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A View from Bell Square's Artistic Director: Stage or Street? Iron Skulls at Bell Square

Next up at Bell Square is Spanish dance company, Iron Skulls, with their show, Sinestesia

A few months ago, this show played at Sadlers Wells in central London, generally considered to be one of the world’s premier venues for international dance.  A review described the show as “fast, furious, streetwise and great fun” and “brilliant, high octane!” 

So, can a show transfer successfully from the main stage at a traditional dance theatre to the gritty, urban environment of a city street?  Well, this is street dance – and I would say the street is where it truly belongs!

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Seeing a performance in a theatre, and seeing it outdoors, is a very different experience.  I will be first in the queue to see a great piece of dance in a theatre – there can be something very special about the intensity and focus that this type of space brings.

But I also love seeing performance in a public space.  This is for everyone.  There are no conventions here, no artificial barriers - you can sit, stand, move around, enjoy the show however you like.  There is often a very direct connection between the audience and artists in an outdoor setting.  The artists are very close to you and the experience feels very real - sometimes quite raw.

Shows meant for indoors and outdoors are therefore usually quite different in style.  Very few shows work well both indoors and outdoors, because the context is so very different. 

Iron Skulls, though, is one of the few companies that perform successfully both indoors and outdoors, even with the same show - they understand how to adapt their shows for different environments.

Iron Skulls Company, based in Barcelona, is a dance collective that started in 2013, formed from a group of B-Boys called Iron Skulls Crew.  B-Boying is a form of street dance started by young Puerto Ricans and African Americans in the mid-1970s on the streets of the Bronx.  The Iron Skulls dancers come from across Spain and bring diverse influences to the group – contemporary dance, hip hop, martial arts and acrobatics.  They also interweave music production, fashion and graphic design, creating a very distinctive style of urban dance.

The “virtuosic, visual drama” of Iron Skulls (Guardian) has successfully graced the stages of the world’s most famous dance theatres.  It has also toured to many of the most famous outdoor festivals.  In 2017 alone, they have performed in France, Germany, Luxembourg, Finland, Slovenia, Hungary, Gibraltar, the USA and Costa Rica, in addition to Spain and the UK.

I saw this show outdoors in a huge public square in rural Spain. It was great.  I also saw it with an audience of about 8000 other people, which did create a special kind of atmosphere!

But for me, the soul of Sinestesia is on the street.  And I think I will like this show best of all when I see it at Bell Square – on a city street where it truly belongs.

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Come and decide for yourself – and let us know what you think!

Iron Skulls Company perform Sinestesia at Bell Square on Saturday 7 October.  There will be an afternoon performance at 2.30 pm and a ‘night-time’ performance at 6.30 pm.  The show lasts 25 minutes.

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Blogger in Residence London Unattached reviews Teatr Biuro Podróży presents Silence

Lucy from London Unattached came to Bell Square for the first time recently – here’s her first impressions of the space, performance and the crowd:

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I believe that theatre is for everyone, so when you discover a dynamic space like Bell Square in Hounslow, which is host to a fabulous outdoor art’s festival right in the heart of the town centre what’s not to love. This is a place where anyone and everyone of any age can access exciting theatre and performance from the UK and all around the world.

You can read the full blog here

You can follow London Unattached on social media here:

To keep up with upcoming events, visit our What’s On pages here

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Regular attendee Eva talks about the ‘You’ve Been Bell Squared’ Effect

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I remember my first visit to Bell Square was to watch Carousel last year – it was close to sunset and there was a actually a circus carousel in the middle of the brick-paved square.

I witnessed a most unusual phenomenon which transformed the local environment, brought people together for something really impactful and turned a normal day into something extraordinary.

That was Bell Square; the invisible theatre – you don’t know it exists until it magically pops up in front of you – creates a huge impact and then disappears again.  It’s as ethereal as the Cheshire Cat but whenever I go to see a performance or when I take other people along, I always feel I’ve been ‘Bell-Squared’ and so do they.

So what is the 'Bell Square effect'? It’s a very positive thing – it puts the shine back in your eyes and a beat in your heart.  It’s really quite hard to pin down the ‘je ne sais quoi-ness’ of it all, but if I was to try and articulate it, I would say it’s more about the eclectic mix than any one particular thing.

During the week, Bell Square is a somewhat mundance, paved red brick area which is transformed every other Saturday into an outdoor arts space, in the round with ‘pop up’ wooden seats. Hundreds of people arrive and gather in the space – all ages, backgrounds and nationalities are eager to see what’s on. Before each performance, a very loud bell tolls for five minutes – it sounds ominous almost but it’s certainly not, it’s the klaxon for people to assemble, the invisible curtain to rise and the company of performers to begin their show.

This is where the magic happens – it may be a company of contemporary dancers putting on something hard hitting, a social commentary like Company Chameleon with their show Of Man and Beat. Alternatively, it might involve walking round Hounslow with Tilted Productions to watch scenes of Belonging(s) play out in unusual settings such as a car park or beside a tower block.

Whatever is on, the ringing bell marks the start of an absorbing journey which may last up to an hour or more. Many of the performers are outdoor arts groups who also perform in theatres – there is something very special about these outside shows – there are no walls, there are no barriers, there is no stage. Many of the performers are happy to speak with the audience afterwards; it’s as if they are important as the players themselves to the success of the event.

What all of these performances have in common is they captivate the audience and everyone is drawn in momentarily and that experienced is shared. Whether it’s dance, acrobatics or theatre, there is a connection made between the public and the performers.

No matter how I’m feeling when I arrive, when I leave, I always feel like I’ve been part of something powerful and transformative and that I’ve learned something about life and the world through these powerful performances. It’s an incredibly powerful and uplifting experience.

Are you ready to be Bell Squared?

To keep up with upcoming events, visit our What’s On pages here

And if you are attending Bell Square events – don’t forget to share your experiences on social media using the #BellSquareLDN hash tag.

 

 

 

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Introducing Blogger in Residence Lucy from London Unattached

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TrendFEM is passing on the Bell Square Blogger in Residence baton to a new blogger who takes up residency in Bell Square for the next two months.

Lucy Foxell is a writer for London Unattached, a widely read and award winning London blog which focuses on all the great things this city has to offer in including Bell Square

You can follow London Unattached on social media here:

 

Facebook.com/LondonUnattached

instagram/londonunattached

https://instagram.com/londonunattached/

Twitter.com/Lon_Unattached

And if you are attending Bell Square events – don’t forget to share your experiences on social media using the #BellSquareLDN hash tag.

To keep up with upcoming events, visit out What’s On pages here

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An view from Bell Square's Artistic Director: Cia Ignifuga in London for the first time

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Across Europe, there are many festivals of outdoor arts.  One of the biggest and most spectacular is Fira Tàrrega.  Every September, this tiny Catalan town in Northern Spain plays host to an extraordinary array of outdoor theatre, dance and circus.  With roots dating back to the 1930s, Fira Tàrrega attracts thousands of artists, audiences and programmers from across the world.  The annual trip to Tàrrega feels like a pilgrimage to the spiritual home of outdoor arts.

Over four days, the festival presents hundreds of performances by artists from across Spain, Europe and beyond.  I go to Tàrrega to look for some of the best shows for Bell Square for the following year.  It is impossible to see everything, so I always arrive with a rigorous schedule that fills every waking moment with the most interesting looking shows!

A couple of years ago, when I arrived in Tàrrega, I asked Jordi Duran, the Artistic Director of the festival, for his top 3 recommendations of shows to see at the festival that year.  One of them was A House Is Not A Home – a new show being performed for the first time by a young theatre company called Companyia Ignífuga.  It wasn’t on my list but it was a great recommendation!

On 23 September, Cia Ignífuga brings A House Is Not A Home to Bell Square.  The company and the play on which their show is based will not be familiar to most people in London, so I hope some background information will be interesting alongside seeing the show.

CIA. IGNÍFUGA   Who are Cia Ignífuga? In English, they are Fireproof Theatre! The company started in Barcelona in 2011. At the Institut del Teatre, the university of performing arts in Barcelona, a group came together around a shared vision of what theatre should be, at this early point - this still rather disorientated point - of the 21st century.

This group of young theatre makers and actors want to make shows that comment on our contemporary lives.  And they want our experience as audiences, when we see their shows, to be emotional as well as intellectual.

A HOUSE IS NOT A HOMEA House Is Not A Home is Cia Ignífuga’s third show together.  It is based on Interior, a play by a Flemish writer, Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949).  Maeterlinck is remembered and recognised principally for his early plays, written in his late 20s and early 30s.  Interior was one of these notable works, written in 1894 when he was only 32.

Most of Maeterlinck’s work is written in a way that stirs the reader’s own feelings, stimulating their own imagination, and this comes through strongly in Cia Ignífuga’s adaptation of Maeterlinck’s play.  Maeterlinck wrote what he called ‘modern tragedy’ and believed that people are powerless against the forces of fate, that we are all pushed and pulled by circumstances beyond our control. 

A House Is Not A Home is a very simple story.  Friends and family start to arrive at a house for a dinner party.  The group are laughing and enjoying themselves, whilst they wait for the last guest to arrive.  It gets quite late and still the guest has not arrived.

A car then arrives at the house, unnoticed by the residents inside.  The two people inside the car have come with bad news. They can see the people inside the house, in high spirits, and argue about how they can break the bad news to them.  How can they disrupt this happy occasion?  The show then centres on this tension between the anxiety of the people outside the house, and the happiness and innocence of the people inside - and how, with a few words, their sense of security will be shattered.

It was partly Cia Ignífuga’s presentation of the piece that attracted me to this show.  Going to see it one night at the festival, I walked along a dark lane away from Tàrrega’s town centre to an even darker, muddy field.  In the field stood a ‘small house’.  The living room lights were on and we could see the inhabitant of the house preparing for her guests to arrive.

A few rows of chairs were set out for the audience a little way away from the house.  We were all given headphones through which we would hear the conversations inside the house and inside the car.  It is a slightly unsettling experience, voyeuristic. You can hear every word that they say, but you are outside in the dark.  They can’t see you, watching.   

The show demands from us a degree of self-reflection.  It reminds us of those moments, when we walk past our neighbour’s house at night and, protected by darkness, feel a temptation, almost a compulsion, to look into their home, to look into their lives, just for a moment as we pass by.

The show does create a certain degree of discomfort.  Laughing, Jordi had said, “It will be one of the most disturbing pieces in the festival this year!”  The conversation through headphones is close to you, you feel almost inside the show.  But you are also at a distance.  You are safe, it’s not you that this is happening to. But it could be you. This could happen to any one of us.

Come and see something different – and support this great young company!  This is their first international performance outside Spain.

A House Is Not A Home is at Bell Square on Saturday 23 September 2017.  There are 2 performances – at 7.30 pm and 9.15 pm.  The show lasts approximately 1 hour. Please arrive at least 20 minutes in advance to pick up your headphones and be instructed on how to use them.

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