Without Walls TALKS: Moving from indoor to outdoor work, by Alleyne Dance
18 October 2021
Kristina and Sadé Alleyne are twin sisters and founders of the UK based dance company, Alleyne Dance. Their show BONDED is currently part of the Without Walls 2021 Programme, a new outdoor work exploring the construct of human dependency – especially that of siblings – and how time and external conditions can affect the synergetic connection.
Here they discuss moving from making indoor work to outdoor work, offering advice and reflections for artists considering a transition into the outdoor arts.
As a company we’ve always had an interest in engaging with new audiences, and often offered to perform extracts of our indoor productions outdoors in different locations. We thoroughly enjoyed doing this, as we got to meet and share memories with the communities of the countries, cities and towns we visited.
This led us to make work specifically for outdoors, with elements of surprise and storytelling that captivate accidental audiences who stumble across our performance. Performing indoors, we didn’t always get the opportunity to meet our audiences. A certain type of person will pay in advance to see our shows, but what about those who haven’t stepped into a theatre before? Creating work deliberately for the outdoors removed this void, as we could meet and talk to our audiences, and see their immediate response as we performed.
One thing we’ve found interesting about performing outdoors is how involved audiences are with social media, capturing and sharing memorable moments on their cameras and smartphones. We receive a lot of feedback and thanks on social media, which has been an incredible experience.
"A certain type of person will pay in advance to see our shows, but what about those who haven’t stepped into a theatre before?"
Our work celebrates our diverse expression in Afro-Caribbean, West African, Kathak, Hip-hop and basic circus skills, within a contemporary dance context. Our aim was to create a 30-minute dance piece that would entertain audiences, move them, be something that they could easily follow and to make them want to stay for the entire performance. This resulted in the creation of our first outdoor work, BONDED.
BONDED explores the construct of human dependency, especially that of siblings, and how time and external conditions can affect this synergetic connection. BONDED is an abstract but narrative-led piece of work, which provokes audiences to connect and have their own interpretation.
The piece starts with a physical divide present on stage. This divide, though keeping us two performers apart, also demonstrates our connection, as the audience see us moving and responding to external factors in the same identical manner. At a certain point, the connection is broken and our synergy is interrupted, causing an imbalance. One of us becomes less able to keep up, physically and mentally and the audience begin, for the first time, to see us as two individuals. As the physical bond slowly deteriorates, audiences see the internal bond of love, support and connection strengthened.
"As we were creating a dance performance and not a circus performance, we had to consider how to surprise the audience and create that wow-factor"
The challenge of making this work was to create a set striking enough to intrigue people, without it becoming the focus of the performance. We wanted the audience to fall in love with us, the dance, the storytelling and for the set to offer an additional dimension to the performance. This is what inspired us to create images that appear towards the end of the performance inside the set. These images remain after the 30-minute performance, which allows the audience to reflect on what they have just witnessed.
As we were creating a dance performance and not a circus performance, we had to consider how to surprise the audience and create that wow-factor, which we did by rotating, breaking and animating our transparent set, creating mist inside and going beyond gravity in our performance. Our characters also shifted, as we wanted the audience to relate to the love and search for each other, to witness the desperation, the sadness, the loss and the recovery.
Accessibility was also a challenge in creating BONDED, as we wanted the show to cater for a wide range of people. We questioned the choreography, for example having less floor work for better sight lines and deciding to use only movement and no text. We created easy reads for organised audiences, used catchy music, and made the piece 360 degrees, so that more people can approach and see what’s happening with ease.
We also needed the set to be easy to transport from location to location, with a quick set-up and pack-down for outdoor spaces. Our solution was to have panels that were easy to set-up and dismantle, that we could pack into a small trolley and fit into a regular size van. We are also currently researching how we could create a second set abroad, which would enable us to take this work overseas.
"There are no complete silences, so how do you create subtle moments in your performance? How do you captivate accidental audiences and keep them throughout the entire piece?"
The advice we would give to artists that are looking to create work outdoors is to imagine that there are no blind spots, that the audience can see everything. Consider the length; 30 minutes might actually be too long for an outdoor audience to remain. As BONDED is a 30-minute piece, we created different dimensions within the set to change and diversify the audience’s view. Consider how and what you would like the audience to focus on. There are no complete silences, so how do you create subtle moments in your performance? How do you captivate accidental audiences and keep them throughout the entire piece?
Despite the challenges and considerations, the response from outdoor audiences is priceless: the screams, the shouts, the audience members clapping along to the music. As indoor work often has a different etiquette, this kind of audience engagement can only happen outdoors. Moving our work from indoors to outdoors has been a beautiful experience, and something we would highly recommend to other artists.
About the Author
Kristina and Sadé Alleyne are founders of the UK based dance company, Alleyne Dance. The choreographic aesthetic reflects the sisters diverse background in athleticism and dance training.
Within their abstract contemporary construct, Alleyne Dance blend Afro-Caribbean, Hip Hop, Kathak and Circus Skills, delivered as fast-paced and dynamic movement. They infuse lyrical and fluid motion, layered with rhythm and textures in physically powerful, yet graceful performances.
In 2020 Kristina and Sadé were jointly awarded “Best Female Dancer of the Year” for their performance A Night’s Game in Impulstanz Vienna 2019, awarded by Kritikerumfrage-Jahrbuch 2020 (Critic Survey – Yearbook 2020), Publishedby Der Theaterverlag, Tanz Jahrbuch 2020 magazine.
Find out more about Alleyne Dance here.