An ambitious new outdoors dance piece is 'full of firsts' for the former 'Dance Agent for Change' at Scottish Dance Theatre, Caroline Bowditch. Paul F Cockburn spoke to her during its recent run in Glasgow.
Paul F Cockburn: Was this a project you’ve had in mind for a while?
Caroline Bowditch: It’s an idea that’s been in my head for, I suppose, eight years; I’ve just kind of been drip-feeding it in the background. When the opportunity came up for the Unlimited commission, Kiki Gale — artistic director of East London Dance — said it would be wrong for me not to apply. I suggested several other projects to her, but she wasn’t sure if they’re really strong enough. Then I told her about Leaving Limbo Landing and she said: “That’s it!”
PFC: How would you describe the work?
CB: It’s a performance piece that happens on land, in air and in water. It explores our choices to leave or to stay, how you know it’s the right time to leave. Then it looks at being in suspended motion, where you can’t make contact with anything solid — which was basically how I felt for the first 18 months when I moved to the UK in 2002. I didn’t feel I could move forward or back; I was just kind of hovering above the earth, I hadn’t quite landed yet.
PFC: How challenging was putting the piece together?
CB: To get the commission I had to write 8,000 words, and try to imagine as much as I could about what it would look like. To be completely honest, though, my learning curve in making the piece was vertical! I’d never worked with aerial before; I’d never worked with so many dancers — I’ve never auditioned dancers before! I’d never just directed a piece before, having always been in any professional work that I’d made. This was a project full of firsts for me.
We were working at 3 Mills Studios in East London, so we could work on the set but undercover. I’d had a week in the studio with the dancers, working on tasks and generating material based on ideas that I had, but when I arrived on the day that the set was built, it was quite overwhelming. It had been in my head for so long, and on paper for so long — all of a sudden, it was a real object I could touch. It was quite amazing.
PFC: How important is this work for you?
CB: I think it’s hugely important. Previously, I’ve worked with other companies in the UK and Australia; I’ve never ever had a piece branded as Caroline Bowditch — so that’s pretty significant. I also feel that the point of the Unlimited commissions was about pushing disabled artists to places they’ve never gone before. I absolutely took that at its word. I feel now I’m at a place where I can’t go back, I can only forward. A lot of people have invested a lot of time, energy and money in me, too much for me not to make the most of that development and take this piece and my artistic career as far as I can.
Leaving Limbo Landing premiered at London Fields, Hackney, and formed part of Glasgow’s Merchant City Festival in July.
It runs from 16-20 August at St Andrew Square, Edinburgh, as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with performances at 1pm, 3.30pm and 6pm.
The show then comes to the Unlimited Festival at the Southbank Centre, London from 31 August to 1 September.
More information here