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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

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