BirdGang Dance Company, A Harlem Dream

BirdGang Dance Company reflect on their Creation Space R&D residency

| Mon 8 Feb 2016

BirdGang Dance Company recently joined us for an R&D residency in the Creation Space, working on the regeneration of production A Harlem Dream. We caught up with Co-Founder Ivan Blackstock to hear how the work developed during their time with us.

Can you tell us about yourself, BirdGang Dance Company and briefly about the project you’ve been working on?

I am a Conceptual Artist/Wizard who is interested in making illustrative and thought-provoking work. BirdGang Dance Company has been established for 10 years now and is currently associate company at the Young Vic. The core of BirdGang has two Co-Founders myself and Simeon Qsyea and three Artistic Directors Simeon Qsyea, Ukweli Roach and Kendra Horsburgh. For this residency I will be going into a regeneration phase for my production A Harlem Dream which was co-comissioned by Young Vic and Dance Umbrella and performed in 2014.

Which particular elements of the project did you focus on during your residency?

A Harlem Dream was my first time writing a play, I was not 100% satisfied on the outcome so I really wanted to look at the foundations that supports the work, so the script was the first thing I definitely wanted to attack.

Were there any surprises? Did you make any new discoveries about the project?

Some of the new discoveries were the 101 possibilities in telling the narrative, so the biggest challenge was funnelling down all the ideas into a more cohesive frame. There were certain aspects of show that I wanted to keep, change and add, so it was difficult at times to make sense of it all and make a decision.

Did you bring in any collaborators?

I was really lucky to have a stellar line up during the two-week residency. Adam Brace, Gbolahan Obisesan, Sarah Dowling, Anthony Lennon Ekundayo and dancer Robia Milliner you should Google them they are incredible artists. In our pre-meetings I really wanted to express that when we entered the research and development days, I wanted them to abandon titles and roles and throw their creative minds into the space full steam ahead and to be as much of an open book as possible. This gave me the opportunity to really work closely with creative collaborators and find each person's groove of how they create work.

Did this residency enable you to do anything that you wouldn’t have otherwise been able to do?

Personal, Concentrated and Fun are just some of the words that shout out at me straight away... This residency gave me time to go personal with myself and with the collaborators and access the root of what I want to say in my work. Most of the time I am working on multiple tasks such as choreographic content, performance, music etc. this allowed me to have concentrated focus on just the script which is a bit of myth at times when putting a show together. Remembering to have fun during the process is also a huge factor we sometimes forget when creating work and it becomes a dash for the finish line. All in all remembering the value of time is what I took from the two weeks.

What are your next steps for this project?

Well I think this might be phase one of seven / eight to be honest, spanning over two - three years. I would like to take my time and give it a slow cook instead of a takeaway style output and cramming it all in at the next performance opportunity that arises.

What else are you working on at the moment?

Currently working on a circus concept show POP which is part of Circus Fest 2016 at the Roundhouse with some really cool creatives. Also my latest work Traplord of the Flyz it is grimey, political and keep an eye out for it.
Twitter: @BirdGangDance
Facebook: /Birdgangdance

This residency is supported by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation
Read more about our Artist Residencies programme

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