Wilding – EncoreEast’s Performance at Thrive

Wilding – EncoreEast’s Performance at Thrive

Paul Smethurst has taken EncoreEast on a whirlwind journey in the making of Wilding for this festival.  I’ve a mental picture of Paul as the Pied Piper jumping and leaping gleefully. Instead of playing a whistle, he is shouting counts of eights – or as Rowena recalls, ‘snakey, snakey – claw, claw’ – with 14 sweating, breathless dancers, half a beat behind in a magnificently bobbing conga.

Talking to other EEs, I think I can say that we have been desperate to do justice to Paul’s imaginative, fast, powerful dance which delves back into humankind’s animalistic, ritualized past, with music to stir the heart. This has been greatly helped by Stella and Margaret organizing extra rehearsals and identifying music cues to supplement individual homework practice. Paul wanted and succeeded in taking us out of our comfort zone for eight minutes of rhythmic, staccato, muscular movement with virtually no rests via seemingly millions of counts of eights – perilous if mis-counted.  Still, I can hear him say quietly ‘can I help?’ as we were all talking at once trying to sort out one or other knotty moment as we came close to the performance day.

Amidst all his other projects, it beats me how Paul manages to be such a caring, kind human; relentless repetiteur and  humour-filled teacher, whilst adapting choreography on the hoof – I could go on. Paul’s ‘yes you can’, tough love approach was the name of the game owing to the very short rehearsal schedule available –  but it worked for me.  Many of us were counting music eights in our sleep.

I learnt so much about teamwork, how to better manage my response to performance stress, adapting to changes at short notice and how not to beat myself up when something doesn’t go according to plan!  Normally, I much prefer the journey to the performance of a dance but not this time – it was scarily, frighteningly exhilarating.  Apart from one splendidly obvious senior moment (never made to date) I felt ‘in the moment’ glorying in my wilder self; part of a group experience working for each other and wearing great costumes under wonderful theatre lighting.  Thank you fellow EEs.

Some of my favourite performance moments are: my vulture hissing at Stella; doing the tiny fountain/juggling movement with gusto; dancing with Margaret as we finished our duet spot on time; Anna’s sparkling eyes and fun filled, mischievous face in our wild duet. And throughout the whole dance-making process, the privilege of just watching Paul dance. Did we succeed in executing Paul’s choreography to perfection? Err no.  Did we give a performance of powerful intent? Yes, I think we did and were rewarded by enthusiastic applause followed by kind comments.

Thank you so much Paul for your, oh so generous sharing of yourself and your mind- blowing skills. And thank you Thrive workforce for inviting us to be part of your splendid festival, giving us a warm welcome and support throughout the day, plus the opportunity to see the work of so many different dancers. 

From the morning charabanc of folk anxiously talking, or working on our memory of the dance via phones, to our somewhat noisier euphoric toast of prosecco on the way home, it was a joyful experience I’ll never forget – until the next time when I plan to be wilder!   

Sue Sinclair