8 June 2016
Author: Jackie Richards (from The Place Audience Club)

Better than winning a raffle or Bingo!

I completed my application form in a rather stroppy way because I was busy and did not think I had any chance of being selected.  I pressed “submit” and forgot about it. Like a raffle ticket. 

Over 300 people applied and for some reason I was one of the 30+ people selected. Bingo! 

What next? I knew about The Place when it first opened and I was a young dance enthusiast but now, over forty years later, I have returned to dance again including performing and attending classes and managing an active older people’s dance organisation.  I am aware The Place has always been a showcase for innovative cutting-edge if sometimes whacky dance performances.  Since leaving my fulltime career in 2008 I have been on the crest of a new wave concerning older people dancing. It has been exciting, challenging and enjoyable. I am dancing again!  But what was this Audience Club? Could I contribute in a meaningful way? Who else was involved? 

At a time when consumerism rages and different generations usually do not have opportunities to share ideas about their passions and interests, The Club is a wonderful chance to meet people from different backgrounds and careers in a friendly, safe creative environment. Everyone is interested in contemporary dance and/or performing arts and we are immersing ourselves regularly in this long project where there are opportunities to share, learn and dialogue together, listen and gain insights about innovative contemporary dance. Prior to each performance we socialise and network, participate in enjoyable learning including watching videos, doing a dance together and learning about new tools and ideas to assist us as audience. After performances we meet to share thoughts and feelings. 

So far I have attended two performances: May Contain Food (Protein) and There are no such things as silly things (Philippe Blanchard) I would never have gone to either of these performances. The Place Audience Club is widening my horizons and challenging me. You can read about these performances elsewhere on the website but my lasting impression of Protein were the slick, professional performances of the singers and dancers, the different insights about food (perhaps too many for one piece) and rolling a cherry tomato around my face and chewing crispy kale 21 times. The other performance surprised and challenged me. We had been encouraged not to be judgemental and think about what we liked or disliked but had learned about some useful tools. This included giving ourselves permission to let our thoughts and feelings wander. Usually, I watch performances and concentrate on experiencing it, this time we had been asked to experiment with the tools.  At first I thought this is indulgent ‘little boy’ stuff – I can push you, I can show off, I can make noises with my body rubbing again a wall. I found myself immersed in profound thoughts concerning individuals only having their bodies when they are destitute and desperate. My thinking flowed to the young men at The Jungle in Calais and elsewhere and what they were experiencing to survive. Later, there were inferences to terrorism and torture so I was obviously connecting with some of the choreographer’s ideas. I really wanted to hear what others had thought. The responses were very varied and it was fascinating hearing others’ ideas. We were interpreting what we had seen and felt differently. There were definitely no right or wrong answers. So even at this early stage of the project we are freely dialoguing about our interpretations and how performances are meaningful to us...

The sessions are facilitated by Peter, Ania and the team and guests are well planned and purposeful, entertaining, encouraging; we have opportunities to gain more confidence. I feel relaxed, encouraged and cared for; and one of the group. The team are obviously trying out ideas. It is an exploratory learning experience for us all. It is still early days and we have progressed a long way but there is a long way to go. We have not started working with or influencing the choreographers involved in the project or made contact with other Audience Club members in this European Project. It is still a mysterious, creative, entertaining, informative dancing-journey. 

So here I am, regularly meeting with interesting lively friendly people, having wine and nibbles, learning new techniques about ways to be an active, involved audience member and gaining new insights about the creative dance process; watching exciting new choreography. In the future members will have opportunities to influence the way choreographers  create work with audiences in mind as well as creating dance as an art-form for their own expression, (does this involve making them dance too, I wonder?) How lucky and fortunate I am. A great opportunity, thank you for selecting me! 

A prize much better than winning a raffle or Bingo!  



Pivot Dance is funded with the support of Creative Europe programme of the European Union.  



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