<strong>Moving dance tribute to the North East's heritage reinvigorates industrial communities</strong>

Moving dance tribute to the North East’s heritage reinvigorates industrial communities

North East tour: October – November 2022

Inspired by the notion of ‘almost too serious’, Stairwall – The Things We Find, is a playful exchange of dance, visual art, and music, which holds the beauty of the North East, and the stories communities offer at its core. From Dance Artist Esther Huss (ABOUT US, MAO Gallery; Faust & Turandot, Royal Opera House; Trinkets, Tate Britain) comes a new ever-changing visual piece, exploring how residents connect through their local communities. The North East has become a catalyst for German-born Esther’s work, reminding her of the local values instilled in her upbringing and the tight-knit sense of neighbourhood kindness she grew up with.

Collaborating alongside visual artist Claudia Sacher (Breath of my Garden, Gibside; Minor Injury, Healey; Marking Time/ Tritt Auf der Stelle, Museum Folkwang Essen), and sound artist Jeremy Bradfield (The Snow Queen, Northern Stage; Tyne Rising, Newcastle Puppetry Festival; The Tin Foil Astronaut, Kitchen Zoo), Huss creates a blend of creative energy; each art form draws from the other to form a physical manifestation of the North East. Backed by Bradfield’s improvised score, Sacher creates art on the set: a largescale wall that can be climbed on or revolved depending on how the tension in the performance rises. Huss works in tandem with the score and art, feeding off the constantly changing atmosphere to create a dance that will never be the same routine twice.

Before each Stairwall performance, Huss and her collaborators will lead workshops with a local community group, including primary schools and youth groups, which will influence the direction of her performance. As well as this unique chance to engage with the performance in advance, audiences will be encouraged to bring an item that they feel represents their community to inform and inspire the performance.

Workshop groups contribute their own experiences of growing in these communities, rooting Stairwall as a space in which an audience becomes familiar and can connect with their heritage. Esther’s practice puts a large focus on emphasising unusual and underused spaces. Stairwall features a National Trust site, a village hall on the edge of Hadrian’s Wall, a local mining institute, and a functioning timber merchants in the heart of North Shields. Placing performances in these spaces ignites the history that the venues hold in the North East, combining contemporary audiences’ experiences with the stories that precede them.

Esther comments, I want to show those moments of truth that audiences can connect with. Stairwall allows an audience to bring their own experiences, dreams, fears, and hopes to the piece. By taking it to their communities in the North East we root it in a space they’re familiar with and they can connect with it even more. It’s magic.

Stairwall is made possible with funds from Arts Council England, Dance City, and Northumberland County Council, leading organisations in the North East focusing on cultivating Northern artists’ work.

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