For the first interview of Between the Art, I am delighted to introduce Belinda Roy, a dance artist, choreographer and teacher. Originally from Canterbury, Kent, Belinda relocated to London to study at the Royal Academy of Dance on the undergraduate and LRAD programmes. She then went on to successfully audition for Trinity Laban’s postgraduate dance company, Transitions, where she is hoping to complete her MA studies at the end of this year. Alongside this, Belinda teaches ballet and creative dance styles in dance schools across London. She describes her current work as “mixed: bits of research, teaching, rehearsals and practice, and performance.”
Read on to find out more about Belinda’s current work, her many creative processes, and the importance of collaboration in dance.
Where do you work? What makes this place important for your creative process?
From a geographical point of view, most of my work is in London. There is so much inspiration to pull on here: there are free art classes, many places to take classes, and there is a very communal feel within dance. I feel very lucky that I get to work here.
How would you describe your creative process? Do you use certain mediums/techniques to develop your creative ideas?
I find this difficult to answer because I have different creative processes depending on the type of work, the day of the week, and what it is that I’m researching. It is difficult to put it into one process. Perhaps as of the current pandemic, I have been pushed to do a lot of things that I would never have thought of doing. Recently, my creative process has changed massively.
There are a few things that ground my practice, particularly a feeling of equality and community within the space. Whoever I am collaborating with, even if I am the teacher, I like to make sure everyone has contributed in as much as an equal manner as possible.
I am very much influenced by the outside world and current events. News does, and has to filter through into what I want to portray or feel because I ultimately believe that art changes the way that people think, more so than just fact. I think this is incredibly important in the world right now as there is so much “fakeness” and information that we just don’t know what to take. Art is always a voice of, not necessarily reality, but truth and feeling.
What is the main subject of your inspiration?
In terms of my research and choreographic interest, English and history is very much reflected within this. I like how words and literature can be transformed into dance. I also like to speak with others during the creative process and hear their reflections, so there is often a social discussion element to whatever it is that I am creating.
There is something about sending a message that I am very passionate about when it comes to dance. It doesn’t have to be a big political statement, but I think you can send a very powerful message through the body and movement imagery.
What are you working on at the moment?
Lots of different things!
I am currently finishing my MA Thesis, which is a research project looking at the experience of performing via live stream technology. This is something that has become so commonplace within the last few months, with many online platforms allowing you to watch and take part in dance. There is a lot of research questioning both how it feels to watch a live stream performance, and performing to a normal audience. I am wondering if there are any differences when you are performing via live stream. The dancers are performing remotely in their homes and there are a lot of implications that come with that. This area of research is very alien to me! There is a lot of technology jargon that I am trying to get used to! But I am interested to see if performing via live streams from home will become a part of this new world we are entering.
Alongside this, Transitions is working on a socially distance piece with Theo Lowe, a choreographer and associate artist of Trinity Laban. It is a conceptual piece. We are exploring how we are feeling and how to create meaning. Theo doesn’t talk a lot as a choreographer, but he gives so much information through his movement or by writing things down. It is a very interesting way to work. We hope to perform this piece live, but we are aware that this could change given the current situation, so we are also working with a videographer. He has filmed part of the rehearsal process and there is to be a film documenting this. Hopefully we will have a live performance and a screening of the work. It has been great to get back into the studio and physically be with other bodies.
"I ultimately believe that art changes the way that people think, more so than just fact. I think this is incredibly important in the world right now. Art is always a voice of, not necessarily reality, but truth and feeling."
What does “sense of place” mean to you? Is this concept present in your work?
Yes, this is something that is coming up in my research looking at live stream performances: we are together in place in terms of time, but we are not together in terms of physicality. So I’m looking at this concept of “liveness” and what does that mean? Some people believe that you need to be both physically in place and temporally in place for something to be live. Others think that technology allows us to manipulate that. I’m yet to come to a conclusion. I’m interested in this fine line between being in your place physically and having a relationship with another place not physically but in another way. This is coming up in my research a lot and in my everyday thinking as well. I guess this has been enforced by the lockdown; doing dance classes in my living room where we are sharing a place that is not physical. It’s almost unsettling… but in an interesting way.
Are there elements of your work that connect with or are inspired by the natural world?
During lockdown I did a lot of film projects, and I chose to do these all in outdoor locations. Pre-lockdown, one project I was doing was looking at the sea and how it moves, which was very deep within the creation process, and I remember channelling this whilst performing the work. This was followed by a work that looked at artificial intelligence and technology, and the disturbing nature of those two worlds colliding. This year has highlighted all these different technologies and urban environments, but I have also been reconnected with my home in Kent, near the countryside.
When I think about works that are my “anchors,” I think about Pina Bausch’s Rite of Spring, which I based my undergraduate dissertation on. The stage is covered with thick mud which the dancers get covered in throughout the piece. The piece is all to do with ritual, sacrifice, and the seasons changing, but mixed in with human experiences and human politics. Maybe that is where my interest really lies? How the human experience is affected by the natural environment. I think this is perhaps something I would like to explore more, coming out of my current research. This has been very tech-heavy, so I feel the need to explore something within the natural world.
Does the natural world have a part to play in your everyday life?
I am travelling on a lot of trains at the moment, which is tiring, but I get to pass through some really glorious areas, often when the sun is setting. It’s a really nice moment of pause. I really appreciate this moment and the act of just looking.
I am also very lucky at the moment to be back at my parent’s home which has a garden. I am really enjoying noticing the amount of wildlife we get. Even though we live in a small city, it is surprising the amount we get here. The excitement I felt the other day when a sparrow hawk flew into the garden! That gave me so much joy. It’s a sense of relaxation and release when I notice the natural world just doing its thing, just doing what it is meant to be doing.
"I would like to make people realise that the arts are incredibly important and incredibly powerful."
Do you have a favourite artist or creative individual? Someone who has artistically inspired your work?
I have already mentioned her: Pina Bausch. She is a German choreographer and her genre is called Tanztheater, which translates as dance theatre. It’s very gestural and with movement that is not always telling a story or a narrative, but it is strongly conceptual and always gives a message. I describe her work as “really human dancing.” A quote by her is: “I am not interested in how people move, but in what moves them.” This ultimately links back to how I think art is really important to move people and change people. I was changed and moved by watching her works, especially Rite of Spring. It is phenomenal.
I also like how her company do a lot of intergenerational work. Often dance companies are made up of people in their twenties and then they are off! Her dancers seem to have long careers and are still viable past the age of thirty, which I find inspiring as you do keep dancing, you do keep making meaning, and you do keep making art.
What would your top piece of advice be for creatives navigating their way in the arts industry today?
I would really suggest getting involved within the art community. Be a sponge. Take advantage of things like The Playground at Rambert, online company talks, and all these things that are now available that weren’t this time last year. It’s all coming from such a nice place.
Do you have a message that you hope to give to the world?
I would like to make people realise that the arts are incredibly important and incredibly powerful. I don’t think you have to be a paid professional to experience this importance and this power. It is for everyone.
Anything else you would like to add?
There is just so much opportunity at the moment to collaborate, and that is something that is really special. I hope this is something that carries on in the future.
Top Image: Photography by Mike Cooper
Middle Image: Transitions Dance Company
Bottom Image: Artist's Own