January 2020 | Present, Prepared, Proactive
As I find myself at the end of the first week back to work in 2020 – a new year, a new decade even – I’m promising myself to embrace all experiences of the year. There are those I’m excited about and already booked in, and those still unpredictably pending, as is the nature of working as a freelancer. Instead of setting numerous resolutions and goals to achieve (or not achieve to be left feeling guilty), I want to make a promise to myself that I will be present in all my work, prepared for quiet times and proactive in maintaining and developing connections with inspiring artists.
After my radio silence of a whole year (not a single blog post was written!), I want to take the time to reflect on a booming 2019, which I am very grateful for in the second year as a freelance dance artist, before looking forward to a (hopefully) equally successful 2020.
I was hired by Emily O’Shea Company to join the company for R&D of On The Border; an ACE funded immersive piece, weaving together personal stories, family history and political and social changes on the Northern Irish border through four generations. This project provided a fantastic extended period of time in a studio with brilliantly bold artists, creating a dynamically challenging work that we will be sharing in a premier full length performance at the end of January 2020, with hopes for more funding for future touring! I joined a new cast of performers with Dance Equation, sharing a fun, engaging and educational dance and maths show to schools in Cardiff and Nottingham. I rehearsed and performed with EQ Dance Co throughout the year, supporting the development of Treading Water Part 1; and further site-specific performance work was commissioned through MÓTUS in 2019. I performed in an improvised quartet supporting artist Thomas Gray’s installation at MK Museum, Border Zone; a duet commissioned by MK Community Foundation to celebrate International Women’s Day; support for filmmaker Ewan Hutcheson to create a dance film of the same duet; and a playful group piece created to celebrate the opening of the new MK Gallery building in their Playscape outdoor area. I enjoyed the continued challenge of site-specific work, adapting to the various sites and demands of each piece, as well as the opportunity to connect with so many wonderful dancers and artists.
Images: MÓTUS, Jane Russell, MK Community Foundation
Teaching was a huge part of 2019 alongside performing, providing the opportunity for me to share a whole host of creative ideas and physical challenges with people of all ages. I taught regular contemporary classes for CentreStage MK, organising a performance opportunity for the senior group dancers at 1Step Youth Dance platform; I was glad to be welcomed back by MK OU Dance Group; and I introduced new groups of young people to contemporary dance, building relationships with local schools at St Paul’s Catholic School on behalf of MÓTUS and Chalk Hills Academy on behalf of University of Bedfordshire and DanceEast. I created and taught Faith Dance workshops for St Bernadette’s Catholic Primary School, St Gregory’s Catholic Primary School and Life Teen’s summer camp, to support their Catholic teaching and develop my role in youth ministry. I continued to facilitate monthly family dance workshops at Stevenage Museum on behalf of BEEE Creative, Arts Award advising for Goldington Academy on behalf of University of Bedfordshire, and supported summer school teaching for Ascension Dance Company, Arts1, Attitude School of Dance and Expressions Academy, as well as teaching contemporary workshops for participants of 1Step Youth Dance in December. My FitSteps teacher qualification was also enjoyed in 2019, recruiting a lovely group of adult dancers in learning Strictly-inspired ballroom and latin steps in fun dance exercise classes.
Despite the reward of sharing dance with all those different people and in such a variety of creative ways; I felt I was too stretched by weekly teaching and missing chances to work on projects I was more passionate about, so decided I needed to reduce the number of regular teaching commitments I had towards the end of 2019, to allow space for more project-based work. This led to yet more new exciting relationships being formed, and (amongst auditions of which I was unsuccessful too) I started new roles working with Dance Equation, Flux Dance and Springs Dance Company, all of which I hope will continue to flourish in the new year.
Of course no year would be complete with all work and no play; so in my effort to engage as much as possible in the work of others’ and continue my personal development, I enjoyed seeing professional performance works: Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, BalletBoyz’ Them/Us, HERstory and Whitsun performances at Shuttleworth by MÓTUS and Springs Dance Company’s Journey of the Magi. I also participated in CPD workshops which were both nurturing and refreshing: Dance Artist Conversations with Danielle Teale set up by BEEE Creative for Hertfordshire artists, a Wellbeing Workshop Day with Earthbound & Feel Good Friendly and a workshop led by Namron as part of MÓTUS Festival. I also joined a workshop led by Wayne Parsons, two days of MK OU Dance summer school with Carolyn Bolton and Jennifer-Lynn Crawford, the Professional Ambitions Day led by June Gamble, organised by The Point Eastleigh, and an aptly named Refreshing Your Creative Practice workshop with Rosemary Lee as part of the People Dancing summer school.
All that being said; reflecting on a year in one go makes for a sense of achievement and pride, even though there were undoubtedly moments throughout 2019 when I was unsure of the next project coming my way, or certain of the direction I wanted my work to take me. With those moments, comes the appreciation of your previous networking and reputation, leading you to new prospects and everything working out for the best in the end.
So without further ado, let’s welcome 2020 and hope for more enriching and inspiring experiences in my work – along with the tricky and worrying ones because it’s all part of the freelance fun!