News: Compass Live - Meet Charlotte Spencer

Thursday 25 May 2017

Tell us about your choreography:

I started making choreographic work about ten years ago. It initially happened by accident, after an old choreography teacher recommended me to a musician who was looking to collaborate with a dancer. I responded to the message she left on my answerphone before anyone else did. And that was it. Before then, I didn’t really ever imagine that I would make my own work.

To start with I had an urge to work with the form of choreography, but I didn’t know much about what I was trying to say. That emerged more gradually. I can trace a consistent line of choreographic enquiry back to a year long residency in Limerick 2007/8 with Daghdha Dance Company: work that rises from the landscape; that seeks to question ideas about journey, presence, time and shared experience. What continues to shift is the format of presentation and the scale of the work.

I work in diverse and unusual places and spaces in order to open up new forms of conversation, to change where performances happen, and how choreographic work is both made and encountered. Through each artistic project I strive to build community by inviting people to re-encounter themselves through action and participation.

You’ve been selected as a Compass Commissions artist 2016/17, tell us more about the work you’re producing:

Right now, we are in the middle of rehearsals for Is this a Waste Land? It’s a performance through headphones for disused urban sites. Amidst an intricate sound world, audience members and performers respond to head-phoned invitations and together they create a unique shared experience. This interactive and immersive experience invites us to re-imagine how we value our landscape, homes and communities.

I’m working with six performers and two sound artists and we’re designing the piece for up to 80 audience members to do together. It’s kind of like choreographing for 80 performers who you’ve never met, and the first rehearsal is also the performance. It’s demanding and exhilarating at the same time!
It’s quite a complicated show technically – we’re in the messy bit at the moment, but I keep getting little glimpses of what it is that we’re making and it’s exciting.

How will the support from Greenwich Dance and Trinity Laban help you in producing this work?

The support has already been amazing. Obviously the financial support is crucial, and was an essential component in the overall fundraising for the project. But the support is way more than just the money, it’s all of the conversations, and the time put in to help make it all happen. At the moment they are organising a coach trip from London up to where we’re rehearsing in Corby to be a test audience before our first public performances at the end of this month. Testing the piece with an audience is a really important part of the process, but it’s quite a big thing to organise whilst we’re in the middle of the creation. I’m so relieved that Greenwich Dance and Trinity Laban are doing that for us!

Through the commission, I feel able to ask for help with a whole range of things to do with the production – whether that’s space to hold an audition, borrowing particular bits of equipment or asking for help with marketing and audience development. They’re all key components of the process, and it’s great to feel less alone with it all.

Where do you draw inspiration from when creating new work or performing live?

Ideas emerge gradually for me. Normally something is sparked during a creation period that doesn’t have a place in that work and becomes the seed for something new, but it might take a while to take form. More often than not, the first thing that comes, is an idea for a framework for making: a month long occupancy of a derelict site; a piece that evolves through a two-month cycle tour of England and France etc. I think best when I’m moving, long walks or cycle rides are excellent.

What do you most enjoy about performing/choreographing?

Creating something from nothing. Seeing what emerges through the process of gathering a very particular group of artists together within the framework of a very particular context and the concerns of particular lines of enquiry. It is always so surprising and revealing, but it’s not always a comfortable place to be.

What’s next?

First a rest! After that I have plans for a book, an album, an installation piece and a series of curated events. Hopefully further touring of this work. I’m also thinking about doing something quite different for a while, we’ll see.

Charlotte will be taking part in a live Q&A, along with the other 2017 Compass Commission choreographers, on the 01 June on the LondonDance Facebook page. Find out more here.

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