Surprising Encounters at Yorkshire DanceThu 29 November 2018
Part of: Encounters Festivals
Antony Dunn, Marketing Manager, reflects on a very different sort of a weekend…
In the run-up to our first Encounters mini-festival in November, we talked a lot about building a ‘community of activists’ through its programme of performances, workshops, films, talks, meals and a silent disco.
We had an ambitious plan to bring together all kinds of people who experience different aspects of Yorkshire Dance’s work: children who take part in our Saturday morning dance classes and their families; older adults who’ve been involved in our Young at Arts programme for people at risk of social isolation; dance-lovers who regularly attend performances of experimental contemporary dance here; people who took part in our Hull-based Into the Light project for members of the local LGBTQ+ community…
Everyone who’s ever had anything to do with us, in fact.
We programmed a festival which was very much about doing rather than simply watching and, if Friday evening’s audiences for H2 Dance and Robbie Synge, Lucy Boyes and Company looked rather like our regular audience for performance, something very different indeed happened on Saturday morning.
With the foyer transformed into an arts-and-crafts studio, and the South Space into a café-bar, the whole building felt like it was ready for a celebration.
Families started turning up for a series of workshops led by dance artist TC Howard. Parents – who normally drop their children off for a dance class and wait in the foyer for them to come out an hour later – joined in and danced with their children and with each other.
Robbie Synge led an all-age workshop whose participants ranged from 10 years old to 89.
Mike and Helen, stalwarts of our Young at Arts programme, danced solidly in the silent disco for an hour and a half, outdoing plenty of people less than half their age.
The pop-up café-bar was packed for lunch and afternoon tea with families, friends and colleagues chatting to people they were meeting for the first time. People modelled clay together, drew portraits of each other, quizzed each other about their different life experiences.
H2 Dance’s Strangers & Others found a studio full of people from toddlers to pensioners, receiving instructions through headphones, interacting, touching, moving together.
And then this mixed buildingful of people watched Robbie Synge, Lucy Boyes and Company – a group itself comprising dancers aged 32 to 74 – perform Ensemble, an extraordinarily moving, playful and physical dance work.
We did it. We made our temporary community of activists. And this was a gentle, kind and joyful activism. In an era when division and ‘othering’ seem to dominate all geo-political landscapes, meeting, spending time with and dancing with people who are different from us – different in gender, ethnicity, beliefs, age, whatever – seems radically counter-cultural.
Honestly, it was beautiful to watch. Not just the performances, but everything. Everywhere I looked, people were smiling. Nobody looked lost, or lonely, or out-of-place.
For most of us, it takes a certain amount of courage to encounter strangers and share a new experience with them, and when the whole festival was over, I was surprised to find how grateful I felt towards everyone who’d taken part – artists, audiences, our own staff and volunteers – for being courageous, for creating a joyful thing, for making a community.
Thanks, everyone. It was fun. Let’s do it again in March.