PIECES and HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK
April 1989 at The Riverside Studios
PIECES and HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK came to fruition because the Arts Council had come to see Ruckblick in 1988 and urged us to approach them for funding for our next production. I wanted to encourage company members not only to dance, but also to try out their own ideas to create a short dance piece, so I asked who would be interested in doing so. Kevin Pyke, who had Down’s Syndrome, Margaret Wilson and Allison Sheen who both were blind, and Maggie Landells all wanted to have a go.
It was also important to me for company members to have the experience of working with people from diverse dance backgrounds, so I also invited Nigel Warrack of Contemporary Dance, Sue Burton of the Royal Ballet and my teacher Hilde Holger, European Expressionist dancer, to be contributors.
When I proudly announced to Helen Rowe of the Riverside Studios that we were going to present these different pieces in our next production, she was thrilled, but pushed me to create a whole company piece. I had no creative ideas at this time, being happy just to help Hilde rehearsing her two pieces EMBRACE and BOSCH.
I was suddenly thrown into this unforeseen position. Gill Brearley, who attended my Monday evening class, often created poems made up of words suggested by the students in response to the dance improvisations. Gill was a genius in this random word game. Hungover in Hyde Park was one of the poems that I thought had potential for exploring for a production. Gill was overjoyed when I asked her permission to use the poem. She said that we could make it a homage to Dali, who just had died in January 1989.
I asked Danny Kingshill, Kate Portal and Andrew Hodgson to create the live music for us. I just knew that Gill had to recite the poem, and I thought of David Niman, a student of Hilde Holger, whose red hair made me cast him as the runner, carrying the Olympic torch, weaving through the chaotic crowds throughout the whole evening. Those were the first images I saw in my head in what was to become a truly surrealistic piece honouring the master of surrealism, Salvador Dali.
George Beven was once again in charge of the costumes, poster, leaflet and programme. Iris Andrews and John Bailey looked after the wardrobe and our resident artist George Waud provided the props for us. One prop, a stuffed parrot, belonged to John Bailey. I watched our Katie Barlow constantly talking to herself and decided she should have the parrot, talking to it throughout the performance. What I had not reckoned with, was that she talked to the parrot as directed and then in a moment of outburst threw the parrot into the audience, landing on the head of the director of Education of the then Fulham and Chelsea Adult Education Institute of the ILEA. After that, every evening Gill targeted a friend of AMICI in the audience with hilarious results.
Everybody contributed to the production in their special way. This seemed the most inclusive production, not just because of the cast, but also because of the diverse contributions made by each of them. This made HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK a very special piece of theatre.
Regarding PIECES, one of my most powerful memories is of Hilde Holger’s response to Margaret Wilson’s piece SEASCAPE. Hilde loved Margaret’s choreography and asked me if she could speak to the choreographer. I called for Margaret, and as she walked in with Georgie her guide dog, Hilde was astounded, and said to Margaret, “My dear l loved your piece and, may I say, you have more vision than most people with seeing eyes.” Hilde was not easy to please and that was praise indeed.
Athough I only remember a little bit about the piece I made, it was wonderful to learn so much from Gill, who became a friend (who also came to see me regularly for hands on healing) and of course Nigel, who I had worked with back in the early days and also, just a couple of years ago, gave a workshop for the project ŔADiate I for the RAD. And of course, I attended some of Hilda's wonderful classes too.
My memories are hazy but I can see one of the dancers being lifted like a flying bird by the others and think that tbey were wearing yellow and that the music was Portuguese or Brazilian but that's it!
Sue Collins (Burton)
I was a member of Amici for ten years and recently found a photograph of me with members of the company posed in a statuesque way during the production of Hungover in Hyde Park, London. This picture invoked memories of my feelings of the dreamlike, surreal and bizarre sensations that I encountered at the time.
Dali was a visual magician, a man who explored the subconscious and the world of dreams and I am taken back to those memories and my thoughts that the piece invoked in me at the time. In my reminiscence of this performance I see Amici company members weaving in and out of a dreamlike landscape in a hypnotic dance of surrealistic movement. Recalling his surreal images, legendary pictures of the distortion of time, space and memory.
PIECES was the natural next step for Amici. Instead of being an integrated company of dancers, Wolfgang extended its inclusive remit to choreography, and invited company members to create their own pieces for the next performance alongside other professional choreographers.
I was thrilled to be chosen by Maggie Landells to be in her piece STRATAGEM, as I had always admired her work. Her directions were always so clear, but it was obvious from the outset what the “feel” of the work was to be. That made it so much easier to improvise and to understand where the directions were leading.
Alison Sheen’s piece A SONG OF CHOICE was a totally different and much valued experience, as Alison was blind. It was fascinating to be directed by someone who could not see what we were doing, and a lot depended on the clarity of her explanations and demonstrations. In turn she had to trust that we not only understood her instructions but interpreted the mood of the music and poem as she wanted it expressed.
And then there was HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK, or as we came to call it, “Pissed off in Piccadilly”. Choreographed by Wolfgang, it was a homage to Dali and was a bizarre, ”surrealistic piece of dance theatre threaded with lucid but deliberately unrelated images”. Gill Brearley read her poem, and as we circled the stage mourning Dali’s death, Gill attempted to ask us a series of crazy questions designed to make us lose concentration and laugh. She so nearly succeeded! Margaret Wilson , who was blind, and Kevin Pyle from Strathcona Social Education Centre, were the other two choreographers from within the company, and Hilde Holger, Nigel Warrack and Sue Burton were our professional choreographers.
An amazing variety of works and an amazing variety of choreographic techniques! Amici has achieved another first...people with disabilities choreographed dances for public performance in 1989. It had never been done before!
Allthough, or perhaps because, in Hungover I was Dali, or tried to be, I feel entitled to express certain reservations about him. Although I feel a bit ungrateful as I greatly enjoyed acting/dancing the role of Dali, he is an artist that I admire but rather dislike, finding his technique brilliant but stifling and his humour self-centred. AMICI‘s take on him managed however to be brilliant and humorous but also outgoing and generous.
Great of course was the genius of George Beven in making the show look like Dali ,most memorably in his wonderful whale. There is also much use of puns in Dali which AMICI also did, but for me more profoundly. Much of this was due to another genius, Gill Brearley, in whose hands what might have appeared a simple verbal mismatch turned out to conceal a vast vista or bottomless abyss.
She discovered in a serious of random words a resonance and depth which was in turn imparted to the whole show. Thus it was, that the jolly or comforting nature of much of the music also seemed to conceal depths of unexpected meaning. In The Mood and White Christmas took on a new and not altogether reassuring significance, perhaps not least because of the rough and ready treatment we musicians subjected them to. I‘d like to think this was excused by the general purpose of a show in which even thoughts could seem part of a pattern.
Most haunting perhaps was the presence throughout of an athlete running in slow motion, unobtrusively weaving his way through the chaotic territory of Sainsbury‘s superstore, motorway caff and extinction protest. He did indeed look like becoming extinct when he was carved up as turkey at a Christmas feast. Yet when the show ended the last thing one saw was the athlete alone, continuing to run as darkness overtook him and silence succeeded the Pie Jesus from Faure‘s requiem, sung with piercing beauty by a single unaccompanied voice. While this added what might be thought a requisite catholic touch to a show about Dali, for me it indicated the general spirit of life running onwards in hope even as darkness closes in.
Speaking again as Dali I can only be honoured that AMICI thought me worthy of inclusion.
BOSCH, Choreography by Hilde Holger
Maggie Landells, Reynard Gayle
HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK Reynard Gayle, Chris Collins, Kevin Pyke and Pius Hickey
I have only very vague recollections of PIECES and HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK. Unlike some of the other productions I do not think I have seen any film footage over the years, so my memories are poor. This production was different, as it was not one full production but instead showcased Wolfgang's reconstruction of Dali's images, together with contrasting pieces drawn from the creativity of Amici's members. It was a fun filled production.
HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK was one of Wolfgang's most surreal pieces. I can recall the red-haired runner who kept the continuity of the piece by running in slow motion through the scenes. I remember the joy of wearing bright colours. Up to now in most of the productions we had worn jumble sale clothes in grey and brown or track suits. It was one of the most colourful productions. I remember trying to be a Whale which was I think the final scene of HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK. The strongest memory I attach to this time was when Wolf was trying to evoke our imaginations by asking us to act, move and make noises like animals. He then asked us to make a noise like "an ant". We were all a bit puzzled before the laughter began!
This was also the first production where Amici members choreographed their own pieces. I remember Margaret choreographing her piece about water [?]. We had to wear swimming hats.
The Hilde Holger pieces were an absolute privilege to dance. Such clear choreography and a joy to be involved. !"
POWER, Choreography by Kevin Pyke
THE EMBRACE, Choreography by Hilde Holger
Hilary Beard, Chris Collins
I have so many brilliant memories of my time with Amici that it is difficult to separate them: but there are some of them that I can relate definitely to the wonderful show that was HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK.
To be given the trust and the opportunity to improvise dialogue, to use random words and to explore their meanings, to mispronounce them and make new meanings, to use other voices (particularly Joyce Grenfell’s nursery schoolteacher!), was a revelation.
I have been fascinated by the shape and sounds of words since I was a toddler: their shape, their sound, their meaning. My early mispronunciations, jeered at by my brother, only served to feed my enjoyment.
Very soon after Wolfgang and I met, he created the idea that members of an evening class in dance, should give words describing an improvisation. My task was to use these words to create a poem, which was then used to inspire a dance. The sometimes-unexpected words supplied by members were challenging and exciting. An exercise of this type provided some of the words used in poems and dance in HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK.
A truly surreal experience. The art of Salvador Dali has always fascinated me and to take part in a production that celebrated his work in music, art, dance and words was inspiring. My partner Patrick suggested that the title neatly expresses the feeling of looking over the present London skyline compared with the view at that time!
A few specific memories?
Haranguing named members of the audience in my best Joyce Grenfell voice.
Seeing Amici members' total involvement, enjoyment and energy.
George’s inspired surrealist backdrop paintings.
The frequent appearance of an apparently uninvolved runner crossing the stage in slow motion, eyes staring straight ahead regardless of what was happening around him.
HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK is one of many shows that I had the huge pleasure and privilege of sharing with other Amici members. Belonging to Amici was inspiring, affirming, challenging – and great fun. When I retired to Somerset nearly eleven years ago, Amici: the members and the challenges: is one of the things I missed most (and still do.)
Thank you, Wolfgang and everyone who is rightly proud to belong to Amici.
From German Expressionism to Dada!
Any thriving arts project adapts and evolves in order to remain fresh and relevant and so it was with Amici Dance Company as it moved more towards dance theatre, ever aware of the creativity of its participants.
I remember in rehearsal, voices randomly calling out words to Gill Brearley, our Amici poet and this amazing woman – one of the students - coming up with the surreal ‘Hung over in Hyde Park’. Well, Bowie had used Found Poetry why shouldn’t we? And thus everyone had a voice in the content.
I have a smile on my face as I remember being given an orange to dance with but I was so hungry (travelling to rehearsals from Cambridge where I was now based ) that by the time it came to me showing the movements I had improvised, all that was left was a sagging spiral of peel! A typical response from Wolf would have been, of course, “It’s even more Dali-esque!” It was enormous fun and emotionally challenging as we adapted to lots of new members who had been stimulated and moved to join by our performances and the unique heart and soul which is Wolf’s Amici.
Wolfgang invited Nigel Warrack to lead some Amici sessions. He showed us a range of fabulous lifts and the first seeds of SEASCAPE were sown. When Wolfgang asked me to choreograph a piece, I knew that one of the lifts would be the final image, a strange sea creature covered with fronds of seaweed.
As we learned and improvised new things week by week, I gathered together movements and images that I knew Amici members had done well. The idea evolved of sea creatures and seaweeds mingling, rolling, and twisting in response to gentle waves breaking on a beach or the more powerful slower movements on the ocean floor.
Having chosen the group of dancers I showed them the kind of movements I wanted. Not seeing what they were doing made it difficult for me to give appropriate praise and encouragement, I had to trust their artistic and creative talents to produce something that would reflect my inner vision. I just hoped it would look good as well as feel good to us performers. As it was an abstract theme it gave plenty of scope to individual creativity and I knew that we would all blend together. David Rowlands was extremely nervous of certain movements, anxious about injuring himself or one of us, but he persevered brilliantly in finding the right technique and was a wonderful support. Wolfgang found some gorgeous piano music, Ondine, by Ravel, which thoroughly captured the essence of the piece.
Like lots of others I was invited to choreograph a dance which I based on Amici improvisation and a loose narrative to hang it on. Having chosen a large number of Amici dancers I was pushed for time to rehearse, as were other choreographers, as many of the dancers overlapped with other pieces. The much-heard lament of many a choreographer and dancer, I was very nervous!
Chrissie Kugele shared the principal role with Nicky who was the star of the piece, picking up the idea of a rebellious daughter or citizen battling to escape a despotic ruler or over bearing parent with her fluid body movements and readiness to engage with the ideas, the music and in the improvisation with the rest of the group. In order to assist Nicky’s escape from Chrissie’s clutches, the dancers were grouped in threes and fours, creating a barrier or code with their improvised shapes and cutting off the pursuer’s advance. So much was left to the individual dancers, for which I was both appreciative and continually amazed.
Amici encourages free movement, and this can lead to some very strong characters determining how things should progress. I had observed Wolf as creative director and decided that in the end the piece no longer belonged to me, and, having created a basic structure, decided to trust the dancers, and it worked. It’s such a beautiful experience to watch dancers grow and express themselves. The most heart-warming comment for me came from Didier Danthois, who said at the end that he felt it was a true Amici piece.
I initially found aspects of this production difficult because of the inclusion of poetry and words. We were a dance company!
Like Carmina Burana, the music tells the story for a production, and for HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK it was Chariots of Fire. The finale of the long-distance runner disappearing into the distance was awesome.
Actually, I am more of a Leonardo da Vinci fan than Salvatore Dali, but having Wolfgang on stage was great, and having a real live artist in George Beven to advise it was a great theme for us. With a poet in Gill as well it was certainly different to previous productions.
I believe that from differently able dancers to an able company doing things differently that could do anything happened in this production which our students felt able to advise, choreograph participate and enjoy.
Nothing could stop us now. And the whale!
Our musicians came into their own, and although Wolfgang is a genius at choosing music, live music is also useful as it rounds off the dance as it happens. Back to my original thoughts: are we a dance company?
No - we are Amici Dance Theatre Company.
Perin Parri Hughes
PIECES/HUNGOVER IN HYDE PARK, RIVERSIDE STUDIOS 1989
Flyer, Programme and Press Cuttings