VERVE is the postgraduate performance company of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, performing at 8pm on Tuesday week 17) at The Nuffield Theatre. VERVE will present four thrilling new dance works by international choreographers, performed by a company of eleven dancers trained at some of the world’s most prestigious dance schools.
Patrick Sweeney, one of our volunteers at Lancaster Arts, spoke to Martha Gosnold, one of the dancers in VERVE for SCAN Magazine. (See original article here)
You have a background in Ballet, Jazz, Hip Hop, Jazz and Tap dance. What are the major differences for you between these styles and how do you draw on each of them in a contemporary dance work?
For me I think having a background in a variety of styles has really helped with my progression within my contemporary dance training. It enables me to be more versatile and has given me a hunger for learning new dance styles such as Flying Low and Gaga. I would say that the major differences between the styles is the aesthetic. Aside from that, each style generally relies on the same principles: dynamic changes in quality, rhythm/musicality and connecting to the audience by telling a story with your body.
The show involves four separately choreographed works. Do you feel that they are isolated or are there relationships between each of the works?
Although each piece was created by someone different, each coming in with their own idea of what their piece would be and not knowing what the other choreographers had made, I do think you will find subtle relationships between the pieces. A lot of the themes relate to the current state of the world and the idea of change. How can what we are doing right now invoke change? And how can we come together as one to make that change happen?
Continuum invokes themes of unity and how we can find strength in one another. Did you experience these feelings in the relationships you built with the rest of the company?
Definitely! I fully believe that the ability to find strength in one another is how we can get through each day, overcome fatigue and be proactive with injury. These are all things that can weigh you down as a dancer and consume your thoughts, so it's important to know that the people around you are supporting you and in turn you can offer them yours. In doing this I feel we become more connected as a company, both on and off stage.
The costumes for Rita seem sculptural and unisex. How did they affect your experience of space and movement?
The costumes for Rita are epic. They completely change the way you use your physicality. Having tight corsets on top restricting you reminds you to be 'good' whilst the long flowing skirts on the bottom are willing you to let go. Both of these really help convince you of the character you are portraying, which allows you the freedom to take risks within the movement. The fact that they are unisex is an added bonus, it creates a bizarre reality where everyone is equal. Equally conflicted and equally desperate!
Who are the key influences for you — dancers and otherwise?
Personally I am very influenced by my teachers. The passion and energy they bring into class each day is amazing. Having trained full time at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance for almost 5 years now, I think it's safe to say that the school has had a huge impact on my life. But I'm also influenced by helping others to learn, as it allows me to understand the importance of subtlety and detail, sharing and above all enjoy discovering something new.
A Fable of Our Time is a response to our late political climate. The choreographer, James Cousins cites Brexit and Trump as two key influences on this performance. News these days often feels like a dance that is distant, unstoppable and increasingly vicious. How did VERVE help you to escape or process the changing world around you?
VERVE has a way of giving you the freedom to escape from the world around you, whilst staring it straight in the face and saying "I can change this". It reminds you that small acts of kindness to your peers, teachers, friends and family can go a long way, whether it be offering a helping hand or simply being genuinely curious about other people's lives, it can affect the way that they experience life and can trigger a ripple effect to help better the world we live in.
Themes that seem to thread through all four acts are identity, place and purpose. How have these kinds of questions affected perspectives within the company during the rehearsal process?
As an artist you often wonder about your place and purpose, never quite sure if what you are doing is 'right'. Exploring these themes within the pieces has helped me realise that it IS right, even if you make a mistake, you can always learn from it and come out the other end better off. I think it has allowed the company to not be as afraid of failing, instead we fail proudly in order to progress.
Tickets for VERVE can be bought at the Lancaster Arts Box Office in The Peter Scott Gallery, or book online here / 01524 594151.