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Inside the Studio : Week Eight Layers of Skin

Hi I’m Ian and I’m Retina’s Education Officer for the East Midlands and this week I have been in Antwerp with the dancers and Filip while they work on Layers of Skin...

Anyone who doubts the healing power of the arts needs to spend a week with a dance company! (or maybe just this dance company). I stepped off the Eurostar in Belgium at 9am Monday morning with a head-cold, blocked nose, a spine that sounded like a skeleton playing maracas while tap-dancing and a brain made fuzzy from sleep deprivation. By midday Tuesday my cold had cleared up and my fuzzy head was freshly laundered and busy being filled with lots and lots (and lots) of Filip’s new material. As the week progressed I began to feel my body unlocking again, with a liquid spine and (as every dancer knows) that lovely ‘it hurts like hell but it’s totally worth it’ all over achy feeling - as only a week with Filip can deliver.

However, the enjoyment of all the lovely classes (especially an amazing Thursday massage session) was short-lived, because as soon as class was over the dancers produced a massive mental crowbar and began to shoehorn tonnes of material into my tiny squealing brain. There was so little time to grab it all but Louisa (the company apprentice) was fab (Grazi Louisa Grazi!) and went through things until I felt as if my head was full and all the complicated intricate and exhilarating choreography was pouring out my ears.

The boys let me crash in a spare room of the ccBe apartment - a purpose built top floor flat with a lovely sunny roof terrace and a Nintendo Wii (which is a fantastic idea for visiting dance companies – British venues take note). Oh, and about (at a conservative estimate) ten hundred million mosquitoes. (Thanks to Kristina and Dave for hooking me up with various pre and post insect attack chemicals btw). In the evenings we sat outside in one of the little café’s and drank delicious Belgian beer and played duck and cover with wave after wave of bloodthirsty flying insects. The other great thing about staying in ccBe is that it’s possible to roll out of bed at 9.20am, jump in the shower and be fresh as a daisy, smelling delightful and ready to sweat loads for class.

On Tuesday I cooked for the guys and made a stir fry, (Note to self for future – Less rice and more stir fry) fortunately Matt was on hand to save me with a few more veggies!. On Wednesday we went over to Nat and Filip’s where Nat put me to shame with an amazing meal with lots of wine and conversation, then settled down to berate the many failings of this year’s BBC batch of apprentice candidates. So if nothing else this week, I have been well fed, stuffed full of choreography and introduced to the wonderful world of Alan Sugars creepy finger pointing (YOU’RE FIRED!)

But enough rambling, let’s talk about Layers of Skin. It looks, AMAZING!!! On Friday I watched a full run (all 1 hour and 4 seconds and there might be even more to come) and it literally makes my heart stop. There are so many things that stand out… Especially the duet’s and trio’s! Dave and Kristina’s amazing speedy gonzalez duet, Steven and Pauline’s solo’s, Matt and Pauline’s duet, the boys trio, the accumulation sections... I could go on and on! Filip tried out a new layering and structure for the end and the guys finished the full run (first one ever) covered in sweat and smiles! I think the achy arms, necks, backs, thighs and eyebrows (David) are definitely worth! And I say that of course with someone with only slightly achy arms, neck, back and thighs.

So much happened this week and I’ve learnt so much its difficult to take it all in. I’ve learnt about a third of the piece and am super motivated about all the possibilities for workshops and teaching for the education packages back home! East Midlands watch out!

So my potted summary of 7 days in Antwerp…..

Best things: Dance Dance Dance!!! Meeting all the lovely new Retina Dancers, playing with Mika and Kobi in the studio, amazing Belgium beer, brilliant local food, lots and lots of support for the arts by a supportive open minded and enlightened population (Hint Hint) and nailing a section of rep down cold!

Worst things: Having to leave, mosquitoes, not having a photographic memory, mosquitoes, losing on the Nintendo Wii, mosquitoes, the early morning achy body feeling and mosquitoes.

Thing you’re most likely to hear me say: So wait, what comes after this? Things you’re least likely to hear me say: Ah, fantastic, more mosquitoes!

Written by Ian Dolan, Retina Dance Company Education Officer

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

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