I began dancing with Motionhouse nearly two years ago now and since then I’ve become truly passionate about performing contemporary dance. It’s genuinely one of the things I most look forward to during the week; I often find myself thinking the only problem with the weekend is that after Friday evening I have to wait a whole week to dance again.

Anyway, now that I’ve got that somewhat formal opening statement done I can speak as an actual teen! So, what got me into dancing? Well, around Year Nine I started performing in school plays. Not big roles, obviously, I wasn’t particularly good yet! But even just playing an extra in Hamlet I knew that performing was what I wanted to do, and I was going to do as much as I could.

Skip forwards about a year and my school was putting on West Side Story. Of course, I got involved and, even just playing an extra, I enjoyed it so much. This is when I first heard of Motionhouse – one of the dancers, Claire Benson, came in to choreograph the large dance scenes for the school production.

I hadn’t exactly danced before, (we are excluding my Year 3 endeavour in Hip-Hop Club!), and I couldn’t believe how much fun I was having doing it. Luckily for me the Head of Drama at my school had been wanting to put together some sort of dance group/club/other synonyms for a while and so got in touch with Motionhouse once again to try to set one up. This was the beginning of Altiora, our school dance group.

Altiora perform

The idea of a dance group in an all-boys school wasn’t expected to be so well received, but to our delight and surprise quite a number of boys showed up for the taster session. To be honest though it could’ve been the promise of getting the opportunity to dance with the girls from our sister school! Either way, a fair number of people joined, either because they already did dance or wanted to try it.

At the moment we have about 7 people altogether in Altiora. Unfortunately as time went on people left to go to university. This means, however, that we’ve all grown to be quite close (which really helps with being comfortable with occasionally making a fool of yourself!), and we’ve performed for a number of assemblies and shows representing the school.

We’ve even had a small school trip to watch Motionhouse’s Broken which, in my opinion, is one of the best pieces of theatre I’ve ever seen; I was amazed how well so many different stories could be told with such detail, using only movement. I even used ideas from it as inspiration for my Drama GCSE devised piece, as my group wanted to tell its story through means other than dialogue. It was through Altiora that I became a member of Motionhouse Youth - Claire Benson leads this too.

Before I go into Motionhouse Youth I should talk about a small project I did with the company, which was essentially my ‘taster session’ for the real thing. In October 2015 Claire told me about a short dance film she and filmmaker Dan Tucker were making in correspondence with the Syrian refugee crisis that had become terrible enough to take up a fair majority of news coverage. It was a horrible issue and, although the film wasn’t to be a political statement, Claire wanted to create a piece congruent with her initial reaction to the images of the crisis that she’d seen. This meant costumes being quite dishevelled and the dancers having very ghostly appearances.

Ollie getting in character

Without Wings: the dancers on set

Although a morbid topic, I had a lot of fun making the piece and was very grateful for everyone’s friendliness. As someone who tends to be quite nervous when meeting new people – as I can imagine a lot of people my age can relate to, and especially dancing in front of them – this really helped me in being comfortable in what I called my ‘Aladdin costume’. The piece is called Without Wings and is on YouTube if you want to watch it, (I’m pretty easy to spot, being the only guy in it).

Watch Without Wings – click here

 

After making this piece, I knew I had to join Motionhouse Youth, and I have to say: Definitely. Worth. It.

I hadn’t had so much fun performing since West Side Story, which had been a year ago. By this point I was also good friends with Claire, who’d of course played a massive part in my performing experiences over the past year, and joined her one Friday at Motionhouse Youth after Altiora at school.

The first thing I noticed was the lack of other boys, as there was only one other than me. Don’t worry we’ve increased in numbers now! I encouraged a friend of mine to join, and he’d actually been dancing a lot longer than me!

Now you might be thinking; ‘Ok, this guy’s been asked to write this for Motionhouse, he probably doesn’t even mean half of it.’

Yes, I have been asked to write this blog for Motionhouse as a Youth company member, but I do genuinely mean it when I say how much fun I’m having and how friendly everyone is. Agreed, it is somewhat intimidating at first – especially as a rugby player more than a ballerina! – to join a group of people some of whom have been dancing for a long time, but over the past six months the amount of support and encouragement I’ve had, not only from Claire, but also the other members, is phenomenal, and I’d seriously advise anyone and everyone who thinks it might be fun – or even doesn’t! – to join.

Ollie, Motionhouse Youth Dancer

Motionhouse dancer Naomi talks about the three weeks she spent in France during a BLOCK residency with NoFit State and Motionhouse:

“My time in France at Le Citron Jaune (Centre National des Arts de la Rue) in Port St Louis with Motionhouse and NoFit State Circus

This was my first residency away with Motionhouse since joining the company in January this year. We had three weeks to devise a new show called BLOCK, working with NoFit state circus performers. The idea and set design for BLOCK had been explored previously but this was the first time I would be working with ‘them’ (the blocks) and the other circus performers. Having only worked with either a stage set design or small props, BLOCK came under a completely different category as these were not static or small! These large grey blocks (much bigger than me) were amazingly versatile, with the ability to be moved, stood on, jumped off or onto and collectively build into huge structures; this opened up so many creative ideas to try out.

There were images and moments Kevin, our Artistic Director, wanted to replicate from previous exploration rehearsals, which I found exciting and terrifying all at the same time. I enjoy learning other dancer’s movement as I find it pushes my existing abilities and boundaries within my movement style; when you’re balancing on a block high off the ground is when the terrifying feeling comes into play. I found I quickly began taking giant leaps forward with shifting this risk-taking emotion that I was faced with. I was inspired by the circus performer’s skills, with their high risk stunts as it compares differently to the way dancers devise movement; (like sponges) the Motionhouse dancers began to incorporate as much as we could learn in the time we shared working together. The accommodation was a shared house and caravans so we actually spent all of our time together, working, cooking, eating and socialising. Port St Louis is in a very secluded porting area in the south of France, so we had the warm sunny weather to turn to and each other. I found that this kind of residency is very productive because in a sleepy town with little to do, it’s very easy to fully commit to the work and rest when you’re supposed to.

“I enjoy learning other dancers’ movement as I find it pushes my existing abilities and boundaries within my movement style…”

At the end of the second week we had an open showing to the local public with a work in progress, unfinished version of Block. The audience was made up of varying ages; which we hoped for to ensure we would gain diverse feedback, as it’s created for street performance. We were thrilled we had such a great reception from the audience, but the work wasn’t over yet. During the last week it was our aim to complete the piece and amend sections that needed. The last section was the most challenging (I shan’t give it away too much) logistically the blocks needed setting and resetting to repeat for trial and error purposes. After achieving an ending we were satisfied with, getting to this point in the piece was a victory and huge pat on the back as the work we had put in was reflecting a finished piece.

BLOCK is now on tour, which means we get to share what we’ve made and are proud of performing with passers-by who perhaps wouldn’t usually see dance/circus. Being an outdoor performance there is only so much that we can guarantee; the rest (weather conditions, audience and floor surface) is interchangeable, this may bring up a few hurdles along the way.

Keep following our shows and progress to see how it’s going; I compare a new show to passing your driving test, it’s once you’ve passed you learn to drive, similarly to performing it’s once the show starts being performed the show grows and settles to its full potential.”

Here are a few images taken during the BLOCK residency:

Le Citron Jeune photographs: Ali Williams

Click here for our tour dates list and more information about each performance

BLOCK is commissioned by Without Walls, Stockton International Riverside Festival, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and Out There International Festival of Circus & Street Arts. Co-production Archaos, Pôle National des Arts du Cirque Méditerranée and Le CITRON JAUNE, Centre National des Arts de la Rue.

Without Walls, a consortium of 10 of the UK’s leading Outdoor Arts festivals and organisations, brings the best in new outdoor performance to diverse audiences all over the UK, providing opportunities for UK artists to develop bold new ideas – from large-scale spectaculars to more intimate pieces, inclusive of all art forms and genres. Since 2007, Without Walls has commissioned and supported the development of over 100 shows, many of which have toured beyond Without Walls to 22 countries across the world. For more information on the work of Without Walls, please visit www.withoutwalls.uk.com.

Upcoming tour dates: London, Wednesday 6 April – Saturday 9 April, 7.30pm each day, plus a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm | Box office: 020 7863 8222 or online at: peacocktheatre.com

With our London dates less than a week away, we’ve taken a look back over the Broken 2016 Tour so far!

Starting in Germany, the tour saw the company travel to the Burghof Theatre in Lörrach where they performed to a sell-out crowd and received their first standing ovation of many! This was a special show for brand new company member Naomi who performed Broken to an audience for the first time.

Dancer highlights – Naomi
“There have been so many highlights I’m struggling to narrow it down! The first is definitely Germany, not only because the audience were so lively but because it was my first show and the dancers and Motionhouse team had left flowers, a card and goodies for me in my dressing room. 
The second is having met two women after our show in Canterbury who enjoyed the show so much one of the women claimed to have wet herself!!! Lastly the small things like all singing (and dancing) in the minibus, pulling small pranks on each other during technical rehearsals and bokwa before the show make the tour for me!”

Let the tour begin! The company leave Leamington and head for the airport

The venue for our first show of the Broken 2016 Tour – Burghof in Lörrach, Germany

At class with the dancers ahead of the first performance of the tour

The dancers at post-show dinner 

The UK leg of the tour began right on our doorstep with two dates at Warwick Arts Centre. As part of a pre-show event on the first night, guests were treated to a performance of Without Wings by the incredibly talented Motionhouse Youth Company in a ‘curtain-raiser’ display.

Dancer highlights – Becci
The first of my highlights was the response from the audience at the Gulbenkian, especially on the second night… the standing ovation made me well up so much I couldn’t go out to bow anymore!
The response from audiences throughout the whole tour have been overwhelming… Germany was incredible too. Again the response from the audience was amazing and we were even given roses! I’ve never had a rose on stage it was an amazing way to start the tour especially as it was my first show back after becoming a mum. It was hard to leave baby Ava at home! But, when the audience really appreciates the show it makes it very emotional and very worthwhile.
In one of the post-show talks an audience member said, “I feel like I’ve been waiting my whole life for this show” and when he said that, the tears were rolling! That was definitely something that I won’t be forgetting any time soon.

Our magical Moho dancers ahead of their Warwick Arts Centre show

Motionhouse Youth perform Without Wings

Having visited mac birmingham during two previous tours of Broken, the company performed to full houses on two nights. Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, joined us in Birmingham to watch the show and to deliver a speech at our pre-show event.

Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, speaks at our mac birmingham pre-show event

Backstage at mac with Naomi, Martina and Becci

Local events complete, the company took Broken to venues all around the country. They performed at Ilfracombe’s Landmark Theatre, The Castle in Wellingborough, Gulbenkian in Canterbury, Lighthouse in Poole and Yeovil’s Octagon Theatre.

The dancers were overwhelmed by the amazing response they received from audiences in every venue they visited. Thank you to everyone who has come to see a show so far – we hope you enjoyed watching as much as we enjoyed performing!

Dancer highlights – Alasdair
I loved our time at the Gulbenkian theatre in Kent – we were very well looked after!

Here are some of the pictures they took on their travels:


The company ready for an adventure!

Dancing on stilts at The Octagon


Alasdair and Martina squeezed in a quick performance at Marylebone Railway Station ahead of our performance at The Peacock.

Becci, Naomi and Martina rehearse on stage in Yeovil


A photoshoot with some of London’s iconic buildings


The company performed Broken at BDE 2016. The show was streamed live online. Executive Director Louise and Programme Manager Jo were at the Motionhouse trade fair stand too!


Exploring Ilfracombe


While the dancers performed in Ilfracombe, our Lead Artist for Creative Projects & Participation Claire led a residency with a local youth group to create a piece that was performed as a curtain raiser before Motionhouse’s performance of Broken. They watched professional company class too!

If you’ve not caught Broken yet there’s still time! The Broken 2016 Tour concludes next week in London’s West End with a run at Sadler’s Wells Peacock Theatre.

Wednesday 6 April – Saturday 9 April
7.30pm each day, plus a Saturday matinee at 2.30pm
Box office: 020 7863 8222
Or get hold of your tickets online at:
peacocktheatre.com