Making Dance with Fruit

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A quirky tale of time, space and motion set in Barcelona.

Inspired by his production manager’s encapsulation of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity a respected choreographer uses fruit, tarot cards and a capable team of dancers to explore notions of time, space and motion, and sets about making sinews sing with unexpected consequences.

About

This strange tale draws on my experience of working with choreographers, especially the late Nigel Charnock, and was finally prompted into being by the sudden, unexpected death of music-theatre producer, Phil Horovitz at the age of 45.

I first encountered Nigel Charnock in 1984, when he was working as a dancer with Ludus in Lancaster. He struck me then as a confident, though quiet, man with great, but disguised, energy, quick wit and sharp thinking.

A few years later, Paul Kondras, the theatre designer, then based in Lancaster, told me about a show he’d seen at the Green Room in Manchester, by a group called DV8 (featuring Nigel Charnock), and insisted I do what I could to see them. The show was Dead Dreams of Monochrome Men, but I never got to see it.

A few years later, when working as an arts development officer in the UK, I set up an extended dance residency with Nexus dance company (then directed by Janet Archer, latterly of Dance City, Arts Council England and, now, CEO of Creative Scotland). I raised money to fund a choreography commission for Nexus, a young, energetic company whose work often incorporated spoken word. The dancers were unanimous in wanting to work with Nigel Charnock. And so we invited Nigel to work with the company for a month.

During this time I saw DV8’s Strange Fish in Newcastle as part of Val Bourne’s Dance Umbrella contemporary dance festival. Strange Fish was, and remains, one of the most powerful performances I have ever experienced. It blew me away. If intrigued you can watch a fim version of Strange Fish on Vimeo HERE.

Nigel was a lovely man — impossible to pigeonhole — hard working, brave, with always restless, sometimes reckless, sometimes precision energy; at times deeply contemplative, almost taciturn, at others times wayward and garrulous. Witty, amusing, charming, engaging, sharp. He was demanding of others and too demanding of himself. For Nigel dance was never about simply making patterns in the air, pretty or otherwise; performance needed to be entertaining. He was a brilliant artist. Nigel died, at the age of 52, in 2012.

Here’s a link to an extended video interview with Nigel, and there are several videos of Nigel working with dancers, as well as videos of his solo performances, available on Vimeo and You Tube.

Many years later, having worked on several choreography projects, and fascinated by the processes involved in making dance, I made extensive notes for a series of short stories about making dance. Around this time I met my partner, whom I nicknamed, The Dancer, because she loves to dance,  and moved to Barcelona. Not long after moving to Barcelona I met a choreographer in a local bar. We became friends. He smoked Ducados.

A couple of years later my partner received news of Phil Horovitz’s unexpected death during a flight from Germany to the States — Phil fell asleep and never woke up. My partner, who had been at school with Phil, was very moved by his demise. Prompted by this I revisited my notes and began drafting a new story about making dance in Barcelona. When I went back to the story I got sucked into thinking about Time, Space and Motion and decided to read Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Yep, I actually read Einstein, cover to cover, as part of the research for a simple short story!

Equipped with a better understanding of time and space, and having given a lot of thought to notions of mortality, I finished the story. Not knowing what else to do with it, apart from share it with a local writers’ group, I submitted it to the literary magazine, Barcelona, Ink. Ryan Chandler, the editor, liked it and, after having tidied it up, published it in issue number 5. The story was later selected for inclusion in the anthology, The Best of Barcelona, Ink, published by Catalonia Press in 2012.