Why tap dance? Amy Bell on West End

As the show West End by Compagnia Chiara Frigo is about to go on stage again (25 August at 9 pm, Teatro Remondini, Bassano del Grappa, Italy), I wish to share these reflections by the outstanding solo performer Amy Bell about the use of tap-dancing in the show. Below you will find my transcript of the recording.

[Amy Bell]

Soo… Why tap-dancing? West End primarily works with a vocabulary of tap-dancing and that was something that excited me very much about the project, although I have danced tap from when I was a tiny child, from an age of about 6 maybe to 18. I did it quite seriously as a hobby, I did competitions, an exam, it was something I was actually quite embarrassed about, as a contemporary dancer something I thought I should keep quiet, ’cause it didn’t seem so… authentic or didn’t have the integrity I was looking for as I moved into the world of contemporary dance, somatics, antivirtuosic work, but now, returning to it as an older performer or getting to be an older performer, it’s very beautiful, I think, to look back and see where you came from and is part of where I came from and it’s given me a lot of joy and challenge to return to see what I’ve left of that tradition in my body now: the rhythmicality, the technique, and the kind of conditioning that goes with that in the performance. But also I think something that’s been fascinating is to think about the politics around this vocabulary and why we might want to look at it now, what is the relevance now. Thinking about the resonance that it has in its peak, as a form of entertainment that became really popular supposedly in depression era America, particularly, with the vaudeville tradition moving into Hollywood and the films. Thinking about what that means for us now, facing again recently an economic collapse, thinking about the rise of political extremism, and facing death and destruction, I mean we are in some extent, and for me personally, although this West End project came first, it’s also the end of my European-ness as a British person what that means. What are we left, what are we left with? What if we were left with the most typical dance vocabulary of the west, perhaps, it could be tap. And that’s absurd, and for me it was fascinating to think of the absurdity of that and to trace the roots of that tradition and think about what it might mean now, which is maybe not so obvious. Our first thought, but as we worked on the process it was really fruitful and enjoyable process to do that, so, yeah, I’m looking forward to performing it again, getting my tap shoes on.

Advertisement

The openness to error

Marrakesh bike
Marrakesh bike

For about one year now I have taken my role as an outside eye aka assistant dramaturge more seriously than ever, and I wish to thank choreographer Silvia Gribaudi who believed in me and got me involved in her latest piece since the beginning of the creative process.

The job I am called upon doing is a delicate one, and there is no one-fits-all solution, nor definition of what a dramaturge should do.

For What age are you acting? I called my process “a waltz of full and empty”. I made my contribution aiming at a special balance inside the piece, while remembering, in each single moment, that my role was, and is, to support the choreographer’s intention.

Silvia’s poetics is based on risk, on the possibility of making a mistake, and the challenge of this. So the work we did had trust as a prerequisite, and the openness to error. Indeed, enjoying the moment when the unpredictable can happen, those spaces left intentionally empty. We treasure the mistake, the fragility, the weakness, and turn them into our strength.

It’s like carrying baskets of eggs on the bike we are riding, we know how tricky this can be, but we also know where we are heading to.