Outdoor arts with its lack of confines and endlessly imaginative use of space and surrounding encompass the new direction that art is taking. Instead of demanding underprivileged and culturally isolated communities to seek out the arts, the arts are conveniently brought to them as well as new experiences.
Our July performance of Lance Moi by dance duo Joli Vyann offered just that. It was a moving portrayal of human intimacy and explored the possibilities between two people. It was intensely real and vivacious in its production of human love and our audiences loved it.
A few members of the local community stared and waited fascinated as the dancers practised. Staff from the local Chinese restaurant peered, curiosity getting the better of them, out of their window to see the preparations.
One South Asian woman stood, lips pursed and arms crossed as she eyed the duo. I handed her a flyer and wanted to know if she was excited for the show. She uncomfortably expressed how odd it was for her to see two people so intimately dancing. She continued to describe her shock at the brazen sensuality of the duo in touching and moving with each other. I could instantly see her perspective and each movement the couple did turned suddenly from intimate to unnecessarily sensual. Coming from a similar background, the women’s opinions reflected sensibilities in the community that I am very familiar with. However, the novelty of Outdoor arts or the Arts in general is that it allows you appreciate the nuances of other cultures whilst understanding what makes it different from your own. The women left me still visibly uncomfortable as I continued to hand out flyers.
The Bell Square audience, indicative of the Hounslow community, is always diverse. As the show began older Indian aunties stopped to stare in awe as the dancers teased and leaped across the square. A young Somali family, two boys still in their long white thobes from the mosque, scrambled to sit at the front of the stage to stare as one dancer climbed on top of the other's body until she stood one foot in the air and the other balancing precariously on his head. The whole community held its breath as the woman was flung into the air and landed almost gracefully on her partner’s chest.
After the show I approached the women again. I expected a conservative dismissal of Joli Vyann with its perceived over the top theatrics and sensual dancing yet she smiled and spoke about how much she enjoyed the performance.
This is why Outdoor arts are so essential! Bell Square and the emerging outdoor arts programme exposes different perspectives to the diverse community that so consistently go there. Whether it is Polish theatre which tempts us to be nostalgic about faraway lands we’ve never been to or contemporary football Hip-Hop with Highly Sprung that speaks on a past time that's familiar to everyone, Outdoor arts bridges a gap in the community that Hounslow sorely needs.