Anna's experiences teaching in Granada

Stopgap's Creative Learning Associate, Anna, writes about her week teaching in Spain as part of the Granada International Dance and Music Festival.

Anna teaching in Granada

In preparing to travel to Spain there were more than a few things to consider; what to pack for the 35° heat being one, and, more pressingly, how best to communicate my own and Stopgap’s artistic approaches to integrated choreography in one week. In Spanish.

This led me to reflect on some of the previous projects I’d directed and to consider what had been successful, and what had been less so.  I aimed to endeavour to make the language barrier a minimal barrier, as successful non-verbal communication is something I try to achieve when delivering dance workshops; it aids concentration and group cohesion, and I am less likely to get bored at the sound of my own voice…!

As it turned out I had many willing translators in the group, sometimes to hilarious effect, and having learnt a few key movement words and to count to 8 (all a dancer needs of course), the week was off to a good start.

The Granada International Dance and Music Festival is an annual, month-long event that happens throughout the city, with big-money musicians performing at the Alhambra (one evening of which we were lucky enough to attend…truly beautiful), as well as fringe events, workshops and courses. The ‘Integracion’ course has been running for seven years and there’s a real loyalty of participants, with some having returned every year since the start.

Integrated dance was, I was pleased to see, fairly prolific throughout the festival, mainly at a community level; but performed with some of the best technical training I’ve ever seen in dancers with disabilities.

With the aim of our workshop week being an insight into artistic process, I referred back to our project between the Stopgap Youth Company and University of Surrey students that grew from the exploration of the five senses. With sensory experiences being a universal thing, this was a great way in to kick off creativity within the group and allowed for each dancers' idiosyncrasies to emerge. And no-one can resist a haribo tangfastic or the way the sour taste makes your face contort...

With the students working all day everyday, and the community group SuperArt (an incredibly vibrant, talented bunch of young disabled performers) joining them each morning, this was a full on week for all involved, even with the 3 hour siesta break each day (a habit which I have happily continued since returning home).

With performances scheduled for both Saturday and Sunday evening, there was some amount of pressure on, but a more open, willing group of participants I've not met in a long time. I was able to challenge them throughout the week; they were always keen to take on these challenges, and equally keen to share a cerveça or two at the end of a long day.

Saturday evening saw us travel en masse to Güéjar Sierra, a mountain village about an hours drive out of Granada, with the aim of allowing more of the festival to reach a wider audience. All three pieces of work (I was working alongside two Spanish choreographers; wonderful men by the names of Jordi Cortes and David Ojeda) were met with a great response and the post- performance buzz on the bus home may well have been audible in Barcelona!

The high energy continued into the following evening's performance and, projectile-vomit-during-tech-run aside (that's another story, and wasn't me I hasten to add ...), the culmination of the project was a great success.

Although a challenge, the project and its participants gave me as much as, I hope, I gave to them. If Granada calls again, I'd be back like a shot.

Anna Pearce

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