Updated: May 22, 2020
I first met Sign Dance Collective (SDC) a few years ago when they came to teach theatre students at Bangor University and performed an excerpt of Carthage. I was inspired by their infectious energy and their weaving together of different languages in performance. So I was thrilled when Isolte approached me to mentor their work, Turtle Trials earlier this year, and then to work as movement director with them on the pilot of the new work, In Between Spaces. For nearly twenty years, SDC have worked in a highly collaborative way across space and time, building on their pioneering work between 1987 and 2000 combing sign theatre, dance and music. It is not surprising then that they are now, in this new work, looking at the in between spaces of our lives. What are these in-between spaces now, in 2018? Technology allows us to seem to be in more than one place at once, air travel moves us across continents and oceans, so we can experience different cultures almost at the push of a button. These innovations should make us empathise so much more with each other as humans as we get to know and understand our differences, and yet brutal wars and injustice persist. How we navigate this fast-changing world and really connect to each other is the stuff of this new work.
The creative process has been a bit like Chinese whispers, with different workshops occurring in different places with different artists: filming in Miami (US), dancing in Llanberis (North Wales), directing in Bordova (Turkey) and drawing together the work in Graz (Austria). I have been present for the Welsh and Austrian phases. I am in Graz now as I write this. At first, I found this process confusing, I wasn’t sure what was going on. In Llanberis I understood a bit more, and now, in Graz, I feel a strong connection with the work as emerges from the process as a really moving piece of multi-media dance theatre responding viscerally to the contemporary human condition. Raw film footage that we watched and worked with in Llanberis has been expertly shaped and pulled together by Rob Corcoran. The flow of the work has been developed with Ozan in Turkey. I am now trying to refine what is already a strong, well developed and multi-layered piece of work. Much of this involves subtle changes and attention to logistics, such as how to move a microphone without losing the dramatic tension created. It has taken me a bit of time to really see the work in its new shape so that I can respond effectively. I am also new to working with sign language, especially in the creative way that SDC interweave it into the production. I am learning so much and responding very intuitively (sometimes unsuccessfully) to the work evolving around me. Like a making a patchwork quilt, the artists working on In Between Spaces lovingly stitch together scavenged remnants of the fabric of space/time into a multi-faceted, at times highly patterned, and at others, gloriously anarchic whole.