Cumbria Youth Dance Company has been working on a special project since its company members first auditioned to be part of the 2018/19 cohort almost a year ago. Funded by Arts Council England, the project has enabled the fifteen-strong company, aged between 12 and 18 years, to work alongside Wired Aerial Theatre, a professional company based in Liverpool which tours its aerial theatre & bungee-assisted dance productions all over the world.
The project, called Topos, is a year-long artistic collaboration between Cumbria Youth Dance Company and Wired Aerial Theatre, which has resulted in a suite of new work on the theme of mountains. Cumbria YDC co-ordinator Lynn Barnes explains,
“We’ve noticed for several years now how our young Cumbrian dancers have a unique quality about them. It’s something we can’t quite put our finger on but it’s especially noticeable when we take them out of Cumbria to work with other young dancers. We felt that it perhaps has something to do with the awe-inspiring environment of Cumbria that they are all fortunate enough to grow up in; maybe our mountainous terrain is intrinsically part of them and has somehow made them the people they are, influencing their movement quality, creativity, expression, attitude & temperament. This project was initially hatched as an opportunity to explore this theory”.
The Company has created three unique piece of choreography; a stage piece – https://vimeo.com/324878267 – which was performed at The Lowry in March as part of the North West U.Dance 2019; a piece for outdoor performance which will be launched on the shore of Coniston Water at Brantwood as part of John Ruskin’s bicentenary celebrations on Sunday 26th & Bank Holiday Monday 27th May; and a dance film which will be screened and debated as part of Kendal Mountain Festival taking place in Kendal, 14th – 17th November.
At Brantwood in May the company is very excited to unveil its first ever outdoor performance. It features a purpose-built structure designed and constructed by Jamie Ogilvie, technical director at Wired Aerial Theatre, which is based on the notable climbing route of Napes Needle on Scafell. The dancers weave their way in and out of the structure, hang off it, perform breath-taking falls from it and test both its’ and their strength to the limit. Performances will take place daily at 12.00pm, 1.30pm & 3.00pm. The performances are all free to watch as part of the admission price.
So how exactly does dancing and climbing come together? A fascinating part of the project has involved the young people learning about Labanotation (a paper-based, short-hand way of recording dance movement devised by Rudolph Laban in 1928) and then learning about topos, a similar notation method used by climbers to record their vertical routes up a rock face. From intensive vertical training sessions in harnesses to bouldering, from rehearsing on the structure to flying on bungees this young company has had a truly unique opportunity to explore the transition from horizontal to vertical and has developed a range of skills that will enhance their own personal styles of movement as they move forward into further training and careers in dance.
Cameron Wickes, a dancer with Cumbria YDC said,
“Living in our big open landscape makes you feel quite small but that seems to bring us together into very close-knit communities that you maybe don’t find in other places”.
“I have learnt to be open to new ideas and experiences, and will definitely take the bravery and risk-taking from this project with me into the future”, says dancer Iona Webster.
The final element of the project – the film – will be filmed on Tuesday 28th-Friday 31st May on location in Langdale.
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