Archives for posts with tag: Brighton

talesblog1

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.

http://www.leaanderson.com/

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Dome

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…

 

 

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 café. 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)

http://www.brightondome.org/threescoredance.aspx

In a marquee, this cinema. We’re the first in, so we get the best table, right in front of the screen. To our left, a little video camera is pointing at a small black backdrop, under an Anglepoise. In the middle is a portable projector. To our right, a heap of musical and non-musical instruments: autoharp, electric guitar, tambourine rattles sticks laptop keyboard. Waiters wearing bandannas and short kimonos bring us sashimi, then tempura, a seafood platter, saké, beer. This is the Paper Cinema night at Moshi Moshi, Brighton. A three-course meal and two – what? films? performances, really. Because it’s all live.

Exquisite cut-out drawings, black ink on the reverse of cereal-box cardboard, are filmed, live, in front of the black screen, and projected, while two musicians play the score. Many cut-outs are manipulated by the two puppeteers, moving, one in front of the other, in and out of focus, side to side. Live cinema. The drawings are pen and brush-stroked, solid blacks, the faces minimal yet full of character, the stories surreal and gripping, the music full and rich. It’s enchanting, engrossing, though you can’t help glancing at the two puppeteers wielding their characters and scenery – bushes, rocks, clouds, stars – that they take in turn from a stack beside them. It’s beautifully low-tech, inspirational and heart-warming, in an age of computerised 3–D sensationalism.

Walking back, we drop in to the Verdict: upstairs a small café, but downstairs a jazz club. It’s nearly finishing, but we take our drinks down to watch Tony Kofi’s trio winding up their set with John Coltrane’s Alabama, written after the bombing of a black Baptist church by the Ku Klux Klan – sobering and passionate. A small, dedicated audience (why are jazz audiences so small and dedicated and predominantly male?) wants more, and Tony’s happy to play more, and launches, solo, into Charlie Parker’s Relaxin’ at Camarillo, with the tricky tune then echoed by the drummer, then the bass-player – thrilling. We walk back to the car, amazed at a great night out. All live.

http://thepapercinema.com/
http://www.tonykofimusic.com/
http://www.verdictjazz.co.uk/

Simon says ‘Breathe in for 5, breathe out for 5’. I do what Simon says. Really nervous: very dodgy stomach. The thing about being a non-reading guitarist (the dots I can’t join up) is that I have to remember – how many verses/choruses? is the form under solos ABA or AB? or do we just go around the 1-6-2-5 progression, and how many times? etc, instead of reading the arrangement from the score, like the horn section (13 of them) do, from left to right. If I or the other rhythm players get it wrong, we could be on collision course. The awful responsibility.

It gets better every year, though. This time it’s really tight and punchy, and though a smaller audience (Chelsea v Bayern Munich: there is no life-form visible on Brighton’s streets), there’s a great atmosphere, and DJ Amma’s got them in the mood with her classic ska selection. Concorde2 has a big high stage that’s become crowded with 19 of us. At and over my feet there’s a tangle of cables, a music stand with my crude charts, spare guitar – yes, I break strings – monitor, and two guitar amplifiers pointing directly  at me.

Once you’re on stage, and playing, the nerves are gone, and the trick is to get the right balance between concentration, performance, attention and sheer pleasurable excitement. I lurch between these – mostly veering towards the latter. Our guest singer, Matty Eeles, steps up and delivers a passionate, belting Diamonds Are Forever over the big horn arrangement, and then we rip into the James Bond Theme at a fast skank.

At 10pm (we’re the early shift) we’re finishing with our big brassy Walk Don’t Run, and the Concorde man in the battered cowboy hat at the back is making evil throat-cutting gestures, and when we finish, the crowd roar and immediately start chanting for more. I look round: the throat-cutting has become more of a sawing-head-off motion, though the crowd can’t see. They just want more…

Black, crumbly, scratchy, smeary… charcoal: I love it. Standing up at a precarious easel, I’m concentrating on the hip of the naked woman in front of me and trying to relate it to the elbow of another, and get it in the right elbow/hip proportion.

Under a black-and-white check canopy with a disembowelled chair hanging over my head, I’m at the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party (in New England House, Brighton). That’s the theme of this life class: I expected people dressed in Alice in Wonderland costumes sitting around a table – maybe a stuffed dormouse hanging out of a teapot. I wasn’t really expecting four beautiful young women, wearing, respectively, a top-hat, striped stockings, rabbit ears, and a cigarette-holder, in a surreal grotto of giant playing cards, a huge key, flowers and checks everywhere… it’s years since I went to a life-drawing class, but things have clearly changed! You might say it’s a bit, well, burlesque, but it’s not: it’s a life-class, imaginatively-staged.

The models start with quick poses, five minutes – in fact, they change positions when the song finishes. The songs all relate to the Alice theme, but don’t include the song from the old Disney film (aaah), and do include a disappointing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s ‘White Rabbit’ (oh well). But that’s not why I’m here. I plunge into a few brush drawings, all bad – I should have been practicing. It takes a while to get your eye back in, but I switch to soft pencil, then lovely charcoal. Everyone’s concentrating hard, and the models are striking really taxing poses, and I’m getting a bit better, and then it’s all over. Time flies in Wonderland.

The sky is very blue, and the sea a lovely milky turquoise, glittering in the late May sun. I’m waiting for the Madeira Tower lift, topped with a peeled globe, dolphins and a scaly roof, and it’s taking me down into Concorde2, Brighton’s music venue on Madeira Drive.

I’ve been back in the UK for 24 hours, and I’m feeling fine after the flight from Tokyo. Nervous, though: tonight is Ska Toons’ Ska-Kestra gig. It’s our annual big-band gig, featuring at least twenty musicians, in the Brighton Festival. We soundcheck, and it sounds terrific out front. Then we adjourn for coffee and cake to the café on the beach.

There’s a big crowd queueing at the door, and an excited buzz backstage. Helen’s nervous as well, so we wind each other up, enjoying getting rather hysterical. DJ Amma has got the crowd sweating, and they roar as The Ska-Kestra troops on stage. The band kicks into our opener – ‘Garden of Love’ – with the fifteen horns punching out the tune.  And the crowd are dancing, and they don’t stop.

Finally, Helen and I are cheek-to-cheek, sharing one microphone, singing the rousing closer, All Of My Life, and dancing. Heaven.

The next day, of course, I feel groggy. And the next. And…