Leeds School of Arts

Beyond Dance: Dystopia

My name is Sophie Gaffney and I am a third-year student studying BA (Hons) Dance at Leeds Beckett University. I am currently creating a new dance piece called Dystopia, Lift Off 2019 and the Beyond Creative Arts Festival.

Dancers from the festival

‘Dystopia explores the eight stages of Erikson’s theory of psychological development, questioning how our individual evolution is afflicted when in the ambiance of a group. The bird-like physical embodiment cultivated by the dancers exposes distinctive identities within an intimate environment. As the piece progresses, individual roles are calculated and established governing the groups behaviour and activity. In this world, social relationships ultimately promote survival.’

Creating a piece for Lift Off has been a really enjoyable and exciting experience, especially being able to create my own work bringing my artistic vision to life. It has been great to have complete creative freedom over the piece and I have loved transforming my ideas and vision into movement. I am both choreographer and performer in this work, moving alongside four other dancers: Ciara Clayton, Jessica Davison, Kayleigh Baxter and Sophie Fleming. I have taken real pleasure in working with a group of dancers and where this has taken my concept artistically. I believe this collaboration between myself and the dancers has allowed my ideas to flourish and emerge into existence and I have taken a lot of inspiration in the choreography from the dancers themselves. The process has involved a considerable amount of planning in terms of creatively in the studio, for example coming to rehearsal with movement tasks or choreography, and outside of practice, such as creating rehearsal schedules, risk assessments, technical packs, aural accompaniment, costume and programme notes. Each one of these different tasks have been really important in the build-up to Lift Off; all these elements together inevitably form the groundwork to create the final piece.

Dance studio at Leeds Beckett

A key marker in the process was the scratch showing which took place exactly mid-way through the creative process. This was a really useful exercise as I was able to receive feedback on the work so far from an outside eye. This was fundamental especially in this case where I am both choreographer and performer, as I don’t often get the chance to step out of the work to give notes. This showing really fuelled my imagination and gave me a lot of new ideas which I believe has taken the work to an even greater place.

In preparation for this performance we have rehearsed as a group twice a week since January, so the build-up has been long yet really exciting, especially as we come closer to the performance. Rehearsals are now getting more intense in order to clarify each detail to ensure we are moving harmoniously as an ensemble so that the piece is performance ready. Tech week is approaching which is a really exciting time, as this is where the piece really comes into existence in the performance space. I look forward to working with the tech team to bring my vision to life to create an interesting lighting design which compliments my choreographic choices. This whole experience preparing for Lift Off has been really inspiring and I am really looking forward to sharing my work with all the other artists in this year’s festival.

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