Christine Devaney: 'Some are fascinated and try to work out what we're doing'
- Kelly Apter
- 8 August 2021
With the only live dance work at this year's Edinburgh International Festival, Curious Seed are set to deliver a playful and meditative outdoor experience
If the past 18 months have reaffirmed anything, it's that necessity is the mother of invention. In summer 2020, with dance studios and most other communal spaces closed, those who wished to move, stretch and create with others had to think well outside the box. Edinburgh-based dance company Curious Seed looked to one of the city's most iconic structures for inspiration: Arthur's Seat, looming high above Holyrood Park.
'I really needed to get out and dance to help me process everything that was building up in my body, mind and heart,' recalls artistic director, Christine Devaney. 'Initially I tried dancing on my own but it didn't feel right, so I asked others to join me on Sunday afternoons using the two-metre distance as an interesting challenge.'
To paraphrase the famous Sondheim musical, what started life as Sunday In The Park With Christine has evolved into Field: Something For The Future Now. The only live dance work at the 2021 Edinburgh International Festival, this durational piece will be performed over four hours in Holyrood Park. After a one-off performance last summer, Devaney has kept the basic premise of the work but invited some new personnel to join them. Giving Field a truly inter-generational feel, we'll see members of PRIME (a company for dancers aged 60+) alongside performers from Edinburgh-based youth arts organisation, Lyra.
'Also, some of the professional dancers who took part in Field last year are not available this year, so I've brought in new performers,' explains Devaney. 'And that in itself changes the work because although some of the piece follows scores, it's partly improvised. So by bringing in new people there will be new energy, different responses and new creative hearts.' The responses Devaney speaks of are many and varied: the majesty of Arthur's Seat, a hillside formed of volcanic rock; the nature and greenery of the parkland surrounding Holyrood Palace; and a sound score created live while they dance. Then, of course, there's the audience members who, in Devaney's experience, have their own set of responses to the dancers.
'Some people stop and watch and sometimes I'll go and have a little chat with them. Some watch from a distance, some walk through and don't make eye contact, while others are fascinated and try to work out what we're doing. But we're not controlling the audience and we didn't last year, either. Now that it's part of the International Festival programme, presumably more people will come along specifically to see what we're doing; but there's still that premise that you can stay for a while, just pass by or go and come back.'
With International Festival backing, this year's performance of Field will also make Curious Seed more visible in the park landscape, with gentle demarcations around the performance space and the addition of costumes. 'But the essence of the work will be the same,' says Devaney. 'Very open, very playful, very meditative and hopefully there will be a few surprises for people this year.'
Field: Something For The Future Now, Holyrood Park, Sunday 22 August, 1pm; Sunday 29 August, 4pm, free unticketed.