Written by Isaac Ouro-Gnao
We’ve all had to face challenges in the industry. From emergency drop-outs to last minute changes, creating dance theatre never stops being tricky. Body Politic was met with quite a challenge in our recent project Father Figurine. Though it did not prove insurmountable in retrospect, it was quite colossal to face at the time.
The company was embarking on an R&D process to make the 30-minute piece of hip hop theatre – which was part of our triple bill of works – into an hour length show. And it had quite the team galvanised behind it. A board of three supportive professionals, an incredibly driven artistic director, two choreographers, and two dance artists. Having been performed at Resolution 2018 at The Place, and receiving a lot of positive buzz, the time was perfect to use the platform as a springboard to transition into new heights.
The challenge was not just this transition, but that our two choreographers amicably decided to step away from the project to pursue other ventures. Our artistic director was also a mum-to-be, making the period a very delicate one. We also had a few months to develop Father Figurine into a full-length show, with MOTUS Festival, June 4th, the goal for the debut.
Thank goodness for Emma-Jane Morbey! The artistic director, now with a beautiful daughter Elsie, and new company producer Emily Winfield, secured a successful funding bid and put a schedule together to achieve our goal. 4 three-day weekends of rehearsals and a performance day! I too assumed a new role to ease the impact of our departing choreographers. And having been involved with the project from day 1, being the scriptwriter and dance artist (as well as other admin roles like social media manager and blogger), it felt right to assume the role of movement director. All to save the process of having to bring and assimilate a new choreographic mind into such a precarious stage of development. I knew the movement well, the characters, the world of Father Figurine, and it seemed a low risk choice. It was now up to Emma-Jane and I to plan the content of a tight schedule of rehearsals and get creating.
In comes another challenge! The team has always been numerous. From our time in Oxford at Pegasus Theatre with Reflections in 2016 – with a team of 10, to Resolution 2018 at The Place – with a team of 6, there were a lot of great energies to work with. In this new process, and due to Emma-Jane having to quite rightly take time with her new-born daughter, all that remained in a creative rehearsal space was myself and company dance artist Tobi Oduntan. Going from the two of us working with two choreographers, to just the two of us working together was a very tricky dynamic to become accustomed to and thrive in. It was arduous and tiring at times, and fruitful and life giving at others. It took several check-ins with one another, reconfirming what it was we were all trying to achieve with the project and what we gained from it. Having the aid of dramaturg Maxwell Golden was another incredibly helpful step in creating this piece of work. He was guiding and empathic of our process and took appropriate time to give us tools to better sculpt Father Figurine. Emma-Jane was also always a phone call away, for support and for an update, and the process found its new rhythm.
Before long, we found ourselves in front of our core target audience of young people and performed to a receptive, welcoming, and receptive audience. The feedback we received was very encouraging!
What kept us going to overcome these challenges, was not just our natural hardworking natures or our amazing supportive network, but the themes of Father Figurine. This work is so important. In raising awareness about the growing prevalence of mental health issues in young people, and in creating a theatrical world for young people to relate to. Often, work for young people is either too on the nose, or very dumbed down. We worked hard to know our audience and communicate intricate themes of anxiety and depression in a fractured father-son relationship. And the more young people connect with our work, the more they’ll realise the pressures of perfection, of great grades, of achieving certain body types, of social media, of mental health attitudes are not insurmountable but manageable, with the help of others and trust in themselves. Much like our creative process.