On 13th October, 2018, in a yoga studio in Surrey Quays there began a small, but perfectly formed festival of the performing Arts.
Originally conceived by Joanna Puchala, an Edinburgh Fringe veteran, as a festival to highlight social issues, the Social Arts Festival ran over two Saturdays. Rather than a being exclusively contemporary dance, which is Puchala’s medium, it started with a short play by Sophia Caley.
Lemon Sherbet is the account of a woman whose innocence and tragic story is marked by this yellow sweet. In this solo performance Caley tells the story as her character reminisces and reflects on her fate.
Stand up comic, Victoria Howden followed with her set based on her life and loves as a gay woman inspired by songs from her favourite musicals. Howden sets a defiant and irrepressibly jolly tone, amusing the audience with her stories about coming out and finding love.
The first dance piece ‘Assumptions we make’, a duet performed by Delia Seefluth and Mary Kinsella takes a closer look at the experience of two dancers finding a sense of “flow” and togetherness. A state in which they can be equal, in which they can reconnect with their intuition and in which they aren’t concerned with how they appear to be.
The lodge.Space is a custom built yoga centre in Surrey Quays, set next to Southwark Park and the main studio has a long wall mirror and wooden floor, creating a light and very dance friendly space. It has one of the few studios set up for aerial yoga using hanging silks and pole. What it lacks in traditional theatrical staging and facilities, it makes up for in the therapeutic community ambience and a large studio space with folding doors to a second studio. The building has been designed specifically for yoga. This simplicity means there is no seating, but it leads to an intimacy with the audience is very Fringe. The talent is there, up close before you and seats? Instead there are yoga mats and between performances the soothing music made by Sound healer Anne Udin and her sound bowls.
Between performances Pawel Dziadur demonstrated his interactive video installation Baby and the Body. Viewers are invited to perform gestures requiring physical effort, a sensor detects this and uncovers layers of images depicting work and child labour.
The next dance piece Escape 2, performed by Natalie Taylor and Shiloh Scyner, used both to great effect in an aerial dance duet to tell the tale of an emotional journey of refugee. Set against a stirring soundscape composed by Stefano Guzzetti, this was an extract from the full length piece performed at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017 by the LCP Dance Theatre. Choreographed by Natalie Taylor with Artistic direction by Joanna Puchala this duet was an innovative and elegant exploration in the use of pole and silk. Sweeping, evocative movements around the pole by Taylor followed by poignant sequences of two people on a challenging journey. Set against Guzzetti’s score which provides a powerful emotional context.
Award winning LCP Dance Theatre draws awareness to human rights violations through dance and has been nominated twice at the Edinburgh Fringe for the Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award.
This is an extract from ‘AM I’ performed by the LCP Dance Theatre at the Edinburgh Fringe.
This complex physical theatre performance draws awareness to human rights violations through dance and film. LCP’s ‘Am I’ finds its roots in the pain and struggle of human trafficking as inspired by the story of Sophie Hayes in her recent book “Trafficked.”
“AM I” explores the complicated tale of victim and trafficker wherein both are slaves: often the roles bleed into each other making it difficult to see the line between either identity. In “AM I,” the trafficker becomes victim and vice versa. This production involves pain and confusion as seen through the eyes of dance and flowing movement.
Hope is an artistic collaboration between choreographer Joanna Puchala of the LCP Dance Theatre and musician Ertan Dereli.
Ey Ozgurluk (Freedom) reminds us of the reasons for our struggles. The original melody of the song was composed by singer and writer Zulfu Livaneli, lyrics translated by Paul Eduard’s famous poem La Liberte. In this arrangement Ertan Dereli uses Livaneli’s melodies with some extensions and harmonisation.
“Hope” (work in progress) is an introduction to a new full length dance theatre performance based on mental and physical abuse in a relationship.
The piece was recorded in March 2014 at Goldsmiths University and performed in July 2017 in University of West London with piano and strings orchestra, but this will be the first public performance.
The source of the choreography comes from the struggle of a couple, either heterosexual or homosexual. After falling in love, after a time they lose their connection with each other. Through lack of communication, two people who once loved each other become enemies and are cruel to each other. Love changes to hate. A once loving relationship becomes a game involving physical and mental abuse on both sides. Power shifts back and forth in a battle of wills and confidence. The weaker undermines the self confidence of the stronger and the victim becomes the abuser. Cultural and ideological clashes take over what was once a peaceful and loving relationship.
The title “ Hope” reflects the forgiveness and compassion of the victim of the dysfunctional and toxic relationship. The full length piece goes through the faces of happiness, unhappiness and forgiveness. This is an extract which will give a flavour of the full picture of the future piece. Because of the particular form of movement this performance takes, the interpretation of the piece is abstract and different for each spectator.
The line up on Saturday 20th October was more contemporary Dance oriented.
The first performance by P.X.L.S dance invited the audience to stand and surround the performers and experience the dance by dismantling the usual separation between audience and the performers.
The piece explored the concept of commonality within humanity, finding what we have in common with one another and what makes us our own individual person. Four performers share their own experiences, thoughts and feelings in common space in a channel that is sometimes literal or abstract.
Artistic direction and choreography by Attila Andrasi with Jeph Vagner, Steff D’Arch, Panagiotis Pavlopoulos, and Christina Prompona
This was followed by Symbiosis, an audio visual performance using a video projection created by video artist Deborah Iaria with dancer Roosje Horckmans. We see a duet between a figure from the virtual world of the projection harmonising with a human figure. It carries an optimistic message of the benefits to human growth when it the two worlds work together in Symbiosis.
The studio design was well suited this kind of video performance, the large windows transformed into a cinema sized screen.
Pretty Mess by the notetoSELF DanCe company is choreographed and artistically led by Natasha Lee. It poses questions about the effect of social media on young women. It dramatises in dance, the addictive behaviour that develops from the relentless bombardment of cues from social media. The choreography combines dance and physical theatre as each dancer struggles with the anxiety induced as they live out the dramas played out between their virtual alter egos.
Performed by Deliah Seefluth, Rachel Greer, Georgie Cooper, Cerys McGrath, Jason Kwan and Dierdre Murray-Wallace. Music was Reminiscence by Olafur Arnald.
Danced by Jason Kwan and Mithun Gill is a dramatic duet about a relationship. This dance piece looks at those moments of giving in and those moments of fighting this invisible thread that pulls two beings together.
This was followed by further extracts from LCP Dance Theatres Escape 2, AM I and their latest piece Hope.
The evening concluded with Joanna Puchala presenting a prize for choreography donated by sponsor Heather Mason of Minded which was a week of therapy training awarded to Natalie Taylor for her choreography of ESCAPE 2.
Festivals often have unlikely beginnings. Glastonbury started with some musicians playing in a farmers muddy field. The Fringe started on the margins of a traditional arts festival, making use of church halls and the streets of Edinburgh. These two evenings saw the start of an unusual pairing of the performing arts and a yogic haven dedicated to Mind, Body and Soul. There was a clear resonance between these two cultures that was appreciated and enjoyed by the audience. The fund raising for an established human rights charity, Room to Heal, connected the festival in a full circle to complete Joanna Puchala’s vision of an arts festival with a social purpose. The hope is that from this modest beginning in a yoga studio in South London, the Social Arts Festival will grow year by year into a key feature in the Arts calendar.