What Might Have Been – The Seagulls

Lost Dog was commissioned by Dance City to create a piece for their new MA programme – The Collective.  So in February 2020 we sent two long term Lost Dog collaborators – Chris Evans and Rachele Rapisardi (along with their baby daughter Robyn) to Newcastle for three intensive weeks of creation and rehearsal.  Here Chris reflects on that creative process and the new wonders of ‘choreo-parenting’ (a concept that we fully embrace and would love to see more of).

I remember being at the train station in Kings Cross with Rachele, our baby girl Robyn (6 months at the time), and the largest amount of luggage we’d ever amassed for a single trip.  We were going to work.

Rachele and I had never been co-choreographers,  I had never made a Lost Dog show without Ben, but we were off to Newcastle for three weeks to work with Dance City’s MA course, making a show from scratch.  However daunting all this was, there was an exciting possibility that we could actually work AND be a family at the same time.  At the exact same time…..

The Collective company is a group of amazing young women who under the guidance and direction of David Lloyd were training in a wide range of physical theatre.  We were met with high energy and beaming faces, though walking into the studio with a tiny baby does help break the ice.

Ben led the first three days, while Rachele and I took turns to assist him.  What’s amazing about working with Ben is that he really does pay attention to the group, who they are, what interests them.  I’ve always known this forms the bases of what and how he makes work, but it really does require a ‘hands-off’ start to a creation.  To see what emerges from a room of strangers takes a lot of trust in a process, and helped quell my tendency to want as much prepared as possible on arrival!

The conversation that really got us moving was about being a performer.  The strange exchange with an audience, how it makes us feel, what it is to choose a life with that kind of uncertainty.  None of us realised at the time just how uncertain life was going to get.  Oh, and there were lengthy discussions about the seagulls which loiter outside the dance studio building, stealing everyone’s lunch.

On the second night, somewhere between making dinner and putting Robyn to bed, a massive leap was made, and we decided to make a version of Anton Chekhov’s The Seagull.  Talk about trusting the process.  We had never read the play, neither had a single one of the performers.  This massive creative limitation was Ben’s parting gift.

Ben left, we began.  The girls worked and worked, open-heartedly and courageously.  Faces turned white with shock when we came in and handed out scripts.  Rachele and I continued to play ‘Robyn tag’, leaving the room and never quite knowing what each other was making until show and tell in the evenings.  We pretended to be Ben making a show about a play we pretended to know about, and it was thrilling.

‘The Seagulls’ is a beautiful piece, one which probably won’t see the light of day.  For this reason, I’m really grateful that the process was one of the most rewarding I have ever had.

I learned so much during those three weeks.  Rachele is superhuman, Robyn to this day has never had so much adoring attention, and choreo-parenting is something we’ll be trying again.

Thank you to ‘The Collective’ who are just brilliant.  We loved sharing with you the joys of studio parenthood!  I’m sorry we didn’t get the show you absolutely deserved.

Thanks to the pandemic The Collective never got to perform ‘The Seagulls’. However, they went on to make a series of short solo films under the guidance of David Lloyd and with mentoring from Lost Dog and Gecko. You can watch these short films via the Dance City website HERE.

 

“Working with the Lost Dog team has been incredibly influential on my personal artistic practice. It has broadened my approach to process and given me so much artistic understanding to carry forward into my professional life. The environment that we worked in gave space and freedom to discover, I felt safe to explore and commit myself fully. I feel much more secure and empowered as a performer and creator thanks to working with Lost Dog.”

- Ellie Trow

“The time spent with Lost Dog was a combination of vast amounts of: knowledge, expertise and generosity; that I will carry with me throughout my career! Ben, Chris and Rachelle provided an eye opening insight into the inner workings of Lost Dog's company ethos and its unique state of mind. From Ben’s Haiku tasks, to the incorporation of ordinary scenarios into movement; I have been left with an enhanced appreciation of the brilliance that is Physical Theatre.”

Erin Hughes

“Working with Lost Dog has been a truly enriching experience, their breadth of knowledge and passion combined with the desire for discovery makes for a process like no other! Wonderful, slightly unhinged yet clever and sensitive in every way. I feel I have had the opportunity to surprise myself and grow as an artist thanks to the generosity and support offered in both their manner and work.”

Lily Dooks