Site Specific Dance is dance that’s taken into inspiring places that promote thought and experimentation. It doesn’t take place in the normal dance space such as a theatre. Each performance is usually specific to a location, it won’t move to another place without reworking.
The spirit of the place is key.
For Changes In The Current, our first Fuse Festival commission, Sophie, Alix and I chose The Esplanade in Rochester to inspire our project. The river was central to the thought behind it, the choreography, props and the placement of the dancers were all influenced by the river. The dance became a promenade (flowing like the river) and part of the performance took place on the river.
Site Specific Dance isn’t a new concept, Isadora Duncan, for example, danced outdoors and in unusual places in the early 1900s. The way Site Specific Dance currently looks is probably due to choreographers such as Pina Bausch and Merce Cunningham in the 1960s and 70s.
My passion for Site Specific Dance began at University, as it did for many of the TRS Teachers. Many courses have a module that culminates in a tour of the university and the performances around it.
“At University there were some great site specific performances. Among others, I remember a site specific car dance (all done in and around my car), we also used the bike stand point, the movements were like bicycles, the hairdressers where we could use the salon and chairs to create our movements and the woods, climbing in the trees and also using the angles of where the audience stood to create a different view for them.” Georgie, TRS Teacher
Site Specific Dance is engaging for performers and audiences who don’t often access dance. It breaks down many of the barriers associated with dance performance and, perhaps most importantly in this respect, it brings dance to the people. Often audiences are participants rather than spectators.
The Sirens of Cetham was originally a Fuse Festival commission that included a walk to the performance space serenaded by Tendayi’s magical voice and Djembe drumming that drew the audience along to the anchor in Chatham. The performance was then adapted for other spaces including outside the Medway Council offices by The River Medway. There was always a promenade element to draw in the audience as a siren would a ship. Thank you Nikki Price Photography for the image below of one of the sirens on the anchor in Chatham. To read more about the project click HERE.
Unusually for dance, site specific performances are often, put not always, outside. The landscape is key to the piece.
Journey to The Island was one of the Educating Dance themes at Miers Court Primary School. A hill on the field made the perfect island and the Reception classes loved dancing outdoors. They were very imaginative, we had all sorts of creatures on the island and in the water. Then it turned out we were actually in a fish tank!
Participants in schools and care homes love Site Specific Dance because it feels extra special and exciting. It draws attention to their landscape in new ways.
Site Specific Dance has become even more appropriate at the moment, during the Corona virus pandemic, because the rehearsals and performances can be outdoors. This is safer as we exit lockdown and try to find safe ways to enjoy life. We’re looking forward to finding unusual dance spaces and choreographing with the participants, be that in a school or a care home. We’re sure they will have a lot to express at this difficult time and it will be interesting to see what the various collaborations bring.