The Barrowlands Project

Photo by Hugo Glendinning

I danced with the Michael Clark Company for three performances on the 8th and 9th of September this year and it was one of the most intense and rewarding experiences I have ever had. Also one of the most overwhelming, which is why it has taken me a month to write about it here.

I will be brief, for you can read all about the project in the blog created for the 45 participants and 8 dance leaders. I just wanted to record here a memory of the event, from the first rehearsal on the 19th July to the Michael Clark Company New Work premiere, inspired by the work at the Barrowlands, last thursday 4 October.

We danced at Speirs Locks, Kelvin Hall, the Barrowlands and in any nook and cranny of this marvellous city, which came to the performances to cheer us on. We danced Michael’s choreography, which he changed and adjusted and swapped and tweaked until the very last moment. We moved with the eight professional dancers and learned from them, the stage manager (I couldn’t do her job, quite frankly, she was amazing), the wardrobe people and costume designers. We learned from each other, about dance and other things. We shared food, ointments, beauty products, laughs, anecdotes, fears. Yes, fears, for it is quite nerve-wracking to get on stage, with the responsibility of having to make Michael proud. I hope we did.

He is quite a guy. I first noticed him at the first rehearsal, led by Kate, one of the professional dancers. He started speaking from the side of the class, where he was making the same moves as us. He remained there pretty much each week, not leading, but directing. When something was not right, he would let you know. When he was unsure about something, it trickled to the core of us 53 bodies.

I am thankful for his, and everyone else’s patience. It was not an easy journey, of course not. How could it be when dancing his moves? We had to get down to the floor in one count. We managed it, eventually, as we managed many other things we thought we could not do.

The project kept giving and I had my portrait taken by Tim Nunn, who was the Godfather of the project, making things happen (in particular parties and free drinks), we had a show of artworks at Tramway, we have an after-show disco and opening party. We had Dance House love, BBC live streaming, discounted tickets, comps, a calendar, possibly T-shirts, programmes, creative dinners, extra rehearsals, streaming in the dressing room, a Stevie Stewart design to take home and fun, fun, fun.

The more I write, though, the worse it gets. I suppose that is the case with many intense lived experiences: they cannot be contained into words. Like my PhD, the come down was hard, too hard, but I bore it and went to the studio the day after, for a wonderful Martha Graham class. All my dancer friends made it better, as they knew well what I was experiencing: Ruth put some David Bowie music for me, Julie gave me a book of pictures and text of a dance we did together, all the Barrowlanders shared the sadness in a private forum, sharing pictures and tearful thoughts. I feel better about it now. The adrenaline is back to its normal levels, I am dancing with the company again, and I am thankful more than sad for the experience. I know it was unique, and I was very, very lucky to have been part of it.

Here are some words I recorded after our first rehearsal at the Barrowlands (and posted on the project blog).

And here are some reflections on how I got into dance.