Reflection: 'In Light of Those You Love' pt.2

When Hannah and I created the twelve-minute version of 'In Light of Those You Love' we had not even thought how/if we were going to extend the piece. One thing we did know was performing the piece at this initial stage gave us a real buzz, a feeling not like the usual pre or post performance adrenaline rush. After being kicked out of school by the security guards every night we would talk about it all the way home. The piece gave us a real purpose, something that school (at the time) wasn't giving us - a reason to go in, motivation, a way to escape all the assessments and formalities that an institution has to provide. Life suddenly became exciting. We decided to show the piece to a few teachers at school due to its adult content: when you're creating and completely immersing yourself in something it is always good to have feedback - there is only so much a camera can do! We also wanted to know if the content was too much and whether it provoked the right reaction.

For the entire rehearsal period we worked in very low light and generated pools of refracted light where we could dip in and out of - creating the effect of disappearing and appearing out of nowhere. This was important for us to 'get in the zone'; the dark content of the work required a certain mind-frame in order to give the movement the right intention. Basically, we wanted affirmation that this way of working was worth it and wanted to know if it produced a new version of dance theatre that excited and affected the watcher as it did for us when performing. Also the the physical brutality of the movement was hard on the body, so finding out if we were on the right track was essential and answering simple questions like - due to its content, can we even perform this in a school environment? The informal showing of the piece (named 'Not Suitable For Younger Viewers' and five minutes in length) was a success and feedback reassured us that we were onto something different - that was exciting. There were concerns that the piece was too shocking for younger audiences but a 'parental advisory' show was discussed. This experience gave Hannah and I the confidence to pursue this as a style and reassured us that this way of working that was worth investing our time into.

Hannah McGlashon and Christopher Thomas, Hannover Choreography31, Admil Kyler Photography

As the piece grew, we learnt that subtlety can be just as powerful, if not more powerful, then obtuse movement/decisions, and the sadistic nature of the original characters gravitated to more sinister form's. One of the main motivators for me during the whole experience was, as long as you believe in something you can make it happen. Sure there will be knock backs (lots of knock backs) but passion, determination and by surrounding yourself with the right people, it is possible to turn dreams into reality. My time at Rambert was one of my best experiences for one simple reason, spending hours/days/years with inspiring young people. I would not have been able to create RSDT without Hannah. Sometimes things happen for a reason - I encountered many problems at Rambert which caused me to take a step back, if I hadn't re-joined into another year I wouldn't have established this incredible working relationship and get to know this beautiful person whom I am able to create interesting, diverse, emotional and mature work with. We both share the same passion and joined forces to create Retrospect Dance Theatre, this has been one of the best experiences.

During the creation period of the twelve-minute version we realised we were becoming more and more invested in the characters, narratives and drama that surrounded the piece. I have always acted and been very interested in different forms of acting techniques and processes. Personally for me Method is the most intriguing. I was so besotted by this concept that I centred my whole dissertation around it discussing: Method and Dance: The parallels between achieving optimum performance at a psychological cost in extreme narrative dance, theatre and film. The whole process was so interesting, that Hannah and I added some of the Method techniques to the creation of 'ILOTYL' and since then have developed a choreographic process built on Method (specifically techniques of Lee Strasberg). This aims to create the most realistic versions of movement to given situation's within the narrative. The idea is that when RSDT perform you are not going to see a dance piece but an observation of human life. When I am explaining our style I always give the example: 'If someone had been attacked, they generally wouldn't whip out three pirouettes into a grande jete as a response.' I guess what I'm trying to say is that there's a real beauty in committing truthfully to situations on a movement sense. For example, if you analyse the movement of a person that suffers with panic attacks, the chest moves in so many different ways that then reverberates into the persons arms, then the head and before you know it the whole body is dancing - all human movement can be translated into dance even if the movement isn't recognised by dance terminology.

I think people are afraid to commit to movement like this because its not necessarily validated in a dance dictionary or isn't backed by lots of tradition but people have been laughing, crying and convulsing for centuries, way before pointed feet and back stretches existed. This is the language of the human body and we should not be afraid to show it. This choreographic process played a key part in the creation of the full length version of 'ILOTYL' (1 hour 15-minutes), as creators we produced the material with tools like emotional recall - specifically this is the ability to connect to emotions a person has already felt before, to perform truthfully and further develop a character. This idea states that the actor should not create new memories or emotions but borrow from their own memory library. This becomes problematic if the actors have experienced emotional trauma, but it also promotes the most honest performance as the actors can't fake something they have felt so deeply. Anyway, I find the whole concept very interesting and to support my theory for my dissertation, I filmed Hannah, before and after implementing Method techniques on the same movement material. The difference in execution of material and narrative conviction was significant. This supported my theory that if the choreographic process was based on the personal involvement, the emotional connection was stronger, more relatable and real for an audience to watch.

So this is how we work in the studio. It can be dangerous to completely immerse yourself in the idea of using your personal issues to become something/someone else. Using them to portray a character that uses your thoughts, memories, emotions, that is not directly you but has taken a lot from you, and can cause the performer psychological pain. Completely losing 'who you are' is common for die hard method actors, Heath Ledger for example or Philip Seymour Hoffman. Here strikes another thing I questioned in my dissertation - is it worth damaging the actors psychological state to achieve the most real, euphoric, believable performing experience? This question is relatively subjective and comes down to two main factors - the actors choice and the influence from the critics. In our case, method definitely helps us with creating a realistic reality in performance and conviction when delivering lines and executing movement. We want the narrative and stories to be as believable as possible.

Once the twelve-minute piece of 'ILOTYL' had been accepted into European platforms, the project became a much bigger deal. This was a surprise to us, we believed in the piece and wanted it to do well but never did we think that at this stage, so earlier on in developing our ideas, would it be one of twenty pieces selected for Choreography31, Hannover. Being able to perform the piece to different audiences, gaining more feedback and experiences was altogether very humbling for us. We are so grateful to have been selected and to share the Hannover Theater am Agei stage with some of the most incredible artists from companies all over the world! It was the most amazing culture exchange and we learnt so much from these other artists alone. To be honest, to have even be accepted in the first place was a massive achievement, this competition is one of the most recognised platforms in the choreography world and for us to have been a part of it, so early on in our creative careers was an invaluable opportunity we will never forget.

Hannah McGlashon and Christopher Thomas, Admil Kyler Photography

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