Looking back on INTO THE LIGHTWed 4 October
Part of: Into the Light at LGBT50
On the 29th of July thousands of visitors and passers-by watched a mixed-cast of dancers perform Into the Light, a new dance commission by Gary Clarke, on the Queen Victoria statue in the centre of Hull as part of a tea-party hosted by queer performance collective Duckie. The dance was part of the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 ‘LGBT50’ celebrations, marking half a century since the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in the UK.
“For me this has been a life changing experience. We were able to include some of our own material into the performance which made it ours and made us want to perform it with just that little bit extra. The performance came from the heart and was done in such a way we were all so very proud of our achievements. It has made me want to perform more, in fact I am already attending rehearsals for another performance!”
Gary Clarke, worked with Assistant Choreographer TC Howard, to explore some of the political and social landmarks of the five decades since the change in the law – the first Pride march, the AIDs crisis of the eighties, the legalisation of same-sex marriage and so on.
Gary chose his diverse cast of eight professionals – Harry Theaker, Eleanor Perry, Daniel Gordon, Tamar Draper, Patrick Ziza, Dom Coffey, Natali McCleary and TC Howard – as a large-scale campaign started to recruit 42 non-professional dancers (to create a company matching 50 performers to the 50 years) from around Hull and the East Riding, with as many as possible to come from the LGBT+ community.
Gary and TC led workshops across the city, meeting dozens of local people, and the company grew until, a couple of weeks before the scheduled performance, it was complete.
Participants ranged from under 16s to over 60s and from first-time performers to those with a life-long passion for dance.
“I think it had a really big impact on the individuals in the project by providing a safe and supportive group where everyone could be themselves. For the wider community I think it brought the LGBT community literally to the centre of Hull and opened many people’s eyes to its history and encouraged empathy and understanding and real solidarity!”
During rehearsals the company formed a tight-knit, supportive community, with Gary encouraging them to create and develop their own movement vocabulary for the piece. One of the non-professional dancers, Michelle Dee, wrote a spoken-word strand for Into the Light which she performed herself.
“I felt accepted. I’ve been off work with mental health issues and being part of Into the Light has given me the feeling that I can be accepted by others and can do things I find challenging. Dance is where I am truly myself so Into the Light allowed me to find myself, regain parts of myself that had been lost as no other project could have done.”
For Yorkshire Dance it was a dream to be commissioned to produce an original work rooted in a local community and lead by such a fantastic creative team, including original sound-track composed and played live by Best of Friends and featuring parade-band Backchat Brass. Into the Light was a very moving performance, and the project as a whole was a completely joyful experience – one which it’s fair to say had a life-changing impact on many of its participants.
“My life is better because of this wonderful project.”
“It has enriched my soul. It was such a wonderful way to bring together a diverse group of people. It was powerful to stand together for the LGBT community in Hull and such a beautiful piece could not fail to impact on all who saw it.”
“For myself, [the most valuable aspect has been] my dance family, the confidence it has given me, my better understanding and an increase in fitness and health.”
“I had never taken part in any dance project before but have since signed up for another one called Rush. I would never have done this without having had such a life confirming experience on Into the Light.”
Read Michelle Dee’s three blog-posts about Into the Light here: