Herefordshire based organisation, 2Faced Dance Company are returning with their BENCH project for the second year running, showcasing a triple bill of contemporary dance by and for three females choreographers.

For 2Faced Dance Company's Artistic Director Tamsin Fitzgerald the chance to break up the traditional mould and challenge more female choreographers to take centre stage was essential to the BENCH project. "The BENCH project came out of a period of research we had been doing as a company, almost like a rebranding process of 2Faced Dance Company" she says, "Feedback from venues, parents, audiences and such was that 2Faced Dance Company was recognised as a male company and I started to realise too that it was a male company". 2Faced do have quite a strong female influence behind their team, from the choreographers to the office staff. When commissioning some possible projects and choreographers to work with the male dancers "could only come up with around four or five notable female choreographers but could come up with 30 or 40 male choreographers who are established". During this time that Tamsin was undertaking research there was discussion amongst the press about a woman's role in dance, about "levelling the playing field and I just thought I'm going to do something about it".


The lack of equality for women in dance is at the top of Tamsin's agenda when presenting the BENCH project and is just as much of a reflection of her as a individual, choreographer or project manager, "What is it that led me to get where I am? What is it that prevented me from getting where I want to be or feel where I should be?". The object of women in dance is a big subject to undertake, with lots of things happening so it was vital that Tamsin could figure out what she could offer to those young women instead. "I couldn't tackle that work on my own but what I could do is offer training and mentoring for women who are emerging or mid career, as well as providing them links to venues both nationally and internationally".

"What is it that led me to get where I am? What is it that prevented me from getting where I want to be or feel where I should be?"
When chatting with Tamsin about why she thought there were gaps in the quality for women we discussed three various options that this may be. From the way in which women work, not that this necessarily means it's "gender specific but how we work in the arts is pretty much about who you know". She went on to explain how she felt "We don't have the same open applications within the sector, it's usually the same people getting those opportunities and nobody takes a risk". Another idea could be based around the addition of children, "having children and then taking a career break, people forgetting about who you are when you come back to it". Lastly this idea of people emerging but that possibly being "an ongoing cycle of constantly emerging".

The upcoming OUTLANDS UK Tour brings together cultural relationships between India and the UK, in tie with the UK-India Year of Culture 2017. India is a country which is worlds away with their approach to Dance compared to the UK, whilst we have funding strategies in place within our country for people to programme their work, this makes the young Indian artists "quite determined" in presenting their work, BENCH allows the idea of raising their profile. This unique collaboration gives young woman the opportunity to be mentored and create a piece of dance work in a professional capacity. Tamsin would love to see this project expand further towards countries like China and Africa as just a couple of examples. The triple bill work is very individual and specific to it's own choreographer, drawing on personal experiences but influences from their surroundings and culture to create a night of brilliant dance work in response to the lack of equality for women within the sector.




Commissioning work that isn't within a practical commute or distance has provided Tamsin and the BENCH project with it's own challenges, especially when the artist you have commissioned is in a different country. Taking risks with dance is something that Tamsin is recognising more from undertaking this collaboration, "it's interesting for me as I'm reviewing it but I haven't actually seen  it so we're taking a massive risk". A lot of the work that 2Faced produce is mapped on their own dancers. However, the artists do have mentors such as Kate Flat who can mentor the artists from a distance. "I think it'll be interesting by it's nature anyway, the two works from India have a different sense in how they go about creating work culturally so it'll be quite interesting to see how that work develops from something I saw from a 2 minute idea". 

"The two works from India have a different sense in how they go about creating work culturally so it'll be quite interesting to see how that work develops from something I saw from a 2 minute idea".
To decide on the choreographers in which the BENCH project decides to work on depends purely on what "BENCH could offer them at this point in their career? why do they need it? and how/are they going to have enough opportunity to utilise that?" and "once they're on their own, once the project has finished to continue in their professional development". With that in mind OUTLANDS Tour has a brilliant line up of artists; Hemabharathy Palani, Ronita Mookerji and Emma Jayne Park. 

Starting with Bangalore based artist Hemabharathy Palani, she will begin the triple bill with her piece Yashti. Described by Tamsin as "poetry in motion" at the centre of this work is the 'woman' and is inspired by the story of the Tulais plant and bringing in themes of conflict, confrontation, jealously, and growth. The piece will be performed as a solo by the artists themselves. Yashti will be accompanied by spoken poetry of Andal and Akka Mahadevi and classical Indian music composed by Miguel Marin. 

Next up is Ronita Mookerji's work WHO, a reflection on questions of identity and WHO explores what we list? From Bangalore in India, Mookerji's "visceral, raw and gripping" dance movement will be joined in her performance by contemporary dance and performance artist Prashant More. 

Showcasing the cultural relationship embodied within the BENCH project is UK choreographer Emma Jayne Park. Emma's "moving, connected and challenging" performance of It's Not Over Yet is an invitation to audiences to experience a part of her life that only the people close to her have bared witness to them. The work is inspired by Emma's own experience of being diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Hodgkinson Lymphoma. cancer diagnosis, treatment and remission. Expect to be drawn to the reality of cancer and the journey a young woman has undertook and still within. 

The OUTLANDS Tour will be beginning it's UK Tour on the 27 September at DEDA in Derby. 

You can also check it out at other venues across the country by heading over to the BENCH project website here


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