The life of PRIME: Company blogs from 2015

life of prime

Our trip to Eden Court by Margaret Hughes | 5 October 2015

It promised to be a long day. As we boarded the mini bus at about 9am in Edinburgh I luxuriated in the thought than after many years of planning excursions for children, this time someone else had to deal with the organisation and all I had to do was turn up on time and behave (reasonably) well.

It was a relaxing and enjoyable trip and we observed some amazing scenery-enhanced by bright sunshine. It was definitely going to be a good day in every sense. Rows of Scots pines edged the road in places like a protective army, with the delicate autumnal yellow leaves of birches peering through. Lonely whitewashed farmhouses dotted the expansive landscape as we travelled North.

I felt a deep sense of long ago- of battles lost and won-of space and isolation.

The natural beauty of the land was marred only by wind turbines, occasional broken fences and of course, the road we travelled on.

On arrival I was impressed by Eden Court-aptly named. It is a lovely venue set in landscaped rounds. It boasts a good sized theatre, rehearsal rooms and dressing rooms with mirrors surrounded by lights! Just like in the movies!

All that was missing was a  map so I didn’t wander in circles!

I shall skim over our performance-the nerves, the dance, the applause- we were Prime. We ARE prime! What more is there to say?

We left Inverness that evening, feeling good-so good that in some way into our journey, some of us just could not resist breaking into song-songs from WAY back. I’m still not sure how much the back of the bus enjoyed our efforts (maybe they just didn’t know the words) but we at the front, had a ball!

Our trip to Eden Court by Pippa Hazelgrove | 7 October 2015 

The journeys

It struck me forcibly on the journeys up and back that we weren't  going "anywhere".  But to Inverness. In the Highlands. A most perfect sunny autumn day to see its beauties and grandeur. From the minibus windows we saw: hills and mountains, some with a blush of heather still visible, some with  golden bracken coming out; rock faces of great age; silver birches in abundance, with their white barks and leaves beginning to turn; on the journey back high rounded mountains with pink cotton wool clouds traced through them; and more, so much more.

The company

This motley crew. How we love and support each other. Yes, we really do - on the journey up paying for each other's 30p toilet stop at Pitlochry. Can it get more generous than this? On the way back a sing song from some - 50s, 60s pop songs, then a regression (or advancement) to Children's Favourites, finishing up with Musicals. The silent company members probably had their earplugs desperately shoved into their ears. And always Helen looks after us with heroic patience and Morag works and exhorts us.

The performances

A magnificent Arts centre at Inverness. Labyrinthine corridors backstage and up and down floors that tested our orienteering skills. A technical rehearsal for Tarn and Rollin' in the Deep on the big stage with such contrasted and perfect lighting from Jeanine - Tarn mellow and soft; Rollin' red and vibrant. Then. Finally. We perform. Standing together for Tarn (costumed variously in grey). As the lights go up slowly and the music gently infuses we begin our story - whatever that is to each of us. For the first time in performance we couldn't actually see our audience, so imagining loved ones out there to help us connect and offer out to everybody. Then for those of us dancing Rollin' a  change of gear (black jackets and trousers; sparkly tops and trainers) and personality - to be "filthy"! Yes, us nice Edinburgh ladies asked to be filthy. Did we need any persuading?

PRIME Dance Base residency by Judy Adams | 12 October 2015

"Growing old disgracefully" is the ethos behind the GOLD company from Canberra, Australia who were in residence at Dance Base last week.  So no wonder then that Gold and PRIME had a wonderful time dancing together.

On Tuesday 6th October we all met in studio 2 to discover that Gold's Artistic Director, Liz Lea and their Rehearsal Director Elisabetta d'Aloia would not be arriving until the next day.  It seemed sensible to begin our residency by getting to know one another and share our dancing experiences - which we did at some length that first morning.

Then we all felt ready to dance. After a quick warm up together Gold taught Prime "Click Song".  This had been made by Charmaine Hallam as part of a work by Liz Lea telling the story of Ahmed Kathrada, the South African politician and former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist.  The dance is based on a variation of the Cha-Cha step, and Prime loved learning it.  In turn we taught Gold "Rollin in the Deep" choreographed by our own Artistic Director Morag Deyes.  Jazzy and raunchy, this dance had huge appeal for the Golds!

We all enjoyed showing Elisabetta "Rollin in the Deep" on Wednesday before she began leading us through various improvisation exercises.

This fascinating process developed through a series of tasks to create movement and tableaux which we were asked to "put in your pockets".

When Liz arrived we learnt a phrase from her Light Dance celebrating 2015, the International Year of Light.  Working in pairs, then small groups, this phrase was extended and developed into individual interpretations.  Finally these were linked into a dance piece for the combined Gold and Prime groups.

This work continued for the rest of the residency along with excellent classes from Elisabetta.  Amongst many ideas, she showed us how to develop stretching exercises through working in pairs.  By this time Gold and Prime had become firm friends!  "And then it happened, as if by osmosis!"  -  Light took shape and we had a piece to show at 5pm on Friday afternoon.

Performing on Saturday evening at the end of our residency was the highlight of the week.  We were joined by Scottish Ballet Elders company for a delightfully varied programme.  Gold danced two pieces full of fun and entertainment.  PRIME loved performing Tarn with all twelve company members together.  A joyous and special evening!  We feel sad to say goodbye to Gold - but maybe we will visit them one day and all dance together again.

PRIME Dance Base Residency by Rosie Orr | 12 October 2015

A great atmosphere in Studio 2 on Tuesday when the 10 members of Gold arrive - 9 women and one man, so some male company for Damian at last!  On getting acquainted we are completely humbled to learn that they have self-funded their tour here and have to raise funds for everything they do.  We already felt lucky and privileged to be part of PRIME, but now so much more so!  With no official teacher available today, we are taught Tai Chi and Bush Dance (not quite what we expected) and their Click Song by Gold, and we reciprocate by teaching them Rollin in the Deep, which they love!  And so to the pub, to get better acquainted...

On Wednesday, with Judy and Christine now back, we have the full PRIME family together again for the first time since the Festival, and it feels “GLORIOUS”!  Elisabetta and Liz arrive today and the more serious work of the week begins: great classes from Elisabetta and working on variations on Liz’s “Light” piece with them both.  Elisabetta keeps telling us to put things in an imaginary pocket for use later - I worry mine is getting rather full?

On Thursday I discover over lunch that one of Gold (short for Growing Old Disgracefully) definitely lives up to their name - she has been arrested twice (for peaceful political protest).  PRIME has some catching up to do?!  Back in the studio the Light piece is coming together in a really interesting way.  Then off to Jill’s wonderful house and garden for cakes and afternoon tea and chat and a photo of a strange vending machine in the Fiddlers Arms’ female toilet!  Then off to the pub with Gold... Is a pattern emerging?

More great class and Light rehearsal on Friday, followed by an amazing sharing of Sari Palmgren’s residency in Studio 4.  Stunning!  Then our own sharing:  the Click Song (which Gold has now gifted to us), Light Variations and Rolling in the Deep (which PRIME has now gifted to Gold).

Saturday and the culmination of our week:  the performance of Tarn goes really well and we manage to increase the number performing Rolling in the Deep to 9, to the delight of all. The audience is so warm and receptive it’s a wonderful experience.  Then red wine (lots), chat with friends and a sad goodbye to Gold.  They’re such an interesting, fun and feisty bunch and we all bonded so well, hopefully the goodbyes won’t be forever ...and we will all see each other again one day.


Citymoves, Aberdeen by Diane Mitchell | October 18 2015

‘There are 854 years of life lived...’

Annie’s disembodied voice floats over us as the lights gradually rise on ‘Tarn’. As always, I get that spine tingle of anticipation (Jeanine our Pilates teacher would be pleased) as we prepare to dance. But hang on - 854 years? It’s Annie’s birthday today so it should be 855!

It was an early yawning start from Edinburgh (7.45 am!) but we all made it on time and Jim’s trusty mini bus transported us smoothly to Aberdeen. Once there Helen helped us settle in to our changing space -a club by night with a most interesting floor surface. It felt a bit like walking on a carpet made of chewing gum. Morag rehearsed us and primed us and finally we performed alongside SBEC, and two Aberdeen dance groups, Quicksilver and Stepforward.

‘Rollin’ in the Deep’ closed the show and we rocked them to the rafters.

On the return to Edinburgh we sang just one heartfelt song.  It was a rousing chorus of Happy Birthday to Annie. And yes, we still need her; yes we’ll still feed her now she’s 64!

By the time PRIME reaches its first birthday in February that 854 number will definitely have to be re-calculated. Twelve cast members will each be a year older with a grand total of 866 years between them and hopefully ever rising.

Damian’s PRIME Blog, Aberdeen | 18 October 2015

Six hours of travel, there and back, over five hours of warm up, teching, dressing and undressing and hanging about; all for ten minutes of performance. What on earth was going on? There was time on the bus there for me to re-read ‘Mythologies’ by Roland Barthes in which he deciphers the socio-cultural significance of various public spectacles, such as wrestling and striptease. Mark Morris created several pieces based on this book; so it is not too outlandish to wonder what Barthes might have made of Tarn or of the wider phenomenon of ‘elder dance’.

I luxuriated, as ever, in the splendid isolation of the gents changing room at the beginning and end of the gig but was hurled into the glorious frenzy of a unisex experience when we, all twelve members of PRIME, had three minutes to change costumes in a cubicle off the side of the stage. Apart from one woman from another group shouting at me that I wasn’t supposed to be in there, it went quite well. The comedic possibilities of us trying to find the right clothes might be an inspiration for PRIME’s next piece.

In the Q&A after the performance we explored some of the things that help us to become effective groups and also why so few older men are taking up the opportunity to perform. One man confessed to being concerned about the risk of looking stupid. Another revealed that he had danced with the Jimmy Shand Band in Australia. He also claimed to be the oldest dancer in the room but we never got to the bottom of that.

We could have spent the time on the bus home discussing the potential place of PRIME in the post post-modernist artistic canon but we didn’t. Instead, we eat stuff, drank coffee, sang Happy Birthday to Annie and agreed that it was good to be back an hour earlier than planned; even if it meant abandoning Morag to run a late afternoon class in Aberdeen by herself.

Tramway, Glasgow by Annie Young | 25 October 2015

We are off to 'the dear green place', that is my native city and the final destination of the tour.  I was so proud and happy to be home, albeit for such a short time. Sunday afternoons always seemed interminable to me as a teenager.  The clock seemed to stay at 3pm FOREVER!

To Tramway: ‘an industrial cathedral that connects art with humanity.  It's real, it speaks of the city's history, it speaks of Glasgow.’  Peter Brook wrote this about the only UK performance (1988) of Mahabarata in the old Tramway.  I was there too for this marathon performance, featuring a turbaned 14 year old Akram Khan.

The magnificent spectacle of simplicity was electric BUT just behind me I could hear the insistent sound of a fountain pen on notepaper.  Readers, it was not going to stop.  The inevitable, ‘could you stop that?’ was uttered.  The irritant stopped.  The apology was instantaneous and even more profusely again during the interval.  Peter Brook was suitably chastised.

Well, as they say, you can take the girl out of Glasgow but you can't take Glasgow out of the girl. So, ‘could you stop that’ has lain lurking submerged for decades only to resurface from the depths and surfaced in Tarn.  Today Tarn tentacled out onto the floor of the new Tramway and the fabulous open space of the Peter Darrell Studio.  Oh, the magnitude of the empty space was awash with the waters of our mountain Tarn.  It overflowed and pulsated with our life stories.  Prime time was our gift to give to all.

The effervescent joy of our gold fronted plumage Rollin in the Deep affirmed our "need to perform".  We were twice blessed with two performances.

To quote in Glasgow parliance, it's no bumin, if yer telling the truth, so here are two verbatim quotes.  I have no shame...

"That was absolutely brilliant".  "We would easily have paid double to see it".

So to Angus, Morag, Jeannine, Helen, Paddy, Jimmy (our driver), Scottish Ballet Elders, The Force, Steptex, Broken and PRIME let us have an intake of breath and say on the exhalation with joy:

It was.........GLORIOUS!!!!!

PRIME in Glasgow by Jill Knox | 26 October 2015

On Sunday October 25th, Prime went to Glasgow for the last performance in the current tour. Helen made all the arrangements and looked after us beautifully and Jeanine Byrne came with us too as Morag was away in Bilbao. Jim’s coach took us door to door and I banged my head on the door of the coach as usual. It was great to be back at Scottish Ballet’s Peter Darrell studio at the Tramway. I love this place. It is full of photographs of dancers who have danced in Scottish Ballet and it brings back happy memories of wonderful performances over the years, so it is pretty hallowed ground.

We met the Glasgow dancers in Scottish Ballet Elders’ Company and we know each other well now as we have danced together in all the Scottish venues on the tour, so lots of hugs and greetings before we got down to preparing for the two performances.

First we did a warm up with all the performers and we met the Scottish Ballet Youth Exchange including Vikki Clark and Lucy Truten who danced a duet, and Jamie Reid who danced a solo during the two afternoon performances. I really would have liked to have seen their dances because they looked amazing in the warm-up session. I love the idea of a mixture of ages in the performance and I think it was very successful.

Jeanine had brought a bag of Pilates equipment with her - long rolls and spiky balls and stretchy bands etc and she gave us a Pilates class and then individual help with problem bits of our bodies which was really helpful and a wonderful way to prepare for our performance.

The first afternoon performance started at 1 O’ clock with the Glasgow dancers’ Words Unspoken. It is beautiful and lyrical and a perfect foil for our Tarn which tells a similar story in a totally different way. The studio is vast! An incredible luxury to have acres of space and I was glad we’d had a chance to mark out our positions in the morning tech. We did Rollin’ in the Deep to end the first performance and the audience loved it.

At 2.30 we did the second performance and Tarn was really beautiful and moved me as it always does with its recognition of our lives and our loves and the absolute necessity to dance. And then we finished with Morag’s brilliant choreography of Adèle’s song Rollin'. I think we all had a slightly end-of-term feeling and we really belted it which was glorious and liberating and perhaps a bit surprising for the audience who weren’t expecting this degree of raunch. It brought the house down and was altogether a perfect piece to end the tour.

After that we had tea with all the performers and people had brought cakes and shortbread and all sorts of totally delicious things to eat which gave us a chance to chat to our friends and wind down.

And then back home in Jim’s bus and I banged my head again. A wonderful tour with a group of Prime dancers who have a very special place in my heart.

PRIME in Glasgow by Lin Grahame | 24 October 2015

It was with a little sadness that we boarded the bus for Glasgow on Sunday morning.  Our driver Jim was as attentive as always.  It was a beautiful bright sunny autumn morning.  I had a good coffee in Bar Italia with  Damian, Margaret and Pippa.  Our  journey in Jim’s capable hands was smooth and steady as usual.   Helen was there making sure we were all ok. 

But this was the last stop in our first Scottish tour, and also, for the first time, we were without our Artistic director, Morag.  For these reasons we were moved to feel this little bit of sadness.

The journey to Glasgow was the shortest one we have done on this tour and we seemed to arrive in no time at all.   It felt amazing to step into Scottish Ballet’s super Tramway home.  There were beautiful pictures on the walls, showing Scottish Ballet Dancers, past and present,  in rehearsal and performance.  I noticed a very special one of Peter Darrell, their  brilliant director and choreographer in the seventies.  We saw the huge workshop area where the scenery sets are made.  The dance studios themselves were large, light and airy.  It felt a huge privilege to dance in the Peter Darrel studio.  We had one of the other studios as a dressing room and warm up area. which was great.  There was plenty of room for us all to get changed, made up and  keep warm.

We were joined as usual by the lovely ladies of the Scottish Ballet Elder’s Collective performance group, today in their home base. We had an afternoon tea hosted by them after the performances to celebrate our tour together.  Also on the bill were the Scottish Ballet Youth Exchange dancers. How wonderful it was to share the space with both these groups spanning several generations.  We were led in a warm up by our one and only Jeanine Byrne and Scottish Ballet’s Lisa Sinclair.

Two shows this time, both sold out! It was good to do it twice!  Jeanine kept us warm and focused throughout. 

It was glorious to move in this large space and we really gave it our all.  We had to work it for sure and really travel around the studio.  We did this with an ease of movement and centred focus that I attribute to a good warm up.   No lights, but we moved the audience just the same.  Tarn, powerful as ever  in its human message of lives lived,  moved some of them to tears, and most,  at the very least, to quiet contemplation of life.  Rollin in the Deep moved them to laugh and smile with  us as we ended the second and last  performance in true theatre style with a bit of naughtiness when we took of our jackets – Damian kept his hat on!!

Yes we were not nothing, but surely something, and something very special! Thanks to everyone who made this happen!

PRIME in Glasgow by Christine Thynne | 25 October 2015

Oh, we have been so privileged to have door to door transport, so after an extra hour in bed thanks to the clocks going back, we arrived in Glasgow at the home of Scottish Ballet.

In no time at all we were in the performance space of the Peter Darrell Studio to warm up with the Scottish Ballet Elders and the Scottish Ballet Youth Exchange.

Our own Jeanine Byrne took immediate control of us calmly and superbly putting our travel bodies into place. She loves having our shoulder blades sliding down while we pull in and drop our ribs...  Keep working at it. Then Lisa Sinclair, Scottish Ballet Elders rehearsal director moved us around in the space and mixed us up.

We needed that because the space was enormous and tech time wasn't going to be wasted.

So, no lighting, but our usual Paddy on sound.

We managed a cup of coffee and a sandwich then a 1.00 and 3.00 o clock performance.

Oh it was so good. The studio space was so big. We could keep our little group identities but use the space to travel and make everything so expansive. We danced and more danced and we loved doing Tarn. We were worried that our costumes wouldn't work without lighting but the textures came alive .

Rolling in the deep closed the programme and because the audience were at our level we could enjoy making good eye contact with them because this was our last performance of this tour we were slightly naughty at the end with some folk throwing their jackets off.

And then we went down to the relaxing area where cakes and biscuits and cakes and flapjack were awaiting us with pots of tea and coffee. It was great to be able to chat with the other dancers and have time with some of the Scottish Ballet staff.

Then back onto the bus with extra slices of cake.

Lots of chat, some of the group relaxing, and a good safe journey back to Dance Base.

And what a journey this is.

To dance, and to perform , ooh it is just fab being part of PRIME.

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