What Might Have Been – The Autumn Residency
Our annual Autumn Residency normally takes place on the first weekend of September at our home in Laughton, East Sussex. It’s one of the highlights of our year.
Alison Thomas, a participant in 2019’s Residency, reflects on her experience…
At the end of last August, I packed a bag, got on a train at London Bridge and escaped to rural Sussex for a few days. What happened over the next four days has stuck with me since and proved to be one of my 2019 highlights. So, when Lost Dog asked me to reflect on last year’s residency, (with the pandemic preventing this year’s from taking place), I was more than happy to dive back into my memory bank and relive some of the magic that took place in the countryside that long weekend.
Laughton Lodge is a co-housing community in East Sussex that overlooks 23 acres of land. With a small hall and shared facilities, quite a few fields and even some horses, the space is home to Lost Dog and their annual residency. It’s certainly a change from the mirrored dance studios you might normally find, but the peace and tranquillity provided the perfect backdrop to the long weekend. Additionally, being in Lost Dog’s home made me feel much more poised to understand and immerse myself in their creative process.
Mornings started with class from Pip Duke, Lost Dog’s Artistic Advisor, which combined ballet, yoga, and contemporary techniques to prepare us for the day. I’ve rarely enjoyed a class more, relaxing without pressure to perform, preparing my body and mind for the day ahead, and really establishing a feeling of togetherness amongst the participants. When the weather was at its best, we did class outside on the grass, with the sunshine, wind and softness underfoot adding to our sensitivities and awareness.
The focus of the residency was creative workshops with Ben Duke, who opened a door to his practice and methods, and generously offered up tools and techniques used in his work. Each day built on the one before, exploring a palette of movement and sound. We made strange noises and considered the difference between ourselves, others, and the audience. We told each other our most memorable stories, listened, and then retold them as our own. We made movement from text, and text from movement and paired the two together. We spent time in different emotions and tried to find the heart of the stories we were working with, playing with moments that needed movement and stillness, speech and silence. Mostly, we explored ideas and watched each other a lot. We asked questions, gave feedback and reflected on what was coming up. What I liked most, was that it felt like Ben was asking the same questions we were. With other companies I have worked with, residencies or workshops can sometimes feel like a dispensing of knowledge across a power dynamic, a handing out of teaching to students, or a requirement just for Arts Council ‘outreach’. But with Lost Dog, it really felt like we’d been welcomed to share and explore this practice together, and I found it especially comforting as an emerging artist to realise that Ben didn’t have all the answers either.
Possibly my favourite thing about the residency was the community feel that it fostered. Given the popularity and wideness of Lost Dog’s work, the residency attracted participants from a variety of backgrounds, including dancers, facilitators, choreographers, actors, storytellers, and even circus performers. Many were still in training, whilst others were well on their way through professional careers. We came from all over the country – and in some cases, internationally – and the group formed a strong bond, learning from and supporting each other. After a day of dancing, moving, taking risks and stepping out of comfort zones, telling stories and often being quite creatively vulnerable, we didn’t all just leave and go our separate ways. Instead, we gathered, reminiscing on the day, and ate together. If you’re considering applying for the residency next year but for some reason aren’t yet sold, let me tell you that the food will push you over the edge. Delicious home-made vegetarian meals at both lunch and dinner, including the famous humous made by Ben himself were definitely a highlight! However, in all seriousness, the opportunity to gather together over food, laugh and tell stories, felt like the epitome of Lost Dog: to tell “the epic and everyday stories we live and share”.
At the end of the weekend I left Laughton refreshed and delighted, but I don’t think I understood the impact of what we’d all been exploring together until I saw Juliet and Romeo a few months later in London. I had seen it before the residency and loved it, but something about those few days exploring Ben’s creative practice and the methods we had used to tell stories completely changed the piece for me. It took on a whole new level of detail and I could suddenly understand where the movement and text had come from, and how the content of the show had been formed. The residency gave me a behind the scenes access pass, welcoming me into this family of artists and creatives. It gave me tools that I still use today in my own practice, as well as the fondest of memories. When the time allows, I would recommend it to all.
Depending on government guidelines we very much hope that this year’s Residency might be able to go ahead early next year instead. Keep an eye on our Social Media or drop us an email at [email protected] if you’d like to be kept updated on our Residency plans.
“It was progressive and intuitive. I felt guided toward new ways of moving, pushed my practice further and out of my comfort zone.”
“It was lovely that Pippa, Ben, Emma and others involved were so present, open and welcoming throughout the whole stay and not just in the sessions - and such a lovely group of people taking the residency.”
“A really enjoyable and engaging collection of workshops which allowed us to explore a wide range of different tasks and ideas, all raising different questions and thoughts, stimulating interesting discussions amongst the group. Ben’s humor, open approach and friendly energy created an encouraging and supportive environment which allowed us to throw ourselves into all he presented.”