The GCSE journey of Artificial Things
ArtsPool's Director Heather Worall talks about the journey to shape "Artificial Things" into an educational resource.
I first met with Lucy in spring 2016 to discuss writing a guide to scene 3 of ''Artificial Things'' for the new GCSE Dance specification. This would be the first of the new ArtsPool resources for the Anthology and a work I was looking forward to analysing for students and teachers. The process was a collaboration with Lucy and the production team from start to finish, and the start of a great relationship with Stopgap.
"Artificial Things" is a beautiful inclusive work,and it was important that I communicated its' vocabulary and meanings accurately. Sometimes the overall artistry of a work of art can be lost when we have to reduce it to words, descriptions and examination language - but I didn’t want this to happen here. It was therefore important for me to design the resource in such a way that it matches the feeling of the work as well as giving students and teachers the appropriate information. The homepage needed to lead the viewer in and impress Lucy’s overall vision onto the memory banks.
After discussing stimuli and general facts, I always start with the production elements as these immerse me in the choreographer’s world straight away. Costume is usually my way in, followed by set and lighting. Set and Costume Designer Anna Jones was incredibly helpful in chatting to me about her designs and intentions, sending me her original sketches and inspirations.
I usually leave accompaniment until later, when I have understood the choreography better and can see the way the two art forms work together. Andy Higgs was incredibly generous in sending over his complete soundtrack with descriptions of the sections I needed to use.
Finding the correct language for describing inclusive movement and the ways in which Lucy grows her choreography was probably the greatest challenge of writing the resource. Both Dave and Laura move in a very personal and particular way and finding accurate words was an area where Lucy and I spent some time in discussion. Not only that, but we wanted to get the message across that Laura created the movement which Amy & David then developed and adapted to suit their bodies - and not the other way round. Lucy calls this her "unison of textures".
Embedding the dance works on the Anthology is a big thing for the new GCSE Dance specification, where students explore the vibrancy of the work in practical lessons rather than sit in dry theory lessons. This way they experience the work in its fullness, feel it in their bodies and work in the way that Lucy works with her dancers. I wanted to devote a large part of the resource to this, with diagrams of the movement content provided so that students can reconstruct the phrases. I also took Lucy’s task setting ideas and turned them into choreographic task cards for the students to work with. We ended up with 8 sections of 50 task cards plus countless motif diagrams and display materials which should keep everyone going!
The resource was released in July 2016 and teacher feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. They are using the resource to explore the movement and choreographic content of "Artificial Things" in the studio, and draw out the information for the written paper along the way. They are all reporting that their students are loving it!