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Choreographer Nicole Vivien Watson pushing the boundaries

THERE is something slightly unexpected about contemporary dancers using speech in performance.

Choreographer and dancer Nicole Vivien Watson of Surface Area Dance Theatre. Photo by Ewelina Aleksandrowicz

THERE is something slightly unexpected about contemporary dancers using speech in performance. But we live in a Mr Messy world of blurred lines where actors dance and artists make theatre, so why shouldn’t dancers use their acting skills a little?

Choreographer Nicole Vivien Watson has adopted the technique for her latest show, The Hard Sell, which she has based on her experiences of being a 20-something.

Nicole, creative director of Newcastle-based Surface Area Dance Theatre, says: “This is the first time we have used spoken word and text. It is a new frontier and a new landscape for us. As dancers, we are developing text around movement, which is the reverse for stage actors.”

Nicole is being guided by Matthew Cummins, senior lecturer in performance art at Northumbria University. He has introduced Nicole and her dancers Molly Hodkinson and Beth Loughran, to the rigours of Lessac Kinesenic Training which develops the voice and body to improve expressiveness.

Nicole says: “I am interested in spoken word just because it is another form of communication. I don’t want people leaving the auditorium and not feeling that they have connected with the work.

“I like to talk to people in different ways. My first language obviously is spoken English, but my second language is movement.”

Also featuring projection, The Hard Sell draws on the daily experiences of Nicole’s dancers and considers the work/life balance of women today.

“It all started from us telling stories about our daily lives and looking at things which have affected us,” Nicole, 29, says.

I feel that I have something to say about being a woman within the generation of disposable culture. I am intrigued about how women talk to each other and find their place in the world. It seemed like a natural progression to tell stories as part of the performance.”

The Hard Sell will be performed at Newcastle’s Dance City hot on the heels of a Surface Area show at experimental New York theatre club La MaMa.

Nicole, who was born in County Durham, says: “La MaMa is an amazing creative hub and lots of amazing people have made work and presented there.”

She adds: “The title The Hard Sell came to me in New York when I was walking through the financial district and this woman caught my eye. She was immaculately dressed in conservative attire. She meant business. She was on her phone and giving someone the hard sell. But she was also standing by the hot dog stand and eating a hot dog. She needed to eat and make this deal and I thought she was fantastic. I am interested in little moments in time.”

While in New York, Nicole performed Dust, which will also be shown as part of a double bill at Dance City. When creating Dust, Nicole was inspired by Canadian educator and philosopher Marshall McLuhan who came up with the concept of ‘the global village’ and ideas of hot and cold media depending on how much effort is needed on the part of the viewer to determine meaning. The piece responds to themes of how we connect to each other and the world around us.

Nicole said: “We hope to provide an accessible introduction to contemporary dance for new audiences. If you haven’t yet experienced a contemporary dance show, take the plunge, come along and try something new.

“We are confident we can expel the myth that contemporary dance is reserved only for those ‘in the know’, and that new viewers can come along, have fun and experience the thrill and the drama of live dance.”

Surface Area Dance Theatre presents The Hard Sell and Dust at Newcastle’s Dance City on August 27 at 7.30pm. Visit www.dancecity.co.uk or book on 0191 261 0505.

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