In search of technical sparkle

FFIN DANCE Still Standing Tour Image Paul Trask

Still Standing Tour
Image Paul Trask

Well, what a week it has been. I have so far thoroughly enjoyed being back in the studio with the ffin family working on our new triple bill which premières at the Nantgarw Campus, Coleg y Cymoedd on the 11th March.

Over the course of the last week, we have spent time recapping ‘Synapsequence’ a piece we toured during the 2012 season which was choreographed by our associate choreographer, Gary Lambert. Not to repeat what both Effie and Megan have already mentioned in their blogs, as I concur with everything they have said, but I must say that it has been most enjoyable to return to this piece, and for me I was actually quite surprised at how much.
Looking back to when we first created Synapsequence, I was never truly happy with my level of technical skill or performance quality. I felt that I was always fighting to achieve the quality of movement that Gary wanted and yet quite often falling short of it whilst also dealing with high levels of stress and performance anxiety.
Two years later, a lot has happened and I finally feel as if something has started to click. For the first time I feel I can now truly try to ‘dance’ the piece to its fullest potential. To recap (sorry, I know I said I wouldn’t but I could not help myself) slightly on what Meg mentioned about being true to the movement, I have found that we all have spent valuable time really focusing on the clarity of all the phrases and to refine where they came from and how they were executed. In order for us to continue pushing the level of performance quality and being honest and true to the materials origins, I think we need to stay continuously focused on what is happening throughout the whole piece, even when off stage. This also plays a part in the other two pieces.

Looking to Catrin’s piece, ‘Stand up Straight’, again its been about being honest with the material, or more accurately the motion in space as opposed to choreographed phrases in space and time. I have found this piece quite a mental challenge in its portrayal of the condition vertigo as I have never really felt fond of the spinning that we do as it makes me slightly faint and I have found the solo material quite difficult to recreate yet still be honest to their original origins of off balance. Certainly with mine, which had quite the clumsy quality with quite hard drops to the floor and rather droopy head actions, it took me quite some time to find the desired outcome. However, as we rehearse and refine the piece, I am finding it to be quite an interesting one to be within and it truly keeps you on your toes. I am looking forward to seeing what an audience makes of it.

Finally, we returned to Sue’s piece, ‘Fractal’, a series of solos and two ensemble sections to the wonderfully complex score by J.S.Bach. After our creation period back in October, I was concerned that I would not be able to do my solo justice in both musical and physical terms, and after reviewing video footage of our final rehearsal, I was beginning to dislike what I had created. Now, a few months later, I am finding a true love and affinity with my solo material and have found new nuances within my score that I had not noticed before which is allowing me to fully embody its style and to live and breathe the musical phrasing as an extension of my physical self. For my solo, which is split into two pieces of music, I have been focusing on using a sinuous quality of my whole spine so that I can really embrace the melodic qualities of the score whilst maintaining control of my arms which can often become too florid and slightly wafty in motion. In addition, I have been playing close attention to the articulation and intricacy of my footwork which reflects the quick, clean and precise phrasing of my music. I still have some way to go yet, but I am determined to strive for perfection. ‘Fractal’ is certainly the most technically challenging in its virtuosity and musical embodiment and I am embracing it as best I can.

Today in the studio was a good day, yesterday I was very tired and struggled to maintain my concentration levels. I certainly think the peppermint tea today helped 🙂

Tomorrow we begin to bring the three pieces together as a unit. Let the hard work continue and grow grow grow 🙂

Thanks guys
Mike 🙂

Fractal 2

fractalpic1Later on today I will be back in our home studio in Abertillery for Day 3 making my new work Fractal.
The dancers have been working from the score of Bach’s English Suite no 3 following the intricate and recurring rhythmic patterns of each movement where they have been creating individual movement patterns within this framework.  Very complex and detailed.

The thinking behind this involves the subject matter of the work – fractals – where a small piece of a whole entity resembles the entire thing.  With this in mind, all of the dancers have also learnt each others’ patterns in order for them to experience the other fragments of the whole work.

I’m very pleased with the depth and quality of what we’ve achieved this far, and very much looking forward to shaping these lovely solos.  The whole work will unfold a series of solo episodes with occasional glimpses of the “whole” manifested in duets and a quartet.

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sue lewis


fractalpic1And so, with less than a week to go, I am turning my thoughts back to my research in readiness for my new work Fractal.

Next week sees the eagerly awaited period which sees the dancers return back to the studio, when I will be working with them to create Fractal.

To a mathematician a fractal is exceptionally difficult to define, and indeed there are differing theories ranging from geometrical patterns to processes in time.  However I will be looking at the part of a fractal that deals with self similarity.  For example how a piece of broccoli can be very similar to the whole thing; the tiny intricate detail that is involved.

With this detail and intricacy considered I will be setting the material to the divinely complex English Suite no 3 by JS Bach.  Have a listen to one of the tracks here ~

I’m sitting in my kitchen looking out at the wonderful autumn colour and seeing the wonder of nature all around, inspiration at its most modest time.  Having just made the first of my Christmas goodies, some lovely Elderberry Gin, time to start thinking of the earth going to sleep, but our plans and ideas coming to full fruition.
We’ll be blogging our time in the studio, please join us on our journey …

sue lewis