Supporting the difficult transition from student to professional choreographer

“linger/beyond: dance works get a new life” at London Studio Centre

Kaleidoscopic Arts congratulates London Studio Centre’s latest choreographic residency project: linger/beyond: dance works get a new life

Ten choreographers (London Studio Centre alumni students) were engaged in a 3-week residency at artsdepot in order to revisit or create brand new works to be presented at artsdepot’s Pentland Theatre on Thursday 6th of October 2016.

We have interviewed LSC tutors Julia K. Gleich and Dr. Lise Uytterhoeven who brought about the project to find out more about this great initiative.

What was the motivation behind linger/beyond? Was this the first project?

Over the years, students at London Studio Centre at all levels produce some really excellent creative work as part of their studies and co-curricular projects, as well as on their own initiative. The highlights tend to be the students’ practice-based dissertations, which are often well-rounded pieces of choreography underpinned by thorough research and imaginative creative processes. Some of these works would not look out of place in professional dance programming, which made us think that, rather than a one off, these pieces deserve to have a longer life and be seen by a wider audience. linger/beyond aims to provide graduating students with this opportunity to revisit and further develop their work and to adapt it to the professional stage, taking advantage of the regular access LSC has to artsdepot’s Pentland Theatre for co-curricular performances. After this first linger/beyond project turned out to be a huge success, we are already planning the second edition, which will culminate in a performance in autumn 2017.

How were the participant artists selected?

The practice-based dissertation option in the final year of the BA (Hons) Theatre Dance programme was originally conceived as an alternative to a written dissertation. Over the past few years, the number of students choosing this option has grown significantly, so that almost half of the student body uses the opportunity to explore choreography for the stage, screen, gallery or site-specific venues. The overall standard of achievement in this module is very high, meaning there was an abundance of very good works to choose from. We selected those students how had demonstrated excellent levels of experimentation in their research process and had made strong artistic choices in the development of their choreographic ideas. We were looking for choreographers who had used the dissertation opportunity to strengthen and develop their artistic voice, and whom we could see contributing to the choreographic landscape at a professional level.

Could you talk to us more about the way the participant choreographers were supported during that 3-week residency?

The main resource that we could offer was free access to rehearsal space during the summer months. Another LSC graduate, Jessica Barlow, also came on board and acted as dramaturg for the linger/beyond project. She provided group improvisation warm-ups, helped to articulate the group’s aims and approach to digital marketing and visual branding, and shaped the evening performance in terms of bringing out the connections and contrasts between choreographic ideas and finally ordering the pieces. The group worked in partnership with each other, with Jess and with ourselves to overcome the challenges of the process, whether logistical, technical or artistic.

How did the choreographers benefit through this project?

As far as we can see, linger/beyond afforded these graduates with a smoother transition between full-time training and education and the “scary” world of freelance professional work as an independent artist. For the choreographers and performers, first and foremost, linger/beyond was a chance to get together in the studio and dance, connecting with their bodies and their art, a type of opportunity that can become much harder to realise when you’re no longer a student. The choreographers could take time to revisit their existing choreographic ideas and develop their material further in a focused way. They also gained experience staging their work in a professional theatre and were able to get their work and their name out there among the audience of industry professionals, students and teachers, as well as many others in the wider dance community via social media. A fellow artist, Joseph Boyle, photographed and filmed their work, meaning that they can use this material to promote their work in the future and forge new opportunities from there. Some of the participants have since gone on to present work at Resolution at The Place or as part of the Moving Words programme here at LSC and artsdepot, curated by Kate Mummery. In other words, linger/beyond has helped the participants to establish themselves as choreographers in a professional sense, who are more knowledgeable and experienced about how to participate in the current dance economy.

Who supported you to realise this project?

London Studio Centre has always been especially committed to creating opportunities for students and graduates to develop performance through an entrepreneurial spirit. In this sense, it has set up the partnership with artsdepot, leading to regular use throughout the year of the Pentland Theatre for evening-length, co-curricular performances in all styles of dance that we offer: ballet, contemporary dance, jazz, hip hop/commercial and music theatre. The linger/beyond project, as a dedicated project curated by LSC’s Choreography department, received special support from LSC’s Directors, Nic and Nikki Espinosa. On the ground, Grace Millar, the Performance & Events Administrator, organised everything, from our social media presence, sharings and run-throughs to liaising with artsdepot and scheduling tech slots. Without her help, the project wouldn’t have run so smoothly, and her encouragement has surely helped to build the choreographers’ confidence in the work they presented. Finally, the whole LSC team – teachers, administrators, students and alumni – have supported this first edition of linger/beyond each in their own way, for which we express our genuine thanks.

Will this project carry on? Are there any thoughts of developing this project further?

London Studio Centre is keen to continue to support this opportunity for recent graduates, so we have already started planning the second edition of linger/beyond. We hope that many more colleagues from various walks of the dance world will accept our invitation to come and see the innovative work that LSC graduates are creating. We would like to strengthen the dramaturgical aspects of the project, by setting up more frequent opportunities for dialogue and partnership between participants in the various roles they embody in the project. We aim to continue to explore writing as a tool to underpin the creative process and as a way for spectators to engage with the work. We have laid some of the groundwork for this, but hope to disseminate some of this writing more widely as part of the project. An emphasis on the interplay between the choreographic and discursive dimensions of the creative process will hopefully serve the graduates best in their aim of creating meaningful opportunities and networks for themselves in the future.

Do you think there is enough support by institutions for recent graduates? Do you think these kinds of projects are necessary and would you encourage other institutions to support alumni artists in a similar way?

We’ve seen first-hand that recent graduates are often looking to keep their connection with LSC going after they finish their course. Creating opportunities for graduates to keep engaged with the college has mutual benefits: while it is often possible for the college to share some of its resources with graduates (studio space, performance/choreographic opportunities, staff time to catch up and have a chat), likewise, the things alumni can give back to the college are of immense value, whether it is through teaching, working with students on performances or simply sharing their experiences of the professional world. All these things can help staff to keep their understanding of the profession up-to-date and ensure that the education LSC provides optimally prepares students for this world. So, it is important for staff to take time to regularly engage and build relationships with alumni. We try to draw them into projects wherever possible or support them in other ways. It is always fun to reconnect with former students and we often feel immensely proud of what graduates achieve. Graduates tend to be keen to maintain their connection to the place and the community where they spent three years of their lives, and we often speak of “the LSC family”.

The interview was led by Lucia Schweigert and Konstantina Skalionta.

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