On the 8th and 9th of April, Jem & Ella will be performed at The Sherman. It received its first public performance on that same stage two years ago. It feels like a good time to take stock and reflect personally on the process of making Jem & Ella.
In Jem & Ella we now dance the same material that we danced 2 years ago so the work has become a sort of yardstick. We’ve never been one of those families that marked or dated lines on the walls indicating our children’s growing heights- instead we’ve done things together. In the case of Louis my son its been touch rugby which we as a family all play. We’ve watched as he has far outstripped us in power speed and skill working his way up through the divisions to be a top class player representing U18 Wales- moving from boy to man. Anyhow Louis aside - with Ella it has always been through dance that we see those changes.
Jem & Ella is the yardstick. For example there is a section in which I rotate a table end on end across the stage as she clambers on it never touching the floor. Whereas two years ago we worried whether this 10 year old ‘did- of- a –girl’ was going to fall, this time the challenge is different-will she actually be able to contort her too long body around that obstacle as she is 8’’taller and considerably heavier? Indeed the whole feel of that section is different for me too. Whereas before it was for me mourning the loss of my little girl, now in reality she has gone: I’m dancing with a teenager/young woman. No better, no worse, but definitely different. Whereas before it was about my looming 50th birthday that has now also gone, I am now 50 so I am approaching the material differently and want different things from it.
I’m sure it must feel different for Ella too. It’s only through doing the work over the course of several years that these subtle shifts are revealed- directed by the ever excellent Paula Crutchlow who has a knack of recognising and teasing those subtleties out. I should say for those of you who have already seen the work that as well as reworking existing material we have added two completely new sections one of which is inspired by taking house dance classes at Jukebox studios over the last 3 months which was hilarious, invigorating, challenging and humiliating all at the same time (ever been totally out-danced by a 9 year old?). Thank you so much Clara Badejo for your awesome classes. The other newly developed section takes us into Ella’s teenage brain. You wouldn’t want to stay there for too long.
It’s a fascinating process and I hope we will be able to revisit it again and again. Getting back in the studio has been great despite flu’ all round. This work does just feel like the backbone of my/Run Ragged’s practise- its personal, its sustainable and life enhancing. For me that’s what art should be. Long may it continue- I hope for 10 or even 20 years? What better reason to make a show again and again than to dance with your daughter?
Oh yes I forgot to mention, the cherry on the cake is that Fran (wife and mother to Ella and I) is chaperoning the tour. In Harlech my son will join us (despite protest)- so the whole family will be on the road. Now that’s what I call family dance.
Jem Treays, Run Ragged Productions
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