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Eileen Strong profiles a recent workshop collaboration between Magpie Dance and the Siobhan Davies Dance Company.

photo of dancer holding his arms at full length Magpie Dance project

Photo of Magpie dancers by Pari Naderi

Image: Magpie Dance project

Magpie Dance is an inclusive contemporary dance company based in South London. They worked with the Siobhan Davies Dance Company on 22-24 July at Cator Park School in Beckenham and 30 July - 1 Aug at the Siobhan Davies Studios in Southwark.

What’s your reaction when you hear an ear-piercing screech? Run away? Cover your ears? Screw your face up? Performers from Magpie Dance, a Bromley-based inclusive contemporary dance company, have been exploring their responses to this and other less painful sounds as part of a pioneering choreographic project at the Siobhan Davies Studios in Southwark.

Under the guidance of two dancers from contemporary dance company Siobhan Davies Dance, selected Magpie members have created a work based on their reactions to abstract sounds. The six-day project took place over two weeks in July, at the studios as well as in Beckenham.

"This has been a fantastic opportunity," said Magpie artistic director Avril Hitman. "The dancers can develop their skills and think about choreographic starting points. It’s very important for people to have different stimulus to their creative work."

The Adult Performance Group presented their first unassisted dance earlier this year – an achievement professional dancer Pari Naderi was keen to build on during this project. "I’ve never thought of myself as a choreographer," said Pari. "I’ve provided a sound structure that they’ve fitted their movements in. It’s important that they own it and take pride in what they are creating."

The soundtrack included a quickening heartbeat, Morse code SOS signals and an electric buzz. The changes in sounds served as cues to help the twelve youths and adults with learning disabilities perform the work independently.

Ranging from teenagers to fifty-somethings, the Magpie dancers had diverse memories and feelings associated with each sound. "I especially loved the heartbeat because I’m working at the British Heart Foundation shop," explained 30-year-old Magpie dancer Zoe Pearce, while younger members associated the pumping pulse with the death of Michael Jackson.

The work-in-progress was informally presented at the end of each week, to the praise of family and friends. The only problem for Magpie staff now is which group gets to take ownership of the dance, as the youths and adults normally practise separately!

But working together is what Magpie Dance is all about, so they’re bound to find a way forward.

Go to Mapie Dance Company's website for more details about their work