Choreographed by Kevin Edward Turner, Refuse, our latest outdoor production, shines a light on migration, asylum and displacement.
Inspired by Théodore Géricault’s famous painting, The Raft of Medusa (1819) and the themes within the work, Refuse portrays and explores the human experience and the cost of migration.
The title, Refuse, is a play on words about the people who are refused and treated like refuse, as they leave their homeland and journey to find a better life.
Here we introduce you to Cameron Woolnough, JP Hon and Yue Ying Ho, our new dance artists who are in the cast and part of the company, who will perform the work on tour.
Q1. Hey guys! Thanks for joining us, to get started, can tell us about your dance background.
Cam: I started my dance training almost by accident. Whilst watching my twin sister and cousin at our local dance school, my mum asked me one day if I’d like to join in. From then on it was all three of us taking ballet and tap classes together, much to my Mum’s delight.
It wasn’t until a new teacher Kelly McClelland, introduced me to contemporary dance that I realised that it was contemporary that I was really interested in. A quick google search later and we were off to the Centre for Advanced Training Open Day at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance (NSCD).
This was the start of many long journeys back and forth from Cumbria to Leeds for the next four years. After CAT I auditioned for the foundation degree at NSCD, and I was offered a place to start full-time dance training. I then went on to study at NSCD for the next four years through the BPA degree course.
JP: I took my first Jazz Funk class with my friend when I was 17 years old, which motivated me to pursue dance. At the beginning, taking classes was just for fun. But as time went on, I got more chances to perform and learn different dance styles.
The opportunity came along to perform at a dance festival in Hong Kong, which led me to studying contemporary dance at The City University of Hong Kong. For the first time, I took part in an improvisation class. I was amazed by my body’s reaction to exploration. I felt my body and mind connect in a totally new way.
Yue Ying: I first began training at the age of five at the Pamela Miller Ballet School. Here I trained weekly in the Cecchetti style. I was first introduced to contemporary dance at the age of 16 during A Level dance. I thoroughly enjoyed the freedom contemporary dance gave me.
I then began my contemporary dance journey as part of County Youth Dance Company- performing new works as part of Swansea Dance Days, at the Taliesin Arts Theatre and the Dance House Cardiff.
I successfully entered National Youth Dance Wales in 2016 – under the artistic direction of Kerry Nicholls. Following on, I continued training under National Dance Company of Wales Associates programme.
My journey continued with training at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance where I completed my BA in Contemporary Dance in 2020. I completed my MA under the postgraduate company EMERGENCE at the University of Salford, under the artistic direction of Joss Arnott, in 2023.
Q2. Tell us about your most memorable dance experience. Either performing yourself or watching a performance.
Cam: My most memorable dance moment is when I was lucky enough to perform with 2Faced Dance company in a piece called Power. The piece choreographed by Alleyne Dance was performed at the Hay Festival in Abu Dhabi.
JP: One of my most memorable dance experiences would have to be my first performance after graduation. Originally this was a live performance for the Hong Kong Art Festival but in the end it became a dance film due to Covid. We had to rehearse at home via Zoom because of the government policy.
Unfortunately, I was really limited with space at home, so much so, I couldn’t even move my limbs when lying on the floor. I tried to practice at home, but the movement phrases required a lot of space. I remember feeling so frustrated at that time!
In the end, we returned to the studio for rehearsals in a group of two people. I felt so grateful to be back in the studio. I really treasured the larger space. We were so happy that the dance film was filmed and released on time because many of the dancers got Covid and there were so many government restrictions in place. We overcame so many challenges and obstacles together in this production. Not just in relation to the dancing.
Yue Ying: My most memorable experience is from my second year of training at Laban. I was part of a piece called Drumstick, choreographed by Alison Curtis-Jones. This piece for me was impactful because it made me realise my passion and love for performing high energy and physically challenging choreography.
Together the process and performance created an intensive couple of weeks. It made me value the strength of the human body. My mind and body were pushed to the extreme and I became stronger as a performer. This process made me realise how I need to continue to push and grow to achieve the same high I endured from this experience.
Q3. How are you finding being part of the Company at Chameleon?
Cam: Working with the everyone at Chameleon is ace! The company have such a great energy and create such a positive environment to work in. It’s so good to see how many other artists are using their studios or coming down for Company Class. It really feels like a hub for local artists in Manchester.
JP: It is my honour to have the chance to work on Refuse with Company Chameleon. I moved to United Kingdom in August 2022 and began looking for dance opportunities straight away. When I heard I had been successful in the audition, I was so excited, especially about the creation process and about working with new people in UK.
The concept behind this work connects with me personally, because of the Hong Kong political situation in 2019 and the immigration route to United Kingdom. I cannot overcome the power in the society, but I will keep living with faith. I hope Refuse will connect with people from different countries, who have faced similar challenges in their life, and I hope it gives them hope and faith.
Yue Ying: Everyone has been so welcoming and warm at Chameleon. Working with the Company has been very exciting so far. The choreography is very physical, which has allowed me to explore more of what is possible with movement and power.
Working with the Company Dancers and seeing their different strengths and personal practices, has allowed me to see the versatility that comes from the Company and how everyone brings something unique and special to their role.
The raw subject matter of Refuse has made me question my own background and how I can tap into my inner and deeper emotions to convey the subject’s importance.
Q4. What are you looking forward to most about touring Refuse with the Company?
Cam: Refuse is going to be a real thought-provoking piece of dance. I’m really interested to see how it’s received and how we can challenge people’s perceptions.
JP: I’m looking forward to connecting with the audience and hearing their feedback. As an outdoor performance that is not performed on a traditional stage, the distance between the performers and the audience will be close and I’m looking forward to the energy exchange. I’m curious about how the audience will react. Their feedback will be the motivation for me to improve and keep the fire going. I cannot wait to perform the premiere in June!
Yue Ying: I’m looking forward to touring the piece and seeing the audiences’ reaction. The set itself is visually striking and I think the subject matter is very relevant and the production shares an important message which needs to be heard. I think dance itself should be accessible for everyone, not just those who regularly visit theatres. So, I am very happy that the piece will be toured outdoors, reaching new audiences. I’m also excited to see how the piece develops overtime and what new things can come from each performance.
Refuse will premiere this summer at Company Chameleon’s studios in Openshaw, Manchester, on Friday 9 June. Tickets go on sale later this month. Keep an eye on our website and social for further details.
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Thank you to everyone who comes to watch us perform and for all your wonderful comments and feedback!