What it Means to Dance in The Ghost Peloton


Sandrine Monin, a young French dancer with Phoenix Dance, writes about how excited she is to take part in the Ghost Peloton …

As a young dancer you often have to leave home and live abroad. But although you miss your country of origin, your host country becomes your new home.

So when few months ago I vaguely heard the rumour of the Tour de France coming to Leeds I just didn’t believe it. It sounded to good to be true. Both my home and adopive countries reunited around a same event.

The Tour de France is a massive tradition in France. The race is a hundred and eleven years old and every summer families gather to watch it. Whenever it passes by your town it becomes a major event and people travel days to follow its course.

Well, imagine my surprise when I discovered it was true: Yorkshire was going to host the Tour de France. And not only was Leeds going to be city where the race will be launched but Phoenix Dance Theatre would be taking part in the Yorkshire Festival 2014, a 100 days countdown cultural event leading to culmination of the Grand Depart.

On the 16th and 17th of May, we will participate in a very exciting grand scale performance called “The Ghost Peloton” at the Tetley, Hunslet Road, where cyclists and dancers will share a common space and create an original live performance supported by video projection. Fifty cyclists and BMX riders and 8 dancers, all wearing LED light suits which can instantaneously switch color, intensity or flash, will create a unique landscape of lights where cycling and dance become one.

Our first rehearsal few weeks ago with the light suits and a BMX rider was rather puzzling.

We’ve had to wear robot-like suits with lights blinking strapped all along our body. It felt like wearing a superheroes armor, projecting lights from head to toe. And then we started moving…

It was really hard at first. We tried to create flowing and circular steps inspired by the wheel in motion, pedals – inviting the world of cycling into dance but the suit was heavy and restricted the movement. I felt so restrained and clumsy.

Also we had to be in the dark and when you start spinning around the lights on your body flash into your eyes. It becomes very disorientating and you lose all sense of direction.

On top of that we have the BMX rider, making amazing acrobatic tricks, spinning, twirling and chasing us around. I can tell you he was not going slow!

That was a pretty challenging experience: trying to visualize the lines, shapes and forms you were drawing in space with the lights on your body, in the dark, and keeping the speed up with the BMX rider so as not to crash… But slowly, analyzing the footage on the camera, experimenting with slow motion capture, trying different filters, you discover a whole new dimension behind the screen and you start to understand what you can do, what works and what doesn’t.

We’ve had quite a few rehearsals since, and past the initial shock everything is slowly settling down and ideas are taking form, creating dancing pelotons where wheels and pedals intertwine with complex movements, lifts and physicality.

But it’s still just the beginning and I’m really looking forward to seeing the final result of this great collaboration between dance and cycling and France and England.


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