Friday, 26 April 2013

Shhh! Q&A

Get to know the cast and creatives of the explosive new dance piece premiering at the Hawthorne Theatre.


How important are your Hertfordshire roots as a company and is this reflected in your work at all?

Alicia: As a company, our Hertfordshire roots are very important to us. Most of the dancers in the company are not native to London or Hertfordshire, but the support and welcome we have received throughout the creative process has really helped!

Miranda: While rehearsing the work the local community has been very supportive. The kindness of the people from St Francis Of Assisi has been overwhelming. Without the use of their church we would be unable to rehearse with the set which has a massive impact on the production.

Racquel: Well as one of the directors is from Hertfordshire it's really important to get involved with the community and share our work with the people of Hertfordshire. To give something back to the town especially as we do a lot of education projects within the schools in the area it's great to perform for them and show them what we do best.

Brendon: Extremely, I run a dance studio in Welwyn garden city and feel really privileged to be dancing with a company so close to my base.

Adam: For me they are very important.  Here in Herts there is a real sense of tradition, ambition and acceptance.   Supporting innovative ways to create and produce new creative ideas, which is very inspiring. As an ex-choir boy of St Francis Church, worker at Comet and Tesco in Hatfield, work experience at John Lewis, AND went to Applecroft and Chancellor’s School, my roots are very deep.  To be able to create and produce a show with the Hawthorne Theatre means a great deal to me. 

Annie-Lunette: It is amazing to finally get the chance to present our professional work in Adam Towndrow’s (company co-founder) home town. After nearly 8 years, it has been a true ambition of ours to create a full length work, and to perform in the Hertfordshire region. To be supported by the Hawthorne Theatre is an honour, and this truly feels like a work that has been developed and grown in Hertfordshire.

Libraries, eh? What’s the strangest / most unusual thing to happen to you in a Library?

Miranda: When I was 10 my best friend and I went to a new school. On our first day my friend, who always had his head in books and was particularly well read for his age, walked straight in to the library and, in his 10 year old voice, knocked the librarian for six when he asked for a book on quantum physics. This story went down in history with our families. His bond with the library grew and grew and now he is a barrister.

Alicia:  I have always loved libraries! I find them really comforting and they’re not the usual places you experience weird and wonderful things, but I did perform in a flashmob in a library once!  Which was obviously great fun and received very mixed responses!  I have also fallen asleep many a time in libraries…Sometimes for hours!

Racquel : The strangest thing that's happened to me in a library is I was working at one of the computers in my local library at the time. When someone came past and put a note on my table. They didn't stop they walked on by and when I read the note it said how beautiful they thought my eyes were and then gave me their name and could say this was the start of a romantic love story, like the piece....however I thought at the time, being cautious of any man, that it was weird and did not call the number! ;)

Adam: I’d have to say, in the Welwyn Garden City library, before the refit, probably in the late 90’s, I was about 12, I tried to jump the last 7 or 8 last steps.  I miscalculated the steps and ended up tumbling down the last few steps, I was in so much pain and so embarrassed, but I looked up to see a scary librarian, and despite watching me falling down the stairs, told me I was making too much noise!!

Annie-Lunette: I went to my local library once to take out a book, and I found out it was closed when I got there. There was a Librarian locked inside, who couldn’t get out, with the electricity turned off so they couldn’t call out. I had to call the emergency number on the door and was like “please help, someone’s locked inside the library!”

What made you interested in dance?

Miranda:  I could never could sit still as a child, my feet keep on dancing even when I’m sleeping. It drives my partner mad.

Alicia:  I was a late starter.  I was such a tomboy when I was younger and had no interest in ballet or jazz etc, but I was then introduced to contemporary dance and dance theatre by Lancashire based dance company, Ludus, and I caught the bug.
I’ve been dancing contemporary ever since!

Racquel: I started ballet when I was 4 because one of my friends was doing it. I need up loving it and was hooked ever since. Since going to ballet school at 16-19 I did a lot of Contemporary and loved it too. The movement is beautiful and you can feel so free dancing to great music.

James: I grew up in a family full of music teachers surrounded my music and creative minds, this drove me to love the arts and eventually to follow a drama path once I left school, however the acting failed to hold my interest as I was drawn to the dance course that ran in parallel with drama and from there on I chose to specialize in contemporary dance, whilst dipping my toe into many other styles of movement along the way. 

Brendon: Honestly... I started dancing to meet girls!

Adam: I was dating a dating a dancer, who got me into dance!

Annie-Lunette: My sister, who encouraged me to be creative and dance at Christmas parties. I was always creating dances at school, and fell into it academically later at secondary school.

What one piece of advice do you wish someone had given you when you started out in dance professionally?

Miranda: Dance school teaches you to how to dance but not how to survive as a dancer. After graduation you expect to be paid for you skills straight away. I wish someone had pulled me aside and said not to be ashamed to do things for free after graduating because they build relationships with companies off ten leading to repeated paid work.

Alicia:  Be yourself.  This is a tough lesson I have learnt since beginning my professional career!  Countless times I have been to class or auditions and aspired to be or emulate how another dancer performs or choreographs.  It is so important to be yourself and remember that there are other dancers/choreographers who enjoy and look up to your own style.  Replicating someone else will never benefit you as a performer!  Although it is important to discover and practice new styles and techniques of dance, it is important to have confidence in your own ability is crucial to your own professional development.

Racquel: I wish I was taught more about business. Essentially when you become a dancer you are your own business and I wish I viewed it like that more from the beginning of my career. I was always told it was about how good you are, but as you get to know the business like anything, it's who you know and how good you are at promoting yourself. Of course you have to be good, but hopefully if you are going into this tough profession that's a given.

James: There are many things I wish I had been told, finding one crucial piece of advice is nearly impossible. I have found that part of being a dancer is finding your own struggles and deal with them in a way that keeps yourself and your Employer sain and on good terms, the arts industry is full of personalities and a huge part of your job is to navigate them and find your place amongst them.

Brendon: Get thick skin very quickly as it is a very hard industry which is full of rejection. BUT when you finally start getting work, it's the best feeling in the world.

Adam: Look after your body, learn as many additional skills as possible, be punctual and enthusiastic at ALL times!

Annie-Lunnette: Keep active, go to as MANY auditions as possible, and NEVER give up.


Libraries are usually all about silence. How did this affect your approach to writing the music for Shhh!?

Libraries are never really silent. There’s a background hum, and various noises which if you choose to, you can hear as music – books being moved, pages turning, electronic sounds, pencils scratching, creaking chairs and sounds of whispering for instance. All of these are sounds I’ve incorporated into this score in a musical way.

Which comes first, the music or the dance? And how closely do you have to work with the choreographer and the dancers to create the music for a dance piece?

In this case the music was written first. The overall scene by scene narrative was created by Annie, but I had freedom within each scene to let the music lead the way which was fantastic – I often write for film, TV, games or advertising, and that usually involves following the action very closely, or sticking tightly to a predetermined brief and not allowing the music to follow it’s own course. Writing for dance was great fun and very liberating.

There are several forms of dance in this piece – classical, street, even parkour. How does your music reflect these different forms or does it not matter?

All that mattered was that I knew that whatever I threw into this score, the choreographer and dancers would have the freedom and skill to make it work, whatever the genre. I’ve bounced around from classical minimalism to dubstep, rock, trip-hop, ambient, jazz, and more – in fact at one point you can enjoy a mix of baroque, jazz, rock and dubstep all simultaneously, which was a fun challenge and something to listen out for if you come to see the show! I’m an eclectic composer and it was great having the opportunity to explore so many styles in one piece. 

Performance of this explosive dance premiers on Thursday 2 May and runs through to Saturday 4 May 2013

The Hawthorne Theatre goes digital

In the autumn of 2012, a great change took place in the projection room at the Hawthorne Theatre.

The Digital projector goes live
On Sunday 9 September at 10.15pm the main 35mm projector, an Italian made Cinemacanicca Victoria 5, was switched off for the last time and its long-play film carrier – a Westrex 5035 was moved into its new position behind projector No. 1, previously only used to show adverts and trailers.

The 35 mm projector finds new home
The following morning at 7am engineers moved in to carefully dismantle the old projector, to be restored and displayed as a working model at the Museum of Cinema Technology at Bletchley Park, to make way for our brand-new Barco 2k 19B digital projector and Dolby server.  The installation took three days, scheduled around, an existing film programme and without closing the cinema.  Films were ran that week using Projector No. 1; strange to note our main machine had always been referred to as Projector No. 2!  The last 35mm presentation was The Flowers of War with Christian Bale starring.

The Digital Key
After a week’s live performance our first digital showing was Jo Nesbo’s Jackpot.  Content now comes in the form of a hard-drive, which is ingested onto the server, typically taking between half-hour and an hour and it is unlocked for us to show by delivery of a ‘key’ from the distributor, only active for the duration for which we are showing it.

All projectors to all people
The picture quality and light output is outstanding with all over sharpness across the 31-foot screen.  We can do everything we did before, and more, including live satellite feeds.  We still have 35mm capabilities – watch out for these rare screenings, as film is becoming increasingly scarce, and even 16mm as we still have our Fumeo projector, which gives a superb image and is regularly used to this day for Welwyn Garden Film Society.

Projectionists do exist!
We always have a technician in the projection room, nothing is left to chance, so you can relax. In fact, if we do our job correctly, to the customer, - we shouldn’t exist.
One last thing, to ensure a perfect presentation every time, we are using automotive cues, to present the whole show timed to the second; rest assured, we’ll always be watching!

Steve Baker
April 2013