Interview: Pop-up Ping Pong Dance comes to east London

Thursday 10 August 2017

Image by Nicholas Minns

We chat to Joe Garbett about his new piece Doubles where dance and Ping Pong collide. Joe is a performer and choreographer who currently teaches across the UK. He is also the co-founder of aKa Dance Theatre Company based in his hometown of Taunton.

I’m currently based in London directing work that brings performance art to public and unusual spaces. My choreography explores the importance of unity and engages people in the exhilaration that can come from working with others to achieve a common goal.

I have always loved playing Ping Pong and enjoy how accessible it is – you don’t need to be a professional to have a go or play. I started to realise that Ping Ponng tables were everywhere, which kick started my creative thinking around the potential of using public squares, climbing frames and colourful equipment.

At the end of 2016 I worked with three other dancers on a short research and development idea and started to realise combining Ping Pong with dance could actually work – and it did! I started to talk to Table Tennis England about the idea of a collaboration and they have been hugely enthusiastic and supportive from day one.

I am really grateful for the support I have received during this project. Doubles has been supported by Studio Wayne McGregor and Redbridge Drama Centre as part of East London Dance’s Dance Enterprise Ideas Fund. We rehearsed half the day in the studio and half outdoors.

A main aim I gave myself before starting the creation process was to find an interesting contemporary vocabulary without alienating the public. I am really proud of the material as it is accessible and exciting as well as giving the public a flavour of contemporary dance.

I hope that people of this busy city will give themselves time to stop and enjoy free art. I also hope that the project will encourage people to be sociable and be a reminder to people of how important it is to keep public spaces positive and full of surprises! I have been freelancing as a performer and choreographer for the past four years and I my best memories and experiences have been from performances in unusual and public spaces.

I do not like the idea that art caters for a particular type of person as it risks the arts becoming alienated from the public and not seen as something that should be to the expense of public funding. Dance and physical theatre can be the bridge between reality and a world full of colour and imagination so why would you not use it in everyday situations.

As well as running the project I am also performing. My favourite moments in Doubles are when we get to jump all over the tables and also when no one drops the bats! I play Ping Pong as a hobby time-to-time but once the project is over I would love to join a club. I think Ping Pong is incredibly sociable and it’s accessibility draws in people from all ages and backgrounds.’

Doubles will be popping up at the Ping! tables at Timber Lodge Cafe at 11.30am and 3.30pm and at Victory Park, East Village at 1.15pm this weekend. Follow the Ping Pong dance action at @joegarbettdance and @ping_tweets

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