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North Shields choreographer prepares to wow her home town crowd

Rachel Johnson is bringing her film and dance work Bridging the Void to The Old Low Light in North Shields

Rachel Johnson Choreographer Rachel Johnson, front, with her dancers
Choreographer Rachel Johnson, front, with her dancers

Choreographer Rachel Johnson is hoping for a triumphant return to her North East home town with a new film and dance work called Bridging the Void.

It is a labour of love which is now mid way through a national tour that began at the end of February in Leicester.

But only two destinations are getting two performances – London, where Rachel is now based, and North Shields where there will be two performances this week at The Old Low Light heritage centre on the Fish Quay.

Ringing Rachel for a brief chat about Bridging the Void, she surprises me by saying: “I’m actually in Parliament at the moment.

“I’m a fitness instructor and I teach politicians to do pilates.”

The mind boggles. Is this how Chancellor George Osborne got to look so trim on Budget day or how Dennis Skinner, a Derbyshire MP since 1970, continues to live up to his ‘Beast of Bolsover’ nickname at the age of 83?

“Well, mostly they’re the people you see at the back on the telly,” says Rachel. “I don’t get the main front row of politicians.”

Rachel Johnson Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void
Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void

She explains that when you’re starting to make your way as an artist, you’re unlikely to earn enough to survive without other strings to your bow.

Training politicians to be flexible, physically if not mentally, is not the realisation of 25-year-old Rachel’s dreams but a means, perhaps, to that end.

Her real passion lies in Experiential, the company she set up to make performance works such as Bridging the Void, which is, in fact, the first.

She describes it as “an immersive and mesmerising sunrise experience” inspired by a Native American saying to the effect that every night is followed by a sunrise.

Rachel Johnson Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void
Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void

Audience members at her show are encouraged to stand, mingling with the dancers as they perform to the backdrop of a sunrise filmed from the vantage point of London’s Primrose Hill.

Rachel says there’s no need to be alarmed. “There are seats available,” she says. “My dad is coming to the North Shields one and he’ll be leaning against the wall.”

Rachel has travelled an interesting journey since her early steps at the Margaret Waite School of Dance in Whitley Bay. She studied A level dance at Dame Allan’s School in Newcastle and then went to De Montford University in Leicester.

After a year back in North Shields, she headed for London to do an MA in choreography at the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance.

Bridging the Void, which grew out of her MA studies, had a couple of performances last year before Arts Council funding was secured for the tour.

Rachel Johnson Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void
Filming dance-film work Bridging The Void

So far, Rachel says, it has been well received. It has also prompted some interesting reactions.

“In one performance someone decided to lie on the floor and this is what the dancers love about it. For them, that unpredictability is exciting.”

That is the word Rachel chooses ahead of her first return home in a professional capacity. “I am excited,” she says. “The Old Low Light is the smallest venue on the tour but it’s a really nice place to perform.”

Catch the work at The Old Low Light (NE30 1JA) at 8.30pm on Thursday, March 26, and 2.30pm and 7pm on Friday, March 27. For tickets tel. 0191 257 4506.

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