Garden Dances took place during the Liverpool International Garden Festival : 2nd May - 14th October 1984
THE FIRST IDEA was simple. Having been invited to take part in the Garden Festival, we decided to create garden dances. THE SECOND IDEA was also a gardening idea. Visitors to the Festival would be able to watch the dances grow. They would also - as prospective or collaborating gardeners or choreographers - be invited to join in or contribute to the creation of the dances.
Each day a number of short, varied dances were created on a common garden theme, drawing upon dance styles and genres from Africa, India, Europe, and North America. At the end of each day the dances were performed.
Left a copy of the Garden Dances leaflet which was handed out to and used as the basis for discussion with visitors during the performances.
During the course of each day all sorts happened. In addition to the creation, direction and rehearsal of Garden Dances, visitors watched dancers warming up and in training and joined in these exercises, children trained and played games with the dancers, and visitors to the Gardens socialised and talked with the Blackie Team.
Putting The Ideas Into Practice
The first step was to find the dancers and to create the stages on which they would work.
chosen to cover the range the styles, were a mix of people who had worked with us previously and who were new to the Blackie. They were Janice Murphy: Mapopa Mtonga: Surya Kumari: Fay Prendergast: Lorna Diekuuroh: Sui Kan Chiang (courtesy of Northern Ballet Theatre); and the Antics Dance Group ( Frank McConnell; Lani Christmas; Anne Barclay, and Ian Hughes)
The dances were performed on 3 circular stages created specially for the occassion. These were laid out in a line and each stage became the home for a dancer (or group of dancers for the day).
Above the three stages viewed from the road
How It Worked
Each day a the same dance was drawn onto each of the three stages and the dancers selected for the day. The dancers had to create a dance by the end of the day when they would perform it. Bill Harpe, the resident choreographer, was around to assist in this process.
Left Judy Bates (now Gough) drawing the daisy onto the stages at the start of the day. In the background Bill Harpe working with Sui Kan Chiang.
Creating The Dances
Above and left Bill working with Surya Kumari on the Butterfly and Bee dances; With Mapopa Mtonga and Frank McConnell on the Bee dance; and with Sui Kan Chiang on the Palm Tree dance.
Rehearsing and Performing the Dances
Since this is photography and not video, it is difficult to decide which of the photographs below are from final performances and which from rehearsals (but we have made informed guesses) - and the photos do give a sense of the range of the dances and the style of dance involved.
Above Frank McConnell and Mapopa Mtonga and below left Surya Kumari working on the Bee dance.
Above middle and right Surya Kumari and Janice Murphy performing the Butterfly dance below left Janice and Frank McConnell rehearsing the Butterfly dance
Above right Janice Murphy and below left Sui Kan Chiang performing the Hibiscus dance followed by a photograph of Sui and Janice performing the dance on their separate stages.
Above top the Mushroom Dance being worked on by Frank McConnell and Surya Kumari followed by Mapopa Mtanga performing the Mushroom Dance.
Above the Palm Dance being performed by Surya Kumari; and Lorna Diekuuroh and Sui Kan Chiang performing the Swallow Dance on their separate stages.
Working with Young People
As can be seen from the above photgraphs the dancers often worked with each other learning from each others skills. They also involved the audience, more often the younger members, both in learning about the dances and how they were created and in getting them to create their own dance.
Above Mapopa and Frank working with young people on the Bee Dance
Above Surya teaching hand gestures for the Robin Dance and the Butterfly Dance and below demonstrating positions for the Bee Dance.
Above Mapopa showing positions for the Mushroom Dance. Below two Blackie youngster (Sharon Martin and friend) work on creating a Palm Tree Dance.
In the latter days of the performances we moved to having two stages for dances and one for education/learning. This had the names of various dancers and dance companies written on it and was used as a place for discussions, playing games, etc.
Above the learning stage in operation from discussions to games.
The Dancers At Home on Their Stages
Alongside watching the dances being created people could watch the dancers practising/exercising (something that is a daily part of a dancers life).
Above Surya exercising with Antic dancers in the background and Frank exercising with Surya in the background
Sui Kan Chiang doing barre exercises with Surya and Frank in the background. Below Mapopa exercisng.
Above two Blackie youngsters (Maria Agatha and Colette Farrell) stretching prior to spending the day learning the dances and two members of Antic dance Company also doing stretching exercises. Below Antic Dance Company practising leaps, etc.
The myriad activities within Garden Dances, from creation to dancers exercising, could be watched by people passing by on the nearby road or people could approach the stages and spend time watching.
Depending on the time of day, it could be very busy or very quiet. In some cases schools or parties of young people actually booked times when they could take part.
The Blackie had a team of people handing out leaflets, talking to people watching and explaining what was happening.
Above people watching from the road and Kevin McIntyre handing out leaflets
Above Judy Bates (now Gough) talking to a watching policeman and Sally Morris talking to watchers and demonstraing dance moves. Below Fanchon Frohlich watching Surya Kumari work on the Mushroom Dance.
Janice Murphy: Mapopa Mtonga: Surya Kumari: Fay Prendergast: Lorna Diekuuroh: Sui Kan Chiang (courtesy of Northern Ballet Theatre); and the Antics Dance Group ( Frank McConnell; Lani Christmas; Anne Barclay, and Ian Hughes)
Resident Choreographer: Bill Harpe
Bill Harpe, Kevin McIntyre, Judy Bates, Fred Tomsett, Wendy Harpe. with Donna Ignacio, Nora van der Brugge, Cunie de Groot, Paul McGurty, Gerard Elliott, Hubert and John McHale, Michael Knight, Christine Trenery, Jimmy Cullen, and the Blackie staff. Stages constructed by James Foy.
Garden Dances were commissioned by the Peter Moores Foundation. And were supported through donations and discounts from Damart, Dylon Dyes Ltd., Jack Sharp Ltd., Littlewoods Ltd., Liverpool Community Transport, Esselte-Dymo Ltd., and Liverpool Central Libraries.
Our thanks to all.