Dance Development Manager Vicki Hargreaves shares her experience of working with Associate Artist Luke Brown whilst in residence at Dance Limerick, Ireland...
Chapter 1 – Arriving in Ireland
It feels fitting to write in “chapters “ as I arrive at Shannon airport (after a 2hour delay) and am greeted by the smiling face and open arms of Luke Brown as I embark on supporting the process of Chapter 12 – Two Year Itch from his work in progress of new dance theatre show Princess.
Travelling through the west of Ireland in the dark of night we talk about the days ahead as we head to Limerick. Arriving at the quaint little BnB I am greeted with a “God Bless” from the wonderful owner Rhonda and off to bed.
Chapter 2 – Meeting the team
Waking up to sunshine and quiet, walking over the River Shannon with a bitter wind in my face excited for the day ahead. I meet Luke in a lovely little cafe on the bridge and we chat about the piece, GfA writing and how artists need support. After coffee and discussion we walk through Limerick town centre to The Square where my eyes meet a beautiful church building, Dance Limerick. Opening the large double doors to the converted church I walk in to meet the dancers who are all warmed up with class led by Adam Rutherford in the morning.
Luke and the dancers exchange hugs, I’m introduced to the team and it’s straight into working on material they have been creating all week. Bodies in a blank space, a microphone and pens and paper set the scene for next couple of hours.
Chapter 3 – Words and text
“We’re not acting but consciously thinking about the words”, Luke says as they start to play with text and movement. Engrossed in the development of bodies and words weaving in and out of one another; Luke watches intensely as the dancers run through the phrase, trying to make sense of the voice and movement intertwining.
I am fascinated at the bodies seamlessly moving with pauses, building phrases of text and layering movement, it makes me belly laugh and then reflect all at the same time.
Chapter 4 – Conversation
After an afternoon of intense moving we head to Nancy’s, a quirky Irish pub with an open fire and over my first ever pint of Guinness (and probably my last) we continue to talk creatively about Luke’s process. Our conversation turns to the struggles of artists making work, how can we work better together and how appreciative Luke is to have all the collaborators with him this week. It strikes me that more collaboration between artists and venues at a grassroots level is needed, being in the space with the work being made in front of my eyes is better than any marketing material sent to venues, the deeper level of engagement is key.
Chapter 5 – Emails and Coffee
I set myself up early in the cafe on the bridge to make use of the free wifi and delicious coffee and catch up with emails. It makes me appreciate how one can be so mobile and still be connected; Producers, Managers and Directors need to explore work on many levels. From a seed of an idea to the final product that artists are working on, being ‘freed’ from a desk in an office is somewhat liberating and currently feels more productive.
Chapter 6 – Abs work out
I arrive at Dance Limerick for the day and we start with company class, including a lot of ab crunching to Madonna (thanks Luke!). It again feels liberating to be in the heart of class, dancing with fellow professionals and bouncing creative movement ideas from one another.
Responding to a task set by Luke the dancers then devised movement linked to lyrics of love songs, bound to the idea of being attached physically to the microphone. Watching as an outside eye I was able to sit and enjoy the process unfold, offering a probing question here and there.
Chapter 7 – Lunch and Learn
After a large lunch and a walk and talk in the sun we go back to the church to watch and make notes on a previous sharing of Princess. The dancers, Luke and I sit closely together in the slightly chilly dance space to collectively talk, think and question the work Luke has already started to make.
Eggs, Rain, Romance, Rings, Turrets, Apples and Wolves were discussed in great detail.
Chapter 8 – Professional Class (with more abs)
A quick drink with the Artistic Director of Dance Limerick (with exciting insight into the dance scene in Ireland) leads into us working late into the night with a professional class for local dancers, with a great turn out. The class includes yet more abs, this time to Beyonce, plus intricate foot exercises and travelling phrases. What a great way to finish a long day of dance, debate and discussion.
Shower, bed and head full of creative thoughts.
Chapter 9 – Breakfast
We all meet early for breakfast and to develop a format for the day ahead, after a long day of dance the day before I’m certainly saying “hello” to my tummy muscles this morning.
Chapter 10 – Laptop Buddies
After a short run through of the phrase created throughout the week, time turns to funding applications and sharing body warmth while tapping away on laptops together in the corner of the dance space. Music quietly playing in the background, giving me a second taste of mobile office working on this trip.
The room is a buzz with minds working and the odd ‘one-liner’ from someone breaks the steady flow of writing which fills the room with laughter and sometimes heavy hearted sighs.
Chapter 11 – Developing deeper collaboration
The final afternoon of working together comes around all too quickly. We say goodbye to the Dance Limerick space and to the wonderful staff who have provided so much to take the rest of the day as it comes.
We find ourselves reflecting over a late lunch. Why don’t we do more of this, can we all swap contact details, how wonderfully enriching it is to have time together as artists/producers/creative people to feed each other’s practise without an agenda.
Chapter 12 – 2nd Year Itch: For You I Long the Longest
Through conversation with a local Irish poet a fitting title is found, For You I Long the Longest, will be the first full evening of dance featuring Princess and Second-Self from Luke Brown Dance Company.
It’s been a whirlwind few days with many thought provoking moments and the one thing that will remain with me is that collaboration is key. As someone who is always looking at the boundary between being an artist and being a producer (and if there needs to be a boundary at all) I have realised that the one thing to never lose sight of is the art itself.
After all, that’s why we do what we do, isn’t it.
Thank you to Luke Brown, The Point, Dance Limerick and Ingvild, Adam and Aleigh for a great Irish Adventure.
I am now even more excited to see For You I Long The Longest – Double Bill – By Luke Brown Dance at The Point in October 2016, audiences are in for a real treat.
Main image: Adam Rutherford, Luke Brown, Vicki Hargreaves, Ingvild Krogstad