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Dancer and photographer combine for Newcastle exhibition

Photos of Kristin Kelly Abbott go on show in Tina Wotherspoon's first solo exhibition at Dance City in Newcastle

Tim McGuinness Photographer Tina Wotherspoon who is exhibiting her latest work at Dance City in Newcastle
Photographer Tina Wotherspoon who is exhibiting her latest work at Dance City in Newcastle

One turned movement into still images while the other created a dance performance by studying pictures... you could say Tina Wotherspoon and Kristin Kelly Abbott represent the perfect partnership.

The results of their collaboration can be seen in Tina’s first solo exhibition as a photographer.

Its launch at Dance City tomorrow night will feature a live performance by Kristin who, in the summer, was commissioned to make a dance work inspired by the Divine Bodies exhibition at the Laing Art Gallery.

She had approached the Laing with a view to doing a project for her contemporary dance course at Newcastle College.

As she recalls: “I really enjoyed art at school and had a lot of interest in art history, but when I first went to the Laing I didn’t know what this exhibition was going to be about.

“I knew they were working on something big but it was only when we had a meeting that they were able to show me the pictures.

“They were really excited about it and I really loved the exhibition too. There were pictures from the National Gallery and the Tate and also from local galleries like the Hatton and Shipley.”

The exhibition, the Laing’s summer blockbuster, focused on the human body. “There was a lot of movement in the pictures,” says Kristin.

This had occurred to the curators, too. Rather than permision for a student project, Kristin received a professional commission to create a new dance work to be shown during the exhibition.

She also performed outside the gallery at the end of July and led some dance workshops.

Kristin and Tina met through Newcastle College. Tina did a foundation degree in photography, graduating with distinction a couple of years ago, and Kristin graduated this summer with a first class degree in contemporary dance.

Tina, in search of subject matter, was drawn to the excitement and challenge of dance; Kristin wanted someone to take photos of her work. A relationship and then a collaboration developed. Tina, who lives in Gosforth, recalls: “I took some photos of Kristin when she was exploring her original ideas in the dance studio at Newcastle College and I also took some in my own studio using special lights.

“I shadowed her and the other students as they built towards their final choreography pieces. Some of the photos were taken in a dance studio, others on a wet and cold night on top of the Castle Keep.”

The photos at Dance City show, in brilliant definition and beneath high gloss, the grace of contemporary dance but also the physical effort and dedication that lie behind it.

Dance is not the most straightforward of subjects, as Tina acknowledges.

“It is difficult sometimes. A lot of it comes down to intuition but you also have to listen to the music and be ready for the moment you want to capture. If you miss the moment, you’ll end up with something clunky or ugly.

“At first Kristin told me just to sit and watch but I took my camera and got a few shots.”

Kristin is pleased with the results. “I think they capture the essence of the Laing piece really well. Tina’s a wonderful photographer who works well with dancers.”

Both, naturally, hope good will come of the collaboration.

Tina is keen to establish herself as a professional in this specialist field and Kristin, who was already a professional dancer before she went to Newcastle College to complete her studies, is constantly on the lookout for work.

Originally from Drogheda, in Ireland, she moved to London and specialised in musical theatre.

While performing on a cruise ship she met her future husband, Wayne, who is from the North East and an officer in the merchant navy. They bumped into each other again in 2005 when Kristin was performing in a show about Tommy Cooper at the Tyne Theatre.

They ended up getting married and Kristin, having become interested in contemporary dance, relocated to the North East.

Since moving here she has worked with Sakoba Dance Theatre and has recently been commissioned for a new project initiated by South Shields-based company Creative Seed.

“I think you can have a better quality of life up here and still be involved in the industry,” says Kristin, who lives in Birtley.

“I think there are a lot of good choreographers at Dance City and in the North East and I think people up here try a bit harder to create opportunities.”

The exhibition at Dance City on Newcastle’s Temple Street is a good example of that.

Entry is free and it is open weekdays 9am to 7pm, Saturdays 9am to 5pm and Sundays 11am to 2pm. See more of Tina’s work at www.tinawotherspoonphotography.com

David Whetstone

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