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About the Change

Cathy Marston
Three New Works

Photograph by Clare Park

Ballet Shoes reviews

Anybody who saw the Royal Ballet Dance Bites tours (reviews link) will probably remember Cathy Marston's work - its invention and freshness particularly.

While other choreographers perhaps waxed and waned Cathy always seemed to deliver a goodie for Dance Bites.

Having danced and choreographed in Europe for much of the 1990's she returned home this summer (2000) and, charming woman that she is, agreed to write a diary for us with hardly any arm twisting whatsoever!

Link to previous column.     Link to later column
Marston diary index

Well, I managed to write for four months consecutively, not missing oneÖthen May just became too hectic! Actually, I think I can share the blame with Hampy - Chris Hampson; since we were working together on several projects we thought it would be fun to write a diary episode together. Full of good intent, we started off one sunny evening, tapping away at his computerÖa few bottles of wine later, Jonathan Still was showing off his touch-typing, noting down word for word our chatting, joking and ranting. Jonathan thought it was great but after a re-read the next morning, Chris and I thought it perhaps wasnít quite publishable! So here I am - writing alone, having spent the whole day at my computer working on applications and proposals for projects next year. Oh, itís a glamorous life!


The Ballet Shoes

May saw the premiere of my first full-length narrative ballet - The Ballet Shoes - for the London Childrenís Ballet! I have to say, I was wondering if it was going to come off or not! I had my doubts in the studio the week before; as I tried to look objectively at the piece I could see nothing exciting - no action. The dancing was coming okay but the childrenís acting seemed stiff and contrived. Well, thatís one lesson Iíve learned - donít worry about children performing! Or at least, not until they reach a shy/awkward adolescence where self-criticism overrides any fun. No, as soon as this lot set foot on the stage, the dance floor might as well have been a trampoline! They were well and truly stage-struck, jumping and whirling around like crazy, and although I was probably the same once upon a time, I donít think Iíve seen anything like it since!

Thanks to too-many-people-to-mention working incredibly hard, the premiere went according to plan. I wasnít really able to watch it objectively that night but when I came back to see the last show - the seventh performance in four days, I was actually laughing and smiling along with most of the audience! I have to admit to having watery eyes and after twenty-odd Sundays of losing my voice, all was forgotten and I was very proud of Ďmy childrení!


The week after The Ballet Shoes, I had a second run of shows in the West End, this time at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. The performance was Amaterasu - The Sun Goddess and I can only describe it as a Japanese extravaganza! It was supposed to be a fusion of music, design, dance and drama from Japan and the UK, intended to draw parallels between our cultures. Sponsored by Mitsui and part of the ĎJapan 2001í festival, a huge amount of money had been spent on costumes, making and transporting enormous Taiko drums from Japan and hiring lots of dancers and extras along with the Japanese super-stars to try and fill up that great stage. Iíd been employed as choreographer to create two shortish dances - one for four girls and the other for twelve guys - obviously representing the British side of things! Iíd had four days in a studio, without any of the Japanese contingent, to choreograph these dances; that was the fun part, as Ian Knowles - my assistant - had gone through his little black book and rounded up a fantastic group of dancers - Hampy being one of them! When we got on stage, however, things became rather confused. Communication, despite several translators, was problematic, and there was rather a lot of parading around, draped in Japanese cloth, to co-ordinate. This wasnít my job though, so I had the privilege of being able to sit back and watch the female drummer who was quite incredible and without doubt stole the show.


Images of Dance

Moving on into June, we get to the premiere of Images of Dance - the classical graduate company of the London Studio Centre. I think I wrote at some length about working with this group in my previous diary so I wonít repeat all of that. To summarize, my piece, Rosemary for Remembrance, was inspired by the characters of Ophelia and Hamlet, and danced to music of Faure by a cast of sixteen girls and four boys. Programmed between Hampyís new Song Without Words and Wayne Sleepís new Wizard of Oz, it was commissioned as the Ďneo-classicalí and atmospheric piece of the evening. We premiered in Swindon and the company has been touring the UK since then.

While I had forgotten what itís like to go on stage at the age of ten, I think I was closer to remembering how the dancers of Images were feeling. Things somehow get a lot more stressful when youíre about to leave ballet school and go out into the big wide world job hunting. Many of the dancers put too much pressure on themselves, while others donít feel enough. My piece is very much a group one, so I started to recognize that, for it to work, I had to nudge everyone into the same, positive yet calm and concentrated mode for the performances. I found working with these dancers very rewarding because they were so open and receptive to any suggestions or corrections I gave. Although I had to spend some time cleaning the ballet in terms of lines, counts, shapes and all that, I also wanted the dancers to understand what it was about and perform it, as a group, with a common mental and physical energy. I spent time talking to them, giving them different thoughts to mull over, and coaxing details out of them. Now, although I canít go to many of the performances, Iím texting messages to them that are read out before the curtain goes up with different ideas to concentrate on. It sounds silly, but I think they appreciate it, and I think it does make a difference. Certainly, I can see the change in their dancing after weíve had a good session on it. Itís getting them to take possession of the ballet - itís theirs after all - and care for it as much as I do.

Applications, Proposals and the restÖ

The rest of the month has been spent thinking, writing and organising. I was supposed to perform with Henri Oguike but the Stratford Circus Theatre, which we were booked to open, wasnít ready. Whilst it was a considerable disappointment, I was instead able to participate in a weekís course with Arc Dance Company and Kim Brandstrup. It was focused on how we Ďseeí choreography, on watching objectively and broaching slightly on narrative; all very interesting, especially when I saw the company perform at the QEH some days later.

I leave soon to go on another choreographic course in Zurich, but before that I am frantically trying to finish proposals that I need to submit for future projects before I leave. Iím planning two pieces that will be shown at the Clore Studio next season. The first will be part of an evening that Jenny Tattersall is organising entitled ĎOutside-In.í There will be five choreographers from outside the Royal working on short pieces with dancers from the company. The other evening in which Iím involved will be a sort of Cohabitants 2 - but with a different title, when Tom Sapsford and I will share a double bill again. This piece will be more substantial; I want to move a little closer to narrative and ideally to commission a score to do this. The problem, as always, is finding the money to do this. At the moment, Iím applying to all the normal funding bodies but wonít know their response for some months. I know I probably shouldnít use this site in such a way, but perhaps Bruce wonít mind me asking anyone who might know a company/individual keen to sponsor new ballet, either to contact me directly or through Philip Mosley at the ROH. It would be hugely appreciated!

So, I donít know how much Iíll get written next month as Iím away for quite a while - working unfortunately rather than holidaying, but canít complain! Anyway, I hope you all have a great summer!

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