eleven – working with dancers from LCDS

This year Clod Ensemble Co-Artistic Directors Suzy Willson & Paul Clark worked with a group of BA3 students from London Contemporary Dance School, to create a piece for their undergraduate performances. In this interview published by The Place, Suzy & Paul share some thoughts about the creative process.

eleven will be performed at The Place on 17 & 18 March.

What is it like to work with the BA 3 students? What are you learning during this experience?

It has been invigorating to work with such a great group of dancers who want to move in different ways, with different impulses and different interests.

Usually we work on a piece over several years with long periods of research and development, so we have had to learn how to re-configure our way of working into a five week rehearsal schedule. It was brilliant to be joined in the rehearsal room by dancers who we have worked with before, to help explain how to approach working together and to offer ideas and guidance.

What has the process been like in the studio so far?

It has been all about discovering what drives the people in the room to move and finding a shared movement language. We invite the students to offer their own movement material through a series of guided improvisations and then go through a process of editing and refining. We have worked with lots of different music including tracks suggested by the group and are beginning to see how we might thread these very different atmospheres together.

What will the piece be about and what can the audience expect to see?

It’s always difficult to say what a piece is about as ultimately it’s up to the audience to decide what it means to them. We gathered some themes, images and pieces of music that resonated with the group and used these as points of departure.

Not surprisingly there is a preoccupation with uncertainty. We think of the process as a shifting landscape where patterns begin to emerge. There are 11 performers on stage so the roots of the word ‘eleven’ became interesting. It’s derived from the Old English ‘endleofan’ meaning ‘one left’ ; the present participle élő (‘living’); and the Latin ēlevō (‘I raise’). The 11 performers unearth new desires and old habits; they raise ramparts and disintegrate them. It’s a balancing act, a close encounter, a live stream.

Why do you think it is important for guest choreographers such as yourselves to work with BA students in this way?

It seems to be a rewarding learning experience for both parties. We get to see our own process anew, refracted through the lense of inquisitive young artists with a different perspective. The students get to experience different approaches to creating performance; exchanging ideas with people from a different generation and understanding how their ideas and movement language can be harnessed to work within a collective creative process.

Did anything surprise or challenge you about working with the BA3s?

The level of commitment, generosity and curiosity has been truly inspiring. They move so fast – constantly generating new ideas, questions and material. The challenge is actually to slow things down sometimes – to be confident in the stillness – to breathe.

Suzy Willson & Paul Clark
Co-Artistic Directors, Clod Ensemble
March 2022