Friday, 30 June 2017

More than "Dancing Bananas": Chantry Dance's Demystification of Contemporary Dance

Halifax Victoria Theatre
Author: Space Monkey
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Chantry Dance Company  Demystifying Contemporary Dance 29 June 2017, 19:00  Halifax Victoria Theatre

Chantry Dance Company is a family enterprise based in Grantham in the East Midlands which was already famous for its parish church with its chained bible and magnificent spire, its biennial science festival in honour of Sir Isaac Newton the most famous scholar of the town's grammar school who was born and raised nearby, its Beehive pub with its living inn sign and, of course, the grocer's shop in which Baroness Thatcher, our first woman Prime Minister was born. Chantry Dance has recently added to the fame of that handsome market town with their performances and school.

I first came across Chantry Dance just over three years ago when I allowed myself to be dragged onto the stage of the Lincoln Drill Hall by Gail Gordon to take part in a dance workshop called Dream Dance where four of us created and danced a modern ballet to accompany the company's performance of The Sandman (see Chantry Dance Company's Sandman and Dream Dance 10 May 2017). That was the first time I had danced in public and it emboldened me to put my name down for Northern Ballet Academy's  end of term show (see The Time of my Life 28 June 2014) and a number of other shows right down to last May's MoveIt in the Dancehouse on Oxford Road in Manchester (see "Show!" The Video 10 Jun 2017). But for Chantry Dance, it is unlikely that I would I have tried any of that which would have been a pity because I have also found out that performance is essential to dance education.

But I digress.  Chantry Dance has expanded the show it performed in Lincoln in 2014 into a full-length work which it is taking on tour (see The Sandman Tour 27 Jan 2017) including the North (see Chantry Dance goes North 14 March 2017). To prepare audiences for that work the company's directors, Paul Chantry and Rae Piper, are visiting some of the venues in which they will perform with an audio-visual presentation called Demystifying Contemporary Dance  (see Demystifying Contemporary Dance 1 June 2017). I caught them yesterday in Halifax in the bar of the Victoria Theatre.

Having seen hundreds if not thousands of ballet and other dance performances over the last 50 years, having kept this blog since 2013, having attended adult ballet classes for most of that time and having read loads of books and articles on all forms of dance I doubted that there was anything Paul and Rae could tell me in a PowerPoint presentation that I did not already know. I was wrong,  I learned a lot last night.

Rae started her presentation with exploding some myths about contemporary dance such as "It's all about dancing bananas" with a great slide of dancers in banana shaped tutus. She and Paul started with the characteristics of classical ballet (Paul trained at Central and Rae has been dancing since she was 5) and then the history of dance. They illustrated various points with a dance or demonstration.  So, the question "will you marry" me was reflected in a balletic flourish of the arms about the head ending with the right hand pointing to the ring finger.

They proceeded to the divergence from the classics such as The Rite of Spring, Les Noces and L'Après Midi d'un Faune by Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, Isadora Duncan where Rae danced a few steps from one of her routines, Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and finally to Mats Ek, Wayne McGregor and Sir Matthew Bourne of our own time and a summary of their respective contributions to dance. They listed some of the characteristics of modern dance and Paul appeared in a boiler suit and brush to demonstrate all of those.  The evening ended with a duet from The Sandman which the company will dance on the main stage in September.

There followed a Q & A and a mingling wth the audience which would have continued all night had an official not reminded us with a gentle "Eh Up!" that he had a home to go to even if we didn't. There will be similar presentations next month in Andover, Horsham and Lincoln and if you live in or near any of those places I would advise you to go.

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