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 Photographer: Jem Armstrong

Dancer Laura Jones

Image: Photographer: Jem Armstrong

Colin Hambrook met Chris Pavia (CP) and Laura Jones (LJ) from StopGap Dance Company in the middle of their busy schedule to ask a few questions about the company:

How did you get on in Spain?

CP: StopGap worked with DanzaMobile (a Spanish Dance Company for people with learning disabilities) and Plural (a Portugese integrated dance company for people with and without physical disabilities) We worked together to produce a piece of work we performed for two nights at the CCB Theatre in Lisbon.

LJ: Working together was complicated as the 3 different groups have distinct ways of working. We are used to setting clear guidelines and working within those parameters, but Plural especially, like to work much more openly. During the rehearsal we looked at the three ten minute pieces each choreographer had come up with and deciding which bits we did and didn't like as a group. It involved a lot of dialogue, putting forward thoughts and feelings and finding the right compromise.

CP: It was hard work, being in such a big group. Sometimes you hesitate and sometimes you can throw yourself in. You had to be on the ball, especially when you are being told what to do via a translator and what they are saying is not always clear. I enjoyed working with Tania, one of the Portugese dancers. It was nice to dance with someone different.

LJ: Yes, it was great to get a chance to experiment freely. Normally our work is fairly clear cut, whether we are working in a small community context or performing in a mainstream theatre. This gave us the opportunity to explore our own boundaries a bit more. I learnt that although you'd imagine dance to be a universal language, what we do and how we respond is very much defined by our cultural expectations and experience.

You've recently had two Arts Council commissions. What are those pieces about?

CP: Corpus is about the body. It is about remembering what the body is about. Filip van Huffel, the choreographer was great to work with. He usually works with Retina Dance, but saw our work and wanted to work with us. He had some music (composed by Jules Maxwell) and the dance was set to that music. It was a weird way of working - having to listen to the cues. It meant we had to get an arm or a leg in a certain place at the moment we heard a certain sound. I learnt a lot from trying out difficult things like standing up and going into a turn at the same time.

LJ: We made two duets. Chris worked with Lucy and I worked with Dan. We each wrote a list of 10 body parts and had to find a way of linking those parts in the order in which we'd written them down. The result was a new way of making movement that you normally wouldn't think of, like linking a nose with a knee. Then, the challenge was to make the movement bigger and to make it work in sequence. As a technique it makes movement travel a long distance.

CP: Dancer Syndrome was choreographed by Adam Benjamin. I first met him on a course he was running for Hampshire Dance called Dance Capability. The he saw Stopgap performing at Cornwall Disability Fair and he said "You're bloody good. Let's do a piece together. Over a couple of workshops we created an entire movement and we decided to take it further.

LJ: The piece was based on the dancers remembering and forgetting what they're doing. We look at rehearsals and the 'taboo' of making mistakes on stage, which leads to the line: "I just want us to look like we know what we're doing and I want you to look like you know what you're doing."

CP: My response was: "Is looking like I know what I'm doing more important than admitting that I don't know what I'm doing?"

LJ: It's part of a whole dialogue that builds around the movement adding different themes. We don't come to any conclusions, but the point is to provoke the audience to think about what they're watching in a new light.

What pieces are you performing at the moment?

LJ: We have four pieces in our current repertoire: Thank you for the Eggs, Rough 'n' Tumble, Corpus and Dancer Syndrome. What we perform depends on the venue and the audience we are performing to. We always base workshops on the piece we perform for participants.

CP: We want everyone to have the opportunity to see us. Our performance side and our community side are of equal importance.

You've packed a lot in this year already. But what are you looking forward to over the summer and autumn.

LJ: Ooh there's so much to look forward to. Being programmed to perform at The Place feels like a major achievement. We've seen a lot of dance there. We're going to Sweden, Norway and France later in the year and are also hoping to do another project with the Spanish Group.

CP: I hope we'll put on a great show at The Place. I always look forward to doing a London venue. My cousin is coming to see me perform which is nice. I've been asked by a project called Planet People to choreograph a piece with people from Lockwood Day Centre. I want to get better and better at dance and aim towards making my choreography, so I hope this will be a real step forward for me.

Related information

StopGap Dance Company