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Artist Profile: Gillie Kleiman

Thu 17 February 2022
Part of: Artist Support
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Gillie Kleiman: ‘friend’ – Dance Partner Project 2019-20

Artist Gillie Kleiman has a long-standing relationship with Yorkshire Dance.

We invited Gillie to curate Juncture 2016, which became ‘a festival you do’: the curation focused on professional work with non-professional participants or collaborators. She successfully brought artists, participants and their shared work into conversation and explored what happens when the dancing is handed over.

In 2017 we supported the development of Recreation, performed by professional, not-quite-professional and non-professional dancers – including guest performers local to each venue. Gillie took up a residency for the creation and the presentation of the sold out preview of the work at Yorkshire Dance, where Yorkshire Dance’s Operations Manager, Lauren Clarke, was seconded to the cast.

Gillie’s most recent project friend was selected from an open and competitive call out as our Dance Partner Project 2019-20. As a Dance Partner Gillie accessed seed and development funding and ongoing support to develop her most recent venture.

friend is a performance for a non-professional dancer to present in their home to an audience of only their friends.

The project continues Gillie’s vital investigations around who dances, who watches, the contexts in which we present and experience dance, and how we talk about dance, in particular with people who might not normally engage in watching dance. 

As with so many projects, the pandemic hampered the realisation of ‘friend’ several times but in 2021, three pilot performances took place.

Yorkshire Dance worked with Gillie in Leeds alongside two 2 other pilot iterations of the work in Nottingham and Newcastle. Three selected performers took part in a process of guided independent activities and group and individual online meetings to arrive at their version of the distinctive choreography. The unique process culminated with a number of their friends being invited to attend the performance in the performer’s home.

The work gestures to existing practices of domestic performance (beatnik poetry recitals, children’s pop concerts) whilst creating the context for introducing performers and audiences alike to the skill and joy of watching contemporary dance through a series of carefully-designed discussion prompts over a shared post-show meal. It is craftful, ridiculous, and very, very friendly.

As one of the performers in the pilot series put it:  ‘It was a liberating experience, scary & wonderful. I am so proud of myself for doing it!’

The small groups of friendly witnesses of the work were equally enthusiastic:

‘I thought it was a brilliant, touching thing and a fantastic way of bringing people together.’

‘It was moving, amazing, funny, brave, thought provoking and I was very proud of her!’

Artist Development Producer Tanya Steinhauser explains, ‘friend is a very special project indeed. Gillie Kleiman’s attention to detail in the design of the process and experience for all involved is remarkable, utterly creative and full of care. It stimulates the creation of a close-knit micro- community who are propelled into a unique experience of contemporary dance. The experience gets extended when the performer’s friends interact with the work, becoming witnesses, sharing food and exchanging their thoughts and experiences of dance through creative prompts. The work allows a new group of people to engage in a contemporary dance project, it cleverly dismantles barriers that people might have in engaging with the art form and it creates opportunities for a different and new way in to engage with dance without feeling alienated, intimidated or put off.’

The future ambition for ‘friend’ is to connect with participants and their audiences in festival contexts around the UK and internationally. We hope that many more lucky people will get to experience this truly unique process and event!

Image: Gillie Kleiman at Juncture 2016, Festival Opening (c) Sara Teresa

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