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  • Writer's pictureJoe Powell-Main

The Second Half of 2022 Part 2

When I started writing this blog last year my hope was that I would be able share regular posts and experiences as a disabled dancer. But as everyone knows hopes can be made with all the best of intentions and sometimes life takes over and gets in the way. Which is why I am only now finding the time to write a part two of updating you all with the latter part of my 2022, over six months after my last blog post! I cannot quite believe how time has flown, it seems that one minute we were just at the start of 2023 and now we are in August!

September 2022 - was a busy month for me. I started the month returning to working on Undone for the One Young World Manchester 2022 Summit, Opening Ceremony with dancers Elizabeth Griffiths and Scott Kidd. It was a joy to come back to working on this piece after a break of about six/seven weeks over the summer. I was extremely excited and also nervous as I couldn't wait to showcase the work that we had done on this project, but it was also the first project I had truly been at the helm of as well as being a performer too, something that I always wanted to achieve.

A massive thank you to the wonderful team at Centre Pointe in Denton, Manchester for allowing me the use of the studios for the last few rehearsals before the performances.

On the Sunday before the performance, we had our first orchestra rehearsal at the Manchester Central Complex. I was really looking forward to hearing how the track was going to sound. I was also very much looking forward to working with live orchestra as it had been years since I had done this. I think the last time I had this opportunity was during the end of year performances in 2012 at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden. I love dancing to music whether it be live or recorded and I think music is a huge part of why I dance, I love the way the music makes me feel something that I can put into my movement. When working with a live orchestra, I found that you have a special connection with the musicians and when the orchestra all comes together to play the piece you are performing to, you can almost feel the vibrations in your body which wills you on to perform to your best.

It was an incredibly special feeling to perform with the Undone Orchestra and choir. I thought the arrangement was fantastic and I was even more happy to realise that the extra choreography, I had fitted for an entrance and exit fitted the length of the arrangement perfectly. I really enjoyed the orchestra rehearsals and couldn't wait to perform at the Bridgewater Hall the following evening as well as for people around the world as the performance was being live streamed too!

The performance day was a really exciting and long one with a call time at about nine in the morning. The facilities though at the Bridgewater Hall were amazing and extremely accessible which was something that I always worry about when performing at a venue that I am not familiar with, but I had nothing to worry about there. When we had the chance to rehearse on the stage it was a fantastic experience performing the stage as it was amazing to perform on such a beautiful stage and such an amazing auditorium as well.

It was a joy to perform the piece as part of the Opening Ceremony. It was truly an experience I will never forget, I was really pleased with how the performance went and it was lovely to work with the team at Private Drama Events who were producing the event, as well as the costume designer Janey and the make up artists. I hope that at some point our paths will cross and we will get the chance to work together again.

Joe Powell-Main, Elizabeth Griffiths and Scott Kidd in a photoshoot for Undone. Photography by Madeleine Penfold.

September 2022 Part 2 - After the One Young World Ceremony, it was a quick dash to travel down to London ready for rehearsals of The Sleepwalker at the Royal Opera House ready for the performances at the 2022 edition of the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival. As part of this period of rehearsals me and the team on this whole project were also going to be part of some exciting opportunities in the form of interviews and filming for media coverage on this project. It was amazing to get the chance to talk about this project especially the fact that a dancer like me was getting the chance to work with the Royal Ballet. To have the chance to speak about this on such a big platform was amazing and something that I will forever be grateful for, but my hope is that seeing dancers like me working with companies such as the Royal Ballet and other major dance companies will become something of the norm and that these media opportunities will open up conversations about how these opportunities will be possible.

It was great to get back in the studio with the whole team who are part of Sleepwalker and also to work with Isabel Lubach my partner in the piece, who had just been recently promoted to a First Artist of the company. One of the things I enjoy about working with Isabel is that I feel we are both quite similar in terms of being up for trying out new ideas and challenging the traditional form. It has been great to build a working relationship with Isabel over this project and I hope we will get more opportunities to work together in the future! I have many ideas how this might be possible, so hopefully this will happen.

Whilst we were in the studios filming and rehearsing, the major news at the time was about Her Majesty's health. Most of the people I encountered during those few days rehearsing be it members of the team at ROH to taxi drivers who drove me to and from rehearsals all talked about what was happening and I think we all realised that it must be a serious situation with news reports detailing that members of the Royal Family were travelling up to Balmoral as fast as possible.

It was that evening after the first day of rehearsals that the death of Her Majesty The Queen, was announced. As the announcement came through I was travelling back from rehearsals in a taxi and as we drove past bus stops where people were all looking at their phones presumably waiting for updates, and within a minute of the announcement screens by bus stops and also shop windows were displaying memorials to Her Majesty. I could feel that there was a sombre mood in the air. Regardless of opinions on the Royal Family I think many people could to relate to the fact that a family were now mourning the loss of an integral member.

Later on that evening we received the news that GDIF 2022 were cancelling some of their events as a sign of respect and unfortunately this meant that I wouldn't get the chance to perform Sleepwalker as planned. But the positive was that on a very sad day I did get the chance share the piece with an in house sharing for some of the dancers and staff at the Opera House which was special and also filmed. I enjoyed every single moment of the sharing of the work and I think I felt extremely lucky to be able to have a performance of some sort and wanted to savour every moment, as with the sad news of the past couple of days and also some personal difficult news we had received whilst down in London, it made me realise that you have to make the most of each moment as you never know what may be round the corner.

So whilst unfortunately we didn't get to perform the piece as planned it was still a positive way round out this chapter of working together for now. I definitely felt that this wasn't the end of the process and there was still more mileage with this piece. I had also been extremely lucky to be able to have some really exciting and positive conversations with members of the artistic team at the Royal Ballet about what else we could do together in the future, so I am looking forward to picking up these conversations soon and hopefully building upon them.

I am also now really excited to be able to share the news of the return of The Sleepwalker at the 2023 Greenwich and Docklands International Festival on the 9th and 10th of September. I am so grateful to the creative teams at both the Opera House and GDIF for being so open to sharing this piece a year later. I am so looking forward to returning to rehearsals at the Opera House and continuing to build on our previous work. I can't wait!

Joe Powell-Main and Isabel Lubach rehearsing Sleepwalker at the Royal Opera House. Photography by Alexander Campbell.

October 2022 - began as a quiet month, but slowly picked up in speed and also dance commitments. In the middle of the month I began my next project with Southpaw Dance Company and Pinwheel, which was a Northern Tour of a brand new production of This is Us, which coincided with the Rugby League World Cup and told the story of the inclusive nature of the game. It was especially important, as this year was the first year where the finals of the wheelchair, women's and men's games were all going to held on the same weekend. A momentous sign of how the sport was pushing for further inclusion.

The experience of working with Southpaw itself was an incredibly interesting one as the company combined spoken word with movement, with each movement corresponding to a word or sentence, a way of working I had never experienced before. When I first saw the script for the piece, I honestly worried that I wouldn't be able to learn all the text as there many pages, but I surprised myself with the fact that the more I heard the text, mimed and moved to it the more familiar and easy it became. So it taught me that pushing yourself is the key to achieving things that you may think are not possible, but if you believe and are determined they are.

The cast members that I worked with on Zone 2, which told the story of the inclusivity of the game were some of the nicest people I have worked with and we became a tight knit team which was very fun.

Having the opportunity to tour the production to Newcastle, Leeds and Hull was great! The places were all great places and whilst not always the most accessible the people in each of these cities were incredibly helpful and kind and always offering to help out if needed, which was great.

I still keep in touch with quite a few people from this project and its great to see how they are progressing in their careers. I hope our paths will cross again, but I am sure as fellow freelancers they will!

Joe Powell-Main performing in This Is Us a Pinwheel and Southpaw Dance production. Photography by Patricia Powell-Main.

Whilst in Leeds, I also had the very exciting opportunity to make a quick visit to Northern Ballet to meet members of the Artistic team. I had got in contact with them about the potential of doing some work together in the near future. It was great to start some conversations about what could be possible in the future and whilst I was there I had amazing opportunity of seeing a performance of the children's ballet The Ugly Duckling which was brilliant. I have learnt that as freelancer sometimes you have to be proactive in looking for opportunities and forging important connections with people you would like to work with. The result of this meeting was that in July of this year I was invited to deliver an inclusive ballet workshop to dance teachers, as part of Northern Ballet's Expressions 2023.

I want to thank each and every person who came to this workshop, it was so amazing to meet so many teachers who were passionate and interested about exploring further access and inclusion in dance. I had so much fun dancing alongside each of the dance teachers and it was a joy to see you all do a mini performance based on some of the work we looked at during the workshop. It was inspiring! I suspect that a separate blog post about this will materialise in the near future.

Joe Powell-Main at Northern Ballet. Photography by Patricia Powell-Main.

November 2022 - was a month of reflection. It started with my graduation from the Arden School Theatre, that had been delayed two years due to the pandemic. It was great to reflect on everything that I achieved during my years of study at the Arden and my journey since then, as well officially be able to celebrate the fact that I had completed my degree.

November was also the month where World Ballet Day 2022 fell. I was very fortunate and grateful that some of the footage from the rehearsals of Sleepwalker were edited into a short promotional film of the piece that was beamed across the world as part of the Royal Ballet YouTube stream for World Ballet Day 2022. The presenters for this were the two lead creatives of Sleepwalker, Alexander Campbell and Kristen McNally. It was so lovely to hear them speak about the experience of us working together and hopefully it was enjoyable for them as it was for me. I was also really pleased with the short film too even though I couldn't fully remember what I said until it all came together.

I was also so incredibly fortunate and grateful that an interview about the piece that had been done for POINTE magazine back in the summer was also released on World Ballet Day and a short piece for BBC online. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to speak about inclusion in dance on a big platform and I hope that this has contributed in a positive way for further inclusion in dance and classical ballet.

I hope to do more work with both Kristen, Alexander and Isabel and also the Royal Ballet as an organisation, as I have enjoyed working together and would love to more!

Joe Powell-Main in a still from the Sleepwalker Promotional Film. Alexander Campbell Productions.

December 2022 - was a quieter month for me in terms of practical work in the studio and associated projects. In a way this very beneficial as it allowed me to focus on preparations for the festive season and also begin developing proposals and ideas for how I might work and perform with different companies, something that I have built on this year, more to come on that soon....

In December I did have the fantastic opportunity of doing some work with National Youth Ballet as one of the practitioners for the Applied Ballet project, which focused on developing inclusive strategies within the ballet technique to allow for further opportunities for dancers with different needs to engage in the art form. I delivered an online workshop and demonstration performance that was based on the Sugar Plum variation from the Nutcracker. It was a nice way to round off my work for 2022, working with others who were passionate about making changes in the classical ballet world.

In my first full year working as a freelancer, I learned many different things that I will take forward with me. I look forward to catching you all up with what I have been up to during the first eight months of this year (when I get round to writing another blog post).

But remember to embrace and enjoy every single moment and experience as you never know what might be round the corner.

Joe x

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