Our Creative Assistant Melanie Jordan gives us an insight into the rehearsal room, during a session with our choreographer Malcolm Shields.
Malcolm is a choreographer and movement director – his recent work includes choreography for the Royal Lyceum Theatre, The National Theatre of Scotland, Scottish Opera and the National Theatre, London.
After a Rocky-esque warm up the CCL team were ready to jive!
However, before split-leaps and lifts, the first step was to find the impulse between you and your partner, the complicity. This is the inner ‘nod’ of when to start, stop or change the rhythm; a little spark connection and understanding between performers that the audience only really notices when it’s not there. In my opinion, building complicity between performers is just as important as learning choreography and text, it brings these elements to life.
Next, led by the production’s choreographer, Malcolm, we spun, ball-changed and octopus-ed until small routines were starting to take shape. I had great fun as dance assistant – which meant being spun across the floor while Malcolm demonstrated the moves to Liz and Hilde.
And once you think you’ve mastered a simple routine as leader or leadee, swapping roles can really throw you out of your comfort zone! However, it is so important to know what your partner is doing. The more understanding you can have of your fellow performer’s experience, the more the complicity between you can deepen. So in dance, this means you know the next move of your partner without following any particular choreography; you understand what a certain hand position or foot tap indicates. This keeps you in sync with each other, and keeps your toes from being stepped on!
In theatre, this connection between performers keeps the text alive and present, as if being said for the first time, playful, ready to spring off in any direction at any moment. It is tempting to block movement too early, to complete scenes like checking off a list. Of course, rehearsal schedules and budgets are tight, this can put the ‘fear’ in directors and performers to finish the show as performance dates grow closer. However, building complicity is like building foundations for a house, the final construction would crumble without a strong base. Tim’s direction is giving lots of time and respect for developing the maternal relationship between Liz and Hilde before solid decisions are made with Malcolm’s movement and Morna’s text. And of course in a company made up predominately of theatre clowns, there is always room for play!
It was great to see Liz and Hilde dancing together, the mum and daughter relationship with all it’s complexities is becoming very strong. At times I didn’t know who was leading the movement, the more dominant role kept switching between the two, influencing the direction and tone of the movement. (Malcolm informs me this is called ‘hijacking’ in the ballroom world: when the person who isn’t leading steals the lead). Of course, the performers feel the impulse to change the direction of the movement, but to those watching it seems fluid, natural and almost accidental. This role-reversal seems particularly poignant to this story where care-giver becomes care-receiver; where mother and daughter must relinquish the control they thought they had over their lives, accept the present moment for what it is and allow themselves just to be.
-Melanie Jordan, Creative Assistant