how did we get here? premiers in Sadler’s Wells Theatre with Melanie C

Get ready for an intimate evening of dance featuring renowned choreographer Jules Cunningham, Spice Girl Melanie C and award-winning dancer Harry Alexander.

Internationally recognised dancer and choreographer Jules Cunningham (Julie Cunningham & Company) premieres their latest Sadler’s Wells commission, sweeping audiences into an intimate journey through space and time. With seating surrounding the stage, this constellation of three distinctive performers creates a space to collide, drawing on personal and universal questions, asking how did we get here?

In February 2022, Jules Cunningham (Julie Cunningham & Company) attended a meeting at Sadler’s Wells to discuss their New Wave Associate role. Jules shared an idea they had about doing some movement research with Spice Girl Melanie C, with whom Jules shares Merseyside roots. Soon after, Jules, Melanie C, and long-time company collaborator Harry Alexander ventured into the studio together to explore the movement practices that brought them together and set them apart. From these early explorations, how did we get here? emerged.

Julie Cunningham & Company’s how did we get here? receives its world premiere in Sadler’s Wells Theatre tonight, with performances until Sunday 29 January.

What do we hold in our bodies?

The fullness of our experience is alive and present in every moment.

We feel our power, all the way to the edges of ourselves,
The loneliness of living and never fully being understood,
And the chaos that lives within and around us.

The longing in our hearts,
The unexpected happenings at the edges of our lives,
Our memories and the inrush of the future,
The voices of those near us, and those far away.

How did we get here?

We met award-winning dancer Harry Alexander and we had all our questions answered.

Where did the idea of how did we get there? come from?

The idea started as very early conversations about the dream scenario of working with Melanie! That moved to excited chats about the possibility of it really happening, then official meetings and finally initial rehearsals. The concept for the piece wasn’t really developed until a few months into the process. That what’s reflected in the show’s title — the performance came to be in a fluid, un-premeditated process. The other meanings of how did we get here? we’ve left open to interpretation.

How long has this show been in the making?

It’s been almost a year since the first meetings took place. Our first time altogether in the studio was around March 2022

What shall we expect to see?

Three people with different lives, different physicalities, different experiences, connecting through choreography in the hour spent on stage together. There is emotion, tenderness, strength and support shared throughout the piece. It’s a really beautiful performance to be part of, it can feel as though we’re planets orbiting each other.

What do we hold in our bodies?

I think we hold everything in our bodies, subconsciously. Everything you have experienced in your life has taught you ways of moving, ways of being, even ways of standing still.

Every situation we find ourselves in makes an imprint on us, something we hold onto forever. Often we talk about letting go of things, but in this piece we deal with accepting what and who we are. We celebrate the differences and similarities, what we remember and what we don’t.

How is it like working with the star Melanie C, who is not a professional dancer? How did she respond to this challenge?

It has felt really special to be involved in this project, with both Melanie and Jules. I have worked with Jules for a long time now but nothing on this scale or a piece that is this exposing. It’s revealing for each performer in different ways and I suppose that has been an important factor in how the process has felt. It’s been a really caring, supportive and fun environment. We have all felt self-conscious at points but we have got through these moments with care and often humour. Melanie is a professionally trained dancer – we attended the same performing arts college in fact. She hasn’t danced in this way for a while but she has stepped back into it effortlessly. She’s been retraining and conditioning with Jules throughout last year and I think anyone that comes to see the show would agree that after the initial excitement of being in the presence of a real life Spice Girl you forget that and see this dancer as an individual with great talent and beauty. And balls – it takes courage to have done what she’s doing with us.

What was the easiest and the most difficult thing about this show?

There aren’t many easy things in the show, even things that appear to be easy can have a lot of thought and detail in them. The easiest moments are those when we, as performers, connect with each other. There are moments in the show where we allow ourselves to catch each other’s eyes, we use this as a little check in, a little reassurance and a moment of support. It’s lovely to be caught up in a emotional thought or a panic about a step, and then you catch one of the other performers eyes. Personally, I find the hardest thing about this show is balancing in the dark; often there isn’t much to focus on in a dark auditorium, and in this show we are surrounded on all four sides by the audience.

How has your career evolved in the last few years?

I have taken on an increasing number of projects in movement coaching and direction; helping other dancers, companies and actors learn how to move in everything from motion pictures to video games. Dance remains the enduring love of mine and something I will never want to stop, so it is great to be back on stage at Sadler’s Wells.

What are your future plans?

I have an exciting project coming up straight after this, with a choreographer I have worked with for most of my career. I am also have some ideas for a few shoots I’d like to do with some film makers and photographers I have had the pleasure of shooting with in the past. 

*All images must be credited to Camilla Greenwell

Julie Cunningham & Company’s how did we get here? is on in Sadler’s Wells Theatre Thursday 19 – Sunday 29 January 2023.

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