I could feel my arms arms wrapping across my chest, saving myself from the horrors of interactive dance as I climbed several flights of stairs above the Chisenhale Gallery, ’round the back of the Roman Road, currently showing beautiful fabric canvases by Nick Relph – but the Chisenhale Dance Space was new to me (probably because my perceptions of DANCE THE GENRE are that it is more elitist and less accessible than theatre or opera – WHICH IS A BIT WEIRD considering the amount of time I’ve spent around DANCEFLOORS). But I was invited by Anna Goodman, the chick with the Louise Brooks bob behind Eleanor Sikorski – the glitter lobbing, marshmallow chucking, gifter of birthday condoms to all the guests gathered to celebrate 30 years of the Chisenhale Dance Space. It was perhaps the most shocking art-thing I’ve experienced in a while – avant-garde party troupes like Sink The Pink (who played at the launch for my Kelli Ali film) show up at parties and become the party, as do Art Which Is Also A Disco – but this is a different kind of interaction – Sikorski’s performance is like watching someone have a very public breakdown, beautiful, emotional, and playfully skipping beside comfort zones – it’s almost exaggerated as a public performance because of the bright, institutional lighting, which tragically, is exactly what Chisenhale’s against. Jacky Lansley, one of the founders of the space, helped me see DANCE as a free medium that can challenge and invent. It is the space devoted to exploring the gentleness of an art form and peripheral arts spaces are essential to challenge and progress culture. Hail the New Puritan was originally shot here (more info below). I just really hope they get more funding, and invest in some dimmers.
Key events over the next month are below:
Sunday October 20
X6, the artist collective who started Chisenhale Dance Space presents Now & Then – X6 & Friends: A Round Table discussion Fergus Early, Mary Prestidge, Jacky Lansley and Emilyn Claid discuss topics relevant to arts and politics, now and then. This is the first time in many years that these original members will perform together – A one-off opportunity to listen to pioneers of the new British dance movement talk about what really matters to artists.
Thursday October 31
Dance and the Homemade: – Triple bill with brave new work from Neil Callaghan, Rachel Champion and Tim Spooner. Champion presents Roses and Narcissus, an evolving journey loosely based around the darker side of fairytales (a limited number of 1-on-1 performances are available for this work). A Certain Shaft of Light from Neil Callaghan examines loneliness and solitude whilst Subliming Furiously from Tim Spooner delivers a story cast in the mouth and respiratory system and released into the studio.
Saturday November 9
Original X6 member Mary Prestidge presents Disturbing The Dust at 3pm, followed by An Archive Performance at 7pm from X6’s Jacky Lansley & Fergus Early.
Chisenhale Dance Space hosted the original filming of HAIL THE NEW PURITAN, starring Michael Clark and all manner of 80s extras. It was directed by Charles Atlas (yup, the triangular-shaped bodybuilder).
The copy below is lifted from Wikipedia but basically, Michael Clark is Britain’s radical ballet guy loved by fashion folk and started before my time.
Hail the New Puritan is a fictionalized documentary about the Scottish dancer and choreographer Michael Clark. It was directed by Charles Atlas. Production design is by Leigh Bowery, who also appears. Much of the music is by The Fall, and Mark E. Smith and Brix Smith appear in a mock interview with Clark. Additional music is provided by Glenn Branca, Bruce Gilbert (of Wire), and Jeffrey Hinton.
Using a faux-cinéma vérité style, Atlas depicts a day in Clark’s life as he and his Company prepare for a performance of New Puritans (1984). The Company at that time included Gaby Agis, Leslie Bryant, Matthew Hawkins, Julie Hood, and Ellen van Schuylenburch.
The film was broadcast on 21 May 1986 on Channel 4’s “Dance on 4” program (on Channel 4). It is distributed on DVD and VHS by Electronic Arts Intermix.
The film opens with a strange dance number that continually gets interrupted by Leigh Bowery and his friends (Sue Tilley and Nicola Bateman, later Nicola Bowery), who keep walking over to a table of fruit. Michael Clark wakes up and begins rehearsing. Other members of the Company gradually arrive. A reporter calls, then drops by to interview Clark; they discuss how he started dancing and came to London, as well as his interest in traditional Scottish dance. Clark appears on a TV program with Mark E. Smith and Brix Smith. Gaby Agis walks by the river, musing about how she should find her own apartment (she’s been staying with Clark). The Company performs scenes from New Puritans. Julie Hood’s boyfriend, meanwhile, is shown wandering London. Clark and Agis shoot a scene in a film. Clark visits Bowery, who along with his friends Trojan and Rachel, are “getting ready” (dressing up) for the clubs. Clark leaves for a rendezvous with “a date,” then heads out to a clubs himself, where he dance. Finally, at pre-dawn, he heads home, where Agis is already in bed. Clark strips and dances to Elvis‘s “Are You Lonesome Tonight?“