Completing my weekend of dance performances, Sunday 5th March took me over to Rich Mix for 1000 Pieces Puzzle.
The brain-child of Cindy Claes, 1000 Pieces Puzzle is a two week professional development programme for emerging artists/leaders working in Krump, Afrobeats, Dancehall, African, Hiphop and Contemporary Dance with an interest in dance storytelling. Now in it’s second year, the 2017 programme invited 14 dancers from the UK, 14 from Belgium plus one artist each from Jamaica and USA to work with renowned artists and producers to develop their practice through international exchange.
The event on 5th March was a culmination of these two weeks, where participants showcased the work they had created together both live on stage and in dance films, followed by a Q&A.
Highlight performances for me came towards the end of the evening, including Kimiko Versatile’s group, Krucial’s group and the penultimate piece – a duet between a male and female dancer that presented some of the strongest musicality in the programme. These three pieces in particular showcased the dancer’s individual styles and performative qualities most effectively, demonstrating how dance forms can communicate and relate to each-other within the same work to create a unique movement language, without splitting into sections stylistically.
It is a shame I don’t know the names of more of the dancers. The event definitely needed a free-sheet, with dancers names and perhaps some insight into their dance styles and background. Nothing extensive, but it did feel odd to watch so many artists on stage and have nothing to refer to to find out more about them.
The audience were advised at the start of the evening that the pieces were all works in progress and that each group had only 12 hours to choreograph and rehearse across the two weeks. This meant, understandably, that the quality of the work varied significantly between each piece. Not all of the dancers could present themselves or their work to their full potential – leading me to consider how the model could be refined for future years.
Perhaps, instead of asking all the participants to create a performance piece for the culmination event, some could instead showcase a section of material learnt in one of their practical dance workshops; some could lead a short presentation sharing the insight they have gained into the business of dance, and so on. As the end-goal of 1000 Pieces Puzzle as a professional development programme is not centred around creating new pieces of work, but rather how to support the sector by nurturing well-rounded artists, the culmination event at the end of the two weeks could reflect that more closely.
That being said, the audience were wholly enthusiastic about the performances, with calls and cheers often initiated by the other participants who were also sat in the theatre. There was a real sense of support and community, strongly connected to the ethos of the venue itself. Many of the audience members seemed to know each-other and the participants already, which further added to the energy of the event.
It’s clear the programme opened up an important international network for the participants that would have otherwise been difficult to come by. Though the culmination event could have been refined, the benefits of the programme for the artists involved stood out in their testimonies. The performances on 5th March marked the end of the intensive, but also the start of new ways of working for these artists – which is what 1000 Pieces Puzzle is all about.