November 2018 | Pedalling The Tracks - Performance
Where does the time go?! The last few months have been a whirlwind of work from the quieter slumber of summer, to a hectic spiral of juggling all sorts of roles and responsibilities, with not enough hours in the day. But, although a little overwhelming at times, I must express how grateful I am to be busy with work and show my appreciation for the range of work I am able to do alongside people from all walks of life. Currently, a lot of my time is spent teaching people of various ages and abilities in all sorts of styles of dance, as well as supporting theatre marketing; but there was another opportunity during October that I am keen to reflect on. This project has been a highlight of this term (whilst I’m in school settings mode) because it was a new performance project for me to get stuck in to, and therefore the feature of this blog.
MÓTUS invited me to work with them, alongside a partnership with Pedalling Culture, to perform in Pedalling The Tracks this October. This site specific, participatory dance work included professional dancers, performers from the local community and a selection of school students, celebrating the history and significant impact of Milton Keynes’ Redways.
‘Before the Redways, there were Railways. Before the bicycles, there were trains. Join us on a cycling adventure as we pedal from Linford Manor to Newport Pagnell exploring the sights, sounds and surroundings of the old tracks. […] Along the way, you’ll be invited to take a breather as the Trainline Tracers bring different locations to life with the help of residents past, present and future.
[…] Using the transformation from Railway to Redway as inspiration, this promenade work will invite audience members to travel the route in conjunction with performers learning all about the far reaching Redways and their history.’
I was delighted to be joining the group of professional dancers working on the project, continuously looking for opportunities to take on more performance jobs where I am able, but also because this specific role allowed me to contribute to the cultural landscape of my local area whilst enjoying dancing and performing.
Images: Helen Parlor
Pedalling The Tracks led audiences along a small section of a very vast network of Redways in Milton Keynes; starting at the Stone Circle near MK Arts Centre, past the disused train platform of Great Linford and all the way to the area of the path where the M1 motorway passes overhead, with use of architecturally interesting bridges and spaces in between. It wasn’t just a bit of grass or concrete to take studio material to as some “site specific” but more outdoor art performances take on; Pedalling The Tracks offered an experience in working with the true meaning of site specific dance work. All material was influenced by the site locations in their theme, using elements of each site. Heritage stones, steel bars of bridges, railway platforms and the grit and dingy atmosphere under the M1 bridge brought to life movement portraying a shared history along the route of the Redways.
Diverse in space, shape, atmosphere and context, the site locations lent themselves nicely to a dance work that required us as performers to adopt similarly diverse styles of performance. We encompassed folk dance, showgirls, contemporary movement-based sections including props such as bike wheels (the bruises lasted for weeks!) and of course, some cycling along the way on vintage bikes (donation hire by Roy Pink Cycles). The switch from one character or intention to another in performance is always a great way to experiment with your varied skill as a dancer, and more practically helps to remember a lot of different choreography in a short space of time!
Image: Willie Robb
If the variety of five site specific sections of work in assorted character and intention wasn’t enough, we, as the professional dancers, entered an intensive rehearsal period in which we met, created material (under the direction of Helen and Chris of MÓTUS), rehearsed and then performed with the other groups involved at the end of the same week in which the process began. Projects such as Pedalling The Tracks are fantastically challenging for this reason, requiring wholesome energy and commitment over a short period of time. Fortunately this group of dancers were open to the challenge and all ready to tackle the week, forming a close connection in a short space of time – a lovely feeling as a performer, being in sync with your fellow cast members and understanding how to best support each other through the process. We met a mere few days before this feeling settled, but already felt like we’d known each other for ages; an element of dance I am always fascinated and amazed by, aiding fast-forming relationships and a shared, supportive work environment through movement.
Taking part in Pedalling The Tracks was challenging in itself as I was trying to take care of my body, wholeheartedly portray the intentions of the dance work and creatively input choreographic ideas throughout, ready to perform at the end of the week; but the experience was made more challenging as I was also juggling some teaching commitments around rehearsal time. Ideally I would have been able to find cover for my teaching roles in that week, but with a small network of artists in the area, most of whom are working on the project with me, I made the most of the opportunity whilst staying committed to other roles I have. This meant I was bouncing from one frame of mind to another on a few days in the week. I had to find energy from wherever I could to be present in each role, but it was a great lesson in the realities of being a performer and working freelance.
To sum this blog up; Pedalling The Tracks brought me a whole lot to be thankful for in one job, from a physically as well as mentally challenging and rewarding experience, pushing my professional boundaries and abilities further afield. It was a pleasure to work with Helen and Chris (MÓTUS) as always, and I would like to thank them as well as all the artists involved in bringing Pedalling The Tracks to Milton Keynes – what a feat and from feedback, a huge success in audience reception; another job well done!
If you missed our performances, check out images in this blog and on my Instagram (@hannahdelaneydance) to give you an insight in to this unique promenade performance work.