Why take a Second Breath?

Photo of Jo rehearsing for The Second Breath in Holbeck
Photo by Andy Wood

A travelling circus invites you on an adventure through the backstreets of Leeds on 10 May, mixing levity with gravity. But what the heck does it have to do with climate change?

In April, you may remember Imove’s team of cyclists pulling a grand piano up Cragg Vale as it was played, filmed on The One Show and generally relished for it’s bonkersness. But behind the serious fun are lots of real, serious ideas and interests, such as climate change, and how society feels about it.

Their latest collaboration on 10th May involves a travelling circus, a DJ, and a VJ taking people on an adventurous journey through the backstreets of post-industrial Leeds, in search of balance. So what the heck does that all have to do with climate change and why should we pause to take it in? Tessa Gordziejko explains….

We’re in rehearsals for The Second Breath, we being Imove, Stumble danceCircus led by Mish Weaver, the music producer DJ Kwah and the VJ Collective – Magic Lantern. I’ve been describing The Second Breath to people as a combination of circus, climate themes and dance music – specifically psychedelic dance music – and the response is often intrigue and curiosity. Why are you doing those things together?

Let’s rewind.  I’ve been turning over the idea to combine a dance floor ‘night’ experience with a theatre piece since 2011.  It started with a project called ‘Atalonia – A Descent to Hollow Earth’ produced by The Kazimier in Liverpool as part of Abandon Normal Devices Festival.  It was an immersive installation/ walk through in a warehouse, which took the audience through various performative and visual environments on a journey to the centre of a planet.  The Kazimier promotes music ‘nights’, often theatrical and themed, so the area where dance floor meets theatre started to intrigue me.

I wanted to bring the power of theatre and the power of dance music together, and for me that’s a mission to affect the way people think and feel. If theatre has an ability to enchant, move, elate, infuriate, transform even – then I want it to do those things to deepen understanding and change the way we look at the world.

I wanted to catch the imagination of non-theatre audiences too, so we have a travelling troupe of circus performers followed through the streets, arriving at a dance night and engaging the audience in the story they’d just been part of.  Blending that story with the stories of the dance night. That’s how we began.

Why circus?  Mish Weaver, Artistic director of Stumble danceCircus approaches circus performance as an all-round, character driven process, and I like her fascination with ‘instability’. There was something about the precariousness of balance which connected to themes of climate change and the future of the planet. So as we got talking about this there was a natural fit with her kind of circus.

Why climate themes? We’ve had an ongoing relationship with the University of Central Lancashire’s Psychosocial unit, and one of their strands of research and partnership is Climate Psychology – how we think and feel about our future climate, particularly where the past informs our ability to grasp the future (‘The farther back you  look, the farther forward you are likely to see.’ – W Churchill). To me, understanding our relationship with the planet and fundamentally changing the way we think are the most important subjects we can approach in an arts project.

But The Second Breath is not about what goes on out there, the technology, the science even… it’s about what goes on in people’s heads. Denial, ignorance, fear or vanity, we have perhaps lost a sense of our own relationship to the environment – but our control or connection with others prompts us to ask, exactly who should we align ourselves with?  Where do we stand ? What do we feel? Climate psychology is a growing area of study that suggests we must urgently change the context of our thinking if we’re going to find solutions.

Why Psychadelic Dance music?  In looking to music genres, the psy / breaks/ glitch scene seemed to have adventurous audiences especially where circus was concerned. There’s a strong environmental interest running through the ‘psy’ movement and I personally find this style of music the most infectiously danceable of all drum and bass genres.  But it also has strands of ambience, character, descriptions and progressions running through it, which provide genuinely theatrical soundscapes.

The Second Breath starts at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel at Granary Wharf, Leeds and moves through the streets of Holbeck to its destination. Four circus characters lead the audience, using the potency of the precarious moment, in movement and balance, to communicate the ambiguous nature of our place in the world. In a short space, we can move from a smart corporate setting across the canal to Holbeck; amongst the post-industrial landscape, the Victorian landmarks such as Tower Works and Temple Works. The contrast of new and old chimes with the themes of The Second Breath.

This performance is just the start. After May we want to develop the themes, the audience engagement and further re-presentation of the performances to build a movement and a dialogue in other areas.

Maybe it’s naïve, but we want to change the world.  At least the world inside your head.

 The Second Breath is on Saturday 10 May 2014, 2pm and 8pm, departing from Granary Wharf, Leeds.

For details and to book tickets go to imovearts.co.uk