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Holding Present is a new collaboration between choreographer Ula Sickle and Ictus. The performance explores methods for calling or 'ringing an alarm', while working with unconventional instruments that require particular movements in order to produce sound, such as swinging bull roars, tiny hand held cymbals or long thin tubes that produce sound when moved rapidly through the air. The work will feature existing compositions by well-known composers, as well as new musical compositions composed especially for the piece.
A group of 8-10 performers, in equal part dancers and musicians, engage in a durational performance that aims to create a continuous presence in the performance venue over several hours. Through their playing or movement phrasing, the performers hold the space and time actively, challenging the audience's perception and attention. In the work, sound and movement are considered interchangeable, both have a choreographic and musical dimension.
The music relies on compositions for single instruments with a particular playing practice - these works could be played by single musicians or by multiple players, each on the same instrument. The movement material is inspired by the particular gestures required to play these instruments, as well as the idea of calling attention to and engaging with the passage of time. Set movement phrases are danced mainly in unison, with several dancers or musicians doing the same phrases together at the same time, or with small variations and delays. The handing over of the phrases or musical compositions will use a similar structure to Relay, a performance by Ula Sickle, in which a black ‘flag’ is kept in continuous motion, by being passed on from one performer to the next. Here the musicians and performers 'hand over' the material to each other, or join together in performing the different blocks that continually evolve during the piece.
As opposed to Relay, the performance is not limited to one active dancer/musician in the space at a time. Rather the number and configuration of performers present is continuously changing, however there should always be at least one performer (dancer or musician) holding the space/time/presence at any given moment. Many combinations are possible; i.e. only dancers, only musicians, dancers + 1 musician, musicians + 1 dancer, 50/50, etc. As with an orchestra, multiplying the number of performers can amplify the level of sound or the impact of a movement sequence. The dancers and musicians both take on the role of playing the music or dancing.
Holding Present continues Sickle's interest in working closely with contemporary music, as seen in her past collaborations with sound artist Yann Leguay (Light Solos, Relay) or with vocalist and composer Stine Janvin (Prelude, Echoic Choir). The initial research for this performance will begin in 2022, with an exchange between Sickle and musicians from the ensemble, giving ample time for both the movement and musical work to be developed, before the full group of 8-10 performers come together to work towards a premiere in 2023. The performance will ideally rely on very little technical means; ie. no microphones and ideally working with minimal lighting or natural light. The performance is made for non-frontal performance venues, such as a gallery or museum space, or a flexible blackbox theatre setting.