respond to the tones of the night. It made the experience very alive and real.

Jack’s care, passion and great ability to light each piece was another aspect that strongly impacted on each performance. I strongly felt that each discipline deeply respected the other, with the awareness that we were all co-dependant in a way.

To me, ‘Guest Suites’ was a celebration of individuals, and it therefore follows that the audience was able to relate to the piece.

Esther Huss, performer in Guest Suites by Jacky Lansley, 2012.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Guest Suites at York Minster, 3rd March

Tim Taylor and Esther Huss

David Ogle and Sanna Ryg, Audrey Riley playing Cello

Huri Murphy, Tim Taylor, Sanna Ryg and David Ogle

Fergus Early with Tim Taylor, Huri Murphy, Esther Huss, David Ogle and Sanna Ryg

Photography by Ellie Keeble, York Minster Chapter House, 3rd March 2012

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Guest Suites | Response by Tim Taylor

Guesting in Jacky Lansley’s new work composed, in a sense, in dialogue with the Bach Cello Suites – the first three – with additional Suite Inserts by Jonathan Eato (and with recorded elements of Pablo Casals’ twentieth century “rediscovery” of the suites) has been a stirring and artistically tantalising experience. On the one hand, there is a precision that – for the dancer – must be found … a kind of simplicity and finesse that does not blur line or tempo but places it honestly, succinctly and, on the other, moving with the music (and because of the presence of Audrey Riley’s vivid, visceral playing and the physical boldness of dancing itself) has the effect of creating a need for a soulfulness – anew – at each performance.

Even before considering the experience of Jacky’s choreography with its sophisticated interlacing of modernist shape and angle, geometric spatial patterning, idiosyncratic gestural language, refined referencing of dance forms and innate theatricality – the music – in the various forms that it has emerged throughout the experience of process and production – evokes a fluid exchange between a certain constancy in its form – a deep and sustained voice – and the tapestry of melodic and rhythmic variation that works in and around that voice. The music itself is in dialogue.

Enter: dance! For me, and working with dancers younger and older than myself, guided and choreographed by an artist who selects her cast and what they asked to do astutely, I felt that I was invited to be who I am – kind of walking in from what has been left behind – with a feeling of where I am going next. There is a visit a-foot. I danced three minuets. The social exchange of the first with the beautiful Huri Murphy – poised between decorum and intrigue; the second with cellist Audrey Riley set to the blues of Jonathan’s plain-chant – intense and open-ended; the third – no more than a whisper of a minuet – a single tour – moving around the floor with the accompaniment of a solitary low tone – in homage to Merce Cunnigham in later years – circling the stage and illuminating, perhaps illuminating (at least in my dancer’s mind’s eye) a sort of duet between the dance and the music (as was so eloquently achieved by Cunningham and Cage) embodied within the last gigue of the third suite: a final collage – mysterious, on-going, dialogical,

Each of the venues set its own mark too: the Clore at the ROH – lab-like, open-studied, London-nervy; the Minster – stone-gargoyled, immense, dark and four-dimensional; the Barbican in Plymouth – beautifully lit, contained, curated and community-enhanced (indeed, enhanced with nine fine performances from southwest-based dancers spanning five generations). Then, we had our audience. As my friend, Tamar Valley-based artist, Jo insightfully observed – the door was opened and we performers and audience passed through it to each other’s world. And we danced together.

The metaphor of the open door is a good one. Even if not everyone achieved the sense of pleasure that was undoubtedly experienced by the majority, I have an abiding feeling that as people passed literally and imaginatively between stage and stalls, between their responses to the sensations of sound and the effects of motion and vision and (and touch) and from the starting point of expectation to the outcome of experience, the invitation to share in Guest Suites is one, as a company, I believe we can feel proud of having made.

Tim Taylor, dancer in Guest Suites 2012

See more of Tim's work here

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Review from The Press, York | Guest Suites at York Minster

"Dance has long been linked with the church, if not so much in recent times.

Furthermore, the full majesty of the Chapter House is only revealed when it is stripped of chairs and brought to life. Nor can Bach's suites for unaccompanied cello sound any more ethereal than in its spacious acoustic.

On all three counts it was imaginative of choreographer Jacky Lansley, her seven dancers and cellist Audrey Riley, to choose this venue for Guest Suites – and an enlightened gesture by the Dean & Chapter to allow them to do so.

With the audience confined to the outer edges of this octagon, the dancers were left free to explore the space. Like all Baroque suites, Bach's are an assemblage of dances. Taking the 18 dances of his first three suites, Lansley explored their physical implications rather than the original dance-steps.

Here she was helped on her way by Jonathan Eato’s “suite inserts”, themselves re-readings of Bach that cleverly dissected four movements and underlined just how edgy the originals were.

Further recorded extracts of Pablo Casals, while justifiable as homage, were a distraction – and a disservice to Riley’s superb artistry. Her opening to the third suite, without dance, drew spontaneous applause.

The dancers glided sinuously, with only occasional leaps, even luring audience members into one. Hannah Mi's exotic parody of belly dance and Fergus Early’s besuited onlooker caught the eye, but the main corps were riveting in their commitment and energy."

Martin Dreyer, The Press, York. 6.03.2012

See the article here:

Responses from the audience | Guest Suites

"I was moved by so much. It was like looking into a glass room full of light and seeing these people clearly and yet not being able to hear their stories – only guess from what was seen. So much was hinted at, expressed, so many fragments of narrative and play, very poetic. It was beautifully structured too and I enjoyed this even more on second viewing. I loved the intricacy of patterns and the repetitions, and that joyous last section. I also had the feeling that all these characters were in the imagination of the musician – taking form as she played – part of the music and yet not the music. It was, of course, a delightfully musical piece too. I wish it could become part of the rep of a very good company. It’s so much better work than most we see, and would grow through performance."
Trisha Dudrey, Audience Member, Clore Studio, ROH 

"Thank you very much for Saturday's concert; the performance was deeply moving and in direct connection with the venue."
Audience Member, York Minster 

"After first seeing the performance at The Clore Studio, I was really touched by the performances of all the dancers, the emotional landscape they created together was extremely powerful to experience. I am inspired by seeing performers of all ages interacting and entwined in the work as one, this is unique in the wider 'dance world', and shares an inspirational message that I fully support and wish to see more of. The overall experience of Guest Suites for me was a reflection on being human and all that this means to each of us individually, highlighted by the audience participation, which was a delight to see. I also came away with strong feelings of a bigger picture of humanity, and the idea of guesting in each others worlds being one that is truly universal, a very beautiful experience. Seeing Guest Suites at York Minister was magical and awe-inspiring to witness, the dancers created a special atmosphere and relationship with the space, one that left you feeling 'Wow!'. Guest Suites fascination is it's ingenuity to adapt and shine in any venue/space, however, for me the experience at York Minister really felt at home."
Katie Keeble, audience member, Clore Studio and York Minister

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Guest Suites at The Clore Studio, 17th February

Dancers: Huri Murphy, Esther Huss, Sanna Eriksson Ryg, David Ogle and Cellist: Audrey Riley
Photography by Hugo Glendinning

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Guest Suites | Clore Studio ROH

A response to Judith Mackrell’s review in the Guardian on 20/2/12

While I have often enjoyed Judith Mackrell’s writing on dance and appreciate that she came to review Guest Suites at the Clore Studio, in itself a supportive gesture, the review seemed intent on placing the work within a limited frame of reference. As in previous recent reviews Mackrell refers to my pioneering work in the 70s “’s good to see that 70s spirit is still alive...” I have no problem with this contextualising – most of the contemporary strategies we see today emerged from that radical era, which should not be forgotten. However it seems to me that here it is an attempt to marginalise the work and to suggest that ‘investigating the art form’s potential’ is not of contemporary relevance.... Having more or less grown up together in the same emergent contemporary/new dance UK scene (Mackrell actually performed in a piece of mine in the early 80s) with me as a ‘pioneering’ choreographer and she as a ‘new’ critic, I had hoped for more understanding and placing of the languages in Guest Suites. Her main critique is that it is ‘work in progress’ an approach that, in the past, had some respect and cultural meaning within performance practice - and I do agree that the climate has changed in this respect - and that is another discussion. However this is not what she is suggesting here. Here she is implying under work. As the central artist carrying through this project from inception to development over three years, I know this is mistaken. It is a very developed and layered piece - which uses strategies and disciplines that deliberately reveal its own construction. It is not hiding its processes and techniques behind a shiny over-produced surface (although the work is very detailed and precise). It is a piece which asks questions through its form and structure and through the complex relationship between the dance and music. Indeed, it did seem that the only way to work with Bach’s suites was to ask questions, using fragmentation, collage, chance and ‘poor theatre’ as formal devices. The occasional vulnerability of live performance is part of its fabric – is part of its ‘product’. Let’s not underestimate, either, the quality of performances – there were several guest moments that were the best I have seen in many years on any stage. I do like using modernist lines and shapes which are sometimes technically difficult for the dancers to achieve, but I also ask for emotional embodiment and a certain kind of inhabiting visual image which not many dancers are trained for – or it has been trained out of them. There was subtlety in the performances of our cast and a quality of what I call ‘the speaking dancer’.

Beyond this review of Guest Suites there are wider issues. I believe Mackrell, as a senior critic, has a responsibility not only towards work with high commercial production values. She has a responsibility to recognise and discuss dance as an art form - and as art it may be many things, including a shifting relationship with the notion of ‘product’. As live performance Guest Suites will continue to develop, not because it is work in progress, but because that is part of its artistic intention. Its next stop is the Chapter House at York Minster – an ancient space in the round where we will have to draw on site specific and ‘event’ disciplines to adapt the work and integrate the qualities of this beautiful interior landscape. There has to be certain malleability in the work to achieve this ambitious adaptation – but I have 35 years’ experience of approaching diverse performance spaces and I am confident that, with my outstanding company of performers, the event at York Minster will be beautiful and have meaning.

At the close of her review Mackrell writes “...the harsh truth is that in today’s climate of high production values, we’ve all got used to product.” I too am interested in product where it means making coherent work which moves, challenges and gives pleasure to audiences – which was my, and my collaborators’, aim with Guest Suites. However, Dance as an art form has many surfaces, not all smooth, and we the artists are not all here to contribute to conservative production values – we are here to make art and produce diverse products. As part of this discussion I was referred to the critic Lynn Gardner’s Blog in The Guardian ( 24/2/12) in which she asks the question “ Should theatre be fearless, not flawless?....Polished performances rule the stage and the circus ring, but human fragility is just as gripping – and more moving to watch..” I, and many others, agree.

Jacky Lansley, choreographer Guest Suites, 2012