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Inside the Studio : Week Six Layers of Skin

Week 6, another fun and full week! This project is my first job, I never expected I would pass the audition as I don’t graduate from Rotterdam Dance Academy until June. It’s a totally different approach to working in a company from being in school. It’s an intense working process based on one thing “the layers of skin production”. We touch the subject every day deeper and deeper because we spend 8 hours a day with each other’s skin. After 6 weeks of being together with 8 strangers in one studio, we kind of know each other quite well now. When I enter the studio, I feel a warm and energetic atmosphere. It’s a great way to start your day.

Filip is searching for 6 other local professionals to participate in our production Layers of Skin. So each day this week, our morning class was open to all Antwerp professional dancers that wanted to audition for the 6 places. The classes were enjoyable as there was a different kind of energy and it was great to have Natalie Gordon present throughout the week too.

The week began with the trios that we started the previous week. 2 different trios (Dave, Erin and Kristina) and (Matt, Steven and me) using the starting point of meat hanging upside down and falling really close to the floor and being caught at the last moment. Both trios really needed cleaning time and placing on music. Then we finished “the nines” section. We tried to create a structure where all the extra people can participate in. At that moment we will be dancing with 24 people, so I am quite excited to see that, because I can’t imagine it yet!. On Wednesday Erin taught the morning class and I really loved it. On Thursday the musicians walked in to the studio and it was really different with live music and all the musicians around us, a different and really great energy.

On Saturday we had another day of public workshops in parks in Antwerp. Lots of different kinds of people came and danced with us in the Museumplein and in Te Boelaar Park. There were some really great and creative people there, so I am really looking forward to seeing who will be in the production alongside us.

At the end of week 6 I realized that we did 3 runs of the piece so far and its 45minutes long. To be honest, it’s going better and better and I’m so exited to see and dance the result in June.

Written by Pauline De Laet, Retina Dance Company

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

Want to dance in Layers of Skin premiere? Aged 12-112 and enjoy movement? Come to our open workshop 28 May

Inside the Studio : Week Five Layers of Skin

My week got off to a great start spending Sunday night in the Etap Hotel at Amsterdam airport thanks to Easy Jet and a delayed flight, making me miss the last train to Belgium!! An early 6.00am wake up call, a Starbucks Latte and Pain Au Chocolate, and a crowded 2 hour train journey to Antwerp later and I was raring to go for another week in camp Retina!!

Having already been involved with 5 previous Retina productions one may think that as a dancer there is no new challenge from participating in yet another creative process with the same choreographer. Wrong! Each new process brings such a varied experience that it never gets tired or repetitive. In fact through having familiarity with each other it means that there is no inhibition and complete trust is created. Also, Filip’s movement vocabulary has developed with each new piece and is now more articulate and complex than ever, and remains a definite challenge with such an intense and full-bodied physicality.

Most of Monday was spent learning a new phrase from Filip, which we then worked on in pairs, combining with a previously created duet from earlier in the process. Each pair was then given an additional layer of physicality to apply to the duet. Steven and Dave had to make their duet continuous and elastic, Erin and Kristina had to add violence and aggression, and Pauline and myself had to make each movement as full and articulate as we could. The result was three very contrasting duets, unrecognisable as having been created from the same material.

Also, early in the week Filip spent an afternoon working with Dave and Kristina on the start of what would become a new section for the piece. Before long a fast, traveling, jumping, rolling and generally crazy duet was taking shape. It was a real treat to sit and watch the dancers throw themselves whole heartedly, joined by Filip, into the creation of this new material without inhibition or fear. Dave and Kristina look strong and powerful together and there is a playful competitiveness between them as they challenge themselves to jump the highest, turn the fastest and shift the furthest.

On Tuesday evening the boys hosted a pizza and movie evening round at our flat. The film of choice was the classic ‘Centre Stage’ which we all grew up watching and which we all knew word for word (except Dave of course) who sat listening to music trying to plan his class for the next day whilst the rest of us belted out Mandy Moore and enjoyed the cheesy plot and questionable acting from the cast.

The next day, whilst running the newly created ‘Kristina and Dave duet’, the competitiveness took on a whole new meaning when Kristina, whilst performing a very tricky turning jump into Dave’s arms, elbowed Dave in the face (accidentally of course) and burst open his eyebrow! I wasn’t sure who to feel more sorry for - Dave, who then endured a trip to A & E to have his eyebrow glued back together, or Kristina who naturally felt terrible about what had happened during the now titled ‘lift of doom’. Either way we were without Dave for the rest of the afternoon, which threw Filip’s plan to complete the section out of the window. Resourceful as ever Filip worked with what he had and created a new quintet on the rest of us.

My week finished on Thursday as I had to travel back to the UK for other work commitments, but my penance for missing a day was to run the newly structured now 30 minute long version of Layers of Skin, followed directly by a run of La Lutte, the duet Steven and myself will be performing on the 22nd May in Gent. We haven’t spent much time on La Lutte during the LoS process so to suddenly jump into a full run was a little bit of a shock to the system, and with so much new material floating around in my body it was quite a challenge to remember the detailed movement from La Lutte. However, we did our best and it gave us a good idea about what work we need to do on the piece before the performance in two weeks. It was, as always, a grueling challenge to make it to the end of the piece still standing, but still standing we were and just in time for me to jump on one of Filip’s old bikes and cycle to the airport ready to catch my flight back to the UK.

Still feeling a little sick to the stomach from the run of LoS and La Lutte I sat in the departure lounge at Antwerp airport reflecting on the week, and it dawned on me that whether it be traveling back and forth to the UK, being stranded in random airports, trips to A & E or almost throwing up during a run of the piece these are the sacrifices we make as freelance dancers and in an industry with an uncertain funding future and an excess in supply of professional dancers I am very lucky to be in the position I am; doing something I love, with a group of truly inspiring people.

Here’s to the start of week 6 and to the success of the remaining creation period for Layers of Skin.

Written by Matthew Slater, Retina Dance Company

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

Inside the Studio : Week Four Layers of Skin

How many things can happen in just one week? Our first week back after the Easter Break was not gentle. It was full, energetic and went by super-fast.

Filip has created a wonderful duet on Kristina and Pauline which I think is a great way to begin the piece to introduce the dance language and themes to the spectator. On the same day a male trio was made; and it takes my breath away!! Matthew floats between Steven and David's arms. They catch him with such precision and smoothness.

The job of an apprentice is to learn different roles and if there is ever a need to replace someone, here I am! Erin was performing In Nederland’s for another project, so I jumped in.

I discovered how many things can go wrong just in the first 5 minutes. It doesn't actually matter how well you know the accumulation phrase, because it is a mind and a body killer. Even the shorter trios require high body energy, precision, wild-ness, compactness and a bit of luck! Matthew laughing at me because I was breathing so hard after less than 4 minutes!!

By dancing in Erin’s role I have learnt something really important. Not to worry and focus on how good and special the Retina Dancers are, but to go for it and trust myself without hesitation. I might be good too!

On Thursday we started preparing for the Open Workshops for All. We created movements to teach to the community. It was great to see Fillip so excited and how using such simple ideas he can readjust the material. On Saturday we spent a fabulous day in the park, having loads of fun teaching dance to anyone that wanted to join us. Looking forward to the next one on 14 May, please come and dance with us!

Kristina and I spent time reflecting on the week. We sat at home on the sofa imagining how the integration with local dancers will work for the Antwerp premiere. We talked about the possibilities and our ideas; and remembered all the movement material we still need to put in. We became intensely curious and excited. I can't wait to see how the artistry of the choreographer is going to shape the whole piece.

While the rest of the company worked on a quartet, Fillip set a duet with Steven and me. It’s actually pretty long phrase with two scary movements we tried at least a hundred times.

On Friday Erin was back and it was gorgeous to have her energy around again and great to see how fast she was able to learn all the material and ready for a run in less than two hours. So we did a run through of the piece and filmed it. So far we have 15 minutes!!

That's it for now....no actually not. I forgot to say, Kristina is looking for a new hair style, and she and Filip taught workshops for the International Day of Dance on Friday, we've got great postcards to advertise participation workshops, Steven taught us a beautiful class and I am ready to move on to the next challenge!.

It’s difficult to be brief when describing such a busy week, I want to share it all! I am ready and excited to move on and learn Matthew’s role next week. I hope you are enjoying our journey Inside the Studio on Layers of Skin as much as we are.

Written by Luisa Memmola, Retina Dance Company Apprentice

Antwerp Professional Dancers Audition

Are you a professional dancer with an Antwerp connection?


Would you like to perform alongside Retina Dance Company?

We are looking for 6 local professional dancers to join us for the Antwerp edition of Layers of Skin. Rehearsals are from June 6 to 10 and June 13 to 17, with technical rehearsals on June 20, 21, 22 for performances on June 23, 24, 25.


To join the project you must audition by attending company class in the week of May 9th.

Download and return the application form with CV to by 6th May. Alternatively, you can complete the application form on the website.

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