Earthfall has an ongoing relationship with Cardiff Metropolitan University. Their Programme Director for the BA (Hons) Dance degree, Sally Varrall, is a key contact for the company. Sally considers Earthfall as a partner in the industry; a partner which offers students professional work-based learning experiences and opportunities that inspire, confirm and challenge them. Earthfall regularly take on students from the University for work-based placements and are potential employers of students.
One of Sally’s most enjoyable memories of her involvement with Earthfall is observing and listening to Jess Cohen, one of our artistic directors, directing and working with the students. She believes Earthfall offer a very distinctive voice to dance, movement and theatre in Wales. “…the success of Earthfall’s education work was possible due to how the work engages the participants in diverse ways dependent on their previous and present learning experiences. It not only contributes to but enhances participant learning.
Sally is very familiar with the subject matter of Chelsea Hotel, Earthfall’s latest touring production, having visited the Hotel itself in New York and read about it. Earthfall’s production therefore offered another dimension to her personal association with the subject. Her students from Cardiff Metropolitan studying the dance degree saw the production and wrote an analytic review of the performance and really enjoyed the experience.
Students under Sally’s lead are also involved in other projects happening around Cardiff with other companies. For example, students are involved in research with TaikaBox- Please Switch On Your Mobile Phones- an innovative social media/audience and dance making experience. This is one of many partnerships with the profession that add considerable value to the student learning experience.
You can find out more information about Cardiff Metropolitan here:
In March 2014, Rosalia Chieppa, a final year student at the University of Kent studying for a BA in Drama and Theatre studies , came and interviewed our co-artistic directors Jess Cohen and Jim Ennis. For her final project she wants to explore how physical theatre can be juxtaposed with different mediums such as music and film. During the interview Jess and Jim spoke about their creation processes and how the mediums can collaborate successfully.
Jim spoke about the processes film footage went through and the decisions that were made before the final performance. For him, the fundamental aim was the connection between movement, the theme and live sound. Earthfall avoid the use of digital media in a gimmicky way, but rather use it to tie everything together. A lot of the time the film comes later in the process but notions of how it will be used crop up throughout.
Jess explained how it was important to get the balance right between digital screens and movement on stage. Sometimes TV screens can suck the audience away from the bigger picture and upstage everything else that is going on. It should only be used when necessary.
Rosalia spoke of the camera that was positioned above the bed in Chelsea Hotel and how she enjoyed the two perspectives. Jim explained that having the camera filming from above and being projected for the audience to see ‘brought attention to the live execution of the choreography’. So, this highlights the very practical reasons for using film, to make sure the audience can see all angles.
Film is also used by Earthfall to zoom in on a detail, especially moments that could be lost to an audience. Grabbing motion is used to zoom in on something that could have been missed due to all the other ‘visual ‘traffic’ surrounding it. For example, a movement of high dynamic such as a body in flight or two bodies in collision could be grabbed by the camera to emphasise that fleeting moment. Film, in this sense, allows the directors to decide what the audience sees.
As well as adding a new dimension to the final product, film can be used as an aid to record and capture everything during the creation process and rewind to bits of improvisation that could be essential. It can record all the rubbish but also the discoveries and strengths.
Jess went on to talk about Earthfall’s early explorations with film around 25 years ago using the ‘Super 8 mm’ film when digital media wasn’t advanced and celluloid film was used. In those days they could be projected onto objects such as walls and there was a great whirr of sound that the device made. Jim added how super 8 was very ‘grainy and authentic’ and worked very well. He mentioned that the battle with digital was that sometimes, it the early phases of development, it could be quite cold and sterile, but with manipulation it can be very flexible.
In relation to the musical element, Earthfall always uses live music, with different musicians for each show, some of which are used regularly and have a long standing relationship with the company. In the early days, Earthfall enjoyed worked with world music and this later turned to working with more electric music. Singers are also used, for example Earthfall have worked with a Polish group (CHOREA Theatre) for around 10 years. Jim and Jess explained how they liked to integrate the music into the movement as much as practically possible. In At Swim, the musicians have to be covered by a Perspex wall to prevent any water damage to instruments.
Actual footage is used as well to inform the context of the piece. For example, in At Swim Two Boys, footage of World War One acts as an ‘oppositional’ element as you see the developing harmonious relationship between the two boys compared with the atrocities that are happening around them. This really aids the theme of the piece.
The interview pinpointed the many different uses and considerations when using mediums such as film. The rehearsals present a road map consisting of many different strands of visual, film, literature and music stimuli. These initial ideas are presented to the company and from then on it is a ‘creative democracy’. Everyone in the studio has creative license to interpret and evolve ideas in a personal way. The digital aspect can assist the audience in the practicalities of viewing the work but also with the psychological process.
To listen to the full interview, click here.
My name is Michael Barnes; I’m an independent filmmaker and have been working with Earthfall for over ten years.
I have so many lovely memories of Earthfall, so it’s hard to pick one, I’m always mesmerised by the power of Earthfall’s dancers during live shows so there are moments that haunt and enchant in equal measure. I guess I’m a frustrated performer at heart! Is it too late?
I think that there are a number of active dance companies in Wales but Earthfall is truly unique —The subject matter that Jess and Jim take on is always courageous, and the dancers have to be multi disciplined – singers, musicians, actors. Amazing.
Surviving as a viable performing arts company for any length of time is incredibly difficult. Earthfall have decades of tours, shows and experience that is very valuable. To be able to feed this back into the performing arts community is both generous and essential for the Arts in the UK.
I had heard of the Chelsea Hotel before but my knowledge was scant. This is another element that I love when I work with Earthfall – I have to do research into a subject so I can understand it, so I’m able to create a film that reflects the period/mood. Earthfall have educated as well as entertained me!
Chelsea Hotel is the most physically demanding production I have seen to date, my mind boggles to think that the dancers have to express this much energy every night on a tour. It’s high risk stuff and the audiences are clearly mesmerised by that.
The thing I find most exciting is that Jess and Jim are completely unpredictable. Each show is completely unique, there is always a different narrative, period or location, it keeps me on my toes!
When i am not working for Earthfall, I make films through my company ‘Tall Man Films’, and have a number of projects going through at the moment from music videos to a documentary about cycling.
If you want to find out more, or get in touch please go to www.tallmanfilms.com!
Jenny joined the Earthfall team to head the digital engagement campaign for the Chelsea Hotel Tour this Autumn. After studying at the University of Wales Aberystwyth, Jenny trained as a media researcher with Cyfle and worked in marketing as a copywriter, researcher, journalist and marketing executive for many organisations including RWCMD and The Stephens & George Centenary Charitable Trust. Jenny is a Welsh-speaker with extensive experience in social media marketing and content production. She is passionate about the arts; performing professionally in several local musical organisations and producing content for local arts and culture publications.
Jenny’s enjoyed working with a mixed media production, where the performance utilises a variety of platforms and movement styles to convey mood and narrative and to being a part of creating a fully immersive experience for the audience before, during and after the production. She’s was thrilled to be a part of an innovative team that uses the various facets of digital media to extend the idea of a traditional performance into a tactile and fluid experience for everyone involved.
Jenny is now working on a intercultural music project in India, and on other freelance projects. You can see what she is up to by following her on twitter @serenlascopy or by following her blog: http://serenlasscribbles.wordpress.com/
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