I cannot believe that we are now in 2023 and the last time that I wrote a blog post was in June. In the past few months there have been quite a few things going and I wanted summarise the experiences that I have had in this past year and things that I have learnt.
July 2022 - During the month of July I began to develop my own piece of work with the aim for this to be performed at the One Young World Manchester Opening Summit a the beginning of September at the Bridgewater Hall.
When I choreograph movement I always like to first of all find music that I feel works with the overall idea that I am trying to achieve. The challenge that I found was that I wanted to find music that conveyed the message that I wanted to tell. A story of acceptance, overcoming difficulty and unity in difference.
I learnt so much during this process acting as a performer, director and choreographer for this piece. I had a hand in creating a budget for the project, the production design and also liaising with the talented musicians at The Untold Orchestra, who would be performing a live arrangement of the piece Undone by Olafur Arnalds which I would be performing to.
I was lucky to be able to use my connection with the Arden and also the North West to find two dancers to perform in this piece alongside me. These dancers were Scott Kidd who was currently training at the Arden School of Theatre and Elizabeth Griffiths, who I had worked with closely and performed alongside in Giselle, whilst I had been working with Ballet Cymru in 2021.
It was during that very hot spell in middle of July that we began rehearsals. I was very lucky to use the beautiful facilities of the Arden School of Theatre and the studios at Centre Pointe. I found that working out ideas before the rehearsal period was extremely helpful. I was able to have a clear structure of what I would like to achieve within this piece, but also I realised that I wanted to include the strengths of the dancers that I was working with in the studio. I really wanted the piece unify each dancer in the fact that we each have different personalities and talents, but when they come together that would hopefully be something really special.
By the third of day of rehearsals the piece was more or less complete. I was really happy with what we had produced together and the hard work of both Scott and Lizzie. I made a few small changes, I am bit of a perfectionist, oops. But I was really looking forward to the next stage of rehearsals at the end of August/beginning of September and then performing this piece.
Joe Powell-Main and Elizabeth Griffiths rehearsing Undone at The Arden School of Theatre in July 2022. Photography by Patricia Powell-Main.
Scott Kidd and Joe Powell-Main, rehearsing Undone at The Arden School of Theatre in July 2022. Photography by Patricia Powell-Main.
August 2022 - In terms of practical time in the studio August was a relatively quiet month. Something that I didn't realise before embarking on the decision of becoming a freelancer, is that just because you might not be creating and performing in the studio every day, it doesn't mean that the work stops. I spent this month working on the production design and logistics for the One Young World project. I was very lucky to collaborate with north west based designer Janey Cribbins to design the costume. We had many a meeting with Janey and also the producers of the event Private Drama Events. Throughout this process I felt that I learned so much. I really enjoyed being part of a team, but I also realised that it is so important to use my voice and not be afraid of doing this. In the past I think I have always been a bit shy of doing this. I have held back and not been as forthright as I could have been. Throughout this process I felt I gained more confidence and especially being one of the lead creatives of this project, I knew it was important to make my voice heard. I was super grateful that the producers allowed me to be able to gain more confidence in voicing my opinions.
Throughout this month, I also took advantage of having some down time from the studio to begin reaching out to different companies and see if there could be some potential collaborations with these companies. There are so many companies out there that have really interesting repertoire and work with some amazing choreographers. I have previously been afraid to push myself in case I didn't get the response that I was hoping for, but sometimes I think especially as a freelancer rather than waiting for the opportunities to come to you, you have to search for them. I think it is about as much as you can manifesting your dreams and hopefully making them a reality.
Luckily I made contact with a few companies and I got some really great responses and so I am hopefully going to continue conversations and see what might be possible. I am really hoping that these conversations could be the start of some really exciting things not just for me but also the inclusion in the world of dance and classical ballet. Keeping my fingers crossed.
One of the companies that I had the fortune of speaking with was the Birmingham Ballet Company. They are company that offer the opportunity for young dancers to have the chance to perform with a live orchestra and narrative and also contemporary production. The company also features principal dancers in the production who not only perform but also are really involved in creating choreography teaching the young students involved in production.
I had been speaking and communication through social with the Birmingham Ballet Company for a while and I really liked the fact they gave opportunities to young dancers.
I visited the company during their rehearsal week at the end of August. I had really enjoyable day meeting Penelope the Director, as well as the Principal Dancers, Alex, Kate, Emily and Elysia. It was a really great day and I got a really good feeling. I even had the dance to take part in a few hours of research and development with with Emily and Elysia. I found it a really productive few hours and also to have the chance to share at the end was also very enjoyable.
Unfortunately I was unable to make the production dates for 2022 due to my commitments with the One Young World performance. But I am so glad to have met all at the Birmingham Ballet Company and I am very much looking forward to working together in the future.
Elysia Capewell, Joe Powell-Main and Emily Parry in rehearsal The Birmingham Ballet Company. Photography Kate Frost.
August was also a month full of interviews talking about Sleepwalker with the Royal Ballet in preparation for promoting the upcoming performances at the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, the following month. I had the most wonderful opportunity of talking about this project. To have the chance to talk about inclusive dance on a big platform was a complete joy and something that I had always hoped would be possible. A big thank you to Wharf Life magazine and The Guardian.
For the most part I received some amazing support online from those who read the articles, but on twitter when the article was shared there was some negative responses that I received. This was disheartening especially when the negative comment stated that I shouldn't be on the same stage as a conventional dancer because I am not as talented as my standing counterpart. I have always tried to be seen on the same parity as my standing counterpart so that was disappointing, but what I had to remember was, this was one negative comment I had received, compared to the overwhelming support from others.
I think if I had been in this situation a few years ago I would have taken this situation more to heart, however one thing I have noticed since becoming a freelancer this year, is that I have regained confidence. I can and hopefully will be able to achieve great things. I think that because I have chased opportunities as a freelancer rather than waiting for them to fall on my lap, I have had to become more resilient and confident in my own abilities. Adopting a quiet confidence and belief I think is always the best way. So this situation showed me how much I had grown. That was a positive thing.
That's all for now, more to come in part 2 of my summary of 2022, which is coming soon. There is a lot to catch up on, but that is because I haven't written a blog post for a long while.
Hope you enjoy reading.