An insight into the beginnings of Lîla Dance Company’s newest work.
By Lila Rasche
Lîla Dance Company is distinctive for its intensely physical language and the immersive nature of their embodied storytelling. Exhilarating, dynamic and deeply moving, performances by Lîla have a characteristic essence.
For Lîla, making a new work begins with an initial process of Research and Development. Through this stage of experimentation and physical exploration, the company seek to discover the core of their newest work The Hotel Experience. Lîla’s week of dance and discovery is physically, creatively and intellectually demanding: the work evolves through embodiment and discussion of key concepts, challenging Lîla’s dancers to realise the fullest potential of each idea.
Collaboration permeates every part of Lîla’s making process during five days of Research and Development for The Hotel Experience. Lîla’s artistic directors are joined by professional dance practitioners, lighting and design associates, a writer and students from the University of Chichester to explore Lîla’s concepts, themes and movement ideas.
For artistic director and choreographer Abi Mortimer, Research and Development is about reaching the core of an idea: seeing what is possible, ‘ticking the box’, and moving on to the next exploration. The work seems accompanied by a sense of urgency as scenes evolve and no time is wasted. The artistic pool of ideas stretches widely and each must be examined with integrity. Every scene, image or phrase of movement that shows potential is examined in detail in order to capture what Carrie Whitaker describes as ‘a moment of brilliance’ that will eventually contribute to The Hotel Experience as a completed work of immersive dance theatre.
These initial stages of developing The Hotel Experience don’t allow space to be precious, and often ideas that are not working in line with Lîla’s vision are dropped in lieu of an alternative exploration.
Ideas are taken to their extremes; the whole cast dances dynamic and physically challenging traveling sequences, weaving through the skeleton set pieces and carrying travel luggage. These same ideas are realised in direct opposition; dancers wander the room together with pedestrian movement, discussing contributions to Tripadvisor.
Under the guidance of artistic directors Abi Mortimer and Carry Whitaker, the dancers work meticulously, crafting and reworking movement until a section of dance is created which nurtures the identity of The Hotel Experience and communicates Lîla’s fundamental intentions for the work.
Lîla’s performance work delivers a unique quality of storytelling. The Hotel Experience is rooted in human experiences, yet communicates with an otherworldliness, creating scenes and images uninhibited by the codes and conventions of reality. Conveying the tumultuous cycle of relationships, Lîla’s Hotel is a transitional space where a metaphor can be living image, or walls can shift and rotate to suit the requirements of the dancing guests.
How might the walls tell stories? What if a puppet dance were the partner in this duet? Could this image show the passing of time? Can sound be transported in a suitcase? What if the whole room spiralled as the dancers move? How far can we explore these ideas? These questions and many more are investigated through intense physical research as Lîla begin to craft abstract concepts into thrilling and innovative scenes of narrative dance.
Collaboration is pivotal to this Research and Development stage, and contributions of total artistic commitment are required by each member of Lîla’s creative team. It is an intense environment, and from this palpable concentration and complete physical and intellectual engagement, glimpses of artistic excellence emerge which capture what The Hotel Experience could become.
Photos by Nick Dare: