Last year I took quite a bit of time off work. I have had vertigo for 10 years and after a neck injury, followed by a very intense and stressful period at work, I found myself very disabled by my condition. I spent two months confined to my house, as the vertigo meant it was impossible to move. With all that time to think I started to wonder about what would be my biggest regret if I could never return to work. The answer was clear…. to never see the first full touring show we made, Shiny, out with audiences again. That would be my biggest regret.
Shiny was originally created by and for myself and dancer Oksana Tymsinka. It is a unique show in both it’s structure and format, and was talked about as being “radical”, “joyful” “innovative” and “inclusive” by the theatre for young audiences sector. It toured as part of Dance Umbrella festival as well being Brighton Dome’s Christmas show in 2013. I was delighted and astounded when the company were shortlisted for the Arts Foundation’s Lionel Bart Award for Children’s Theatre in 2016 for the show.
But Shiny means much more to me than that… Shiny is the outworking of many years of community dance practice. It is an outpouring of inclusivity and equality based on a belief that dance really is for everyone. If you ever meet me and tell me you “can’t dance”… I won’t let it lie…. my belief in the transformative and inclusive nature of dance runs through my veins as surely as the blood does. Everybody dances.
Shiny embodies my philosophy that, through movement, we can encourage and enable each person’s unique dance ‘voice’ and because of this, Turned On Its Head’s shows are meticulously co-created with our audiences/participants both it’s creation phases and presentation of performances. We use dance improvisation to observe and integrate the audiences spontaneous reactions to our show. I believe that participation and performance are part of the same artistic continuum – and should be seen and valued together. Our aim is to develop a connection with our audience through reciprocal interactions, which we then aim to turn back to the adult and child in the audience, encouraging their interaction through those same life-giving reciprocal exchanges. We seek to operate in a democratic space where both audience and performer operate as artists in their questioning, creativity, intuition, feelings and responses.
Turned On Its Head was originally set up to turn theatre ‘on it’s head”. Personal experience of the barriers I faced as a parent, when taking my hearing impaired son to theatre as a young child, inspired me to create theatre that was fully inclusive. Oksana’s experience as a performer of ‘black box’ type performances where she couldn’t see or interact with the audience inspired her to do the same. We wanted to create something that was different, that placed children’s innate desire to move at the heart of it. We felt we we’re ready to take the risk of opening out the performance to include the audience.
We like to think we turn the world on its head by
• Transforming the places and spaces that matter to people into magical worlds that transport people.
This is why we chose to take our work into community settings as well as theatres, reaching those who may not have the opportunity to get to a theatre venue.
• Creating immersive experiences that shape families experience of each other and of the world they inhabit.
This is why we believe that “more is better” when it comes to our props – we want to surround our audiences in sensory wonder.
• Placing children’s creativity at the heart of our performances and enabling this creativity to be celebrated and affirmed.
This is why we enable children to enter into the performance space in Shiny, and allow their responses to be seen and valued.
• Valuing respectful relationships at the core of everything we do.
This is why I’ll go the extra mile to work with you, whether you’re a parent, a promoter, a charity, to provide the best experience for the children you care for and about.
And so to re-imagine Shiny as a bolder, shiner, more inclusive show, is part of the arc of the Turned On Its Head story of access and inclusion.
I want to be ambitious in the reimagining of Shiny and seek to celebrate the diversity of our country by reflecting it in both in the presentation of, and enabling the participation in, the show.
In 2020 we will engage in phases of exploring and creating with six culturally diverse and/or disabled performers. The show will then tour with a mix of two of the six dancers. This process will enable us to:
- Innovate with our dancers enabling them to share their own stories through the show’s improvisatory blueprint.
- Create new set, costumes and choreography from our explorations.
- Create work that both reflects and emerges from our audiences through our cycles of presenting works-in-progress, getting feedback from audiences and refining ideas.
- Continue to push forward our dance improvisation and storytelling practices to elicit authentic responses from audiences, which we then integrate into choreography in a child-centred and inclusive way.
Why do we want to reimagine Shiny?
I believe that the diversity of our country is not yet reflected in the work being made for early years. I also understand that to create lasting impact, early exposure to work that embraces and celebrates diversity is crucial. Our work can only be excellent if it reflects the society which produces and experiences it.
If you are interested in booking the show please contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
About Turned On Its Head
Turned on its Head is a disabled artist led company (Liz has a long term, chronic health condition) and reimagining Shiny is part of the arc of our journey of commitment to inclusion and access.
Our work marries the artistic excellence of high quality theatre with the professional care of socially engaged practice. We seek to create new forms of dance theatre, where the audiences responses are integrated into the part improvised, part choreographed performances. Our processes and performances are informed by an evidence based approach and understanding of early childhood theory.