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Inside the studio: Week Twelve Layers of Skin

The Premiere – by Filip Van Huffel

It’s been just over 2 weeks since we premiered Layers of Skin at Cultuurcentrum Berchem in Antwerp. 3 amazing performances all followed by ecstatic standing ovations from full houses made me feel very proud of all the (33) performers and gave me an overwhelming sense of achievement to pull off a production that seemed larger than life, certainly larger than anything I had ever been involved in before.

Making a new production is always a careful search for the unknown. 2 years before a creation starts, we write ideas, concepts, funding applications and talk to possible collaborators and partners. As we get closer I work on theme’s for improvisations, visual ideas and movement content. So there are a lot of known entities to a production, but it is not until I am actually in the studio with the dancers and start creating the work together, that I get a real sense of what it is that I am about to create. With Layers of Skin I began to understand what I had created after the 3rd performance, and still now I feel that the work can evolve and change into unlimited directions. This is all to do with the 33 performers that took part in this first edition of LOS and the different options available for the future of this show.

Layers of Skin is certainly the biggest and most ambitious work I have created to date. For 12 weeks I enjoyed working with 6 amazing Retina dancers. They all gave everything they have during the creative process and performances. They all are great individuals with their own specific strengths and qualities. I have worked with some of them for several years and others since the beginning of LOS but they gelled as if they had been working together for years. I feel that we have become a small family and now, 2 weeks into the summer break and I am starting to miss them! It was great to feel supported by the group and to see how they got excited by new ideas, phrases, tasks, and structures and also how they tried to delve into my movement quality, a style that makes the work typically Retina. I focus my movement vocabulary on efficient full-bodied movements that are extremely physical and challenging, but without using tension, and forming this into an abstract language that is full of intensity. One of the hardest things about the work is the speed and intricacy of the material and because of the technical nature of the work, many dancers approach it with force. The Retina dancers have worked hard to try and find efficiency in the movement and already look brilliant but with the commitment that they are putting into the material, I think they will grow and grow and grow!

The extra layers of dancers were also fabulous and made the project very special. We worked with 8 local Antwerp professional dancers and they were really committed and great to work with. For 2 weeks we did class, taught material and created a structure that integrated them into the whole. They did a great job with professionalism. Then in the final week we also integrated 12 local community dancers into the performance and these people were really inspiring individuals, all with their own story to tell. Young ambitious individuals, mums, dads, grandparents altogether to create their own unique contribution to LOS. Everyone was prepared to work hard but in a fun environment, and the presence of the 20 extra dancers in the performance made LOS into the dream that I envisaged 2 years ago. 26 dancers, encompassing old, young, fantastic technique, inspiring enthusiasm, individuality and personality…..perfect!! Then to add the 7 brilliant musicians from Aranis into the mix, just brought the whole thing to life with energy, drive and passion!

I am a choreographer who LOVES MOVEMENT. I think this is important to say because sometimes I feel like I need to apologise for this and convince people (other choreographers, programmers and members of funding commissions) that this is allowed. My approach for this work started very much from a physical, dancing, moving body approach and therefore became a celebration of physicality with different people from different backgrounds. This is what satisfies me as an choreographer and from the reaction of the audience also satisfies them!

LOS will be different everywhere we perform depending on who will be joining us but the core of the production will remain constant. During the first 3 performances I was glad to see that the basic concept and structure works and that the dynamic movement content and great dancers in combination with the live music by Aranis drives the performance to physical levels I rarely see.

So, I am very excited to go on tour and let this work grow, but am equally excited to give lots of different people around Europe the opportunity to join us on stage and meet those unique personalities as well as play my part in nurturing contemporary dance audiences with the physicality and power that dance can provide.

RYDC teacher wanted

Retina Youth Dance Company is looking for a teacher!

Retina Dance Company is looking for a teacher for their outstanding Retina Youth Dance Company (RYDC).

The teacher will be responsible for teaching the RYDC weekly technique class, leading workshops and rehearsing performance pieces created by Retina’s Artistic Director Filip Van Huffel. The teacher will also be responsible for communication with the group via email and facebook, organising performance events, taking weekly registers and liaising with Retina’s Manager and administrator.

The teacher will have excellent skills in teaching technique classes with energy, positive challenges and within a Retina style. They will encourage full-bodied movement with continuous flow that emphasises efficiency in movement as well as teach partnerwork. They will have a professional but fun attitude, and encourage the young people to challenge themselves and improve their skills. They will have excellent communication and motivational skills.

Retina Youth Dance Company has been in existence for 3 years and has become one of the East Midlands finest youth companies, representing the region at national and international events. Retina Dance Company encourage exchange and performance opportunities wherever possible.

To apply for this position you must submit an application form, a CV and a 15-minute extract of you teaching. The film can be submitted as a http://www.vimeo.com link and should preferably include you teaching a section of a technique class. We are interested in seeing the movement material but also your communication and motivational skills. Those shortlisted will be invited to teach during Retina’s summer school in Nottingham the week of 15th August.

The post will begin in September 2011.

To apply, contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or call Joanna Smuga-Lumatz on 0115 947 6202 (225)

Inside the studio: Week Eleven Layers of Skin

Last week Layers of Skin got its final layer added with a wonderful group of community dancers from Antwerp. 4 outdoor public workshops introduced the style of work, followed by a Saturday workshop for anyone interested in being a part of Layers of Skin. 50 people aged from age 11 to 67 came and after a fantastic session, the company had the challenging task of selecting 12 of them to perform alongside them in the final production. The group selected is full of passion and drive that you don’t see everywhere and they have been brilliant to work with. Below are some of their comments about the week. Reading them makes me realise how lucky we are to be doing this project, and how important it is to make these opportunities happen.

Carmen Lauwers age 23: Working with Retina is a delight! It’s been 5 years since I quit dancing, and I can’t imagine a more exciting project to get back into it. There are (almost) no words to describe how heart warming the company is. The dancers are very patient while teaching the different moves. You can ask the same question over and over again. It’s very inspiring to be a tiny part of this amazing energetic production. The dancers show an enormous physical power and they always keep pushing themselves to the next level. I’m enjoying every rehearsal and go home in admiration of the dancers, and put on the films of the latest rehearsal on the website. This opportunity makes me remember why I started dancing in the first place and now I keep asking myself, why did I ever quit? Thank you Retina for this amazing experience, thanks to you I found the love of dancing back! Hope this week will last forever.

Ytsje de Boer age 45: It is a unique opportunity to work with the professional dancers of Retina to a real performance. It is a dream that came true for me. It is great to see that the dancers of Retina are a real group of dancers working together, and also like to teach pieces of dance to others. Moreover, it is really inspiring to work in this project with all kinds of people of different ages and background. I would like to end with a quote: ‘A man is not old until regrets start taking place of dreams’ – Anonymous

Beja Pingnet age 55: I’m very happy with the friendliness, the playfulness and the patience of Filip and the Retina dancers in showing us how to participate in a very dynamic dancing project. It’s very special to me that I can contribute to this with my slower dynamism. It’s also great that we can be on the stage the whole time and watch the dancing. I really do enjoy it.

Patricia Budini age 41: I think it is a dream for anyone who is passionate about dance, to experience what it is to be so close and be part of a real professional dance performance. By participating in the rehearsals this week, I became totally captivated because of the dynamic and enthusiasm of the whole group. I experience what it’s like to be part of a whole, each dancer is important and has their contributions. The piece Layers of Skin is really dynamic and breathtaking.

An Baeyens age 38: I guess I wanted to be part of the production, to be on a stage for once, maybe the last time in my life. I also wanted my children to be able to see me and be proud of me, sort of the other way around as when I go to their gym events and school plays. I didn’t really know what contemporary dance was like, especially not the improvising. It made me feel very uneasy at first, as there are no mirrors when we practise, I felt terribly daft, to be honest. But maybe everyone else thought that too. It’s when you look self-assured, that you don’t look daft, I guess. Retina’s dancers are nice people. I was amazed at the size of the girls’ leg muscles. Impressive! I wonder what it’s like for them to live here in Belgium and dance so much of the time. Do they know all the good pubs and restaurants in Antwerp or is there no time or energy for all that? I could give them a few tips…!

Eddy Merckx age 45: Sometimes by coincidence we meet someone, then you get the chance to step on to a passing bus that can bring you to a higher level in your life. You step on or you don’t, if you don’t it will be gone and maybe, it will never return. I taught myself to take these chances. So to cut a long story short …. I am part of this energetic experience called Layers of Skin, these are the things that dreams are made of and make life so beautiful. Thanks for sharing Retina!

Patricia Ceuppens age 39: A few years ago, I saw RAUW in CC Berchem and I liked the piece so much that I didn’t hesitate a moment to participate to the workshops. So I was really happy to be selected to participate for Layers of Skin! As a lover of dance, I am grateful to have the possibility to dance with professional dancers and to see the process of creating this piece. For me it’s also interesting to learn about another way of life of the dancers in contrast with my own way of life. I also like the relaxed, funny way Filip and the other dancers teach us the phrases, without any stress with 100% of trust in the community dancers! It’s really nice. Learning other ways of movements and techniques (lifting, pulling, pushing, falling, movements on the ground …) are very enriching for me. I experience Retina Dance Company as a cohesive group of sympathetic, nice people, who can work very hard but always with a large dose of fun. The piece itself is GREAT, spectacular and original! I am sure it will be etched in the memory of the public! I admire the dancers for their talent, physically and mentally and the fact they can memorize all the phrases so easily. So, THANK YOU very much for this fantastic experience! I am looking forward next Thursday and the days after….

Wim Bouchery age 37: – I wanted to be part of Layers of Skin because I love modern dance. It moves me more than anything else. But I have only been a spectator. I wanted to experience what it’s like to perform. I wanted to know how a dance piece is ‘put together’, how dancers work, prepare,… Thanks to Retina and it’s wonderfully talented, incredibly patient and just super kind dancers, I’ve been able to experience all this! There is a very positive, optimistic and ambitious atmosphere at Retina. Everyone works hard towards the same goal, but there’s always room for a joke. I must say it’s hard work, especially staying focused, because I love the physical side of it. Very often movements or dance phrases that, at first sight, seem very easy to elaborate are a real struggle for an amateur like me. The day before yesterday, when we first saw the whole piece, I was stunned. It looked fantastic and I was watching the dancers with great admiration (and a little bit of jealousy). I’m sure the audience is going to love it! So, thanks to everyone at Retina Dance Company!

Jef Stevens says: I’m 63 now and every time it’s quite a challenge to perform. This time I got the opportunity to enter the active Retina volcano to add my small contribution as community dancer to Layers of Skin. We just finished the first week and I can say I am enjoying it with my older flexibility and motorics in the midst of the powerful dynamics of all these young dancers. In my opinion, it adds to the whole. Filip Van Huffel has what it takes to get out of you what is there already. He invites me with a smile and I go for it every time. And he doesn’t keep that skill to himself, the professional dancers of the Retina team have the same attitude. It’s a luxury to be able to work with them. I’m thriving in such a setting. My body flourishes and the whole of me starts dancing. No wonder I feel really well. I’m aware of these energy flows going everywhere and return home every day a happy man. So give me more of these chances. Something in two weeks from now? Next month? I’m getting greedy.

Buy Tickets for Layers of Skin premiere at Cultuurcentrum Berchem on June 23, 24 & 25

Inside the studio: Week Ten Layers of Skin

Week 10 was the first week shared with the local Antwerp professional dancers. 8 new people in the studio to share existing movement vocabulary with and create new sections to incorporate into the whole. A whole new challenge, but one that has been worth doing. 8 professional dancers alongside Retina’s 6, makes the stage quite an impressive place, seeing them all in the throws of Retina’s twists, turns, flying squirrels and lifts is quite an exhilarating sight.

A few comments from the Antwerp professionals:
Fenne says: It has been great to throw myself into Retina’s work. The physicality of it is new to me, and after teaching for a while it is very refreshing to have to think about movement again and try to make it my own. Working with Filip and the 6 dancers is relaxed and fun. It has been really hard work, but that’s exactly what I was looking for!

Judith says: I was quite curious about this new production of Retina Dance, so it was nice to get the chance to be involved. I like the physicality and the challenge it brings and the music is very inspiring. I cannot wait to feel what it will be like when the musicians are in the same space, playing live. It also gave me the opportunity to get to know the dancers of Retina a little better, as well as the other dancers from Antwerp. It is a very fun bunch of people. It really is great fun!!!

Dafne says: Working with Retina is a training of the body and mind. In the first week the focus was especially on the mind, trying to memorise all of these extraordinary movements. Was it in a 5, 6 or 7? Where is this leg, where is my focus…. where is my mind? Hopefully next week the movement will become a part of my body and we can enjoy to dance even more. But most of all, working with Retina makes me so happy in the informal, joyful atmosphere, its really nice working with a group that is as passionate as yourself with dance. What more can a person want……

Week 10 with Retina and week 1 with the local professionals. Next weeks blog will share the inside story of week 11 of Retina, week 2 of local professionals and week 1 with the local community dancers. Its been a fantastic journey so far, and now just a few days away from the premiere….

Buy Tickets for Layers of Skin premiere at Cultuurcentrum Berchem on June 23, 24 & 25

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