Holding a groove

25 June 2020

In this second series of Theatre Thursdays, we’re celebrating the very best of dance in Greater Manchester, by shining a light on some of the amazing artists that live here and the wonderful work they’re producing.

This week, we showcase Brink & Howl, a collaboration between Daisy Howell, the Director and Choreographer of Brink Dance Company, and Aaron Howell, Director of visual art company, Howl Creative. Together, Daisy and Aaron collaborate in making dance and digital performance work that holds groove and rave at its heart.

An excerpt from their production Hidden is available to watch on our YouTube channel for the next week.  Here in a Q&A with Daisy, we find out more about their collaborative journey so far, and how a shared love for rave, movement and visual art, made them hungry to make work that spoke to a generation.

Q1. Daisy, it’s great to have you and Aaron as part of Theatre Thursdays, tell us more about Brink & Howl.
Thanks for having us, it’s great to be be part the series! I’m Daisy and I’m the Director/Choreographer of Brink Dance Company, Aaron is the Director of Visual Art Company, Howl Creative, and together we collaborate in making Dance and Digital Performance Work. Based in the North West, we work with cross-collaborative art, focusing on themes of escapism, Dnb movement culture and underground rave scenes. Our work is geared towards the transformative, re-creating spaces both traditional and non traditional, inviting audiences into our fiercely physical, dreamlike, electric realities. We enjoy making work that is unpredictable and holds a sense of magic and grit when in performance. We work heavily with live projection, sound, animation, film, improvisation and contemporary dance, combining these forms and our skills together to create performance work that is experimental and escapist in its nature.

Q2. Tell us about your dance / creative background.
My dance roots began in both Wales and Manchester, where as a teenager I undertook my formal training at the Lowry Centre for Advanced Training Scheme and National Youth Dance Wales. Through these wonderful organisations and their support I was able to go on and study at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, where I graduated in 2018 with a MA in Contemporary Performance after touring internationally with the Dance Company Verve. Since then I have gone onto work as a professional Dancer for several Artists/Companies across the UK, whilst developing my own Dance and Digital Teaching practice and furthering my Choreographic work in collaboration with Howl Creative. My Dance journey so far has involved a series of new pathways and learning curves, with a great deal of my performance and creative work generated through unexpected opportunities and diving into unknown territories. Through riding the waves of freelancing, I have gained fresh sparks of creativity by making new connections and spinning many plates, all whilst developing my own freelance business. From working with film and music, to touring, teaching and researching, my dance journey has been a very wild, challenging and exciting one so far!

Aaron graduated from the Leeds of College of Art, specialising in Illustration. His brand Howl Creative has creatively worked across the realms of film, animation and live performance, successfully presenting his work throughout the Uk and Internationally. Aaron has received commission funding from Arts Council England, Random Acts in association with Channel 4, Light Night Leeds 2017, LightWaves Festival 2017, HOME Theatre Mcr, Sounds Like This Festival, Light Night Leeds 2018, York Mediale 2018 and The Lowry Theatre. As an artist fascinated with movement, Aaron has not only explored the exciting avenues of dance on film and in animation, but has taken on the role of dancer himself. Generating his own unique movement practice and collaborating with leading companies across the Uk, Aaron’s dance journey has been one of pushing movement boundaries and performance work to the next level.

Concerning our collaborative roots, Myself and Aaron met whilst studying in Leeds. Working together we quickly realised the love we shared for movement, visual art and rave. Hungry to make work that spoke to our generation of ravers, we began creating a movement practice and collaborative process that specialised in colliding our two fields. With myself new to visual art and Aaron new to dance, we shared our tools with one another and began presenting our work across various performance environments. Exploring rave scenes, testing out our movement language and developing creative partnerships across the North, we began shaping our vision for cross-collaborative work and the use of digital media with live performance. Over the last two years we have recieved commissions from the SHINE Emerging Artist Programme, DRIFT Manchester, The Lowry CAT and most recently Social Conventions London. We are passionate about making work that holds groove and rave at its heart, changing the status quo of where dance and digital work lies and developing high quality, digitally engaged and accessible opportunities for young people.

Q3. Tell us about your production Hidden, which is been featured in the Theatre Thursdays’ series.
Hidden is our most recent development. Inspired by modern day rave culture and the transformative and emotive states these scenes provide, we wanted to capture the intimate and fleeting moments of interaction people experience across the dance-floor. Highlighting the importance of human connection and shared escapism, this specific work is geared towards the movement language and how we can truly illustrate the unique movement qualities generated by these scenes of music, mass and misfit mayhem. Testing choreographic composition, musicality and structure, Hidden teases with the relationship of two bodies and how they interact within this heavy, bass-driven and electric environment. It is a work holding play and pleasure at its core, a collision of movement that drives the body to simply move with conviction, vulnerability and power.

Q4. What is your choreographic process?
In honesty, our choreographic process always begins within the midnight hours of a rave. As lovers of nightlife culture, most of our dance research happens here, live and within the crowd. We go and dance, improvise, film, and then bring all the interactions, sounds and feelings we have experienced back into the studio. It is all about bringing an authentic vibe to the floor and to our tone, and where best to find this… the actual dance-floor. This live and electric space is where we find our inspiration for music, visual design and animation. Through these experiences our movement language is developed through improvisation and sensory re-creation. You can never capture the full magic of rave within a studio, but you can begin to generate the feelings of drive, bass and connection that ultimately feeds into the real life experience.

We are not about re- presenting, moreso re-directing these moments of escapism and freedom towards our movement landscape and its emotive territory. Our process involves a great deal of endurance play and repetition, alongside bringing projection and visual art into the space so that they can work hand in hand. Nothing is made above the other, they are in tandem at all times. A rehearsal day will consist of us using live visuals within the space and testing how they interact with the movement.

We continually question the energy, look and composition generated within the environment, looking at how we can enhance and capture the movement language with its digital partner. Its all about dance and digital work coming together, creating a tone of mayhem and power that is less about a narrative but a raw primal feeling. It is a process based on our love for the craft and what rave has provided to us as artists. Fundamentally, I like to think our process is like a love note to the scene, music and memories we have shared together as collaborators over the years.

Q5. Why does a dance community in Greater Manchester matter to you as artists?
We are both Manchester based artists and are very proud of the City and the Artistic work happening across the North West. Manchester is a fantastic hub for music, rave, dance, party and community, something that is essential to the roots and feeling of our work. We love being part of the incredible dance network across the city and its of critical importance the scene continues to develop and express its voice. As a collection of artists we have a lot to say! To continuing developing our work, our outreach and our audiences, the dance community is essential to this growth and plays an important factor in our artistic support and learning. We also believe the arts scene in the North-West is a hidden gem. A growing bubble of artists are making, creating and shifting the scene all around the city and beyond. From dance, music, visual art and theatre, new things are constantly appearing and it is exciting to be part of this every-growing and vibrant pool of creators.

Q6. Where can people find out more about you and keep up-to-date with what you’re doing?
You can find us at our Facebook pages, Brink Dance Company & Howl Creative, alongside Instagram at brinkdancecompany & howl_creative. People can keep up to date with our next research project that will be in collaboration with the fantastic Manchester based Musician/DJ, LSMarley, alongside further information concerning our future workshops, online intensives and youth/professional opportunities.

Thank you to Daisy & Aaron for being part of Theatre Thursdays. Head over to our YouTube Channel to watch an excerpt of Hidden – watch here

Theatre Thursdays continues next week when the spotlight will be on the talented dance artist, Daniel Lukehurst. Until then, stay safe x

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"10 was such a wonderful experience - I cant wait to see more of your incredible work!" "Effortless grace, strength, humour and athleticism - a visual treat!" "We brought 65 young people to your performance tonight - every single one loved it! What an amazing show!" "This show reminded me why I dance and what I’m constantly working towards! Thank you for this experience!" "Such beauty in the small moments of this show - please don't stop doing what you’re doing"

Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!