My Internship with Kate Flatt and the Soul Play Project .
Back in November of last year, I responded to an email I received via the Choreographers’ Directory at Dance UK that highlighted a unique opportunity to shadow leading choreographer Kate Flatt. I applied, and following a meeting with Kate, I was delighted when she offered me the internship.
The terms of the internship were that I would shadow the work of Kate Flatt and the performers during the reconstruction of Soul Play. This involved attending studio rehearsals, technical rehearsals and performances, as well as attending and participating in the associated outreach projects. These included workshops, discussion events and the liasing meetings between the theatres, the hospices and Kate Flatt Projects. Understanding and becoming familiar with the funding briefs of both the Rayne Foundation and the Arts Council England encompassed another area of the internship, and this informed my understanding of the specific way in which the project was independently evaluated. Under the terms I also agreed to undertake background research in the area of bereavement and palliative care as this was the subject matter of the Soul Play project.
Anyone who knows me will testify to the amount of time and money I invest in undertaking professional development training and short courses, yet no amount of money for any such training course, no matter how high in quality, could compare to sharing in the reality of an experienced choreographer at work on a rich, detailed and finely honed choreographic project. As an emerging choreographer, relatively inexperienced with funding and undertaking mainly self-directed and largely self-funded projects, the whole experience was a real eye-opener; not only in terms of how crucial the funding requirements are to the artistic process, but also in terms of how much richer a work can be when funds permit the idea to be fully developed and realised, facilitating several key professional theatrical and artistic collaborations.I would hazard a guess that I am not alone in naively presuming, prior to the internship, that established choreographers must surely have a much easier time in the creation of new work than the rest of us.
They have a team of people working for them, do they not? Surely they cover all aspects of the project management leaving the choreographer free to get on with the good bit, the artistic creation. I now realise how completely unrealistic this gross misconception is. Yes, there are a number of people in the creative team, each highly skilled and experienced in their particular field of expertise, but in order for their role to contribute towards achieving the choreographer’s vision, the choreographer has to be an excellent communicator and facilitator, overseeing every role and decision carefully. It seems to me that collaboration is the key, and whilst the successful outcome will involve delegation, the choreographer must possess both a strong vision and an artistic insight that remains a driving force at the forefront of every task and relationship, nurturing artistic development and necessitating involvement and judgement over every little detail.
All the T’s must be crossed and the I’s dotted, as ultimate accountability, for the quality of both the finished work and the delivery in terms meeting clear objectives, will lie with the choreographer. A responsibility that means the choreographer works tirelessly over each part of the process alongside the creation of the work itself, leaving the notion of sitting back whilst delegated intuitivism achieves completion of the component tasks rather nonsensical.
Performer: Joy Constantinides and Sam Curtis Kate described Soul Play in the programming details as:
'An intimate and powerful dance-theatre duet for one actor [Sam Curtis] and one dancer [Joy Constantinides]. The action, in the form of a poetic lament, takes place in the moments following a young man’s death. As if we enter an indefinable moment, common in diverse cultural ideologies between death and the soul ‘leaving’. Soul Play follows a man on his ultimate journey, guided by an enigmatic spirit in the guise of a female dancer, and is concerned with making sense of, and personifying, the archetypal idea of ‘soul’ in a contemporary secular world'
I have absolutely no doubt that anyone who saw a performance of Soul Play would testify to my describing it as a unique masterpiece of dance theatre. Its artistic delivery was, in my opinion, successful on every level. In live performance the intensity of emotion, connection, collective focus, and absorption in the audience was startlingly palpable. Reactions to the performance and feedback given during the post discussion talks were always varied, displaying a diverse range of emotional, intellectual and visceral responses.
Observing the choreographic process was one of the most fascinating and enjoyable parts of the internship. The performers, Joy and Sam, are not only highly skilled in their specialist fields of dance and acting respectively, but are also highly skilled collaborators, able to respond instinctively and creatively to Kate’s ideas. Both were freely able to improvise within both structured and collaborative contexts. And thus, for me, another important lesson in the careful choice of performers/collaborators was learnt. In watching Kate at work with the performers, it was evident to me that every moment counted. Every delicacy of movement from Joy and every pause and punctuation from Sam was loaded with intention. Nothing was done just for the sake of it. Movement was found and developed both specifically and progressively, forming the unity of the piece as opposed to merely generating material then plucking and pasting desirable parts together. Such was Kate’s clarity of vision and intention in both the choreographic and theatrical concepts, that I claim justification in describing it as a unique masterpiece.
The balance of artistic direction and artistic response provided the fertile ground for the mature development of artistry in Soul Play. The elements of text, movement and design fused effortlessly to form a succinct and successful whole. Now that the internship has ended, I have had time to reflect on what a wonderful learning experience it was for me, both professionally and personally. I would like to thank Kate and Dance UK for giving me this opportunity, and also the Soul Play creative team who allowed me to observe them at work and granted me permission to question and inquire. In giving me responsibility for specific tasks within my role as intern, such as assisting with the co-ordination of the invitations for Soul Play, I eventually felt not only part of the team but also a useful part of the team. To be part of the planning and liasing meetings was such an educational experience. It was tremendously beneficial to oversee the whole project, encompassing not only the work of the creative team, but also the funding, the administration, the managerial and the theatrical departments. I feel I’ve gained in equal amounts both knowledge and inspiration at what can be achieved as a choreographer.
Denise will be starting an MA Programme in Creative Practice at Trinity Laban delivered jointly with Independent Dance and Siobhan Davies Dance this Autumn 2010. If you would like more details about Denise please see her entry on the UK Choreographers Directory or contact Alice Firth on 020 7713 0730 or via email email@example.com