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Garden Dances -28 May - 17th June 1984

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Garden Dances took place during the Liverpool International Garden Festival :   2nd May  – 14th  October 1984

THE FIRST IDEA was simple.  Having been invited to take part in the Garden Festival, we decided to create garden dances.  THE SECOND IDEA was also a gardening idea.  Visitors to the Festival would be able to watch the dances grow.  They would also  -  as prospective or collaborating gardeners or choreographers  -  be invited to join in or contribute to the creation of the dances. 

Each day a number of short, varied dances were created on a common garden theme, drawing upon dance styles and genres from Africa, India, Europe, and North America.  At the end of each day the dances were performed.

     Garden Dances leaflet             

Left  a copy of the Garden Dances leaflet which was handed out to  and used as the basis for discussion  with visitors during the performances.

During the course of each day all sorts happened.  In addition to the creation, direction and rehearsal of Garden Dances, visitors watched dancers warming up and in training and joined in these exercises, children trained and played games with the dancers, and visitors to the Gardens socialised and talked with  the Blackie Team.

Putting The Ideas Into Practice

The first step was to find the dancers and to create the stages on which they would work.

The Dancers

chosen to cover the range the styles, were a mix of people who had worked with us previously and who were new to the Blackie. They  were  Janice Murphy:  Mapopa  Mtonga:  Surya Kumari:  Fay Prendergast: Lorna Diekuuroh: Sui Kan Chiang (courtesy of Northern Ballet Theatre); and  the Antics Dance Group ( Frank McConnell; Lani Christmas; Anne Barclay, and Ian Hughes)

The Staging

The dances were performed on 3 circular stages created specially for the occassion.  These were laid out in a line and each stage became the home for a dancer (or group of dancers for the day). 

The three stages viewed from the road.

                                      Above the three stages viewed from the road

How It Worked

Each day a the same dance was drawn onto each of the three stages and the dancers selected for the day.  The dancers had to create a dance by the end of the day when they would perform it. Bill Harpe, the resident choreographer, was around to assist in this process.

The Dances

Judy Gough drawing the Daisy on the stage

 

 

Left Judy Bates (now Gough) drawing the daisy onto the stages at the start of the day.  In the background Bill Harpe working with Sui Kan Chiang.

 

 

 

Creating The  Dances

Bill and Surya Kumari working on the Butterfly danceBill and Surya Kumari working on the Butterfly dance

Bill working with Surya on the Bee danceBill working with Mapopa Mtonga and Frank McConnell on the Bee dance

Bill working with Sui Kan Chiang on the Palm Tree dance

Above and left Bill working with Surya Kumari on the Butterfly and Bee dances;  With Mapopa Mtonga and Frank McConnell on the Bee dance; and with Sui Kan Chiang on the Palm Tree dance.

 

Rehearsing and Performing the Dances

Since this is photography and not video, it is difficult to decide which of the photographs below are from final performances  and which from rehearsals (but we have made informed guesses) -  and the photos do give a sense of the range of the dances and the style of dance involved.

Frank McConnell and Mapopa Mtonga performing the Bee danceFrank McConnell and Mapopa Mtonga performing the Bee danceMapopa Mtonga performing the Bee dance

Above Frank McConnell and Mapopa Mtonga and below left Surya Kumari working on the Bee dance.

Surya Kumari performing the Bee danceSurya Kumari performing the Butterfly danceJanice Murphy performing the Butterfly dance

Above middle and right Surya Kumari and Janice Murphy performing the Butterfly dance below left Janice and Frank McConnell rehearsing the Butterfly dance

Janice Murphy and Frank McConnell rehearsing the Butterfly danceJanice Murphy performing the Hibiscus dance

Above right Janice Murphy and below left Sui Kan Chiang performing the Hibiscus dance followed by a photograph of Sui and Janice performing the dance on their separate  stages.

Sui Kan Chiang performing the Hibiscus danceSui in the foreground and Janice in the background performing in the Hibiscus dancean

Frank McConnell and Surya working on the Mushroom danceMapopa Mtonga performing the Mushroom dance

Mapopa Mtonga performing the Mushroom danceMapopa Mtonga performing the Mushroom danceMapopa Mtonga performing the Mushroom dance

Above top the Mushroom Dance being worked on by Frank McConnell and Surya Kumari followed by Mapopa Mtanga performing the Mushroom Dance.

Surya performing the Palmtree Dance Lorna Diekuuroh performing the Palmtree DanceSui Kan Chiang perfroming the Swallow dance

Above the Palm Dance being performed by Surya Kumari; and Lorna Diekuuroh and Sui Kan Chiang performing the Swallow Dance on their separate stages.

Working with Young People

As can be seen from the above photgraphs the dancers often worked with each other learning from each others skills. They also involved the audience, more often the younger members, both in learning about the dances and how they were created and in getting them to create their own dance.

Mapopa and Frank teaching the Bee DanceMapopa and Frank working on the Bee dance with young peopleMapopa and Frank working on the Bee Dance with young people

Above Mapopa and Frank working with young people on the Bee Dance

Surya teaching hand movements for the Robin DanceSurya teaching hand gestures for the Butterfly Dance

Above Surya teaching hand gestures for the Robin Dance and the Butterfly Dance and below demonstrating positions for the Bee Dance.

Surya demonstrating positions for the Bee DanceMapopa demonstrating positions for the Mushroom Dance

Above Mapopa showing positions for the Mushroom Dance.  Below two Blackie youngster (Sharon Martin and friend) work on creating a Palm Tree Dance.

Sharon Martin and friend work on creating a Palm Tree DanceSharon Martin and friend work on creating a Palm Tree Dance

In the latter days of the performances we moved to having two stages for dances and one for education/learning. This had the names of various dancers and dance companies written on it and was used as a place for discussions, playing games, etc.

Frank sitting on the 'education stage'Janice and Frank on the learning stage holding discussionsFrank showing  how to move as a dancer with boards on headFrank practising movements he used in the swallow dance using a board as a prop

Above the learning stage in operation from discussions to games.

The Dancers At Home on Their Stages

Alongside watching the dances being created people could watch  the dancers  practising/exercising (something that is a daily part of a dancers life).

Surya exercising with Antic dancers in the backgroundSurya exercising in the background and Frank in the foreground

Above Surya exercising with Antic dancers in the background and Frank exercising with Surya in the background

Sui doing barre in the foreground with Surya and Frank in the backgroundSui Kan Chiang on the barre with Surya and Frank in the background

Sui Kan Chiang doing barre exercises with Surya and Frank in the background. Below Mapopa exercisng.

Mapopa exercisingAll three stages being used for exercises

Maria Agatha and doing stretching exercisesMembers of Antics Dance Group exercising

Above two Blackie youngsters (Maria Agatha and Colette Farrell) stretching prior to spending the day learning the dances and two members of Antic dance Company also doing stretching exercises. Below Antic Dance Company practising leaps, etc.

Antic Dance Group members practising leapsMembers of Antics Dance Group practising leapsmembers of Antic Dance Group exercising

The Context

The myriad activities within Garden Dances, from creation to dancers exercising, could be watched by people passing by on the nearby road or people could approach the stages and spend time watching. 

Depending on the time of day,  it could be very busy or very quiet.  In some cases schools or parties of young people actually booked times when they could take part. 

The Blackie had a team of people handing out leaflets, talking to people watching and explaining what was happening.

People watching from the roadKevin McIntyre handing out leaflets

Above people watching from the road and Kevin McIntyre handing out leaflets

Judy Gough talking to a passing policemanSally Morris talking to passers  bySally Morris demonstrating dance moves!

Above Judy Bates (now Gough) talking to a watching policeman and Sally Morris talking to watchers and demonstraing dance moves. Below Fanchon Frohlich watching Surya Kumari work on the Mushroom Dance.

Fanchon Frohlich watching Surya Kumari work on the Mushroom dance

The Team

The Dancers

Janice Murphy:  Mapopa  Mtonga:  Surya Kumari:  Fay Prendergast: Lorna Diekuuroh: Sui Kan Chiang (courtesy of Northern Ballet Theatre); and  the Antics Dance Group ( Frank McConnell; Lani Christmas; Anne Barclay, and Ian Hughes)

Resident Choreographer:  Bill Harpe

Production Team

Bill Harpe, Kevin McIntyre, Judy Bates, Fred Tomsett, Wendy Harpe. with Donna Ignacio, Nora van der Brugge, Cunie de Groot, Paul McGurty, Gerard Elliott, Hubert and John McHale, Michael Knight, Christine Trenery, Jimmy Cullen, and the Blackie staff. Stages constructed by James Foy.

Thanks To

Garden Dances were commissioned  by the Peter Moores Foundation. And were supported through donations and discounts from  Damart, Dylon Dyes Ltd., Jack Sharp Ltd., Littlewoods Ltd., Liverpool Community Transport, Esselte-Dymo Ltd., and Liverpool Central Libraries. 

Our thanks to all.

 

 

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