DIG: Robbie Synge (SCT) and Lucy Boyes | Ensemble
17th Oct 2019
Time: 7.30pm – 8.30pm
£12/£10 + £1 booking fee
Part of Dance International Glasgow
Ensemble is a joyous expression of togetherness involving five performers in their 30s-70s.
Join the group on a journey that lays bare their strengths, efforts and possibilities together for an uplifting and surprising piece that challenges expectations of age in performance.
The result of the group’s work over a six-year period, Ensemble has built a friendship and understanding which is reflected in tightly coordinated choreography, daring acrobatics and precarious balances.
Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes
What made you decide to work with performers in the particular age groups?
It’s come about quite fluidly, rather than deciding to work with a particular age group. The people involved and form and content have come about and settled slowly over time through friendships and understanding building. Then there was a decision to pursue an outcome like a performance. Like any group performance work, we’d imagine, it’s a choice to work with people you really like and that have potential to do something exciting.
Ideally, age wouldn’t be a theme with Ensemble, but simply the details of interactions between different people. There’s no avoiding it, however, because it’s clearly striking to see a number of people on the professional dance stage older than say 40-something. Unfortunately, it’s rare and therefore becomes ‘other’ or the thing people talk about. As do we! We’ve pursued the project primarily because we all love working together and it’s massively rewarding.
But the age issue does feel important in a political sense. Society is increasingly ageing. On the whole, we believe the contemporary professional dance ‘sector’ is doing a poor job of reflecting society’s age demographics. The sector is sleepy in its lack of active encouragement of new possibilities and onward trajectory for different ages in professional dance making and performance. We are missing opportunities. We have also struggled against attitudes that seem to suggest that this isn’t a good idea, is not exciting, or that there isn’t an audience for it.
It can feel awkward to talk about this as we are not ourselves seen as ‘old’ or ‘elders’, etc. Although it’s all relative, turning 40 this year (Robbie), age is undeniably already an issue in this profession (health and financial and family responsibilities). You can feel you are submerging sometimes as the system is not set up to make it easy. Here’s to emerging artists in their 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s.
What makes you want to challenge the expectations of the dance audience? I know it is something you have been doing for a while?
We don’t know if either/both of us are but, in general, anybody able challenge expectations with art is doing something exciting. It’s all relative to individual viewers’ experiences, of course. With Ensemble, the ambition particularly of Christine and Judy (‘untrained’ in the typical sense and, until recently, ‘non-professional’ performers) has been key, and there is a real hunger from them to challenge their own limits and expectations in different ways.
It was very easy to recognise the physical potential and how this might surprise audiences, at least based on our own experiences of dance involving mixed age/older people. Expressing sincere and ambitious performative desires well beyond certain cliches, and then working hard to make them happen, can be personally surprising and all the more satisfying and exciting to share with audiences.
The ambition to hold our own within professional dance festivals such as DIG is an important outcome and we have definitely surpassed that in what we’ve achieved in the past year or so.
The work has had a six year gestation process: what are the advantages and disadvantages of this long practice?
It was exciting to realise early on that all of us were up for working in a highly committed, time-intensive way through quite a few 1-2 week residencies over the years and much discussion and reflection. This time commitment enabled development that would not be achieved through working in large groups in occasional sessions, as many performance groups or participatory companies for older dancers do. This felt like a different approach.
As a group we’ve worked together over a span of around six years, with Angus joining us more recently. It’s been a slow burner with lots of small outcomes along the way and Ensemble was really created only over the last 2 years. As certain things built over time – trust, technical ability, performance skills, commitment – our confidence and ambition grew as a group and we set about finding resources to produce this work, which is really an assembly of a load of different ideas and experiences and insights into the past few years.
There’s no way this work could have been created by condensing the time into set R&D or creative blocks as seems quite conventional in funded projects. The development of trust, technical and performance qualities has demanded years. Working slowly like this also gives more than enough space to reflect and consider direction and ambition and for us to learn.
We think that it’s also taken time to convince others that this could be a strong project and hold its own within festivals and programmes of dance, out-with those curated purely around age as a theme.
How are you feeling about coming to the CCA as a place for performance?
The CCA feels like a friendly place in our experience and Robbie enjoyed showing work (with Julie Cleves) at BUZZCUT’s Double Thrills early this year. We think it’s healthy that DIG is getting out and about around the city, playing a part in helping dance become more visible to more people. We’d love to fill the space with audience who are both familiar with and new to CCA perhaps.
Does your work fit with the aesthetic of DiG?
We hope so. It looks like a pretty broad programme with representation and awareness of exciting artists of different race and gender who are exploring dance in different forms. We’re pleased to be part of this. Although we acknowledge different values and ambitions of different festivals, we are pleased to be part of a dance festival that is not curated around age as a central theme.
ACCESS: This is an Audio Described performance with a Touch Tour
Created in association with Dance Base and Eden Court with support of Lyth Arts Centre and Yorkshire Dance. Robbie Synge and Lucy Boyes are Aerowaves Twenty19 artists with Ensemble.