The basics, first: Nora is a group of three women dancers: Stephanie McMann, Eleanor Sikorsky and Flora Wellesley Wesley. All have wide experience of different types of performance and theatre craft; and in creating Nora they wanted to turn the tables on the normal creative process. Stephanie McMann explains:
‘We invite the choreographers to make on us, reversing the traditional role of dancers being invited to work with the choreographer. So, it’s dancers taking on curation, it’s acknowledging the dancers’ voices (…) and taking back agency.’
For their current project, Nora invited the American choreographer Deborah Hay, who’s been described as 'one of the most influential representatives of post-modern dance,’ to create a work on them.
Nora - Deborah Hay, Where Home Is
Over five weeks in November, Hay, whose dancing career started in the 1960s with Merce Cunningham and diversified from there, worked with Nora to create Where Home Is.
At first sight, the notion of ‘home’ seems disconnected from what is primarily a very abstract piece of work occurring on a bare stage, where for a lengthy initial section each dancer seems preoccupied solely with her own section of individual movement, which in itself appears arbitrary.
Eleanor Sikorsky: ‘Where Home Is is about finding home within your own body, finding home within the trio that you’re dancing in (…) and it relates closely to the tools that Deborah gives us to develop our own practice, which are all about how we perceive the world and connect with our environment.’
Once you know that, everything falls into place, including the working method, which starts from Deborah Hay’s well-defined initial concept, but allows the dancers a lot of individual and collective input. That way, Where Home Is continues to evolve with each rehearsal – and Nora are rehearsing intensively until the world premiere at the Lilian Baylis studio on 24 April.
Where Home Is is not an easy piece to watch cold. For one thing, there is no music or any kind of soundscape until almost the very end, when a recorded childish voice sings a version of Cole Porter’s Don’t Fence Me In. The earlier silence is sometimes broken by the performers themselves, either in eerie little songs or when they loudly and urgently call on Flora to dance.
The second part of the show, Playing Audience, sharpens the focus. After the end of the performance proper, Nora return to the stage to, in the words of Flora Wellesley Wesley, ‘lift the lid on the experience we engage in in the studio.’
Eleanor describes the process: ‘We introduce ourselves, we introduce various tools for watching and then we give the audience an opportunity to practice watching (…) to think of how their perception of us on stage changes.’
Watching Nora perform you get a fascinating glimpse of where contemporary dancing is going. At 30 minutes long Where Home Is is short and intense and feels somehow significant, a challenge worth accepting.
|What||Nora Invites Deborah Hay – Where Home Is, Lilian Baylis Studio|
|Where||Sadler's Wells, Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4TN | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Angel (underground)|
24 Apr 19 – 25 Apr 19, 20:00 Dur.: 50 mins approx
|Website||Click here to book via Sadler's Wells website|