Catch up with Chris | Unlimited Festival 2021

We caught up with Chris ahead of the upcoming livestream of Artificial Things and accompanying Q&A as part of Unlimited Festival 2021…

This Friday, our award-winning dance film Artificial Things is being shown as part of Southbank Centre’s Unlimited Festival. Alongside the livestream, there will be a Q&A with Chris and Laura who star in the film. You can book your tickets for this FREE online event by clicking here.

Unlimited was born at the Southbank Centre, emerging out of the 2012 Cultural Olympiad. A biennial festival, it provides a platform for new commissions and existing work, shared with audiences from around the world.¹ 

Due to Covid-19, this is the first digital Unlimited Festival, making it accessible to audiences around the globe. With a wide programme of dance, theatre, comedy, music and visual art, the festival celebrates and showcases the work of disabled artists and companies.

Check out the rest of the programme featuring performances, events and discussions running 13-17 January by clicking here

Artificial Things, which is a re-imaginging of the stage production of the same name, was directed by Sophie Fiennes and features dancers Amy Butler, Laura Jones, Chris Pavia, David Willdridge and Dave Toole, who devised the original piece alongside choreographer Lucy Bennett. The film was commissioned by The Space for the BBC and Arts Council England. In 2019 it was the winner of a prestigious Dance Screen award in the Screen Choreography over 15 minutes category.

ID: A black and white photo of Chris Pavia, he reads off of a piece of paper. (Credit: Chris Parkes)

Catching up with Chris over zoom, we chatted about current life, Artificial Things and his previous Unlimited commission…

Hey Chris! How are you looking after yourself during isolation and lockdown and what are you doing to keep yourself happy?

I’m keeping myself fit and doing things like Joe Wicks exercise videos on YouTube, he’s very funny and it keeps me fit and healthy. I’m also doing Home Practice videos; I’ve just done Christian’s ‘Finding Your Flow’ class and I really enjoyed it. I’m taking my dog Suzie out for walks every day, so that gets me outside. I also love listening to music. I miss being in the studio with everyone and also doing our projects in schools such as Philip Southcote school where we were teaching last year.

You have a film playing as part of Unlimited Festival this week. Could you tell us more about Artificial Things?

Yes, Artificial Things started as a choreography on stage, me and the other dancers worked with Lucy and guest choreographers to make the piece.

How was it making the film for Artificial Things? 

We filmed it in Reading in an abandoned shopping centre which they also used for Zombie training (Note: The building, once a shopping centre, was now being used for things like combat games and experiences where you could battle “zombies” – thankfully no zombies feature in the dance film!). The space was really cold and dusty, so we had heaters to keep us warm. It was challenging but I liked using the space because it had a counter from where it used to be a shop. At one point I move around the counter.

There were cameras and this one camera that was a tracking camera, so it was on a track. It followed me along as I moved. It was different to the stage production because we had different sections. And we filmed some new things and changed some old things that were in the show.

What can people expect to see in the film?

It starts with a duet with me and Dave Toole. It is a bit like a comedy sketch where we are playing about with each other. For my character it is a bit like a dictator character. I have a lot of hand gestures, like pointing and waving.

When I watch the film, say if I watch it on our TV, I see myself and my character. Like at the end of the film, my character is so strong and powerful, and I have to make sure the dancers clear off out of the space. When the audience see me, they see me doing these moves like pointing and staring at people eye-to-eye. David and I have a moment where we are squaring up eye-to-eye with each other. And that makes the audience understand my character.

One of the projects you’ve worked on is ‘The Journey Between’, which was commissioned by Unlimited in 2019. Could you tell us a little bit about the project?

The Journey Between is a duet that I choreographed. It is based on the idea of two separate planets. One is mars and the other is Jupiter. The dancers Christian and Nadenh they had to represent these planets and how planets orbit each other in space. That is the influence and idea I had in my mind. I gathered lots of different pictures when making the piece. I had to find the different qualities for the dancers. I had words like volcanoes, fire, storm, whirlwinds, tornadoes, tsunamis, those were the words behind the piece. 

You were the choreographer on ‘The Journey Between’ – what are some of the key things you learned on the project?

I actually learned quite a lot of things out of the process of it. I got to work with the composer Andy Higgs, he is such a great composer and I like listening to his music. I enjoy working alongside him as he does seem to really understand and include my ideas, which is really helpful for me. When I worked with Andy I gave him a lot of inspiration behind the piece and my ideas for the music, including things like earthquakes, the sounds of rocks crashing and cracking. And David and Jason from Carousel, they did the projections for it, so when the dancers were dancing there was a backdrop behind it. The backdrop was like the constellations of the stars, because every time I go outside and see stars in the night sky and I like that.

Is there a difference in the experience of being a dancer, as you were in Artificial Things, and a choreographer?

Ooh that’s a good question. I like doing a mixture of both. Being a dancer helps me be a choreographer, and being a choreographer helps me be a dancer. I enjoy performing and dancing with other people, and I like choreographing and working with other dancers.

I’ve worked with other choreographers who’ve really helped me to progress and helped me learn different things. I learned a lot about choreography when I was dancing and when we had choreographers come in and work with us. I learned from other choreographers who worked with Stopgap like Thomas Noone, Gary Clarke, and Sue Smith. When I learn something from them, I take it on.

Thank you for chatting with us Chris!

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