As we came out of lockdown restrictions over the summer, always with an eye to possibly going back into them by November, there was a bit of a challenge in the arts sector as to how to reflect and deal with all that’s gone on over the last two years and how we deal with it. I wrote a few weeks back about “The Wishing Tree”, which was the Little Angel interpretation of post lockdown optimism. Tonight I saw a different interpretation but, as we edge closer to November and with rising case numbers, it feels slightly bittersweet that the optimistic summer months when these shows were conceived may soon be a fond memory.
But for now, we’re allowed to leave the house and do fun stuff so, to an extent, I’m enjoying it while I can.
And top of my list of things to do while we can was to try out the new branch of the Northern line! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a bit of a tube geek and the Northern line extension is particularly exciting for me, seeing as we were Kennington residents for seven years. I’m glad we left not long after they put a giant hole into Kennington Park in order to facilitate that extension tho.
I’ve gotta say that Kennington station has not changed much. It was a smooth cross-platform change from the southbound Bank branch to the new bit, which I guess is just the end of the Charing Cross branch now? That’s gonna take some mental adjustment. At which point do we start admitting that the Northern Line isn’t really one line at all but two, bound loosely together at Kennington, Euston and Camden Town?
Anyway, the end of the Charing Cross branch seems pretty infrequently served, as three of the four trains on the board terminated at Kennington. We only had to.wait a few minutes but the friends I was with told me they had to wait a full 13 minutes on the way back.
Once we were aboard, we were slightly struggling to see what was new. The tunnels looked grimy as ever and the trains haven’t changed.
But, oh. THIS was new:
And, more to the point of the trip, THIS:
It’s very chrome-y and shiny, much in the style of the newer Jubilee line stations. It had a huge line of ticket gates – Kennington might have six times as many trains as Battersea Power Station Station but Battersea Power Station Station probably had six times as many ticket gates as Kennington’s three. Plus some very shiny escalators in place of Kennington’s very irritable lift. And a cool colour changing light thing. Ooh space agey!
OK, so let’s get to the point of the post. I was in Battersea to see a dance show called “We Are Gonna Be Okay” by E33 Dance Company. We were there primarily to support a friend from church, who was both dancing and choreographing for the show, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Last time we’d been to see a friend from church in a contemporary dance show, I’d enjoyed it but also not quite known what was going on. I just assumed that I’m not high brow enough to really understand interpretive dance
As it happens, this show was pretty accessible, even for someone like me. The first piece was to “The Greatest Show”, which is a crowd-pleasing start, and I had to do my best not to sing along. Then the director of the company, Rachel Riveros, introduced the individual dancers and explained a bit about the company and where they came from. Then came the first real indicator of All That Stuff Last Year – a film called The Peace Project, filmed by individual dancers in lockdown. It might have been at this point that I first noticed my friend – who I’ll call Bella for now – wiping away a tear or two. The first time but not the last.
There was a short interview with some of the kids from the classes that E33 run at their partner organisation Providence House and then a piece called “Ahava”, which was choreographed by one of the young people from the E33 mentoring programme. It was really lovely to see how the company connected with inspired kids of different ages and backgrounds. Honor Dixon, the 16-year-old choreographer of “Ahava”, introduced her piece and, while I know nothing about choreography, it was pretty amazing work for someone that age. I believe the inspiration might have been from Ezra:8 in the Bible but I’ll admit that Ezra is not the most well-read bit of my Bible so I was happy to follow Honor’s suggestion and not try to follow the narrative too much but just enjoy it. This was followed (I think) by one of the Providence House singers – Jessica – performing “You Gotta Be”, accompanied by the Providence House kids as backing dancers.
By now, we were taking bets on when Bella would cry next and the fourth piece – “Beloved” -was a sure thing. The narrative on the programme says “Knowing who you are and that you’re unconditionally loved”. It was a very moving song and a beautiful dance to go alongside it. I too might have been welling up by the end but hey, I’ve denied being an easy crier.
I full on cried during the next bit as Rachel Riveros came back to share the inspiration behind the last dance before the interval. It was titled “You’re Gonna be OK”, which also provided the title for the show. She shared a very honest and raw account of her recent miscarriage and how she struggled to find God in the midst of it. Blimey, I’m welling up just writing this. I always find it emotional to hear stories of baby loss and, as she talked about looking out at the view from the top of St Thomas’ Hospital I could picture exactly where she meant. I never lost a baby in that hospital but we did have some highs and lows on that maternity ward, especially in the very first days after Roo was born. So that was a real emotional connection for me. We’d each been given an electric candle on our seats as we came in and, halfway through the piece, Rachel was handed a candle by her son and, right on cue, we all lit our candles too. See, you’re crying just reading this aren’t you? After all the darkness of the last few years, the wave of light was a little bit of hope and I think we all need that. I also don’t think it was a coincidence that, just a week after Baby Loss Awareness Week, we were lighting candles to tell a bereaved mother “You’re Gonna Be OK”.
Phew, I needed a quick break after all that emotional labour and luckily it was the interval next. By the way, I don’t have any pictures of the show as there was no photography allowed but I’m hoping to get my hands on the press photos soon so you can see some of the things I’m talking about and not just rely on my vague descriptions.
The first piece after the interval was choreographed by the friend we’d come to see so, of course, we all thought it was amazing. It was called “Endurance” and was inspired by his experience of arriving in London this time last year, just before a grim winter of lockdowns. I think Bella might have cried again at this point. After that was a film called “When We Whistle”, which was shot just by the Thames during the second lockdown. You can watch it here though be warned – when I just played a clip, Eva wanted to know what the “chicken sounds” were.
I must have been getting tired by the end because I don’t remember too much about the last three pieces – I know that “Rescue” was choreographed by Randall Flinn, a friend of the company, and that the music for “Father’s Song” was considered an unusual choice because the rhythm was quite slight for dancing. It was a beautiful song though, and made a fitting finale. There was also a lively dance to house music, called “Onwards” just before the end, performed by the second company.
All together, the show was a rich emotional journey – almost exhausting at times but also uplifting and reassuring. E33 are hoping to take the show on tour soon so make sure you go and check it out. More information here.