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  • Writer's pictureYumi La Blanca

DistDancing - a gift from the gifted

(All photography by Mykadelica)

There’s no other venue than Potemkin Theatre that’s literally ‘open’ now, while most of the indoor theatres still remain closed.

Located in East London, it’s already served the community as a piece of award-winning architecture (Antepavilion Commission 2019), delighting local eyes with its fairytale-like rooftop design. This unique, versatile theatre is facing the canal, which enables open-air performances, and it's currently showcasing beautiful creatures dancing on the canal.

How it started

‘DistDancing’ implies dancers’ current hardship as well as their insuppressible passion for arts: distance between the performers, distance from them to the audience, but they still need to dance...

It seems the project was initially launched by Chisato Katsura, First Artist of the Royal Ballet, and her landlord who owns this theatre. Then, they invited Valentino Zuchetti, First Soloist of the Royal Ballet, for his creativity and organisation skills. Several other artistic talents have also joined.

Since their first official performance in July, they’ve welcomed various performing artists beyond genres: classical ballet (mainly Royal Ballet dancers), contemporary, aerials, even modern circus. Mostly with recorded music, but sometimes live musicians can also contribute to the atmosphere from the opposite canalside, which perfectly matches the London summer vibes.

Performing in distance

They cleverly make full use of this architecture and its surroundings, having several stages at different height levels. The biggest one is a purpose-built deck/pontoon, where dancers are skillfully swirling and jumping without falling into the canal. Next moment, another dancer can be spotted on the roof, or another one down below, sometimes on a stationed boat, or even on a bridge over the canal.

Located differently, these dancers are interconnected despite distance. The only exception to such distance is when a pas de deux is carried out by a real-life couple, such as Matthew Ball and Mayara Magri, both from the Royal Ballet, who appeared on 1st August.

Their socially-distanced performances actually remind us, probably the performers too, of how much we miss the ‘real’ theatre experience. The dancers could’ve danced on their home stage with more co-dancers, facing the orchestra pit instead of canal water, surrounded by decorative stage sets… Our hearts are undeniably touched by their effort for this project, their eagerness for performing in public, their dedication to arts. After all, these creatures were born to shine on stage.

Appreciating the gift

Even their rehearsals can sometimes be seen in public due to its nature of being open-air. In fact, the word of mouth first spread from a surprise rehearsal of Royal Ballet dancers, Annette Buvoli and Harry Churches, practising on the canal. Thanks to the power of SNS, their videos and photos quickly provoked public anticipation for this project.

At first the audience might’ve been passers-by or cyclists, but now, fans and fellow artists purposefully go there to support the dancers. Some viewers are even floating on their own canal boats.

So far, their shows seem to happen every Saturday and free of charge, as a generous gift from the gifted dancers. In order to really appreciate this lovely present, we, the audience, should also respect the distance between ourselves too (to avoid crowds…) As far as we can keep that, their artistry will bridge our distances, dreaming for a day when their home theatres welcome back both the dancers and the audience. Till then, we just hope for good weather on Saturdays.

DistDancing on Instagram

Potemkin Theatre

Just dance… (DistDancing video by Dancersdiary)


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