INTERVIEW: STATE OF GRACE | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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An inter-disciplinary performance company with dance theatre at its heart, State of Grace was set up in 2014 by Artistic Director and founding member, Ben Ayrton. Passionate about local talent, the company wanted to provide a space where early career and emerging artists can collaborate and develop. “We wanted to build a training, practice and performance home for North East artists, a pool of local talent, but obviously not to the exclusion of anyone else. Running alongside this is our deep commitment to working in and with all kinds of diverse communities, both in the UK and overseas. We’ve been blessed to have worked with some amazing artists and communities who’ve provided us with enormous support.”

At their heart is a desire to create vivid and unforgettable performances, which is typified in their new production, Doves, which tours the region this month. Part road movie, part 80s noir, Doves charts the rites of passage of two very different sisters, joined by the trauma of stark poverty and familial violence. Set in Louisiana in early 1980s America, Doves draws inspiration from music, landscape, politics and films of the era, but it was the artistes unifying love of disco that finally united the piece, as Ben explains. “The early 1980s are brilliantly rich, diverse and progressive. At times very funny. At times kitsch and overstated. Our starting point also had an incredible history of music essential to that region, but with the diverse influences of what came before and the directions it would take. The history of disco – where it came from and where it would go, was a huge pleasure to swim around in.”

We are all storytellers. Human evolution is linked to our need to know the ‘end of the story’ and our endless quest to learn from our own and other’s lived experiences

Performed by two extraordinary young dance artists – Alice Henry and Cora-Jay Williams – and set against a filmic cyclorama created by Adam Goodwin and a musical soundscape by Jamie Cook, the hour-long work promises burning dance theatre intensity, visual expansiveness and a haunting, driven audio score. Ben explains that the production reflects the diverse and changing visual and audio landscapes during a year of political awakening. “Music and film play an intrinsic part of the experience. Jamie Cook’s score is subtle, funky, overwhelming and lyrical all at the same time and Adam Goodwin’s visual cyclorama is part-film, part-animation. Together they provide a sense of time and place by using a distinct aesthetic which is tough, dreamy and childlike.”

Reminiscent of Steinbeck’s epic storytelling, Doves follows a clear narrative arc, the human experience and expression captured through movement and physical action, and deals with themes that are universal to human experience: overcoming tragedy, the consequences of it, what family means, growing up, change, journeys, predators, and the joy and potential of love. “I think these are timeless questions that we always return to, because we need to.” Says Ben, “We are all storytellers. Human evolution is linked to our need to know the ‘end of the story’ and our endless quest to learn from our own and other’s lived experiences.”

State of Grace’s Doves premieres at Newcastle’s Dance City on Thursday 7th November, with further dates across the region to be announced

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