[Hagit Yakira rehearsing Air Hunger]
Respond_ is a new digital platform, formed around the work of Liz Lerman’s ‘Critical Response Process’, a project now in its second stages. Developed by Yorkshire Dance, University of Leeds and Breakfast Creatives, Respond_ is an experiment to test whether digital technology can enhance your experience of contemporary dance.
Catriona Chadderton met up with Artistic Director, Wieke Eringa (WE) to discuss the process behind the project’s development…
What exactly is Respond_?
WE: Respond_ is a digital platform looking at how it can open up the creative process, which in contemporary dance is often to open up the doors to a wider audience. Respond_ uses a process of feedback developed by American artist Liz Lerman called ‘Critical Response Process’ (CRP). It is very much designed from the point of view that often when you get feedback on something, whether that is on a dress or a cake you have made, you find that the person is giving feedback without asking the question “what is the maker trying to make”? So as well as it being a platform for people to comment on creating contemporary dance it’s also trying to expose how we form a opinion.
The process of critical response originated in contemporary dance but it can be applied to theatre and music: essentially a learning surgery where feedback and opinion is useful for the development of the art.
An introduction to Respond_
The first half of Respond_
WE: We received a pot of money from a quite prestigious fund called the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts, awarded to us by Nesta, Arts Council England and AHRC (Arts & Humanities Research Council). We designed the process around two new commissions: two new pieces of work developed by Robbie Synge and Hagit Yakira. [read more about the Artists]
We decided to do research with a closed group on one of the pieces and an open group on the other with people from across the world. Rather than running it just once, we decided to run it twice, with Respond_ taking place through September and November, ready for the pieces to be showcased and premiered at Yorkshire Dance on the 5th & 6th of December.
The artists went into rehearsal and compiled their first set of questions and film (CRP1) then went away back into rehearsal ready for CRP2 on the 14th November.
With Respond_ being a research project, our desired idea is for as many people to be involved with the process as possible. It’s very easy for us to talk to people who are already interested in dance but what we’re very interested in is talking to those who never come to watch dance. What’s good about Respond_ is that it is digital, so in theory, this project could engage people from all over the place to get an intelligent depth of experience. People spend very little time on one digital site at any given time so we’re in the process of finding a mid way point between 2 minutes to an hour and a half.
This has been one of our challenges we’ve had to work on, post CRP1. Linking back to the research aspect of it, the site, the outlay and videos have all been developed and adapted for CRP2.
Do you think Respond_ will bring new audiences to Yorkshire Dance? Is this your desired outcome from the project?
WE: That would be great! There are two different things at stake here…there’s audience development and artistic development: the development of the art form. CRP, designed by Liz Lerman, was designed especially for this. However, what we want to achieve with Respond_ is to combine both, so that’s another question, is this actually possible? I’m very pleased with the artists that were elected for the project and their particular ideas: I think they’re both very interesting ideas and very articulate artists. Therefore the quality, experience, questions and the film are at a very high standard, which is why if you come to the site for the first time I think you get a quality experience. Whether that’s actually happening or not, I don’t know!
‘Strictly Come Dancing’, ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ and ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ have done a lot for raising the popularity of commercial dance, particularly how the body is used to do athletically extraordinary things, and people can engage through the sense of “gosh I could never do that”. Whereas the kind of dance that Yorkshire Dance is interested in – contemporary expression through politics – can be less mainstream and I think that can be very alienating to people who haven’t had the education to fuel it. Therefore I’m interested in opening this up and focusing on increasing access to contemporary dance.
I keep reiterating the point that Respond_ is a research project in which we have 30 people signed up from Leeds University divided up into 3 groups of people: frequent attenders, infrequent attenders and non-attenders. However, this is closed research purely for our research project – for the overall project we need you! Log on, let us know what you think. If you log on and it looks like gobbledygook then why does it look like that? Tell us, we want to know. Why is it accessible and why isn’t it accessible? At what stage does it become boring?
After speaking with Wieke, it became clear that contemporary dance is an art form for which you have to read between the lines and use your imagination to discover what the choreographer is trying to put across. Contemporary dance is easily accessible if you ask questions, and asking questions is clearly the most important thing for the development of the arts.
The second half of Respond_ commences today (14th November) with Robbie Synge’s work in progress ‘Douglas’. Join Robbie’s creative process anytime between now and November 21st to get involved. If you’re interested in Respond_ please log onto the website – www.respondto.org