Photo of Illuminate behind the scenes: Chameleon Youth

Illuminate behind the scenes: Chameleon Youth

Behind the scenes with Chameleon Youth

Illuminate was a new Library Live commission and site-specific piece in 2017 by Manchester dance company, Company Chameleon, which saw Central Library transformed through dance, movement and a mix of captivating live performance.

Ahead of the production, Sam Broadbent, Learning & Participation Officer at Chameleon Youth, told us more about how Company Chameleon’s youth dance company, Chameleon Youth, were involved in the production and why the performance was such a good opportunity for the young people to think creatively about working in different spaces.

How are Chameleon Youth involved in Illuminate?
Chameleon Youth will perform QUEST as part of Illuminate, which will happen in the cafe area of Manchester Central Library. Chameleon Youth is made up of 19 members aged 11-19 from across Greater Manchester.

Tell us about the scenes they are performing – dance and movement style, stories of the scenes and the costumes.
QUEST is influenced by the idea of heroes. The piece explores how we like to build our heroes up but also ultimately how we like to see them fall. The piece is inspired by an original composition by University of Salford MA Music student, Nathan Mcleish. The music has a military feel, which has had a direct influence on the movement and the young people’s response. The movement style is both physical and strong and involves partnering and contact work.

What has the rehearsal process involved?
Chameleon Youth have been working with Co-Artistic Director Anthony Missen to create QUEST. They have been rehearsing on Monday evenings at Manchester Central Library and also took part in a creative weekend intensive hosted by the University of Salford. During the rehearsal process Chameleon Youth explored the theme of ‘Heroes’. Who are they? What are their characteristics? What do they look like? How do they move?

Chameleon Youth has a huge emphasis on creativity and encourages young people to develop as young dance artists and create their own movement language. Throughout the creative process for QUEST, Chameleon Youth have responded to creative tasks around the theme of heroes and have been encouraged to create their own ideas and movement phrases. Chameleon Youth have worked in collaboration with Anthony Missen who facilitated and structured their ideas and movement into a six-minute piece.

Why is this a good opportunity for Chameleon Youth? How will the young people benefit?
This is a unique opportunity for Chameleon Youth to be involved in a professional site-specific production, performing alongside the professional dancers from Company Chameleon and as part of a wider creative team. Working site specifically can encourage young people to think creatively about working in different spaces and places and can challenge their thoughts about where art and dance can happen.

Working with a composer has allowed Chameleon Youth to understand how you can work collaboratively with another art form and how music can be a creative stimulus for dance. From being involved in Illuminate Chameleon Youth will have the opportunity to learn directly from the professionals within the company and gain an invaluable insight into how the professional cast approach and prepare for performance.

Why is it important to develop youth dance through performance opportunities such as this one?
Illuminate presents Chameleon Youth with an amazing platform to perform and express their creativity and love for dance to a large audience at one of Manchester’s most iconic buildings. Performing in front of a collective audience of 600 people will provide the young people of Chameleon Youth with a great sense of achievement and self-pride. The confidence gained from opportunities like this can encourage young people to believe in their abilities, raising their aspirations and nurturing their development as young dance artists.

Thanks for reading.