September 6, 2016

Amy Stevenson and Graduate Dancer Jack Thomson reflect on their collaboration for Hepworth Wakefield’s 5th Birthday Party event

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Amy Stevenson:

I had invited fellow bursary recipient Jack Thomson, Graduate Dancer at Phoenix Dance, to meet me before work on the morning of The Hepworth Wakefield’s 5th Birthday Party in May. This was mainly because Northern Ballet Theatre and Yorkshire Dance were performing and I wanted Jack to watch their performances with me as a starting point for thinking about how the gallery could work with Phoenix Dance Theatre in the future. During my time at The Hepworth Wakefield I had noticed that Northern Ballet Theatre and Yorkshire Dance were the programme team’s ‘go to’ dance companies for performance, and having seen Jack’s choreography and the locality of Phoenix Dance Theatre, it made sense to attempt to forge a new relationship.

When speaking with one of our curator’s it materialised that the dancers booked for the 5th Birthday Party’s last performance slot were unable to make it – I explained that I was due to meet with Jack and could ask him to perform instead. I was encouraged to pursue the possibility – it felt great that my colleagues trusted my judgement without hesitation, and on such an important day! Incredibly, Jack accepted the challenge with enthusiasm!

Having also trained myself at the Hammond school where Jack trained, it made the collaboration work well due to our overlapping knowledge of performance. We decided Jack would perform in the gallery at the heart of the building which contained the Hepworth Family Gift, and would give an improvised response to the space and sculptures – all by Barbara Hepworth. We looked at Hepworth’s sculptures together and mapped out the performance in the director’s office! Phoenix Dance Theatre and Jack were credited/promoted on Twitter prior to the performance, which lasted around 20 minutes. Jack’s improvisation was brilliant and brought something very different to the table, which is the main reason I think the collaboration was so successful.

I hope to work with Jack again in the near future and I’m very interested in his side project ‘Mode and Motion’ that looks at fashion and dance/movement, and I’m already seeing possibilities of how this might fit in to our future programme.


Jack Thomson:

The day felt very surreal; Amy and I had discussed creating a project together in the future but we had not quite imagined that it would take this form.
It was my first time at the Hepworth Wakefield gallery and my first time seeing a multitude of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures in the flesh, well… stone and metal. So the piece I danced/improvised was very much an initial response to her work, it was great fun and good to perform in space other than a theatre.
I hope this can be the start of something more between me and Amy collaboratively.


Jack Thomson, Phoenix Dance. Photo: Amy Stevenson