Each year the London Contemporary Dance School Graduation Shows mark a moment for our third-year students to take to The Place’s stage for the final time before stepping out into the world as artists. The shows also present an opportunity for students to collaborate with a diverse range of choreographers. This year’s show, Rocks rolling uphill ends with disaster will feature new work from alum and Work Place artist Anders Duckworth, co-artistic director of Matsena Productions, National Dance Company Wales associate artist and alum Anthony Matsena, award winning performer, movement director and alum Sam Coren and finally Becky Namgauds, recipient of Sadler’s Wells residency, choreography award residence from DanceXchange and guest lecturer here at LCDS. Ahead of the shows, we spoke with Anders and Sam about their commissioned pieces and what it’s been like collaborating with the students.
Q: What will your commissioned piece be about?
Anders: Lay of the Land is about the way that imposed borders have an effect on us and how our identities are formed by them.
Sam: Mine is a surreal sci-fi inspired piece. One of the main ideas was what if a future race looked back at humanity like we look back at the dinosaurs - with patchy scientific data and an imagination?
Q: What has the creative process been like?
Sam: The process has been like any other process; you start with an idea, doubt it, get lost, find new ideas, make a lot of material, scrap most of it, narrow down what the piece is about and then it somehow emerges out of the mess you’ve made.
Anders: We've been working with different improvisational practices and tools to create the work and try to find specific ways of moving and being in the space. We've also been looking at choreographic patterns and processes to generate more complex pieces of choreography. We've also been playing with the use of text and props. The students have risen to all the challenges that I've thrown at them and contributed greatly to the work.
Q: What can audiences expect to see?
Sam: If we’ve done it well, a surreal, sci-fi piece!
Anders: A sensitive and inventive use of objects, some pleasing patterns and some surprises.
Q: What’s it been like working with the BA3 students? What are you learning during this experience?
Sam: It’s been great working with the third years. As always with student commissions you are always trying to find common ground, not just between yourself and the cast but between the cast themselves. There are 15 different bodies with different interests and different wants or needs, so I’m always looking to find a way of working where everyone’s involved, challenged and seen.
Anders: It's been a total joy working with these students; they have been curious and engaged with the exploratory and improvisational nature of my practice. Some of the discussions have been quite personal and I have really appreciated their honesty and candour.
Q: Why is it important for choreographers such as yourselves to work with undergraduate students in this way?
Anders: It's really important that a dancer in training gets the chance to work with a range of professional choreographers to gain an insight into different ways of working and to develop their professionalism. The budding choreographers in the year group hopefully pick up some tools that they can incorporate into their own practice.
Sam: It’s important to expose students as much as possible to what they will be experiencing once they graduate. Every company or choreographer carries a different culture and history with them. A history that the students will also begin to build themselves as their career progresses. Everything we like and everything we don’t like, forms our practice as we pick and choose our way through the dance world. Working with many people in training just gives the process a kick start.
It's really important that a dancer in training gets the chance to work with a range of professional choreographers to gain an insight into different ways of working and to develop their professionalism.