dpm is a Birmingham-based freelancer with experience of arts and lifestyle features.
Tiny glimpses reveal lives behind doors
Birmingham Hippodrome and Rambert are livestreaming a dance world premiere into people's homes. Rooms, by Norwegian choreographer Jo Strømgren, will be performed live at Rambert's London studios and will be broadcast through the company's online platform Rambert Home Studios on April 8-10. And in a bid to support regional theatres, Rambert is partnering local venues including Birmingham Hippodrome for bookings.
Rooms takes audiences through a modern cityscape by offering brief views through the windows of different people's lives. A mosaic in tiny vignettes, the show features around 100 characters across 36 scenes with 18 dancers taking the different roles.
Jo says: "I was thinking about how to express the growing alienation and confusion that we feel in Western metropolitan societies today. The most truthful experience you have of what's going on is maybe a bicycle ride you take through a city, not too quick, so you have time to see through the windows as you pass through. You get these glimpses of lives and you realise there is so much going on but you have no idea what is happening or why."
And he adds: "You can read all you like about what is a society but during such a bicycle ride you get the real diversity of a city. Diversity is a bouquet of different colours and I love it. But I think the discussion has been limited to certain issues whereas diversity is so vast – diversity of age, diversity of social status, diversity of ethnicity, religion, politics."
A dancer, choreographer, film and theatre director, Jo has created more than 150 works in more than 60 countries. He worked with the Rambert dancers at the beginning of the year on Rooms meeting strict measures to ensure safety. "It's really a challenge working round COVID - you need to be creative not just in the artistic way but also in solving problems. But Rambert has been through this process already so had a system of procedures so I was very clear on what I could and could not do."
And he adds: "This idea of using different rooms and different cameras was perfect for working with isolated bubbles. We had three bubbles of dancers with no contact between them. There was an outbreak in one bubble so we just shut that bubble down and worked as normal with another until they were able to return. It has been a challenge but we found solutions."
Live-streaming into our rooms
For Rambert artistic director Benoit Swan Pouffer, streaming is offering not just a solution for people to see live work during lockdown, it is also an opportunity to create something unique. The company launched its live-streams last year with Draw From Within, created by Belgian choreographer Wim Vandekeybus. Its huge success showed the immense possibilities for virtual work and convinced Benoit to create an online programme for 2021.
Benoit says: "Every organisation has had to adapt because of the current situation and Rambert decided it would be an opportunity to think differently. And for us this is live-streams. These works are not archival pieces, they are created for a different media – the screen. Our idea is to immerse the audience in the work so Rambert's live-stream experiences give the audience a journey they cannot see in the theatre. It is uniquely designed and danced for the audience to have a one-of-a-kind experience."
Benoit and Rambert have risen to the challenges, and the opportunities, which the pandemic and lockdown bring. "I feel there's an audience out there who are eager and hungry for work and what is important for me right now is that we create," Benoit says. "It's in these kind of moments, when the world is in chaos, that we most need art with a capital A. What we can do is dance and it's so important for us to entertain, to ask questions and to put what we believe on stage. And this is for audiences all around the world right now. This is probably the first time since World War Two that so many of us are living the same kind of experience. We understand one another more than ever because we are living the same thing."