So, it has taken me some time to write of this experience. I needed to let it distil and to allow myself the benefit of clarity gained from time and distance.
First, the members of the Body Focus Group had worked extremely hard in my absence during the month of April to not only maintain but improve on the work we had done together during March. Working with Dance Identity Artistic Director Liz King and also at times alone as an ensemble, much was honed meaning that when I arrived back in Austria in early May I was able to focus primarily on the performance aspect of the project. This is the part of the process that I really enjoy – moving mature adults through the fear, the doubt and any self-esteem or confidence barriers to ultimately an enjoyment of the performance experience. And from this experience the awareness of how much they have learnt about themselves, how much is possible for them.
It’s always such a joy for me as a creator of work to see how mature adult members of the community – any community – respond to their engagement in a performance outcome: when the elements of choreography, sound, costume, lighting, design, stageing and spatial considerations and audience perspective all merge together to form that fleeting ephemeral moment that is live performance. It’s during this pre-production period that many members of a community project fully understand what it is they have been working towards as it is all finally so tangible around them. And then the performance, when the cast is finally on their own in front of an audience of family, friends, strangers and in the case of the Burgenlandische Tanztage, members of the European dance community. What a transformative moment for members of the community when they witness the response of an audience to all of their work, their investment, their risk-taking.
The response to the performance of A-K, L-Z from cast, audience and peers was great. One young dancer from another of the festival shows said to me that she now looks at her own future in a different light: that she now understands that she can be dancing for many years to come. Another said that he hoped A-K, L-Z would be seen elsewhere in Europe as ‘Europe needs to see this’. For me being from the antipodes it was an incredible bonus to have the opportunity to be immersed in European dance during the Festival. To witness, understand and acknowledge the subtleties of inspiration and realisation apparent between practitioners of dance/movement based arts in the northern and southern hemispheres. To have conversations, share the struggle, the joy, hopes and dreams. For we are, I think, of where we come.