Artificial Things: Ideas and Creative Process

Artisitic Director, Lucy, divulges where the initial idea for Artificial Things originated and how the dancers are crucial in the creative process...

The Idea

The creative process for me is always initiated by one striking image and, although it sounds pretentious, these images often appear in dreams and in the moment before I am fully awake. The first image for Artificial Things however did not appear in a dream, but I was only half awake.

I was walking to the Station early one Sunday to teach at Laban, snow had fallen in the night and I was the first person to tread on the pathway. The sound of my footsteps crushing the snow, the cleanliness of the urban landscape covered in white, conjured an image of Laura, perched on her collapsed wheelchair adrift in the snow. This idea led me to think about Laura adrift in a snow globe. I heard the sound of footsteps and played with the idea of someone observing Laura from afar before making tentative contact. I felt this was a resolution of some kind and I knew this would be the final chapter.

I began to explore the idea of a snow globe. I wanted to create the moment when you first peer in and observe the scene, the moment when the snowstorm is at its fullest and the moment when the snow settles and the scene reveals something deeper. A work of three movements.

This was our starting point.

The Driver: The Dancers

Essentially my work is nearly always based on the people in the work, what they think of each other and how they react to each other. Throughout the process it was the dancers that were my fuel to drive the work forwards.

Below are moments in Artificial Things, which were influenced or led by the dancers.

Elvis Impression: Both Dave Toole and I are big fans of Elvis Presley. The team are big fans of Dave Toole. If anyone was going to represent a storm of change both Elvis and Dave Toole are excellent candidates. 

Chicken Phrase and Wheels: Laura had always been in the minority when it came to unison work. Not only does she crave more dancers on wheels, but ached for a unison phrase to originate from her movement.

We paid close attention to the momentum, rhythm and texture of Laura’s movement. This made an awkward phrase for the standing dancers, but one where Laura feels incredibly liberated and strong. Laura’s feeling is gradually being transposed to the standing dancers and the resulting unison seems clearer.

Wrestle: David grew up watching wrestling and has often used it as a reference point for contact dance. Faced with a feisty new team member in Amy, I offered David the opportunity to create a wrestling sequence with as many interchangeable duets as possible.

David took the lead and provided plenty of footage to inspire the dancers. Some of the moves, such as Amy slamming Laura to the floor, were shocking but brilliantly tongue in cheek.

Addicted to Music: Amy put forward that she hungered to dance fast and with the music. I wanted to find a way to encapsulate this new energy, enthusiasm and tempo that Amy brought to the group.

Tag Teams is a scene where the group pull at the display cabinet, seemingly punching in and out.  This created a loop that the dancers fell deeper into.

As we built the movement and loop it became as if the dancers were feeding an addiction (an addiction to movement, music and enjoying expressive movement).

World Control: Chris loves to create scrapbooks and in the past when I have worked with him, this can be a great way into how Chris sees the world and his place in it. They are also a great source for movement material.

I asked Chris to prepare lists for his scrapbook on what he likes and dislikes about the world. Chris wanted to focus on his dislikes. I next asked him to prepare rules for the world - if he was in charge. During group improvisations Chris began to take on the persona of a dictator. Rarely did he dance willingly with the others, he found ways of remaining on the outside and posturing around the space. I vividly remember one improvisation where Chris casually suffocated Laura right at the front of the stage. This was exciting stuff and Chris and the group were keen to develop this role.


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