London Baby!

So we’re on the road again - though it’s just a little short one his time - heading to London and Camden People’s Theatre on 27-28 May, after performing on our home turf Leeds on the 26th. I’m sure you all have heard by now, but we’ll be heading to Edinburgh in August to do a FULL RUN AT THE FRINGE! For hardcore fans it is essential to see one of three exclusive previews though, I should think.

So the question all of you who haven’t seen the piece will want the answer to is naturally: What is the show about?

Well, I wish I had a great elevator pitch for the piece that summed it up in one brilliant sentence (as part of the marketing team, I really should have worked this one out by now…) but I always find that the nature of the piece - multi-layered and non-linear, dealing with themes of invisible structures and oppressions - makes it hard to pin down.

It’s a show about women and gender and stereotypes. It’s also about power dynamics, structures, norms and The Patriarchy. It features dancing and speaking and dark comedy and banging tunes. It’s about what we are supposed to be like and what we would maybe like to be like - and the tension between the two. Important components include iceberg lettuce, water, moisturiser and cleaning spray.

It didn’t start off as a piece about women. When we started creating the piece we thought it was gonna be about men, power and suits and I wrote what I thought was a brilliant application featuring a picture of zebras (don’t ask). Rachel edited them out. Then we started doing some actual studio based research and we thought that the piece was gonna be less about suits and more about clothes and how you dress your identity. It was all gonna take place in a giant wardrobe and early brilliant, later on discarded ideas included bald-caps, roller-blades and a spandex unitard bought off e-bay with a print of a suit on the front (think blue man group, or Cunningham, but with a cartoon tie on the front). We also did a lot of shuffling around each other, singing Queen and taking hats on and off and there was a low-point where we created a whole sequence with a scarf and then realised we’d just copied it from Ultima Vez. Except we’re nothing like Ultima Vez.

Gracefool Collective - nothing like Ultima Vez...

Gracefool Collective - nothing like Ultima Vez...

A changing point was having mentoring with Charlotte Vincent, who challenged us to put our politics into our work - something we had never done before. A lot of the material we create takes inspiration from everyday incidents that we think are funny. Often, they become even more funny (or weird) when you take them out of context and put them on stage. Like women in advertising, for example. Not many people bat an eyelid about the bikini-clad women plastered onto billboards around town, but an actual, real-life woman who puts her bum in your face in a crammed studio theatre whilst scrubbing the floor is different. Many are the men who have looked slightly uncomfortable at that part.

We’re super excited to come to Camden People’s Theatre and put our bums in your faces. We hope you’ll be there to support us in this.

We're going to the Fringe!

Can I just make a short shout out about the fact that

WE’RE GOING TO THE FRINGE!!!

We have already mentioned this, I know - but I thought it should probably go on the website. So we’ve been selected for Underbelly Untapped, which is a programme that supports ‘fantastic pieces of new writing’, which we’re pretty pleased with as a dance company.

 
 

I know most of you probably haven’t finalised your summer plans just yet, but IF you have and IF you’re going to Edinburgh for the Fringe, you should most definitely come see us! Book your tickets HERE.

The whole thing is pretty expensive, so we’re trying to raise some funds. We had a brilliant fundraiser party at Open Source Arts the other day which was great fun. Big THANK YOU to all performers and DJs that came and made the night a success and big THANK YOU to all our friends who helped with the cafe and the door and big THANK YOU to all of you that came and most of all big THANK YOU to amazing organiser extravaganza Fikir who organised the whole thing for us. Outsourcing is the shit, my friends…

 
We love Fikir!

We love Fikir!

 

We’re also doing a Kickstarter so please check it out and share. The video is pretty funny if I may say so myself, and it features a baby AND a feminist car wash so what’s not to like?

If you want to support us and also have a good time, you should check out our next fundraising event, which is a sit-down three course dinner and cabaret at LAB on the 22nd of June. It’s gonna be good. We release tickets on Friday, so watch this space!

Gracefool Update - the extended version

Hello all fans! Here is finally a long overdue update on what is happening in Gracefool land. For you who follow us on social media you will probably know already that we had some funding (Public Money through Arts Council England to be exact) at the beginning of the year. We have put them to good use by R&Ding a new piece with the working title 'Til Death Us Do Part, which we performed as part of Reveal Festival in Bolton on International Women's Day.

 
 

One of the performances took place in the stunning Bolton Parish Church and it was a real treat to be in such a beautiful space. We were a bit concerned that the part we have internally named ‘subtle sexy’ would be offensive to the space, but the kind man who worked in the church said that he really enjoyed the piece and that they were glad to be able to open up the space to different uses and that they could be so versatile with it. We were also very welcome back, so we’re hoping that we can do more church dancing soon. Which could be a reality, if some of our future funding ideas go according to plan. I'll leave that as a teaser for you.

 
 

At the same time, we have continued touring a short 25 minute version of This really is too much in a double bill with Red Ladder Theatre Company, and we’re loving life on the road so much that we’ve created the hashtag #foolsontheroad. Above you can see Kate and Sofia filling the Gracefool Tank with our props, including the four chairs that we bought from Sweden for £400. Some might say this was excessive, but nothing says POWER as four slickly designed leather chairs if you know what I mean? #swedishdesigncosts

 
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There is one more opportunity to see Convicts & Lunatics in Sheffield on the 18th of April. Come check us out!

As the R&D and the tour are coming to an end things are slowing down a little at Gracefool HQ and we decided that this was the perfect time to reflect on the past year and think big for the future. As everyone knows, there is nothing as good for inspiration as putting yourself in a new environment, so we booked a cottage in the dales for a night and went away for talks and VISIONING. Sometimes life as a freelance artists feels like an endless struggle, but then there's things like visioning days with pancakes, and it makes it all ok...

 
 

There are lots of plans stirring in the Gracefool cauldron that we can't tell you about just yet, but watch this space and we’ll be announcing fun things soon!

Something we can tell you, is that we have three more performances coming up with the full hour version of This really is too much. We'll be at Yorkshire Dance on the 26th of May and at Camden People's Theatre on the 27th-28th. Rumour has it that it’s "entertaining first, then intelligent and meaningful on top".

FAQ: I have already seen the 25 minute version, should I really come and see the full length?

Kate is showing you the answer below:


That's all for this time. We should really try try to do some more regular updates on here, but I'm not promising anything. Come see us for real in a show and we'll give you a face to face update!
 

What have they been doing all this time...?

Photoshoot in Meanwood Park with Maria Alzamora

Photoshoot in Meanwood Park with Maria Alzamora

 
 
Performing at Resolution! at the Place. Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

Performing at Resolution! at the Place. Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

Long time and little sign of Gracefool Collective on this blog. The absence of cyber space presence has been due to a quite busy IRL experience for your favourite interdisciplinary performance company (which is how we sometimes refer to ourselves when writing applications) during autumn 15 and onset of spring 16. We have finished our first grown-up piece, performed it at six different venues, had two photo shoots, launched a rather silly advent calendar, got some funding for sister project ProDanceLeeds, and are now submerged in admin hell trying to submit an arts council application while simultaneously contacting industry people in the name of placing ourselves firmly on the map of THE arts. I understand you want to hear about it all, so sing along in best Sound of Music style and let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start:

After four weeks of development during the summer, ‘This really is too much’, new masterpiece signed Gracefool C, saw the light of day. The piece embarked on it’s maiden voyage on September 25 at Riley Theatre, where it was showcased as part of Northern Connections, an opportunity for emerging artists with connections to the north to scratch their work. Performing alongside us were the MiddletonCorpus and James Finnemore.

The piece was a culmination of a total of eight weeks of hard work, i.e. literal blood sweat and tears. It was also the culmination of a thought process over a year long, which included deviations such as a suit-suit, ideas of dressing in skin-coloured unitards and bald caps (yeah, don’t ask me…) and Rachel in rollerblades. We are grateful of having bypassed such obstacles and coming out alive on the other side with our dignity as a company intact. I’m pleased to say that in the end we are pretty happy and excited about the result.

After performing at Riley Theatre, we went on to do two more gigs in the North – Bish Bash Bosh at Yorkshire Dance on Light Night, and a scratch night at Barnsley Civic. Then we did a short version of the piece at a fundraiser for Calais, which a friend of ours put on, after which we got invited to do another show at Performing Britain, curated by Adam Young, at East Street Arts. All in all, a pretty good autumn for the piece! We then did what dancers in the UK have been doing for decades: a pilgrimage to London to be part of Resolution. Sarah Crompton and Amelia Forsbrook wrote a review – read it here:

http://www.theplace.org.uk/blog/resolution-review-2016/sat-13-febgracefool-collectivesasha-milavic-davies-lucy-railtonarct

We are now facing a quieter phase, performance wise, but the admin engines are working full force as we are finalising plans for an exciting coming year. There is one more chance of seeing ‘This really is too much’ in the foreseeable future, and we would of course recommend you all to go and see it. We are performing at Turn at Contact Theatre in Manchester, on April 23. I know it’s still two months away, but put it in your diary! If you are in Manchester and fancy coming see some feminist comedy dancing, you should definitely get a ticket! Looking forward to seeing all fans there!

 

ProDanceLeeds Pilot - how beauTiful you were!

Our ProDanceLeeds pilot ended in July and we (Gracefool Collective and ProDanceLeeds: our dual personalities) just wanted to say, WE HAD A BRILLIANT TIME.

Over the past two years we have worked very hard to get a programme of this nature up and running and we hope over the six month pilot we started something very special.   We needed a little rest/some more time to work on our new Gracefool piece, so in August, we didn’t run any ProDanceLeeds classes.  But, our intentions of rest were left unrealised, as we had to evaluate the pilot, write a brand new bid and make a whole new Gracefool comedy/dance/theatre extravaganza.  So we’ve been just a tad busy to celebrate these juicy facts:

We employed 36 amazing dance artists to teach 77 classes, to 134 dancers in our community!  We want to say a huge thank you to all who gave their time to give us advice in the lead up to the project, all who came to the classes and all our partners for their continued support (Northern School of Contemporary Dance, RJC Dance, The Dance Studio Leeds, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Yorkshire Dance).

The aim of ProDanceLeeds is to provide a key support system for professional dancers in Leeds in the form of classes and networking opportunities. As Leeds-based dance practitioners, we see the current lack of further training as a fundamental issue within the dance community in Leeds, preventing it from building to a productive, efficient and vibrant ecology. We hope to address this by providing continual professional development, body maintenance and further training for dancers within Leeds, who wish to stay at their physical peak and continue to create and perform high quality work within the region and beyond!

In September, our lovely friends at Northern School of Contemporary Dance and we Gracefool/ProDanceLeeds hybrids worked together, pooling our resources to continue to hold classes before we heard if we are successful in securing more funding.

AND.....WAIT FOR IT.......WE WERE! More on that later....

 

Sweden BABY!

This summer brought on the moment that myself and Sofia anxiously have been looking forward to for years: a Gracefool Sweden trip! Kate has practiced her Swedish for years and now has a pretty solid Swedish-level: being able to say 'förlåt' (sorry!) as well as counting to ten (though only when drunk). In the meanwhile Rachel has prepared by doing Facebook quizzes to determine how Swedish she is (massively Swedish!)

We had a great week in this Swedish studio, which was generously provided for free by Kulturskolan Örnsköldsvik, as Sofia used to teach there. Every morning we led morning class for young dancers in the region, and by the end of the week we went to Härnösand where Sofia and I did a foundation course together six years ago. Danielle Dietz, our teacher, organised a sharing with ilYoung, a project for dance students run by ilDance during the summer months. It was a great opportunity for us to connect with people from the Swedish contemporary dance scene and get some initial feedback on our new piece.

Change of scenery can be a pretty strong force when creating - at least for Gracefool Collective. Those days in the studio provided us with 13 minutes of solid material, which makes up roughly half of the piece as it stands. The only thing that has been a bit sad is that said change of scenery seems to have inspired us to work quite physically, which meant that we were absolutely wiped our in the evenings and too tired to fully enjoy the Swedish coast line and Sofia's wonder summer house, which comes with its own private beach (No, Sofia is not a millionaire - private beaches and summer houses are a thing in Sweden. Please continue to fund us!)

R&D with a Brighton trip

Gracefool have had an intensely filled and exciting four weeks of R&D for our new piece (working title 'This really is too much') It has included clothes swapping, alternative wedding speeches, rhythmic gymnastics, cape-wearing, armbands and an entire suit made of velcro. We also managed to squeeze in a bespoke workshop on integrating movement and prop/costume with Tilted Productions as well as four days of intensive and inspiring mentoring with Charlotte Vincent in Brighton. We were ripped to shreds, pushed to our limits and challenged beyond anything we ever could have anticipated, but we came out alive and brimming with inspiration and ideas (and a whole load of unanswered questions), ready for the next stage of development.

Thank you Charlotte! Thanks also to Kelli Des Jarlais, our wonderfully talented and endlessly patient costume designer, who put up with all of our crazy ideas and even managed to creatively interpret many of them in ways we could never have thought of.

Dragon's Den

BREAKING NEWS!! Sofia Edstrand of Gracefool Collective recently took the (dance) world with storm at the Dance UK conference by pulling information sheets from a top hat and being a general charm while talking about why we are working with art, and why people should support us. The result? Winning £1500 baby!

Edstrand of GC signed up to a fundraising course earlier this year through Dance UK, where the final test was to present a pitch to four dragons in a 'dragon's den' at Dance UK's conference, which was also live streamed (to much enjoyment for the other Gracefools that couldn't afford the conference and accordingly had to stay at home...) check it out here 48 minutes in.

We were all incredibly nervous (Rachel repeatedly had to cover her face as the stress was too much) but Sofia looked cool as a cucumber in her top hat as she charmed the pants off the dragons by answering questions like: "Why should we support you?" with a frank: "Because we're great". Self-confidence evidently goes a long way; from now on we only refer to ourselves as genii.

The money was a much-needed injection financially, and was used as match funding for our Arts Council bid. Technically it supported our week of rehearsals in Sweden (the mother ship of two of our members) where we enjoyed some useful networking, Swedish cake (cream cream cream) and a change of scenery that really refreshed our creative practice. Change of scenery should not be under-estimated.

Thanks to Sofia for literally talking us all the way to Sweden, and a massive thanks to the very generous dragons: Ian Taylor, Lizzie Fargher, Deborah Roslund and Andrew Hochhauser. Also a special thank you to Fern Potter and Alice Firth at Dance UK, who organised the Fundraiser course.

 

Once more with feeling...

In February and March Gracefool took a break from our own R&D to create a piece for the BPA 1 students at NSCD for their annual Student Showcase. We had thought long and hard on what theme we wanted to explore and finally decided to delve into the factory world. This brought on four weeks of conveyor belts, boxes and hair nets.

Gracefool Collective in collaboration with BPA 1 present:

Once More With Feeling...

Enter The Workplace, where human machinery reach for relief in surreal fantasy. Time passes, the day continues, monotony transforms into reverie and back again. Clocking in, gloves on, mind off. Then again. But with jazz hands.

P.S. To the students we worked with:

Do you remember how we put you in baggy overalls, hair nets, face masks and rubber gloves? It was all quite unflattering. And when moaning about it we said that if it'd make you feel better you could think about the fact that we'd wearing bald caps in our next piece. Well... we lied. We're not wearing bald caps anymore, but sexy lingerie from Victoria's Secrets.

Bridport Arts Centre

In the last week of January we made the long, treacherous pilgrimage from Leeds to beautiful Dorset, homeland of Rachel, to spend 6 days in residence at Bridport Arts Centre.

During this time, we met with local dancers who came to share morning class with us, spent our afternoon's playing with some ideas for a new Gracefool piece and inflicted Abba, Pastries and the Stiff Upper Lip on the local arts organisations, at the Dorset Theatre Promoters Consortium meeting. We also somehow managed to get a headline in the Bridport News that screamed, 'RAUCOUS RACHEL,' AND made great use of Bridport's cafes and hung out with Rachel's Grandparents. All in all you will agree, a very good residency.

At the end of the week, we were joined by the wonderful Akeim Buck, Sandro Picirilli and Thomas Hands, to complete our septet and perform our sparky party piece WE (spelt you and i) on the Saturday night. Portrait Youth Dance opened the evening with Portrait of a Thief (which we choreographed for them in a residency in October 2014), where the dancers spent an action-packed 15 minutes at Lady Penelope Fortescue's annual soiree.

A huge thanks to all who came to see us, you were a fabulous audience! And, thanks so much to everyone at Bridport Arts Centre for a brilliant week, Portrait Youth Dance Company for being great fun and giving an amazing performance, Activate Performing Arts for your continued support, our wonderful hosts who housed us all and all those who have helped us (especially Rachel's family!) along the way!

WE DID SOMETHING GOOD

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SOME EXCITING NEWS!

For the past year Gracefool Collective have been gaining support to set up a professional class in Leeds. 

We are now pleased to announce that we have just received funding from Arts Council England to support a six month pilot project, which will see three professional contemporary dance classes held per week, delivered by varied programme of high quality and well-established teachers, at an affordable price for our fantastic community.

Our aim is to provide professional development, body maintenance and further training for dancers within the region who wish to stay at their physical peak and continue to create and perform high quality work across the North and beyond.

Classes will start the week of the 26th January 2015!

Follow us on Facebook and on Twitter @prodanceleeds for further information, or check out the website prodanceleeds.com for more information.

Meet the new catapult artists

Gracefool Collective are very excited to announce that we have been selected as the next beneficiaries of professional development programme, CATAPULT.

CATAPULT is a professional development programme that supports an emerging Yorkshire-based dance maker or collective. Funded byLankellyChase Foundation, and initiated by Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD), the programme is managed by Spin Arts Management, and delivered by both NSCD and Spin Arts in partnership withYorkshire Dance. The purpose is to support the creative practice and strategic development of the recipient for one year, helping to launch a career.

The CATAPULT programme entitles us to:

- Intensive mentoring and support from a dedicated Creative Producer at Spin Arts Management

- Artistic and production support, including rehearsal space, and opportunities to present new work/work-in-progress and receive feedback

- Business advice, mentoring and management services from all three partner organisations, including fundraising and marketing support, networking and shadowing opportunities

- Financial incentives, including a bursary, support for theatre visits, promotional materials, and membership of The Collective - Yorkshire Dance's Professional Network

We are very excited to have been chosen for Catapult and cannot wait to explore all of the avenues this opportunity will allow us to access. It will be a chance to really investigate our style artistically, and focus on developing our core organisational skills, with the support of some fantastic arts professionals in the Leeds community, which we are very proud to be a part of. We are really looking forward to gaining more knowledge about the workings of our industry, so that we can confidently take the next steps in the profession, under the best guidance and mentorship possible.  We also look forward to being able to produce some exciting new work!

Janet Smith, NSCD Principal says, “Leeds is taking significant steps towards realising its status as the UK’s major city for dance outside London. The city boasts a fantastically diverse body of organisations and individual artists, all passionate about dance and dedicated to creative collaboration. Our dance scene is remarkably vibrant but it’s essential that we continue to create opportunities for artists to thrive here so we can retain the best of our talent and attract new creative influences. CATAPULT helps us to achieve these goals by bringing together three significant Leeds-based dance organisations, all committed to working together to develop the city as an international centre for dance. We are extremely grateful to LankellyChase for their support.”

If you’re interested in hearing more about Gracefool’s work please get in touch with:

sarah@spin-arts.com or follow them on Facebook or Twitter: (@gracefoolC).