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Reconfiguring TOUCH

Throughout the end of 2020 and the first few months of 2021, Nick and George (co-artistic directors of Four Hands) conducted a period of research and development, looking at ways we could adapt our participatory performance project TOUCH for a variety of COVID-responsive scenarios.

Over the course of this project we delivered the following activity as a part of our R&D process:

  • A digital R&D phase with 2 professional performers and their children, and community cast of 8 adults and 8 children carried out via Zoom to explore online possibilities of delivering workshops, performative content and independent filming processes

  • In-person R&D phase with professional cast to explore socially distanced options for choreographic material within original show

  • In-person R&D phase with community cast to explore socially distanced options for larger cast parts of the show

  • 2 days with a professional filmmaker, one professional performer and their child to explore options of capturing choreographic material from the original piece on camera to do some groundwork for our future ambition to create a new film version inspired by the work.

As we originally set out to do, we have successfully created a tiered menu of 3 options for the project/show to be run and be presented by venues regardless of any COVID scenario going forward.

These three options include:

  • A fully live/in-person version of Touch (requiring no or very limited COVID restrictions to be in place)

  • A fully digital version of Touch which can be delivered/presented remotely with online participatory workshops and sessions for families to work with Four Hands to develop a bespoke dance film

  • A socially distanced version of Touch, which can take place if social distancing measures are in place within indoor venues for both performers and audience members.

Over the course of our project we worked with a range of consultants who enhanced our process, research and learning. This included working with a production manager who advised us on the evolving COVID guidelines in relation to theatrical work and a digital specialist who advised us on various options for working online for the different elements of our project. We worked with a dramaturge and artistic director of Fevered Sleep to develop the creative ideas behind the project and 2 consultants to discuss future producing and programming options for the project longer term.

During the course of this project, we have learned a great deal, especially in regards to the reflexivity of process, during the ever-changing COVID restrictions. Despite the pandemic presenting many challenges, we have managed to use these challenges to focus on developing our practice in ways that wouldn’t have presented themselves if not for this unprecedented situation.

A huge element of learning and development for us was the expansion of our digital practice with the support of digital expert, Nic Sandiland. Through a series of sessions he was able to give us advice on a multitude of different remote-working options for the adaptation of TOUCH.

This research culminated in the formation of a future touring model where we will create 2 films: a professional film, made in collaboration with a film-maker and professional dancers, and community film, filmed by participants at home on their phones and facilitated by us over Zoom.

In the research for the community film, we settled on a task-based workshop process, using the Zoom platform, which proved to be a novel and exciting way for the participants to engage with us remotely. As a company, we hadn’t used this platform before. These research sessions have given us the confidence to deliver a fully-remote, digital version of Touch in the future. They also enabled us to work for the first time in participants’ home settings, which opened up exciting artistic opportunities. The results of this resrach can be seen in the film above.

Working with film-maker, Phil Moody, in the research of the professional film opened up a new area for collaboration and development for us, having not worked explicitly in the field of dance for film before. Through spending two days with him and some professional performers we were able to develop methods for capturing the essence of Touch through this medium, which we will be able to use in the future creation of the film.

We are now in the process of booking a tour for TOUCH commencing in 2022.

This project was supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

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