Promenade Adventures

As discussed in my last post, The Seedling Dance Project kicked off in a brilliant new direction. It escalated into something myself and fellow dance artist, Anna Rowe, could have only imagined, and it’s felt like it’s propelled me into the next step of my Dance Artist career.

I wanted to share our beginnings of this journey on my blog, one to settle my brain full of thoughts, and two, to have a chat about how scary it can be to start such a large-scale project for the first time.

The Seedling turned into The Seedling Dance Story. We had performed the duet several times in various outdoor settings, and as I said in the last post, we were in discussions with the lovely Marcia Blakenham about potentially running the performance in her beautiful woodlands. The thing was, she suggested the amphitheatre (which was great) but we were so drawn in to the whole atmosphere and setting, we couldn’t help but throw out ‘let’s use the whole of the woodlands’! So suddenly it had turned from a duet to a large scale work which involved other dancers and turning it into a promenade piece rather than in the round. Yikes.

Being so inspired by something is a large part of makes ‘it’ happen I think. We had the opportunity to invite audiences in to these beautiful, natural settings, and knowing not many people had visited these gardens, how could we not open up local people’s eyes to the nature on their doorstep? So we set off on a new adventure as co-choreographers, producers, directors, marketing and sales people. This was very new to me and I just went with it, one step at a time.

I loved getting stuck in with the admin side – drafting letters, schedules, workshops, registration forms, flyers… the works! Not all of it was perfect, but useful sites such as really helped. It talked me through templates for flyers and posters to advertise workshops, rehearsals and performances. Which therefore saved money on hiring someone to do it (this was all out of mine and Anna’s pocket).

We managed to have 11 inter-generational dancers from all backgrounds come along and dance with us. It was beautiful to have the enthusiastic Isla-May, who’s 2 years old, and her sweetheart of a father Frank join us in the studio, alongside women in their 60’s+ who have been part of DanceEast’s older person’s performance group, all collaborating and adding to the flavour of the work. It gave me goosebumps each time we were together, and I had that moment of stepping back and saying ‘yup, this is why I dance and do what I do’.

We plucked it all together in a weekend and a half of rehearsals, alongside an on-site rehearsal, and it came together beautifully. I’m still overwhelmed by the amount of supportive people in mine and Anna’s lives – our parents and children, friends, colleagues – all came together to usher, watch and support on all levels.  We were incredibly lucky to have someone like Mikaela Jade agree to take our photographs and capture some footage (the promo video is in the making at the moment – keep your eyes peeled folks). We definitely couldn’t have done it without them.

Each week Anna and I would meet or have a chat over the phone with to-do lists the size of our arms. We’d reel off who would look after what elements and then find time in between jobs to get it all done, which a lot of the time involved early mornings, and late nights. I find that such a hard balance – between the jobs that pay your rent, and the jobs (like The Seedling) which deliver your joy. That sounds cheesy I know. I’m still trying to tip the balance and make those joyful jobs the ones that also pay the rent.

Anyway, it all paid off. We had very few hiccups (not sure how we managed that) and everyone who watched or participated came out of the performances with smiles on their faces and only positive feedback. I couldn’t have been more ecstatic.

I’m also super lucky to be a part of the 2017/18 New Adventure’s Overture cohort. It’s a professional development course which consists of 4 weekend residencies. They have various wonderful and wise people in the arts delivering a whole manner of sessions. It’s truly inspiring and it’s brilliant building up a national network with like-minded people. With this course comes lots of thinking about who I am as an artist, what work I want to make, and how to make it happen. This advice and support was incredibly valuable when working on The Seedling Dance Story, and to now, how we’re taking it forward. It’s also great as a reflection tool – I’m still an ’emerging artist’ and it’s helped me track my progress and build my confidence up too.

We’re now back at the beginning almost, as we’re putting in for Arts Council Funding, to take it to the next stage and develop with bigger community casts and schools. I feel like all of this experience and support will vastly launch this next one into what we want it to be. Not to mention Anna Rowe is blummin’ amazing – please do check out her Facebook and see what other projects she’s working on separately –

If you want to find out some more information about The Seedling Dance Story, head on over to my website to see what it’s all about.

Wish us luck, and please come along and support us next year!

Karen xo


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