15 dancers from Greater Manchester were selected to take part in a 4 day residency with FlexN pioneer and choreographer Reggie ‘Roc’ Gray in association with Young Identity and Contact. During the residency, Reggie introduced a group of local dancers to the FlexN dance style and working with spoken word collective Young Identity to explore new ways of telling stories through movement and word.
I asked poets who were in involved in FlexN process to answer these questions:
I felt like I learned a great deal about my own process of writing and my personal craft of poetry, particularly the notion of rhythm. Having my poem used as a stimulus for dance choreography made me think in much finer detail about the different components of speech that contribute to rhythm such as: phonetics of individual words or phrases as well as encouraging me to consider the count of syllables and their individual stresses.
The main challenge that I faced was regarding the short turn-around that was required, due to the brief time-frame of the project. However, because of this I had to push myself and felt like I surpassed my creative capacity, apropos being able to produce a piece of writing which I was relatively happy with over the course of a few days.
One of the highlights of the process for me was learning about the dancer’s creative process and seeing the correlation between dance and poetry. Furthermore, it was a joy and an honour to have my poetry explored with such insight and creativity. Also, it offered new and exciting avenues through which to explore translating my poetry to the stage in regard to performance.
During the beginning of the process there was an obvious split between the dancers and the poets. It took us a while to come out of our shells and vibe with each other, but we got there in the end. A lot of my writing material was inspired by simply sitting in the rehearsals and watching the dancers, I found this mesmerizing. However, a lot of the time I felt excluded, and that the poets were only given the chance to respond to the dancers, instead of actually collaborate with them. Perhaps, if there were more writing exercises, or poetry themed events where we could swap and share skills, this would have helped balance out our involvement. At times it was difficult to reflect on my experience due to the loud music, and also the dancers being quite high-maintenance. As a whole, the energy has been positive, and I have treasured being a part of the journey. It has definitely helped me to open up more both as a person and as a performer, and we have made some great memories. My group were very friendly and smooth to work with, and I think we created a spectacular piece.
I liked the fact that I had to think about my poetry in a new way. When I was onstage with the dancers I was watching them respond to my work in real time and it brought my words to life. I’m used to performing by myself in quite an intimate setting and so the FlexN project opened my eyes to new ways of performing. I felt like the poets were a bit excluded until the end of the process though, and I had difficulty imagining what the piece would actually look like until we were just performing it onstage, which was challenging because I prefer to feel a bit more rehearsed. Overall, I think what we produced as a group was really special and I was proud of the show.
The process was different than it has been for other shows as there was another element to the pieces. It was challenging to write when there was always loud music and movement going on but after developing on ideas with the dancers we were all able to give an input to create a piece.
I found the process challenging but working with other artists was very creatively inspiring. The challenges were lack of clarity in scheduling and sometimes feeling like the poets were sidelines, the highlights were working with the dancers and managing to create something truly different.
How did you feel about the process?
I felt sceptical at first but the process was challenging and rewarding. I felt like observing the dancers in rehearsals was hard to write to at first but then upon reflection after the rehearsals the movement began to translate easier into words and the art forms began to mix easier.
What were the challenges?
The challenges were being vulnerable in a group of strangers and having to be open to a new art form out of my comfort zone.
What were the highlights?
Dancing to Magnolia at the beginning of the show.