Could you first introduce yourself for the reader?
Hi! I’m Thomas Page, a contemporary dance artist based in Oxford and London, and the Artistic Director of Thomas Page Dances. With my company, I work with a choreographic practice rooted in socio-political ideas in movement.
What happens at Thomas Page Dances?
At Thomas Page Dances we work on a project by project basis exploring socio-political ideas/issues through the medium of contemporary dance.
Each project brings together a collaboration of contemporary artists that are passionate about the topic in question. In our three years of being a company, we have worked with over 200 artists to create a range of projects, working with dancers, actors, composers, lighting designers, costume designers and researchers.
What do you offer to young people?
In 2018, we launched two programmes for young dancers in Oxfordshire: a technical training programme and a youth company (TPD Young Artists).
The technical training programme is an opportunity for young dance artists to develop their technical skills in the world of contemporary dance by learning from industry professionals and each other to grow as the next generation of dance artists. Throughout the term, the students have the opportunity to take part in guest workshops with leading contemporary dance artists such as Richard Chappell and James Pett, providing them with a well-rounded and rich education in contemporary dance.
TPD Young Artists focus on the creative and company side of the dance world. Together they collaborate, create and perform new works to be presented throughout the year at various performance venues. The company is made up of dancers aged 10-18 working as one group, which is quite unusual for youth companies. This term they are in full control of their first work. They are making all the decisions from the topic and movement material to the music, costume and set design!
Tell us more about “Aphotic” by the TPD Young Artists.
Aphotic is the first work that the youth company made. Imagining we have lights in our hearts that switch on when positive things happen and off when negative, the work explores these moments and shows the power of support. We help each other through the moments where lights turn off and celebrating together when lights turn on.
The work premiered as a curtain-raiser for Luke Brown Dance Company in 2018 and is still one of the company’s favourite pieces, so we are always looking for new opportunities to perform the work again.
“A Moment” is touring in 2020. What inspired this production?
A Moment began when playwright Bren Gosling asked me to create a choreographic response to his new play, Moment of Grace. The play follows the lives of three people during the 1980s in the lead up to the iconic moment Princess Diana opened Britain’s first AIDS Unit. This responds to the themes of the play - touch, intimacy and fear - and so we created A Moment.
Did you face any particular challenges whilst planning and choreographing “A Moment”?
I think the biggest challenge when creating A Moment was responding to a time period that myself and my dance partner (Llewelyn Lewis) didn’t live through. With both of us being born in ’96, we could only rely on the play, independent research and stories from those who lived through the AIDS pandemic.
I remember both of us being extremely nervous for the first performance, as we were performing in front of people who had shared the stories and lost loved ones during this time. We thought “this could either go really well and we’ve hit the nail of head…or we could seriously offend many people, who paved the way for us as young queer artists.”
Luckily, we received a really positive response and those who watched felt we captured the essence of their experiences and the emotions resonating with them.”
What activities are most popular for young people and why?
It’s hard to say as every single young person is so different. In my experience, the most popular activities for young people are the ones they choose to do and the ones that give them ownership over what they are doing.
For example, the young people I work with would rather go to classes that ask, “What would you like to paint today?” and they are supported in making that happen, rather than class that says “You must paint this and this is how you have to do it.”
Have you seen any change in the industry over the last few years? Is it positive or negative?
I think in the contemporary dance world, there are always changes happening: some negative, but mainly positive. A change that I’m supporting at the moment is being led by the incredible Valerie Ebuwa, she is creating a space/platform for play, experimentation and failure.
Moving away from larger institutions, but actually asking the arts community to invest in itself to create an ecology/economy that could be sustainable. She is a truly inspiring artist and such an important voice of our generation. You should all check out her work and ideas (@Valerie_ebuwa on Instagram).
Is there anything you particularly want to promote to young people at the moment?
If I could promote anything to young people at the moment, it would be to find their voice. Whether that is an artistic voice or not, I believe it is so important that young people realise the value and importance of having their say.
The future is very much theirs and they should play a huge part in shaping it. Find like-minded people, share your ideas, your dreams and (it sounds cliché, but…) help build a better tomorrow.
Where can people find out more about the work you do?
If people want to find out more about what we do, they can head to our website (www.thomaspagedances.com) and can also find us on Instagram @ThomasPageDances or Facebook: Thomas Page Dances.”