Recreation – a dance exploration

A review by Hildy Harland.


Back in January, I took part in a dance workshop where we did some really fun karaoke singing, dancing to the vocals of some really cool pop songs and ‘taking care’ of fellow participants by wrapping them up in yoga mats and tickling their hands. (I personally loved this sort of creative exploration and enjoyed myself immensely, just so you know).

This was all in aid of assisting the creative processes of choreographer Gillie Kleiman, for her new work ‘Recreation’. Since participating in the workshop I had been dying to see what had came of such a fun and relaxing set of workshops, which Gillie and her cast held at a number of different venues across the country.

Well after what seemed like a huge wait, Thursday night finally brought me the answers I had been waiting for. The premiere of Recreation was held at ARC, Stockton on Thurday 24th June. I really didn’t know what to expect from the performance, the programme given as you walk into the theatre states;

‘In Recreation something else is happening. The show is an invitation to come nearer to one another, to be both working and not-working whether on stage or off. In various ways, the performance invites you to work hard and to relax, to blur the distinction between being active and being receptive, between expecting something of yourself or someone else and not expecting anything, sort of pottering around in your experience’.

After reading this I did note a slight anxiety within the audience around me concerning what might actually be expected of us as an audience, I imagine most of us hoped for a less work related participation with more focus on the relaxation side of the exploration we were about to become a part of, or maybe that was just me being lazy.

As I chose my seat a began noticing the wonderful set and props, the work of desighner Emer Tumilty, a mixture of soft shapes and hard lines, in a pastel palate with soft draping fabric and foam props against hard floor and backdrop, with a  kind of 80’s abstract feel. As I settled into my chosen seat pondering over expectations, the lights went down as we heard Gillies’s voice begin to speak in a relaxing calm tone. We are invited to close our eyes and are gently introduced to the beginning of the piece with spoken word, a kind of guided meditation. Spoken word both formal and informal played a great part in this piece and it re-appears throughout, in both the voices of the performers singing and speaking as well as the voices of audience members and Gillie herself almost guiding us through the piece.


The movement was very pedestrian and natural, full of repetition, which seemed to become almost ritualistic to me, always calm without a great deal of dynamic and almost certainly devoid of the expected big kicks, spins, leaps and more flashy moves audiences often lap up. However I feel Recreation is definitely more about the experience as a whole and what feelings or sensations it inspires, it is not just a performance for performance sake, a story full of meaning, nor a political foot stomp. The piece for me at least, invoked a kind of gentle awareness of myself and the others around me, including the cast and how they were endeavouring to create an atmosphere of inclusion into their recreation. I was also brought to the idea that a lot of recreation can be considered work and vis versa, it is the intention that makes it either work or relaxation, the thought and feeling behind the action that determines it’s role.

The way in which this piece is offered up to it’s audience isn’t the only welcomed change to the usual, the piece had no music at all apart from a couple of faintly sung pop songs by cast members (which I did go away singing), at first this felt slightly uncomfortable for me to be so silent (partly because I was frightened my tummy would rumble) but once the room started to connect as a whole the lack of music was forgotten and the silence was welcomed, helping inner thoughts and feelings come more easily without the distraction or influence of tune or beat. I personally always enjoy the everyday sounds of creaking and feet making contact with the floor etc too.


Often a great way to create something different is to use creators who are fresh from past experiences and habits. Recreation‘s creation involved a very diverse set of movers in it’s devising workshops, I believe the idea behind this was to get a fresh perspective of the ideas put forward rather than just that of the performer or dancer. The cast itself is also diverse which is a welcome change within the dance industry, the differences in style were enjoyable and brought (although very subtle) changes to the movement. This seems to be intentional to bring something more to the piece, another exert from the programme let’s us in on the reason a little further.

‘Each person’s work and non-work are different. Even each performer’s work is different, not least because the cast comprises three performers who always do the show and two local guests, who have been integrated over a couple of days. In both sets there are experienced performers and fresher movers in all sorts of ways. You might be able to guess who is who but probably not and I invite you not to care too much. In the same spirit, I hope that Recreation is a way to not quite know who is working for whom, and maybe, to let go of  such values in favour of something more joyous, mysterious, and pleasurable’.

I really enjoyed Recreation as an experience, I began not knowing what to expect and found that as intended, the unknown let my mind open to a new kind of dance and movement experience which really made me feel like a part of the performance which heightened my enjoyment and affection for the piece.

If you would like to know more about Gillie Kleiman’s work then do drop over to her website, where the full credits are also available.





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