Last week I had the pleasure of spending two days devising with Beth and Eithne of Kapow Dance, working on their new outdoor show ‘Adrift’. The show is based around two women lost at sea, afloat on a raft. I came in to assist them with finding new acrobatic possibilities using both the structure of the raft and the floor area around it.
I’ve been interested in this piece since I heard about it, and watching it grow from early conversations, into the appearance of Kapow’s teeterboard-esque Raft structure, to rehearsals for a full-length show, had whetted my appetite before I came into the studio.
We began by working to establish some shared acrobatic vocabulary, which was picked up incredibly swiftly by both Eithne and Beth (you can tell dancers who have spent a decade learning choreography all over the world). As we moved to working on the structure I quickly discovered something which Beth and Eithne are already very familiar with - the unpredictability of the raft.
The raft makes things interesting - the usual predictable shifts of weight on which acrobatics and tumbling relies are entirely different on a freely revolving platform, which made for an equal amount of exciting acro opportunities and comedy falls. By the end of day two we were pleased to have found a few moments that could feasibly work in the show.
Part of the joy for this short devising period was to work with dancers who match their physical capabilities with a both a genuine open-ness to new directions, alongside a real sense of ownership of the work they are making. Kapow look for as many physical possibilities as possible, and then work to find ways of incorporating ideas they like into the emerging narrative, with a healthy dose of realism and awareness of time constraints thrown into the mix. This strikes an excellent balance between playful exploration, cementing material and drawing together a convincing narrative. It also makes for a great positive atmosphere in the rehearsal room.
The acrobatic cross over between acrobatics and dance is enormous, and yet the field of dance-acro is still relatively new in the outdoor arts scene - it’s a pleasure to see Kapow working to incorporate elements of this.
When the public come to see the show, and I am among them, I feel that those of us who have spent any time at all actuallytrying to balance on the raft will have a particular appreciation for the challenge involved; Kapow make this look so easy. Trust me - managing to stand up alone is impressive… So to be dancing, acting and tumbling around on this thing - that is going to be something really special.