At Motionhouse we’re known for doing things that are – well, a little unusual! We work incredibly hard and also have an extraordinary amount of fun putting together dance spectacles, in accessible locations for everyone to enjoy and as anyone who has followed us for a while will know, there is one show that appears in our repertoire rarely but generates a huge amount of excitement when it does. This weekend just gone, thousands of people in Blackpool witnessed six dancers and three JCB diggers reunite for two amazing shows on Fleetwood Beach as Traction returned to the UK for one day.
Traction is not a show for the faint hearted, so when Spare Parts Festival & Left Coast Entertainment contacted Motionhouse to ask if we could appear on the beach in Fleetwood as part of Tram Sunday, a yearly event celebrating all things automotive – we knew we had found a perfect match. Our last performance of the show was to 16,000 people in Marseille against a dramatic backdrop of sand, blue sky and crystal sea and we were all looking forward to bringing the show back to life on another beach (especially in the gorgeous July sunshine!) We were also extremely excited to hit the road again with dancer Claire Benson, who has been heading up our Youth Program since her return from Maternity leave with the occasional Captive performance under her belt. Claire was part of the original Machine Dance team and has performed the show in all of its reincarnations. Reunions aplenty!
So with the sun shining and the excitement palpable, dancers, drivers and director arrived on the beach for the first day of rehearsals and instantly encountered our first problem – the sand! We have performed on beaches twice now, but previously we have been working on beaches where the sand is finer and much more compact, meaning it stays firmer under foot. The sand at Fleetwood was thick and slightly damp underneath, meaning it could be churned up easily by movement – a real problem for dancers trying to move quickly and also for the machines, which couldn’t gain any speed on the unusual terrain. Working on an unusual surface, coupled with the usual challenges of bright sunlight obscuring vision, sand in the eyes and having to work within strict times due to the tide claiming a huge proportion of the beach back quickly, meant rehearsals were of the utmost importance. However, after several attempts at a run through of the production on our first day, it became apparent that some of the choreography we had previously used would simply not be possible on the sand so it was back to the drawing board for 24 hours as new lifts were inserted, floor work was altered and the dancers got used to moving on the surface. Everything was carefully analysed, work repeated and many discussions had to make sure everyone was 100% happy. You can catch up with Kevin’s thoughts on the project below:
With a new version (especially for Fleetwood) created, we were deep into rehearsals for the next two days, and through sunburn and sand the show took its new shape… feeling happy and confident on the diggers once more, we even managed to find time to choreograph a wet weather alternative in response to the grey clouds that were gathering ominously overhead on Friday. If the diggers are wet, it’s incredibly dangerous to attempt to hang off the buckets or stand on the roof of the machine for fear of slipping – so we were prepared for all eventualities!
Finally Sunday rolled round and we were relieved to see clear blue skies and thousands of people flooding the streets of Fleetwood ready to enjoy various vehicles, performances and the seaside! The huge crowds that flocked to the beach to watch us (around 3,500 people in 2 shows), was simply fantastic! Audiences gasped, whistled and watched with baited breath as the dancers and drivers pulled out all the stops for the crowds. You can see even more images from our performances over on our Facebook and Twitter.
Traction may be having a rest for a while but there’s still plenty going on. You can see where our other outdoor shows are touring and check out dates and times here. We’re also incredibly excited to announce that for the first time ever, we will be live streaming a Motionhouse theatre performance on big outdoor screens in different cities around the UK. On Monday 28 July, if you are in Swindon, Coventry or Woolwich you can watch Broken on the City Centre large screens for FREE as it is streamed live from the IFTR conference at Warwick Arts Centre, courtesy of the University of Warwick. It’s the first time we’ll be streaming a performance and we’re very excited about taking another innovative digital step forwards.
Just before we sign off – we wanted to let you know that we’re recruiting! We currently have vacancies on our Board for senior and networked individuals with the necessary time, energy and dedication to help lead us through our next stages of development. Full details can be found by clicking here.
That’s all for now,
Lara and the Motionhouse team xx