St Mary’s Cathedral, Glasgow, Wed 25 Jun; St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh, Fri 27 Jun
Weddings, worship, baptisms and burials – the usual line-up of events at your local cathedral. This month, however, pulpits will be pushed aside and pews rearranged to make way for Ascendance Rep, a dance company on a mission. Starting at York Minster, Ascendance will work its way around 17 cathedrals across the UK, performing Standing Stones, a site-specific work choreographed by Jacky Lansley.
‘When Ascendance asked me to take on the project, I thought we were going to one or two,’ says Lansley. ‘But when they said the show would tour to 17 different cathedrals, I said I had to visit them all.’ And visit them she did, travelling from Northern Ireland to Newcastle, Glasgow to Exeter, and many places inbetween. All in the name of research.
‘It was very inspirational,’ says Lansley. ‘Gathering together imagery, stories and characters from the past. I think cathedrals are such special spaces with such a layered sense of history. Most of them are a thousand years old, with foundations that are even older.’ Having learnt about each building’s history, and explored the gargoyles, carvings and sculptural works they had to offer, Lansley set about creating the piece.
‘We’ve made a generic piece of work that will adapt to different spaces,’ she explains. ‘The cathedrals all have a similar central space with a very natural theatricality, but they’re on very different scales.’ Despite their similarities, each cathedral has its own unique nooks and crannies, which Lansley has taken advantage of, making last minute rehearsing an absolute necessity. ‘We’ve negotiated a lot of time in each cathedral,’ says Lansley. ‘The practical issues for touring the work are huge, but we’ve got a whole day before we perform to place and space the piece.’
Set to Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet, played live by members of the Cornish Sinfonia, the show is being seen as a great way to introduce new people to dance. ‘I want the piece to have that special event quality,’ says Lansley. ‘I think it’s important to take dance into other places, and this is also a strong music project. I like to think this work is accessible to everyone.’