‘Curtain raiser’ Dance workshop with Chhaya Collective

By Liz Wood, Head of Dance

Block 3 and 4 Dance students took part in a two-day workshop with choreographer and director of Chhaya Collective, Kay Crook. Kay worked very intensely with the dancers, giving them the experience of what it might feel like to be in a professional dance company and the students rose to the challenge. They were then fortunate enough to perform the piece they had learned and created as part of the curtain raiser for Chhaya Collective’s performance in the Theatre last week. Here are some comments from the students who took part. 

By Phoebe Land, Block 3
This was such an interesting experience because we were introduced to lots of different styles of movement. In the first day we learnt the first phrase, which was choreographed around animals, and this was especially interesting for me, as I haven’t done a lot of proper dances with a storyline. Kay mixed the Block 4s with the Block 3s to create individual duets, with different parts of the music. Kay made sure everyone was happy with the movements and showed us how to execute them to make us look professional. Then on the second day, we learnt the next phrase which was the opening movement. This involved two different hand gestures, which were later used again in the Bharatanatyam by me, Biba, and Annabel. This was so fun, and everyone really enjoyed it! 

By Milly Trench, Block 4
Kay worked very well with us to create the curtain raiser for us to perform. We started off by doing an intense warm up which was a great taster on their style and how we were going to be dancing for the next two days. I thought this was great because it allowed us to warm up how the professional dancers do and experience a higher level of intensity. We were taught the movement but were given sections to work creatively in groups to add to the overall performance. We were also asked to choreograph duets with an animalistic style and a connection with your partner. 

By Biba Hardy, Block 4
Throughout the workshop we were given different creative tasks where we were able to use our own ideas in sections of the dance. One task that we were given was to make a duet – we were put into pairs and each pair was shown a video of other dancers doing a duet to gain inspiration from their piece KHAOS. Each one was slightly different and had different techniques that were used in the duets. None of them were the same, but all of them had some things in common, for example they were all quite animalistic and used a lot of eye contact between the two dancers. Once each pair had watched the dance that their duet would be inspired by, we all had some time to think of new moves and ideas, while also incorporating some of the moves from the sections of the dance that everyone had been taught in unison. Each pair had a section in the dance to perform their duet one at a time, so that everyone’s ideas could be seen.

By Sophie Lee, Block 3
Kay taught us about a side of dance I haven’t come across before. She lived in India for a while, so she taught us some dance moves from Indian culture. The Indian style she focused us on was Bharatanatyam and she taught us the unique hand movements. There were two main phrases she taught us and they were in her own style. She focused in on specific movements, making sure we all were making them very sharp and clean. She split us into two lines and showed us how to effectively be in sync with our line but also mirror the line opposite. By letting us choreograph a duet after a day of working with her, we found that we were all heavily influenced by the new dance moves we were introduced to, and with Kay’s help we made the duets in a different style than we normally would.

Chhaya Collective review

By Mathilda Douglas, 6.2

Last Friday, Chhaya Collective came to Bedales to perform their amazing dance performances HYMNOS and KHAOS as part of the Bedales Events programme. Chhaya Collective are a female-led dance company working between UK and India. Their company was founded by Kay Crook in 2013 to engage artists in cross-cultural collaborative performance and creative projects, in response to societal issues. Their performance strives to amplify women’s voices and share real-life stories of women in the 21st century. In their performance they combined dance, music, theatre, and visual arts. There was a live band on stage which included a violinist, percussionist, and guitarist. 

HYMNOS was inspired by the story of Iranian artist and friend Saba Zavarei and her online platform Radio Khiaban, dedicated to Iranian women singing in the public spaces of Iran, an act currently forbidden by the state. HYMNOS was in the form of a duet, one woman relating to a traditional Iranian woman in society and the other woman was the Wild Woman. The Wild Woman was showing the other that it was acceptable to break from society and wanted to show her how to do it. They did this by the use breath within their flow of movements. They used contact to travel around the stage which helped opened each other up. Their movement got wider and more expansive as the piece went on, which showed the journey of breaking away from society. They used found sound and voice, where both women would either be screaming linking with the lighting in the piece or singing melo notes connecting together as one. It seemed the screaming linked with the feeling of annoyance towards the Iranian government and how their rule of singing in public shouldn’t be allowed. 

KHAOS describes itself as “not neat, nor calm, nor perfect, but vibrant, chaotic and powerful – we are wild 21st century women. We are not to be gazed upon but met head on”. This quote was their subject matter for their piece which celebrates what it is to be a woman. The live musicians join six contemporary dance artists to revel in the joy, tenderness, and the power of wild women. During this piece, there was direct correlation between the dancers and the musicians. Every time the musicians would increases or decrease their sound/intensity the dancers’ movements would get bigger or faster or decrease and become slower.

In the first part of this piece, all the women were dressed in grey coats that were tight fitted, showing no flaws of their body. There was the main female who would be controlling the other women, to show them how women are pictured/presented. They showed how women should always be perfect and should not expressed any feeling/emotion. They always had to have their arms by their hips in a fist shape and chins up. When travelling around the stage, they had to shuffle their feet in small movement to show control within their movement and there was very little dance material happening. At one moment, they were all trapped in a small circle centre stage where they all had a centra poised feeling towards them. Once the women knew how to hold themselves properly, it became harder to maintain this position as they all got very tired, proving it difficult for the leader who was controlling them.

At this moment the music stopped, and all dancers fell to the floor, the sudden silence showed that the women were tired of trying to be perfect all the time and this feeling had to stop. The violinist woke up the dancers and they took their grey costumes off to reveal bright/vibrant patterns. Once their realised that they could be whoever they wanted to be and show their true feelings they started to accept one another. They performed free flowing movements in a circle to unite everyone together. The music grew and their movement became more expressive. They performed a series of jumps with the use of breath which showed the women accepting themselves and showed their true colours. They started to scream to show their happiness with the accompany of the fast-beating music and overall had a high energy to end the performance.