Interview with Race Horse Company ahead of their performance of Petit Mal at Southbank Centre

Race Horse Company’s new show Petit Mal comes to Queen Elizabeth Hall 4 – 6 June. Their brand of wildly chaotic, adrenaline-charged circus mixes trampolining, breakdancing, acrobatics, Chinese pole, hip-hop, falling and martial arts – watch the video for a taster.

John Ellingsworth travelled to Helsinki to see the show  – read his full review in Sideshow Circus Magazine.

He had a chat with Petri, Kalle and Rauli, the three members of Race Horse Company:

How did you come together to form Race Horse Company?

R: ‘We have a city called Turku in Finland. I was born there in Turku, and Petri and Kalle had been studying in Turku. When we met each other we were still students, studying circus, and we met as friends – then later on we started thinking about making things together.’

P: ‘Me and Kalle were in the same circus school, but not at the same time.’

R: ‘I’d had a long discussion already with Petri that we wanted to do something together, and we were thinking that we cannot do this with just the two of us – we needed a third person. Summer of 2008 it was time to start to do something and then we asked Kalle if he’d be interested in joining us.’

P: ‘When we thought we needed a third member and who would it be there was only one option, and it was him.’

The name of the show, Petit Mal, refers to a type of fit or seizure. Is your style consciously like a fit?

P: ‘It’s more about the language of the show. You don’t need to be so exact and I think it’s like wildness and this… [makes fists, then claws].’

K: ‘I think it’s because normally in circus you have to succeed in everything, and if you fall down or crash then it’s doing something different than what people normally do… I like crashing. I’ve been doing breakdancing for a long time and in breaking it’s like if you crash you lose. And that’s why it’s interesting for me – because now I can crash. I still win.’

What influences your work?

P: ‘For me it’s environment. What I see around; really simple things. I like it when I see something unexpected on a normal scene – somebody’s acting funny or acting in a way that they shouldn’t.

I was travelling in Nepal in a bus, and from a window of the bus I saw two houses between a broken house and a hole in the ground, and there was this small boy in the hole, looking at the scene around him through 3D glasses. And then I explained that I wanted that thing to be the beginning of Petit Mal: that everything is destroyed and you’re looking at the view with 3D glasses. And then the whole thing started to build up from that.’

R: ‘I’ve read comics and cartoons all my life. I just like it because you have no rules, everything can happen. I think in movies there’s less of that – in movies there has to be the story or the plot but cartoons can go just wild. And I just really enjoy that. Then I’m really into electronic music. I’d really single out Amon Tobin – it’s mixing a quite deep, hard sound with a jazz and electronic sound and it’s quite unique.’

P: ‘I did kickboxing for four years and one year of the cage fighting. It was the first course in Finland… I didn’t ever compete. Some of the fighting techniques are used for the show. But it’s playful. I don’t experience it as being wild. It’s like people have really wrong ideas about martial arts and how the people are and stuff. You don’t hurt your friends.’

K: ‘I’m a lot from hip-hop culutre. I did some graffiti and music and rap stuff before; now it’s still my life but I have to do something for work. This was so near to that – I could express myself through this and do it as work.’

You’re touring to four venues around the UK. Tell me about life on tour…

P: ‘Last summer, inside 17 hours we did three shows in two different countries – first in Vilnius, and then in Riga, and then back to Vilnius. The first show was at 6. At 7 we were on the road; I was eating at the driving wheel and driving at the same time.’

K: ‘And there was this storm coming and cops were harassing us on the border.’

P: ‘We were supposed to do the show at 12; we arrived to the place at 12.05 and we started the show at 12.20.’

K: ‘We got some coffee and we started.’

R: ‘Then after the show we saw some friends, got talking, kept on hanging around.’

P:‘I think we stayed in the bar till 4. I got up at 7 to drive back and then we got back to Riga and there was a city marathon there and we had to drive all over the city to get to the place where we were performing.’

‘Then we hadn’t done the show before at night-time and I have sunglasses in the show so I couldn’t see anything. It was actually the best performance of that show  that we’ve done – in Riga, at night.’

R: We had a one hour break, then it was back to Vilnus to do another show.

Rauli, your trampoline solo is one of the highlights of the show. What’s the attraction of the trampoline?

R: ‘I got just really interested in doing it wrong, just breaking all the moves. Because I’d been practicing all the hard techniques on it and I had really good teachers in Sweden. But before that I did trampoline with all my friends and had a teacher that said if you could do the trick then that was fine – no need to clean it up, just move onto the next one.’

‘I just wanted to continue that work. You’re free in the air. In trampoline you have one point where you have to tense your body – the take-off – and after take-off you can relax your body. Every time I’m in the air I’m really relaxed.’

Find out more & book tickets for Racehorse Company’s Petit Mal at Southbank Centre

The Things We’d Do For A Blue Peter Badge

The success of Southbank Centre’s dance festivities have gone above and beyond our expectations. All girl dance troops from around the world and child prodigy Akai have graced Blue Peter with their astounding dance moves.

Insights into the history of break dance, hip hop attire, the position of women in break dancing and lessons on how to move with style were explored. 

Three days before the B.Supreme Festival, Blue Peter Presenter Helen, shadowed both acts to see how they prepared for the big event.  With their sharp poppin’, lockin’ spinnin’ and rockin’ coupled with elegance and flare Decadancetheatre from New York, proved the existence of girl power in the hip hop world.  After being roped into participating in a dance off, Helen called on Akai for a crash course and support on the night.

It was impressive to watch the 10 year old effortlessly bust his moves as well as choreograph. It was even more impressive discovering that Akai had received no training (other than what he’d copied from watching videos and websites)! It makes us wonder, if he’s this impressive now, what will he be like come July when he dances in our ‘Into the Hoods’ performance?

It’s fair to say that Helens Top rockin’, Floor work and power moves did not compare to the greats, but after mastering her signature move for the battle (which she forgot to do in the end) and a shopping spree with B-girl group Decadance she looked the part on the night and her first attempt at battling was really impressive!
Unfortunately, Southbank didn’t earn the Blue Peter badge (although we think we should have!). However, we came away feeling delighted that B.Supreme was such an inspiration and that once again, we were on telly!

COMING SOON, A SLICE OF BRAZIL ON THE SOUTHBANK

Bringing the vibrant, dynamic culture of contemporary Brazil to the heart of London, Festival Brazil at Southbank Centre will celebrate the country’s rich cultural heritage – including music, visual arts, dance, literature, debates and food.

Performers will include cultural icon Maria Bethânia, superstar singer song-writer Gilberto Gil, the legendary psychedelic rock band Os Mutantes and tropicália star Tom Zé. And look out for the many free performances that take over the Southbank Centre site during the Festival.

View all Festival Brazil events here

Check out the Festival Brazil vid for a taster of what’s to come…

Dance Like The Greats

WHEN we say ‘outstanding dancers,’ a montage of revolutionary movers rushes through your head. You smile as the floodgates of your imagination open, allowing you to reminisce on every flip, tap and turn they’ve graced us.  But what makes those people so special?

It could be studying the dance moves of others and revolutionising them as their own, much like what Michael Jackson did to create his distinctive moonwalk.

Perhaps it’s the ability to take a dance known by so few and make it a global phenomenon, as we’ve seen by way of MC Hammer’s funk-a-de-lick, vibrant , infectious ‘Can’t Touch This’.

Or maybe it’s precision and eloquence of traditional Bollywood dances complimenting Oscar Winning films and  bringing a style and culture to virtually every demographic, as has been demonstrated by the dance routine for ‘Jai Ho’ of Slumdog Millionaire.

Possibly, it’s the controversy and ‘breaching the boxes of society’ brought about by dancers like Madonna. Maybe it’s the celebration of curves and black beauty reinforced by Beyonce’s ‘Let your hair down and shake your booty’ routines, particularly in her ‘Single Ladies’ video.

Is it the idea of unity and energy bought by dance groups like Diversity and Beaux Belle?  Or perhaps the hopes for the future symbolised by young dancers like Akai?

Whether it’s one or all of these points, it’s good to know that the potential for you to be a pioneer is in reach.

For the chance of your moves being part of a routine choreographed by Artistic Director of Protein Dance, Luca Silvestrini, record and upload your moves to Dance Atlas

Here’s to those who did more than electric slide their way to the top. Hopefully the next one on this list will be you.

Dance Because…

MICHAEL JACKSON, Turbo, Madame Alix, Shakira…

We could go on listing the dance revolutionaries! But we’d rather look the future. We’d like to see more of those stars about to shine.

So  put on those sweat bands and cycling shorts you’ve stored in the back of the wardrobe since 1981, do those stretches, clear the dance floor/office space/ messy bedroom, blast that music and dance to your heart’s content…just make sure the camera’s rolling as you do!

Dance has evolved from being a source of entertainment, to a social contribution and symbol ofexpression.  It’s an ever-changing, record breaking, vibrant, emotional realm of freedom!  Does this sound like an awesome place to be?

Yes!  Of course it does! The world needs a dance update and Southbank Centre’s http://www.danceatlas.org/ provides the space for it.

Dance Atlas is a user-generated website allowing you showcase your unique moves.
For those who can move their feet faster than James Brown, break harder than the Jabbawockeez, twirl more than Polina Seminova add the extra tang to Pineapple Studios, now is your chance to prove it.

To be a part of this revolutionary dance community, simply video your move, upload, pinpoint where you are on the map and tell us what makes your move stand out.  Respected choreographer and Artistic Director of Protein Dance, Luca Silvestrini, will choose the finest moves from the map and incorporate them into five new routines which will be performed by 10,000 people at the huge Big World Dance event http://www.danceatlas.org/ in London on July 10th.

A Meeting Place – reflections

I am sitting in the cafe at St. Pancras Station where I met Lea Anderson at the beginning of the process. This seems the most appropriate place to reflect on what happened last night at the Southbank Centre. What we did to the programme, to the space, to the stage, to each other, to the audience, to perceptions, to expectations. Like the election results, I am struggling for clarity. Sue emailed after the performance to say she enjoyed the connections and the chance to work in a different context. Gauri rang me to say she felt she had taken the challenge of intercepting her own process, to reveal the mechanism of the dance and to invite feedback from a collection of artists who work in different ways with different voices.

Her voice trailing out of the auditorium was a dot dot dot not a full stop. The event was followed by a post-show talk but, as Stine said, the talk itself could have been a part of the performance. The performance extended into the bar where an election night event was taking place. A heightened sense of awareness of political change was the perfect bookend to Lea Anderson’s subtle intervention into the public space before the performance officially began. They paused. They mirrored strangers. They flirted with other people’s private space in a public place. Front of House staff and the technical team in the foyer asked if this was a part of the performance or not. And when they entered the QEH towards the end, holding their compasses and calling out coordinates, plotting a route from the auditorium to the backstage area, it was an interruption. An interruption like the one Thomas suggested at the beginning but one that brought together three artists for a moment.

Vicky – Candoco’s dancer was completing a dance sequence and looking up at the disturbance in the audience. Gauri took to the stage to untie her swing, to unleash its potential (someone told me the tethered swing offered so much interesting potential of movement and they spent the entire evening wondering how it would be used). Lea’s dancers moved through this image, an echo of their action in the foyer, as Gauri’s dancer Jesal moved from the auditorium to the swing. As they moved backstage she moved onstage, pausing to take her shoes off and leave them in the space Boris had occupied earlier with his electrified talk. Inviting an audience member to carry on a dance fire in an impromptu dance off.

There was an edge of risk, an edge of change, an edge of tension between the different artists’ work and for me, this was the beginning of a troubling, of a problematising of the space and what it can do. My favourite feedback was from Matthias Sperling who said it was like the seminal Sex Pistols gig in Manchester which kickstarted punk and spawned a thousand bands. Donald Hutera likened it to an elbowing. To create a space around dance. To allow wriggle room for dancers.

Boris proposed that a museum of dance could support a sabbatical for dancers who have given too much. Or to accommodate museums that were too fragile to survive. He talked about how the building is constantly moving, changing, dancing. The holes of previous get ins that mark the walls and the stories they tell us about what happened here. The indentations of sixty years of stilettos in the foyer. How a museum of dance can be mobile not static. A Meeting Place aimed to capture this movement within the frame of an event on the edge of change. In our practices, in our programme, in our country. Now as we enter a period of uncertainty, it is a tribute to the institution’s own mobility that A Meeting Place happened last night. I was proud to be a part of it and would like to thank the Southbank Centre for the opportunity. This is not an end but a beginning of something.

A Meeting Place – one day to go…

We arrive in the morning. At the beginning of the day we sit onstage and talk about A Meeting Place. Who we are. What we might do. How we might inhabit each other’s worlds or be sensitive to the logic of each other’s offering. Thomas’ section, which explores his inter-relationship with objects, would be impacted upon by another human presence. Whereas Pedro and Stine need others to take part in their routine as it is a translation of movement, from body to body. I make a suggestion about how Sue’s circle might be observed by others onstage, from Thomas’ chairs, how his material might enter her material. In a lovely way, Sue says she is not sure about that but is waiting for my idea to cook.

We talk about how each artist might sit amongst the audience. To enter and exit the stage by stepping on and off from the auditorium. Breaking the fourth wall. The space looks brutally honest. The tabs are open revealing the scaffold tower. There is no dance floor so we see the wooden floor Gauri talked about as warm. Siobhan Davies and her dancers experiment with circles in front of a dance film shot from above. They talk as they move about the uneven floor. Their orbit drifts. They gravitate towards the door on stage left, as if sucked into the gravitational pull of the exit. We hear their breathing through radio mics.

Thomas Lehmen joins the dancers in inscribing a circle onto the stage and steps out of the sequence to set up his objects for the extract of Schrottplatz. He plays out his technical percussion. This is the first time I hear the sounds of the space. The QEH is filled with the crackling of a newspaper unfolding around the head of his microphone. At one point, one of the army of Southbank Centre technicians picks up a lighting cable. He thinks it might be in the way or not set up properly. Thomas tells him that it is one of his objects. I hear the technician tell his mates with disbelief ‘He said it was a prop!’ I watch the technician look on in a mixture of incredulity and concern as Thomas bashes a lantern with a microphone. The technicians are on hand to spike his chairs, taping squares of tape onto the floor. But we decide that Pedro and Stine will move the chairs offstage at the end. The technicians want to close the tabs but we ask them to leave it open. Again they look bemused. This is dance without a dance floor. Theatre without a curtain.

Boris proposes transposing la musee de la danse onto the QEH responding to its architecture and history. He proposes entering the museum from the skatepark. He will operate in the space in between the stage and the auditorium, it is an artist’s talk. At the beginning he will describe the graffiti outside and at the end he will open the curtain for Sue’s film. We talk about different performance modes – from the discursive e.g. Boris, to the performative e.g. Thomas. Or a combination of both e.g. Candoco presenting a dance extract with Stine’s spoken context. We ask how people might be stepping out of their comfort zone. Gauri, in particular, is challenging herself to think and work in new ways. It is amazing to see her swing in the space, what was an off-the-cuff remark has become a reality. Her dancer sits on the swing and Gauri walks around the stage, taking up every square foot of space, saying ‘The voice travels very well’. The soundscape Bathysphere have created is introduced and she stands next to bells, making the movements she would make if she was wearing them. It is a beautiful and poetic deconstruction of her dance practice. We imagine the bells. She leaves the stage.