Archives for posts with tag: Brighton Dome


Rehearsal of the whole group: An hour of warm-ups and stretches, followed by working through two of Jason’s exercise sequences. Fortunately in the (middle section of) the Corn Exchange, so plenty of room this time. While we’re doing these, Faith arrives with four big laundry bags: our costumes and props! We’re not allowed to see them just yet (nor are you); then Lea arrives in trademark black gaucho-style hat, and we’re into rehearsal. Groups 1&2 into formation for our ‘Dolly’ sequence, while the other groups remind themselves of theirs. Then 1&2 go through their ‘baby-smallnose-skewer-hand-bignose-kebab-headless’ sequence, and make adjustments. Meanwhile Lea is watching the other groups with Jason fine-tuning. Then the bags are opened…


Three Score Dance has been commissioned by the Brighton Festival to work with famous choreographer Lea Anderson (The Cholmondeleys, The Featherstonehaughs) to make a new piece, Tall Tales.The Founder’s Room at Brighton Dome is rather small for a rehearsal for 50 people. No collisions even though we’re all moving rather quickly in different directions (and that’s just the warm-up). Because the company is so large (yes, 50), we’re split into two groups to rehearse on alternate sessions, but we all do the exercises together. We’re looking forward to the finished piece in the Festival, though we don’t yet have an idea of the final shape of it. Working with Lea is really exciting, and her designer Tim Spooner has dropped some intriguing hints about possible costume designs (I’m not telling!)

The piece is based on paintings and designs by the Bauhaus artist/designer, Oskar Schlemmer.


The drugs are working: a breakfast of Asacol, Prednisolone and Co-Codamol. Consequently I’m here, on the big stage of Brighton’s Dome Concert Hall, built by the Prince Regent in 1805: otherwise I’d be languishing in bed feeling miserable. Overhead are the huge scalloped cut-outs of the circular layered ceiling – the place is gorgeous but not fancy Art Deco – with modern lighting gantries hanging (though unlit now). Facing me are 1700 empty seats, but we won’t be performing here – we’ll be in the black-box Studio theatre next door. Jason, our rehearsals director, and now – at last! – our choreographer, is working up a new dance piece – contemporary dance, dance-theatre, ‘modern’ dance, some calls it. The women rule this one. We men (5 of us) scuttle around, hiding behind the 13 female bodies, till we’re revealed, snaking geometrically round the stage, heads down. We don’t know where this is going, yet…

What I do know is that I have to rush around onstage, trying to get attention, becoming increasingly desperate, until, humiliated, I strip down and stand alone in my underpants…




From the flooded toilet floor of the Dome’s dressing rooms up to the stage area, it’s a long, cold way. Especially barefoot. Hazardous too: the steps have a metal edge. Cameraman and soundman stand impassively amongst the women changing their costumes, filming interviews. After the last two days of rehearsal, ThreeScore Dance Company are about to go on. Nerves ripple down the lines of us waiting for the doors to open, and for us to file through, finally, to an audience.

We’ve performed Bettina Strickler’s piece before, but in less than ideal conditions. Now, it’s properly lit, in classic ‘black-box’ theatre, and we’ve all come a long way in the conviction (and maybe grace?) of our movements. The group (twenty of us) are intertwined on the stage, ‘breathing’ to the Morricone score, then breaking into the fast klezmer: I and three other men finally co-ordinate our strange feints, and with a ‘Hey!’ – slap back-to-back, sink down, and are pulled off. (You had to be there, really).

Antonia Grove’s piece is complex: four of us play live music at the beginning, building to a crescendo, after bedding down plants in the bank of earth at stage front. Then the company stands in front of our triangular-back chairs, before the strange repetitive sequence begins, in total silence. We stand, then the music starts: ‘Treasures’ by Seasick Steve, and we perform the rituals of caring and tending, waiting for growth: it’s about ‘the emotional relationship that forms with something alive and rooted to the earth.’ Labour and Wait.

Ben Duke’s piece, You Can’t Miss Me, evokes the classic footage of the flood of commuters across London Bridge, leaving one man isolated in the middle: ‘Well – how did I get here?’ His is one story among many – he’s joined (but not joined) by others, also questioning their positions. We attempt to make contact, but ultimately, we’re on our own. We move, slowly, around the stage, surrounded by the richness of Glenn Gould playing Bach, and for me it’s a truly beautiful, euphoric moment. This is the culmination of a year’s work in a parallel life, a life I’d never imagined. Dance.

My left elbow in Barbara’s palm, her leg in my right hand, we crash to the floor. Uninjured, we (fortunately) haven’t taken any of the others down with us. It’s a tricky manoeuvre: you offer your partner a hand, s/he places it on her/his (new pronouns please!) body somewhere, apply or withdraw pressure, they offer their hand etc etc. It’s fun, a bit like Twister, and there’s this interesting moment where you don’t know where your hand is going to end up. Or where you are (going to end up, that is).

Three choreographers, one after another, are here in the Methodist chapel hall (sprung floor!) to work us through improvisatory routines. Each has an hour, separated only by a water break, and admittedly, lunch in the nearby cafĂ©. Rachel had us lying down, feeling and visualising the shapes we made with our bodies’ contact points on the floor; Laila had us working through the hand-place-pressure sequences, and stringing several together (before crashing to the floor, preferably); Toni made us give each other ‘screen-tests’: directing the auditionee/victim to act out a role. This is all so exhilarating, using your body, improvising with it, inhibitions falling away (as does your resistance to the dreamy gurgling music) and awareness becoming sharper.

The Company finally gets to rehearse our dance piece in the venue where we’re to perform it: the Foyer Bar area of the Dome complex. It’s (of course) smaller than all the spaces we’ve rehearsed in, and (of course) it’s got a rather hard Regency/Art Deco pillar in the middle of it. Which we have to avoid. And somehow we do, winding into an ever-tighter spiral around it like a totem pole, before breaking out and into the final image. Finally, we know what it feels like. We run through it several times. The piece, not the pillar.

(Three Score Dance Company performs the new contemporary dance piece, Twice Upon A Time, choreographed by Bettina Strickler, on Sunday 15 July, Brighton Dome Foyer Bar, 5pm)

I can understand why some people walk out: they probably came for the Manga element in the performance of War Sum Up, at the Dome: ‘a multimedia manga opera on the nature of war, ghosts and superheroes’. But here are no big-eyed girlchildren with fox ears or spikyhaired boys with swords; there’s not much action at all. In fact, no action. Just ten figures in strange padded costumes, almost motionless behind layers of gauze. The action all takes place projected onto them: drawn images of eyes, hands, explosions, flowers, mouths. Which is where the manga comes in.

In front of the black grid a woman in a yellow twin-set plays a music-box, then sings the story, in Japanese; but she, like the other singers, is from the Latvian Radio choir. Created by Hotel Pro Forma, the Danish performance company; the libretto is based on texts from Noh theatre. The music is by the British band, The Irrepressibles. There are three stories – of The Soldier, The Warrior, and The Spy. But the sur-titles don’t help much. In the end, it’s about war being terrible for everyone.

But the visual and aural impact is astonishing. Phrases are repeated over and over, Glass-like, and initially you wish that it would speed up. Then you let go and bathe in the glory of the music and just let it be slow. Muti-layered images of brilliant colour explode over the singers as their voices soar thrillingly. Narrative? well… actually, it doesn’t matter too much. The Spy eventually transforms into a manga fantasy heroine, Super-Woman: tall and dominating in her wide shoulders, goggles and high-soled boots, she stalks the stage, a staff over her shoulder, a triangle moving. Gorgeous. War is hell though.

Five Stratocasters on stage playing themselves. Mirjam has come on and turned up the volume knob on the Strat lying on its back: the low hum from the amp beside it sounds throughout the whole piece. But the others have a 12″ record mounted on the front of each, and as it revolves, it brushes a tremolo-drenched chord from the strings. She gyrates very slowly, leaning back to the floor, with incredible control. A tap-dancer sets up a slow rhythm – other dancers join the rhythm, and it builds, one of them crunching out an edgy riff on the guitar…

This is a performance by Candoco, the company that includes so-called ‘disabled’ dancers among its members. But that word really doesn’t apply here: the power, control, grace and beauty of their movements make it meaningless. A solo piece: Vicky comes on, in silence. She’s wearing an extraordinary outfit – as unlike contemporary dance as you can imagine. It’s a burlesque version of Wonderwoman, black and rhinestoned bikini, knee-high boots, headress with huge blonde hair spilling out. She approaches the audience, smiling, almost offering herself, this is me, hello, yes – me. Sort of sexy, but self-mocking, with each move turning to the audience: ‘Well?’ Funny too. Then suddenly there’s dry ice and a pounding house/disco track kicks in and she’s singing, and dancing: ‘This Is It!’

I’m on the huge Dome stage the next day, with two of their dancers and the rest of 3Score Dance. Mirjam takes us through Qi Gung exercises, and then she and Dan get us to walk the space, claiming it, then walk at half the speed, then half again, till we’re barely moving, (trying not to fall over). We’re tightly knotted together, echoing the shapes of each other’s bodies, still slow. Intensely physical and extraordinarily liberating.

This is it!