Archive for August, 2011

ACE dancer Letty on new challenges

Posted in Uncategorized on August 24, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

It’s already nearly a month into the creative process; time has flown by so quickly. Being a new dancer with ACE and new to Birmingham altogether it’s been quite an overwhelming experience. But having such a inspirational company dancing beside me, bringing amazing energy into the studio each day has made it all the easier.

From the get-go, we dived straight into the creation process, beginning our journey learning the exciting movement style of Akiko Kitamura, our choreographer. Just watching her dance is inspirational. For me it’s exciting to know that I am learning how to embody movement the way that she does.

Influenced by Martial Arts, Akiko’s style concentrates on the use of breath as well different amounts of tension in the body to execute movements with real contrasting dynamics. The idea of ON and OFF power; a relaxed body or what Akiko refers to as an empty body, in contrast with 100 percent full energy and power.

As well as discovering this to be a very efficient way of moving, it also shows a much wider dynamic range in your dancing. Movement becomes much more exciting to watch and perform as there’s always that element of surprise. Same as in Martial Arts there always needs to be that element of surprise in your attack to keep your opponent off guard.

Realisation soon kicked in however within the first week of the rehearsal process of how challenging her technique actually is. Nearly a month into the process and I feel like there is still so much more to grasp. As professional dancers you learn through vocational training stylised techniques, i.e. Ballet or Cunningham which becomes embedded in your movement patterns. Unconsciously or not you become use to holding your body in a certain way, pointing your feet or making familiar movement decisions. Through further experiences in your career you gain further specifics of how to move in a certain way. It’s always challenging taking that first step into a new process and letting go. Trusting in your abilities to retain what you already know and how you move to give your body that freedom to experience something completely new. Letting go of any preconceptions of what you think is right or wrong and allowing yourself to go into new territories. That’s what the rehearsal period is all about, and though we all go through this journey individually, your sharing your experience with your team which makes it all the more exciting and fun!

Every day brings something new. Everyday more information soaks in little by little. Yes it’s a challenge but for me this only makes the outcome more rewarding. The piece is slowly forming and I’m excited to see where the momentum takes us in the next few weeks.

Claire Burrell talks about her experiences as an ACE apprentice

Posted in Uncategorized on August 22, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

Hi everyone, I’m Claire and I’m working as an apprentice dancer with ACE this year.

I’m writing this on the train with a slightly aching body at the end of the first three weeks of the devising and rehearsal of ICE, ACE’s new full-length piece choreographed by Akiko Kitamura, and the weeks have definitely been packed full of exciting and crazy things.

Some of the “crazy” was unfortunately provided by the riots last week, which sparked a lot of tea-break discussion, but the rest was less serious and included ACE company members running and star-jumping up and down Floodgate Street at 10am under the loudly and enthusiastically shouted orders of a man named Ezra, and being bemusedly smirked at by various builders and passers by… It’s always good to provide people with some strange entertainment out on the street I guess!

We’ve had intense floor barre in ballet, lovely yoga classes from Craig at Yoga Haven, Ezra’s strenuous but funny circuit training on Friday mornings (I think we can all be glad it’s not on Monday mornings at least!) and there have even been some old favourites thrown in with classes from Andile Sotiya and Tiia Ourila. Most of the company, including myself, are lucky enough to have benefited from their fantastic teaching during our training so it’s great to have them back.

Alongside these blasts from my not-very-distant past, I am getting to experience a completely new kind of training in the form of classes with choreographer Akiko, who is using martial arts and breathing techniques to draw out a different kind of power in our movement. The idea is to use a quick burst of power and tension and then to release it as soon as possible to create a sharp and strong quality. Everybody is enjoying learning some explosive martial arts fight sequences to practise this and Akiko guides us through long repetitive breathing exercises and some release-based floor work, so that we can use the breath to achieve this efficiency in the movement. It’s a really subtle quality and quite a challenge to give her what she wants since it’s sometimes very different from my own training but there’s still time to keep working at it!

Akiko’s movement is great and the piece is already looking pretty exciting so don’t forget to check out the tour dates and book your tickets!

Week 3 in the studio creating ‘ICE’

Posted in Uncategorized on August 17, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

Behind the scenes footage of movement created this week for our new touring production ‘ICE.’  Japanese co-producer Akiko Kitamura and collaborator Akihiko Kaneko are staying with us in sunny Birmingham until October. Our Artistic Director Gail Parmel and dancers; Sade Alleyne, Kajza Ekberg, Letty Mitchell, John Ross, Jerome Wilks, Laura Vanhulle and two students from The Northern School of Contemporary Dance Claire Burrell and Eleonora Pennacchini – have been working hard, learning challenging techniques and creatively collaborating to create ACE’s much anticipated new show.

‘ICE’ will premiere at The Riley Theatre in Leeds on Saturday 1st October and will go on to tour across the UK. Over the coming weeks our dancers and creative team will be contributing articles, footage and pics, feel free to ask us questions and tell us what you think.


First few days in the studio making ‘ICE’ with new dancers and Akiko Kitamura

Posted in Uncategorized on August 5, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

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ACE launch ‘Revival’

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

This autumn ACE dance and music will be launching ‘Revival’ a project for adults in B’ham -creating a sense of celebration and excitement about African Caribbean culture through dance and music. Revival will start with a free launch event on Wednesday 19th Oct at the Drum from 6-9pm, with experienced practitioners offering taster dance and drumming workshops. Everyone is welcome, so come along and give it a go! Then join ACE dance and music in weekly African dance and percussive classes with talented professionals and guest tutors. The long term aim of the project is to create an adult community performance group in Birmingham. We will be working in partnership with the Drum and Nechells EAZ and the project is funded by Birmingham City Council. WATCH THIS SPACE FOR MORE INFORMATION!

Rocking Bristol Sun 31st July

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

ACE Youth performed their socks off at The Harbour Festival in Bristol

ACE summer school show Fri 29th July

Posted in Uncategorized on August 2, 2011 by The Lift Creative Services

Surprisingly, although ACE dance and music was established in 1996 and since then has gained a significant reputation for outstanding dance education, 2011 was the year of our first ever summer school and we loved it!

The African Village Summer School for 5-8 year olds was themed around the Ghanaian legend of the Golden Stool and throughout the week the children learnt African dances, played African drums, made masks, jewellery and props, listening to storytelling and even did some acting. Phew!

We were really impressed with the children as they were motivated all week long to learn and keep practicing all their different dances, even rehearsing by themselves first thing in the morning before we’d started! Not only did we have children from our Saturday morning group Funky Fusion take part, but also some brand new faces, who we hope will come back to dance with us on Saturday mornings when the new term begins in September.

Then on the Friday afternoon we invited parents and friends to watch their performance. The children took on the role of brave Ashanti warriors to go on a quest to find the lost stool and met a host of different traditional Ghanaian characters along the way. We were also lucky to have Tyler from ACE Youth helping out all week and even taking part in the performance with a guest appearance as the naughty trickster God Eshu!

We had loads of positive feedback from parents who were amazed at how their children were completely engaged and concentrating for the full 50 minute performance. To finish off the fantastic week we turned the music up celebrated with a bring and share ACE style and everyone tucked into some yummy food brought by the parents!

“Interaction and development witnessed with the staff and children was always positive, children responded very well to the homely atmosphere whilst all demographics and abilities were catered for effectively.  My child thoroughly enjoyed the week (as did we).  Thanks and well done.”

“It taught my kids to be proud of themselves and their heritage, I didn’t know that they could move – but they can!”

“The most professional summer school my son has ever attended! He has enjoyed every minute, and I loved the performance.”

“The energy was great! My daughter loved it and was always looking forward to attending.  Just keep doing what you are doing!”

“We have been struck by the variety of activity undertaken and know that our daughter has found the week educational as well as enjoyable.”

“An increasingly unique opportunity for young people to experience a range of authentic  cultural arts activities, well done!”

“I can see you truly worked hard with the children.”

Outstanding production and excellent costumes, masks and jewellery.  Great what was achieved in one week!”