Cumbria Youth Dance Company has been working on a unique project since its company members first auditioned to be part of the 2018/19 cohort almost a year ago.
Funded by Arts Council England, the project has enabled the fifteen-strong company, aged between 12 and 18 years, to work alongside Wired Aerial Theatre, a professional company based in Liverpool which tours its aerial theatre & bungee-assisted dance productions all over the world.
The project, called Topos, is a year-long artistic collaboration between Cumbria Youth Dance Company and Wired Aerial Theatre, which has resulted in a suite of new work on the theme of mountains. Cumbria YDC co-ordinator Lynn Barnes explains, “We have noticed for several years now how our young Cumbrian dancers have a unique quality about them. It’s something we can’t quite put our finger on but it’s especially noticeable when we take them out of Cumbria to work with other young dancers. We started to think that it may have something to do with the awe-inspiring environment that they are all fortunate enough to grow up in. Our landscape somehow makes them the people they are, influencing their movement quality, creativity, expression and attitude. This project was hatched as an opportunity to explore this idea in more detail”.
The Company has created three unique piece of choreography including a piece for outdoor performance which will be launched on the shores of Coniston Water at Brantwood as part of John Ruskin’s bicentenary celebrations on Sunday 26th & Bank Holiday Monday 27th May.
It features a purpose-built structure designed and constructed by Jamie Ogilvie, technical director at Wired Aerial Theatre, and based on the notable climbing route of Napes Needle on Scafell. The dancers weave their way in and out of the structure, hang off it, perform breath-taking falls from it and test their strength to the limit. Performances will take place daily at 12.00pm, 1.30pm & 3.00pm. The performances are all free to watch as part of the admission price to Brantwood House & Gardens – www.brantwood.org.uk.
So how exactly does dancing and climbing come together? A fascinating part of theproject has involved company members learning about Labanotation (a written shorthand way of recording dance movement devised by Rudolph Laban in 1928) and then learning about topos, a similar notation method used by climbers to record their vertical routes up a rock face. The dancers have experienced intensive training sessions in harnesses on a vertical wall, bouldering, being attached to bungees and rehearsing on their structure. They have had a truly unique opportunity to explore the transition from horizontal to vertical and have developed a range of skills that will enhance their performance as they move into further training and careers in dance.
Cameron Wickes, a dancer with Cumbria YDC said, “Living in our big open landscape makes you feel quite small but that seems to bring us together into very close-knit communities that you maybe don’t find in other places”.
“I have learnt to be open to new ideas and experiences, and will definitely take the bravery and risk-taking from this project with me into the future”, says dancer Iona Webster.