Yorkshire Festival Blog: Lights, Bikes, Action in Ghost Peloton
Sharon Watson, artistic director of Phoenix Dance Theatre, explains the show's challenges
We can all do things to be more creative! However having ideas isn't the biggest challenge I have on my hands at the moment or actually most of the time!
As one of the main commissions for the Yorkshire Festival 2014, Phoenix Dance Theatre and NVA in partnership with Sustrans will deliver an epic piece of public art like no other. On May 16 and 17, Ghost Peloton will bring together a trail of riders, bike and cyclist illuminated with NVA's bespoke LED light suits, in this spectacle at Waides Yard, Leeds, LS10 1HD (by The Tetley, the former Tetley Brewery).
Something fundamental happens when creativity is synchronised seamlessly to offer a unique experience. Technology is allowing me to explore a whole new area of movement, blending concepts and different approaches to choreography. Over the next few weeks the studio will look and feel very different with the Phoenix dancers dressed in NVA's specially designed light suits. The suits were initially created for the runners in NVA's Speed of Light, however as creativity will have it, are now to be worn by highly skilled, athletic dancers which will enable the spectator to have a very different perspective on dance and choreography. All of this will be designed behind the lens of a camera and will result in a new film that will be broadcast in connection with the opening days of the Grand Depart.
This brings me back to the challenges I face with the riders on bikes, yes….With the light suits! This will create a stimulating, visual piece of work where the effects are mainly done through light design and large scale choreographed patterns. It is however much more of an undertaking considering that, with no dance language to rely on, I will only have the knowledge and understanding of the kaleidoscopic effects the public will see to work with. However, the journey has begun! The nerves have kicked in! And now even though it is no more a question of if but when we deliver Ghost Peloton, the question of delivery sits on my shoulders. I do hope our audience will appreciate all the elements of this process coming together, cyclist, dancers, choreography, lighting design, music, film and much more. It's a once in a lifetime experience for the people of Yorkshire to have the Tour de France on our doorstep and it deserves a creative send off!
The dancers' process for Ghost Peloton has been intrinsically different to their normal day to day studio activity. They have had to generate movement accounting for the extra movement that is given out by the lights that they are wearing. They must also take into consideration that their performance can't be up-staged by the light suits. They've had to make considered choices on how to show off the pathways of these illuminated trails as well as themselves.
The difference and possible challenges I face with non-dancers will be getting them to deliver as seasoned performers. Their job will be about posture and precision and all the riders need to know where and how they are contributing to the overall picture we want an audience to experience. Given the time frame we are working to this is a challenge! To date it's also been very exciting. The riders have experienced high winds, rain, punctures... all sorts. Keeping the cyclists focused and engaged as performers will begin to intensify over the following week and highlight how much work we still have to do as we get closer to the actual day of the event.
The riders have the added pressure of delivering whilst it's dark and are relying on other aspects and elements such as good weather, clear instructions, no stage fright, technical proficiency and the main contributor - their own performance with their performance partner (the bike). It has to be reliable, and very much like the cyclists in the Tour de France, we all know it can make the experience or seriously change it. Bikes don't fail us now!