‘Men & Girls Dance’ is a dance piece performed by five professional dancers and a cast of nine girls aged 8-11 from Salford and surrounding towns. The new dance production created by Fevered Sleep, is on tour and is coming to The Lowry on Thu 11 & Fri 12 August. In this blog, we find out a little bit more about Fevered Sleep and their new dance piece ‘Men & Girls Dance.‘
‘Men & Girls Dance’ is an innovative work of dance performed by a cast of five professional male dancers and nine girls – cast from the local community in Salford and surrounding areas – aged between 8 and 11.
The girls performing at The Lowry were cast after the company put out an open call. “Our auditions take the form of a workshop,” says Sam Butler, co-artistic director of Fevered Sleep. “They get to play and have fun, learn a short routine together with one of the men and we enable them to perform part of the show without them knowing it! The crucial qualities of being right for the show are that they are relaxed, playful and engaged with their fellow performers, more so than their technical dance ability.”
‘Men & Girls Dance’ premiered at Folkestone Quarterhouse Theatre in April and performed at Huddersfield’s Lawrence Batley Theatre in June.
Fevered Sleep co-artistic director David Harradine says: “From a standing ovation on the first night, to the man on the next night who turned to me at the end and said, “I don’t work in the arts. I don’t go to see contemporary dance. I don’t have children. I have no reason to be here. I came because my friend invited me along. And I am so moved, I can barely speak”. The girls were amazing; their skill and their willingness to take risks performing and improvising in front of 100 people with just two weeks rehearsals; and the strength of the men and how respectful and caring they were with the girls. Folkestone and Huddersfield were fantastic and we’re very much looking forward to performing at The Lowry.”
Devised and choreographed by Fevered Sleep’s artistic directors David Harradine and Sam Butler, the piece is a joyful celebration of normal, healthy connections between men and girls that can sometimes be misconstrued: “We live in a time when the very idea of men interacting with children in a public space causes anxiety,” says David Harradine. “There’s got to be another way of being; there’s got to be the possibility for play, and care, and tenderness, and empathy, and love. That’s why we’re doing this project; to celebrate the potential for play and care and tenderness and empathy and love.”
“The girls in Folkestone and Huddersfield had a ball!” says Sam Butler. “There can be an element of concern both from parents and girls about giving up so much of their holiday time to the project, but they all saw how valuable it had been to them all and we had lots of tears after the final show when it was time to say goodbye. Quite a few of the girls had never performed on stage before so for some of them this was a very big deal and we were amazed and delighted by their courage and trust in us in the process.”
Dancers in the new production are Robert Clark (choreographer and dancer), Nathan Goodman (Shobana Jeyasingh, Richard Alston), Kip Johnson (Protein Dance, Vincent Dance, Lea Anderson), Nick Lawson (Aletta Collins, Marc Brew, h2Dance)
Anwar Russell (Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, DV8, Punchdrunk)
‘Men & Girls Dance’ is co-created in each location with girls drawn from the local community with full support of parents; the girls spend two weeks with the company devising and rehearsing before the public performances.
The production uses newspaper as a key design element. “The design is a direct response to the role of the print media in creating a negative perception of relationships between men and girls,” continues David Harradine. “We’ve all been aware of tabloid sensationalism…so we take newspaper and we literally rip it up, and repurpose it, and reuse it; we turn it into a thing of beauty…we approach those negative headlines head on, and we dance all over them, until they’re no longer visible, until positive stories take their place.”
The company actually produces a free newspaper that’s distributed around each tour town, featuring creative writing about the themes of the piece, submitted by locals and others connected with the project. “The company are making some lovely connections during the two weeks are resident in each town,” says Sam Butler. “It’s great to walk into shops and cafes to find people sat there reading our newspaper, and then seeing some of those same people at the show.”
Fevered Sleep will be in residence for two weeks prior to each performance, and will run a series of conversations that bring people together to talk about the themes of the project. The Talking Place, hosted by Fevered Sleep Associate Artist, Luke Pell, will be located in each town and will offer opportunities for people to talk about the piece, ask questions and to air their views.
Produced in Association with Fuel, supported by Arts Council England, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Royal Central School of Speech & Drama, Jerwood Charitable Foundation, Greenhouse,
Development of Men & Girls Dance was supported by The Place, London; The Point, Eastleigh; Dance4, Nottingham; Quarterhouse, Folkestone; the Jerwood Choreographic Research Project, Greenhouse and Greenwich Dance.