Autumn 2010 see StopGAP Dance Company embarking on a tour of their latest double bill - 'Within' choreographed by Thomas Noone and 'Splinter' choreographed by Rob Tannion. Lucy Bennett provides a dancers' insight into this exciting development in StopGAPs work
'Within' sees a lone dancer, drawn into her own imaginary world by four compelling characters. Touching duets, bodies crashing furniture and explosive movement describe the unorthodox soundtrack of harpsichord clashing with Indian instruments, created by Spanish composer Pedro Navarrete.
Thomas Noone is the choreographer for his Barcelona based company, Thomas Noone Dance, and his repertoires have fluidity, detail and full-bodied extension. StopGAP was first attracted to his choreography because of a simmering aggression that underpins his partner work, which can offer a contrast to his grace and idiosyncratic nuances.
Before starting to create work with StopGAP, Thomas first familarised himself with the company’s past collection of repertoires. He then devised a very clear theme for the company, using his own practice as a backbone. Thomas also arrived in the UK prepared with a full musical score and the title 'Within', and his partner Nuria Martinez accompanied him to demonstrate his ideas for partner work.
Thomas and Nuria’s close relationship lent itself to the relentless sequence of experimental and thrilling duets, whilst never losing his emphasis on clarity and precision. His approach to dance making was fast and intense, which exhausted the dancers at first. However, his relentlessness resulted in a team of fit, strong and fearless performers.
Thomas led the dancers to learn his material quickly, and layered his style onto each individual dancer in one to one sessions. He was particularly determined to work closely with Laura, and he took a bold decision for her to dance out of her wheelchair for the entire repertoire.
Laura is also the central character for 'Within', around whom the other dancers appear as her ‘apparitions’. This was an interesting experiment, but is one that has had a positive impact on the dancers as a team: As her apparitions, the dancers are required to work competitively but also cooperatively, and this cannot be achieved without the dancers’ deep understanding of their individualities and finding the right balance to create the right atmosphere.
This is the first piece StopGAP has done that features a central character, so represents an interesting departure for the company.
'Splinter' is dance theatre driven by a thunderous Japanese soundscape. Fuelled by the promise of progress, StopGAP’s dancers wrestle for the balance of delicate humility and creative conflict that honest cohesion demands. Thrown into another world, will the group subsist or splinter?
Rob Tannion’s style is very much based in the physical and dance theatre tradition, with his prominent role with the physical theatre company DV8 continuing to influence his work. He is currently joint artistic director of Stan Won’t Dance with fellow former DV8 performer Liam Steel, where he continues to explore the boundaries between dance and theatre. Rob’s style has a preference for strong and challenging movement, often suggesting struggle and conflict between the performers and internally in the individuals.
The initial concept of 'Splinter' was developed through collaboration between Artistic Director Vicki Balaam, Rob Tannion and composer Jim Pinchen and influenced by StopGAP’s residency in Japan exploring stories through dance theatre. During the creative process, the dancers were encouraged to explore their own personal struggle, and were pushed to question the company’s wrestle with creativity in seeking honest cohesion and humility both on and offstage.
The artistic alliance between Rob and StopGAP resulted in the dancers to continue developing 'Splinter' once he had left the studio. His trust, freedom and instinctive practice resulted in a triumphant example of sincere integration between the dancers with and without disabilities, and between virtuosity and invention, athleticism and honesty but most importantly dance and theatre.
As a collective, StopGAP has successfully devised a whole new physical language that explores their own cohesive work as an integrated company. This language is a theatrical communication that will continue to inform the company’s future work as an ensemble.
Vicki Balaam says "This piece was inspired by our experiences of touring in Japan. I find it a highly theatrical piece that has moments of breathtaking beauty, fearless duets — but it’s also a very revealing piece — you get an insight into the hard work, co-operation and great sense of humour that happens behind the scenes in StopGAP."