Why we made The Awakening

Part 1

Prior to the London premiere of Chris’ new outdoor work at Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, Company Producer Sho Shibata talks about what makes Chris’ work so appealing (Part 1 of a 2 Part blog).

Amy and Hannah from the Awakening cast in an intricate duet of hands.

Amy and Hannah from the Awakening cast in an intricate duet of hands.

Chris was a born dance artist and his immovable determination set him up well to achieve his dream. He was always going to become a dancer and choreographer. Having created Stopgap’s new outdoor touring work The Awakening this summer, Chris has become the first dance artist with Down Syndrome to make work for national touring… So not has he only achieved his long standing dream, but he just made a little piece of history too…!

His journey started when Stopgap took him on as an apprentice dancer back in 1997. Chris began his training in performance and teaching, and when the company gradually began working with established choreographers to create touring works, Chris naturally started sharpening his choreographic understanding through them. Stopgap gave him small opportunities to work on his choreography too, which enabled him to develop a small portfolio of works-in-progress.

Having worked on a number of pieces, it was plain to see that he had a very distinctive style that you couldn’t find in anyone else. There is also something incredibly captivating about his works despite their ambiguity and slow-pace, and this ‘something’ becomes very clear when he speaks about his ideas.

Chris is interested in exploring how we become lost and trapped by uncertainty and our attenpts to find a way out. At first, he can confuse you by talking about various scenes from sci-fi programmes, but you soon realise in the conversation that he is only using snippets of popular culture because these are what he can readily access. They are just his visual stimuli, but the emotional reaction he is exploring is really quite existentialist…!

The question about our existence is something very present and haunting – the emotional state we have in that pensive moment is anxiety, and Chris signifies this fear through viscous movement material and mysterious atmosphere. All of us experience these anxieties at some points in our lives, and I think this is what makes his work so strangely engaging.

His work exists in a world of introspection, which has a different timeframe to everyday life, and placing this kind of work in public spaces really hightens that sense of a bubble. This is the key reason why we asked him to make an outdoor piece. But outdoor performances have another huge advantage: It gives us immediate access to the wider public, and The Awakening will go a long in changing people’s perceptions about learning disabled people – they can make serious works of art too.

Read more about The Awakening