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Opera and Politics

23-24 May 2019, Faculty of Dance

The 2019 annual Opera and Politics symposium at Trinity Laban aimed to bring together practitioners and researchers to explore themes of inclusion and access within opera practice. 

Opera sits at a fascinating conjunction of disciplines including acting, storytelling, movement, composition, vocalisation and visual art. Unfortunately, it is often associated with a hierarchical, centralised structure including: the authority of the single composer, writer, director or conductor, the cultural specialisation of the trained singer, or the economic model of the production house and its patrons. However, there is an increasing number of initiatives attempting to create or produce opera in a more inclusive way. 

The symposium included presentations, workshops and roundtable discussions from a range of practitioners, academics and organisations. See details in the event programme.

Speakers at the conference included: Michael Volpe (Opera Holland Park), Omar Shahryar (RESEO, Opera Schmopera, Tête-à-Tête), Rhian Hutchings (RESEO), Dominic Hingorani (Brolly Productions), Sandeep Gurrapadi (Trinity Laban), Linda Hirst (HERA, Trinity Laban), Toria Banks (HERA, Trinity Laban), Kerry Firth (Trinity Laban), David Cane, Saffron van Zwanenberg (Jackdaws Music Education Trust), Ally Rosser (Mahogany Opera), Manuella Blackburn (Liverpool Hope University), Kenneth Baird (European Opera Centre),  Sophie Redfern (University of Sheffield), Rhuti Carr (Baylis ENO), Amy Kearlsey (Baylis ENO) and Streetwise Opera.

Organising committee:
Dr Guy Harries
Prof Louise H Jackson

Opera and Politics 3: Historicity

23 May 2018, Faculty of Dance

Led by Guy Harries and Prof Louise Jackson

This research event explored the performing voice (singing, speaking, uttering) in socio-political contexts. Theorists and practitioners discussed concepts of agency, power and resistance manifested in the voice in a range of performative situations.

Part of the Opera and Politics series, this symposium included presentations, a panel discussion and an opera-making workshop.

12.30-15.30 Opera making workshop, Studio 5

16.00-19.00 Presentations and panel discussion, Lecture Theatre

Choreological Practice as a Research Methodology

18 Apr 2018, Faculty of Dance

Presenters included Alison Curtis Jones, Olga Masleinnikova, Ellen Jeffrey, Tina Krasevec and Sylvie Robaldo

By experiencing how movement is organised we become aware of our own structures in relationship to our environment. By perceiving natural affinities and choreological order we can notice when we choose to break those structures and recognise how these choices and practices lead to distinctions in the embodiment of aesthetics. By understanding how we can commit energy to achieve intention we can explore the expressive potential of movement, opening up a vast array of possibilities. These practices of embodiment start to reveal to us our preferences, our affinities, and our habits. This knowledge can make our practices conscious and also open up ways to enhance and challenge them. 

This event explored contemporary developments of Rudolf Laban’s principles and in particular, choreological practices as research methodologies that support the communication of practice-as-research as well as research into artistic and pedagogical practice. In challenging existing thinking of Laban’s work as analysis, the Choreological Studies team at Trinity Laban have developed, taught, and promoted creative embodied practice through their work. Frameworks for perceiving and understanding movement are not taught as schema but as ways of attending to the experience of moving and creating movement in various fields. Knowledge as experienced by the mover promotes understanding of the medium we work in, providing a specific lens for observing practice and understanding our decision making as artists, whether that artistry is articulated through pedagogy, performance, movement direction, dramaturgy or choreography. 

Presentations demonstrated how choreological methodology generates, informs and enables rigorous research, and in particular focused on the following questions: 

  • What fields of study can be supported by Choreological Practice as a methodology? 
  • How can Choreological Practice facilitate and articulate artistic practice? 

Britten: Peter Grimes and Billy Budd

22 Mar 2018, Faculty of Music

A workshop with Prof J P E Harper-Scott (Royal Holloway), Prof Jonathan Owen Clark (Trinity Laban) and naval historian Christine Riding (Queen’s House, Royal Museums Greenwich). The programme included a vocal Masterclass on Britten with Robert Alderson, a lecture on visual representations of naval mutinies by Christine Riding, and a lecture by Prof Harper-Scott on ‘History and Violence in Billy Budd‘.

The Dancer’s Mind

7 Dec 2017, Faculty of Dance

Led by Prof. Emma Redding

An afternoon symposium where practitioners, researchers and students challenge the measurement of creativity in dance. This symposium included presentations, panels, duels and debates as well as an opportunity to hear about the findings of a 3-year longitudinal experimental study into mental imagery and creativity in contemporary dance led by Plymouth University, Coventry University and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. 

The programme included:

A Duel: Can Creativity be Measured?
Speakers: Prof. Jon May V. Dr Kerry Chappell

In the Dancer’s Mind Project Overview and Context
Speakers: Prof. Sarah Whatley and Dr Emma Redding

Cognitive Thinking in Choreography / PACT
Speaker: Dr Philip Barnard

In the Dancer’s Mind Project Findings and Implications
Speaker: Prof. Jon May

PhD Studies Associated with the Project
Speakers: Dr Lucie Clements, Rebecca Weber and Klara Lucznik 


Practical Cognitive Task
The Imagination Game
Facilitator: Amanda Gough 

Practical Session
Imagery-based Movement Generation Class
Facilitators: Clare Baker, Katye Coe and Dr Naomi Lefebvre Sell 

Panel Discussion
Student and Practitioner Panel – Experiences and Reflections
Facilitator: Dr Sara Reed; Panel: Katye Coe, Clare Baker, Amanda Gough, Dr Naomi Lefebvre Sell

Download the full programme (pdf)  

Transfer Laban

AHRC Funded Architecture-Dance Project

Trasnfer Laban

(with Wolfgang Weileder-Newcastle University, Charles Linehan, Jonathan Owen Clark)

13-24 Jun 2016

Montgomery Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5JJ

In 2016 the facade of the Laban Building in Deptford (Herzog & de Meuron, 1997) was re-created as a performance time-based sculpture by artist Wolfgang Weileder (Professor of Contemporary Sculpture, University of Newcastle) in collaboration with Charles Linehan (Reader in Choreography, Trinity Laban) and Jonathan Owen Clark (Head of Research, Trinity Laban).

Through a process of simultaneous construction and deconstruction, the 40m long facade appeared section by section as the structure slowly moved across Montgomery Square until it was completed, each section only visible for a single day over the 2-week project period. The process of construction and deconstruction was recorded using time-lapse video and long exposure photography.

As part of the project, dance students from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance created a series of performances in response to the work.

Read more about the Transfer Impact project.


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