Wednesday, 20 November 2013

On Reflection...

So, as I promised, I will report on the event yesterday.

Now I am rested (sort of!), I can update you on yesterdays events.

The way I work when I'm setting up a show or an event is that I can never really plan what is going to go where until I am in the space and working directly with it.

Last week, I was told that I would have to use a different space to the one I thought I was going to use in the school for the celebration event, so I had absolutely no time or access to the two dance studios where I was going to be presenting the work, and therefore, absolutely no idea as to what I would be dealing with in terms of what my original installation ideas would be for the animation cells that I wanted to hang.

Equally, I was short on prep time yesterday, as I could only have the art technician's help from 12:15 and then I couldn't get access to the actual rooms until 1:15pm.

So faced with this, I just continued with the idea of hanging the animation cells on fishing wire with small pegs and started preparing them with the help of Jackie, the art technician. My outlook was that, however many we got to hang in the time we had was OK for me. It didn't have to be the entire 1300 plus cells that myself and the students had traced, though if there had of been the time to do that, that would have been so beautiful.

For me, I feel very fortunate in that everything always seems to work out as it should when I get into a space. I know we can't always rely on fluke's, but again, its only when I see a space, almost on the day of an install, that I get an idea of what I want and how the work can be shown.

So anyway, for some reason I was only aware of the one dance studio that I'd gone into yesterday to start planning where things where going and being hung etc.

The only decent space I could see to hang the cells was from one iron post at one far end of the room, crossing diagonally to a post near the front left of the room.

Now, there was only really room for 4 rows of the animation cells with this kind of set-up, but mystically, the first set of cells from the first 118 frames were the cells showing the hand-traced close ups of my feet. I remember laughing to myself because this was perfect for the event as Carmen Amaya  was known specifically for her fast and furious footwork. Perfecto, no?

So what happened next was an absolute gift from the universe really, as the caretaker came and opened up the partition door that opened the gateway to the other dance studio that I previously couldn't open and there was the state of the art white board projector that I had requested (after I was informed that the rear projector I really wanted wasn't available).

Things were unfolding nicely as I set that up and then put the information boards on easels as the connection to art and dance was made.

Jackie and I finished in time for the project participants and the first guests to arrive.

Only one of the parents of the main art club participants showed up, I expect because of work and childcare and it turns out that the family live in the same road as me, so this is real community work going on here.

After the event I heard that this parent had said that her child had never engaged with art before this project and that he had enjoyed it - which I was delighted to hear.

Then there was a guy from Liverpool Cultural Champions who had written a piece about me online

I though that this was great because he talked about me being someone who lives my dreams and goes for what I want. Thats what I was trying to inspire the young people to do, never hold back and never give up. But I must learn not to do that myself before trying to inspire others I suppose?

So after most of the guests arrived (around 34 people on the monitoring form!) I did a little thank-you speech and explained a bit about how much this project meant to me, how tough the last 3 months have been and that in essence, this project is about raising confidence in young people in Halewood, through creativity.

I have to say I did get a bit blubbery and emotional because I have worked so so hard on this project to make it work. I think maybe too hard sometimes in that its become a slight obsession that it had to be the most grandiose project, when really, on reflection, it didn't need a massive event (or that much effort for the event maybe?) as what matters is the impact its had on the students participating. Not a great big show. The sentiment is in what the students have gained from this project over the last 6 sessions.

What was important though was to illustrate what I meant about raising confidence through creativity and the relationship between these two things.

I had read an article featuring the famous jazz musician Wayne Shorter which actually summed up what I was trying to achieve. He said in this article:

"Its a funny thing, the state the world is in today with the economy and no jobs. This is the perfect setting for a relationship of courage and creativity to manifest within many walks of life. It is a time for great creativity." (SGI Quarterly, January 2012)

I shared this with people in the hope that they may understand what I meant and then, then came the Flamenco!

As part of the event I hired Flamenco dancer, Allie Herrmann from Manchester, who was totally amazing in spellbinding the audience, really warming up the cold November evening with her hearty
Flamenco dancing and workshop, in which 2 of the young male participants got up and joined her on the floor to have a go at a few steps.

The reason Allie was so great, not just because of her very well trained moves, was because she managed the audience so well and also because, after my speech she could see how emotional and passionate I was about the project. She explained to everyone how Flamenco is about that confidence that I'm trying to pass on to the young people, and I think they took it in, because everyone was, in their  own individual way of responding, reacted very positively to the performance and workshop.

She also explained how Flamenco is not about celebrity culture. It is a dance of passion and of struggle. there are famous dancers, she explained, but its not about becoming famous. Carmen Amaya was  self-taught and danced for herself and her own pleasure. It was her strength, passion and unique style that catapulted her into the limelight and to becoming a leading figure of Flamenco and Catalan culture.

Again, that was so good for the younger attendees to hear, as all too often these days the culture of celebrity is rammed down their throat and they're given the message that to be famous is to be someone and we should all strive for the 'material'.

Joining in with some of the steps that had become so familiar to me during my month in Barcelona, really re-ignited my desire to start Flamenco again. I just haven't had the time to do any since being back and thats really regretful, but the fire is very much still there, and I haven't hung up my nail capped zapatos yet!

Allie Herrmann puts her best foot forward at last nights event
Photograph: Justyna Czasnowizc

After the performance / workshop, everyone was free to watch our film / animation again, though this was interrupted by the participants taking to the floor to thank me, which was so lovely and appreciated (even followed by my own fan club chant of 'we love you Clare, we do!' the shame!)

I will be posting a separate blog about the work produced from this project as I didn't get to show the more personal piece of work I 'created' out of the Flamenco training process. 

                                     Still from ' Bewitched Triptych', the collaborative animation.

So, all in all, though many people didn't turn up (even those I thought would come who had supported the project!), on reflection I felt it was a success and the reason was this. Even if I have inspired one young person who participated or attended the event or even one older person there last night, even if I have inspired them to use creativity or art to gain confidence in some area of their life, is that not positive?

There were 3 young women at the event last night who were students at the Academy and they were brilliant in that they stuck around and got involved in the Flamenco moves because they had an interest in dance. Sadly I did;n't get a feedback form from them (doh!) but the fact that they were there is amazing - and they stayed for the whole event - because at the beginning when I was setting up they were asking, who is the famous dancer that they'll be watching, so when I told them that 50 years ago she died aged 50, they were shocked and still hung around to see what was going on.

After the event, I heard the lead teacher for the school on the project talking to another teacher from another local school and they were talking about how they'd love to do a school art trip to Barcelona.

That other teacher had also said to me that she had never though of inviting animators into school to work on projects, she had always gone for fine artists to engage her students.

Also, another of the parents of one of the project participants who arrived a bit later told me something really encouraging that her daughter had said, which was, did she think that I would do another art project at the school?

That to me was just one of the bigger victories of this project and is to be celebrated as though there were a thousand people at last nights event.

So, now that party is over, (and its so funny how quickly everything flies by despite the weeks of planning), today I have down the last bits of press hoping for some retrospective coverage out of the project and then its on to evaluation, evaluation, evaluation!

In the meantime, here is the final animation piece I showed at the event.

Result? Victory!

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