Join your hosts Ava and Saskia as they go behind the scenes at Motionhouse.
Welcome to the second episode of our podcast Unravel the Arts!
About Episode #2
Our second episode takes place with Motionhouse, an internationally renowned touring dance-circus company who have been based in Leamington Spa since 1988. The podcast hosts interview members of staff and dancers.
How to listen
Who is in this podcast?
In this episode you will hear the voices of your hosts, Ava and Saskia. They interview Motionhouse Dancers Joel Pradas and Llewelyn Brown (read their bios online), as well as Dylan Davis (Professional Placement Scheme Dancer from Northern School of Contemporary Dance), Hannah Lockyer (Creative Learning Manager) and Camilla Lloyd (Creative Learning Dance Artist). You’ll also hear from Danny, our Podcast Producer.
Missed episode #1?
In our first ever episode, we tour the Royal Shakespeare Company. Catch up and listen online.
Behind the scenes photos
Photos from our podcast recording with Motionhouse in Leamington Spa.
Full episode transcript
[Llewelyn Brown] Because it’s so easy to be able to express yourself in the way you want to express yourself, which is I think one of the key things with dance. Like there’s not a lot of other art forms that you can truly be such a specific version of yourself. And not necessarily have to be in line with anybody else. You can just follow your track and be individual.
[Saskia] Hi I’m Saskia.
[Ava] And I’m Ava and we’re from Shout Out for the Arts.
[S] Shout Out for the Arts is an organisation where a group of young people come together to discuss and take a closer look of what the arts are like in Warwickshire.
[A] And we will be bringing Motionhouse to you in the second episode of Unravel the Arts.
[S] In today’s episode we are going to be chatting to three dancers from Motionhouse.
[A] So stay tuned to find out all about our day at Motionhouse.
[S] Our day started by introducing ourselves to Hannah who is the Creative Learning Manager at Motionhouse.
[Hannah Lockyer] How are you guys?
[Hosts] Very good thank you.
[HL] Good, good. So we’re in full swing in here. So, we can go in and just kind of see what our juniors group, which is our 7 to 11 year olds, are getting up to today. And they’re sort of, it’s like a festive day, yeah. And then once we’ve watched for a little bit then we can start setting up and meeting some of the dancers as well.
[A] Next we visited a circus and dance workshop for ages 7 to 11, there was lots of different activities going on in the room.
[Children talking, running around and shouting]
[HL] What’s really special about this space is the fact this space is actually where our professional dancers come and take company class every day. It’s where they create work, it’s where they rehearse the work. We hold open rehearsals in here, so it’s a really special space to be working in and it kinda has that sort of feel to it I think when you walk in.
So, you see the grey blocks here and the cage here.
[Hosts] Yeah, yep.
[HL] That’s what Motionhouse use in their performances, so that’s part of their set design and they sort of swing off of here and jump off and same with here. They stand the blocks up really tall, stand on top of them and so our circus classes include that. And then our dance classes include obviously more dancing. So, we’ve kind of merged the two together today.
[Danny] So could you describe to the listeners what it is that you’re seeing then.
[A] There’s a lot of like freedom.
[S] Yeah. Definitely a lot of freedom.
[A] It’s not like go do this now at this speed and that, it’s much more like do it in your way I suppose.
[S] Yeah. I’d say they have a lot of freedom. They have to use a certain object to something but they can do whatever they like with that object.
[HL] Yes, so our ethos for all of our work that we do is a nonfailure ethos. So, we want everybody to leave feeling like they’ve had a really great time and that they’ve really achieved something. Typically people might think if they might go to a dance class and they can’t do the steps that they’re being told to do that they’ve failed and it’s not for them. And we’re trying not have that in any of our workshops or any of our classes.
And so, yeah we always strive to make sure everybody feels really included and that they all left the session having done something they hadn’t done before or something new and they’ve achieved something new.
Camilla, one of the class teachers on the programme I was telling you about her. I’ve just asked her to explain a little bit of what they’ve been doing today.
[Camilla Lloyd] So, we’ve literally planned out the entire day cause we cannot leave a minute spare with them. Because there are so many things in here for everyone to want to play on. So literally all day we’ve been playing on different bits of equipment, we’ve been doing warm ups like games. So we’ve done lots of team games and they’ve come up with team names and created their own little groups together.
We’ve been doing the blocks this morning, so we built three different structures and everybody jumped on them and climbed off them. And we had like different crash mats around for people to jump on and we had some people doing some somersaults. We’ve done some stuff obviously with ribbons and hoops, everybody has been desperate to get on here all day.
[A] Do you rotate the cast? Or does it stay?
[HL] The cast?
[HL] Yep so they get rotated. So there’s only 5 people in Starchitects but we have more dancers than that. And so the idea is that they all learn different parts of different shows and then they can swap around and move into different shows.
So, coming up next year we’ll have Starchitects in our show and Nobody touring parallel to each other at the same time. So we’ll have a cast out doing Nobody and a cast out doing Starchitects.
So, what the Motionhouse dancers do and what these young people will be doing as well. Whenever they try something new they always start really low and then they gradually build it up to get higher and higher. So, that’s why they’re starting on these lower bars and can you see that they’ve been taught ways to help to use their bodies to help each other get a little bit higher onto the set.
[HL] So that’s what they’ll start with a really small base and then it will start to grow and grow and then they get higher and higher.
[S] Do we get to go on any of the equipment?
[HL] Once everybody has gone home then maybe you can have a little play. What do you think you’d want to have a go on first? This one!
[S] I just love climbing!
And then it was time to talk to the dancers who were delivering the workshop.
[Joel Pradas] My name is Joel, I’m a full time dancer at Motionhouse.
[Llewelyn Brown] Hey I’m Llewelyn. I’m a dancer at Motionhouse, I have been here for about a year and a half now.
[Dylan Davis] Hi, I’m Dylan Davis. I am the Professional Placement Student with Motionhouse.
[A] What did you have for breakfast?
[JP] Today I had a couple of toasts with some jam and a bit of cereal with some milk.
[LB] For breakfast, I had eggs on toast.
[DD] I had yoghurt, granola and apple.
[S] When did you start dancing?
[JP] So I started dancing when I was 10 years old and that was more like just dancing a couple of times a week. And then I entered the conservatoire when I was 12 years old, which then just means you are dancing every day for at least 3 hours a day. And then from there onwards I haven’t stopped dancing. So it’s been a few years.
[LB] I started dancing in 2010, so it’s been about 12 years. I started with the dance for boys project.
[DD] I have been dancing since I was 13. Before I was a dancer I was a gymnast. Dance was not my first love, it was my second, but I’m grateful for what I did before because it’s allowed me to do so much more here in Motionhouse.
[A] What made you want to become a dancer?
[JP] So, that’s a hard question. I think mainly it was my sister, cause my sister started dancing when she was very young. And I saw her dancing and I just saw how she was having a lot of fun dancing. Every time she got on stage she looked very happy and it looked very fun. So I tried it for a couple of times.
I also have always been really interested in music. So I started doing a bit of music, but then I just thought like with the music I wanted to dance. I wanted to do something to that music. I just started dancing and then I think that was it.
My sister kind of started it off but from there I just found it so much fun that I didn’t stop.
[LB] I never tried it before and then my mum was like ‘ah there’s this dance class coming to your school, you should give it ago’. Because she used to dance when she was little. I was like you know what, we’ll give it a shot and I liked it.
[DD] That is a very difficult question. The reason I’ve stayed being a dancerI think is easier to answer. Is the performance, the feeling of being on stage in front of so many people. And it’s actually the audience that you touch and make a difference to their lives.
Cause the stuff that we do with Motionhouse, it’s very accessible. It can be seen in very different ways and that means that it can affect so many different people in so many different ways. And hearing that response from the audience members is really something that keeps me going back for the next performance and working to get the next one, so I can make a difference to somebody’s life.
[A] What type of dancer are you?
[JP] So I have always specialised in contemporary dance. Part of the contemporary dance career is that you also train ballet. I trained in different sorts of dancing in Barcelona as well, back in Spain. Inside the contemporary dance here we do a lot of stuff. So, we do a lot of circus based stuff, Capoeira and different martial arts, just to like mix it all in and make it a broad contemporary dance concept. But yeah it’s always just been contemporary dance for me.
[LB] I’m a contemporary dancer. I’ve trained for 3 years in London at Rambert. Which is a ballet and contemporary dance school, but since working with Motionhouse I have started to incorporate more circus style movements into my dance repertoire. I think I’d say I’m a dance-circus performer.
[DD] So I am trained in contemporary, that is my main practise but I have also done Acro Flow, I’ve done breaking, I’ve done ballroom, I’ve trained quite a bit of ballet. I’ve just got to sort of soak up all the information from everywhere.
[A] Do you have another professional dancer that you aspire to be like?
[JP] I feel like when I was younger there was more people that I was like looking up to. During my training especially, like people that were a couple of years above my year. I just saw how good they were so I was like I want to, when I get to their point, I want to be like them. I want to be better and get to that level.
I don’t have a specific name, there was a dancer, maybe like a choreographer back in Barcelona that’s called Lali Ayguadé. I really looked up to her because she was a great dancer, a great performer. But I also know that the way I move was really different to her. But, it was more, I didn’t want to be like her but I just loved how much she loved dancing and loved creating. And I think that’s one of the things that maybe I was looking up to and wanting to be a little bit like her, but I think it was more inspirational than trying to be like her. I think yeah, she really inspired me to like push my training.
And then now I don’t really have anyone that I’m like really inspired by. I think it’s like no one specific, like every time I go and see a show someone inspires me and it just happens. Sometimes we’re teaching kids your age and I get really inspired as well. It’s really random how you can get inspired by people you don’t know. But yeah I don’t think there is a specific one right now.
[LB] There’s no name that comes up. I think dance as a sector right now there’s so many different creative people and so many differences between those people that it’s so hard to just pick one. Because it’s so easy to be able to express yourself in the way you want to express yourself which is I think one of the key things with dance. Like, there’s not a lot of other art forms that you can truly be such a specific version of yourself. And not necessarily have to be in line with anybody else, you can just follow your track and be individual.
[DD] I think I’m the kind of person that I don’t want to be one person. I think it’s like I’m soaking up from like you know how I’ve done all these different styles. There’s lots of different people I have seen and been like, I’d like to take that from you but add my own twist to it. There’s an artist called Ben Duke who inspired me quite a lot through my time at Northern, combining spoken word and movement together. So I’m kind of interested in storytelling which is a really great at Motionhouse, how all the pieces come through with some sort of narrative.
[S] Do you do anything other than dancing?
[LB] I do, I do quite a lot of kayaking, so long distance kayaking out in the sea. Anywhere and everywhere basically.
[JP] So right now cause it’s my full time job and we work basically 6 days a week and that’s it basically. It uses all of my time and all of my energy as well and I also find that there’s nothing that gives me that much that like I want to stop dancing for something else.
So right now for me there’s only dancing but obviously there’s other things that I am interested about and other things that in the future I might have to do, because the dance career lasts for so long. But for now it’s only dancing, that’s my main focus.
[DD] Slightly related to dance I also do dance film. So I do filming people dance and then presenting them, it might be for a show reel or it might be for a film project specifically. I’ve also done that with some music artists and on the side I am also a chef.
[S] When did you join the Motionhouse?
[JP] So I joined Motionhouse 2018, in the spring.
[LB] It must be June or July of 2020, I think. When did you guys, cause it’s the same?
[LB] Yeah July of 2021.
[DD] When did I join Motionhouse? I joined in September so I’ve only been here for well almost 4 months now.
[A] What does a typical day at your job look like?
[JP] We start at 9.30 and we start with what we call a company class. Which is basically a dance class, but it’s a dance class only the company members do. And then each week one of our dancers leads it, so we make a class to teach our colleagues. That’s normally about an hour and a half and then we have a little break. And then depending on which time of the year we are we do stuff. So if it’s summer, normally we’re less time here in the studio and we’re more performing outdoors. So, we go to different festivals around Europe or the UK.
During this autumn and spring seasons we focus on theatre shows, so theatre shows take a lot of rehearsal cause Motionhouse works a lot with projections and sets and stuff. And so we spend a lot of time in the studio and from 10.30/11 until we finish which is at 5. Which is work on rehearsing what went wrong in the previous shows. We prepare the next shows and just like see whoever is kind of performing. Sometimes there are injuries so those that are injured have to step back and teach the roles to the people that are going to step in and that is basically the day to day. We’re just preparing for the next shows and just see a couple of weeks in the future and see how many shows we have and what shows we have to rehearse and what went wrong in the other shows, so we can make sure it’s at the best level it can be.
[A] What was your first major performance as a dancer?
[JP] Not long ago we did a show in Wembley Arena for a TV thing that’s going to come out in New Year’s Eve. And we performed in front of 8000 people and that was amazing. Like the feeling, it was a really short performance. It was helping a singer as well. We were not even the main thing on stage but just the feeling of being in front of so many people and knowing that then is going to be put on TV and millions of people are going to watch it.
That like pressure but also that excitement is like really nice to feel. And then before I was a professional dancer I think whilst my training I did a couple of shows in Barcelona and the main festivals there. And there was a show that we had was like a plane. They like deconstructed a plane and put it in this massive park and we were dancing all around and under the plane. Obviously the plane was off, so it was not working but the plane was there and it looked so big. And we were like dancing around it and for some reason that is always going to stick in my mind. Dancing around that plane, the plane looked massive and all the audience. Yeah it was great.
[LB] So I think my first major performance was Lord of the Flies with Matthew Bourne New Adventures back in 2013 I think. I was like, I hadn’t done any dance before that point and they had their programme where they invited young boys to perform in different venues across the UK with the main company. And I was one of these boys that was part of that younger cast.
[DD] I think it was 2016, I was on a cat scheme in Birmingham and my tutor got me involved with a performance for International Dance Festival Birmingham with 2Faced Dance. So I did this outdoor performance on these big white cubes and it was mixed with loads of different styles of dancers. Which is really inspiring at that age, but there was quite a lot of people.
[A] What is the funniest mistake you have made on stage?
[JP] I feel like the funniest mistakes normally, especially with Motionhouse go down to falls or slips or something that you can’t really avoid and things that happen and you know the audience have seen.
I think, yeah, I mean not long ago it was with the latest show that we have done called Nobody. There was a bit runaround a lot and round a cage that we have on stage. I just remember running around and the floor was really slippery and I just like fully running, really focused in my character and just fully slipped. Face planted the floor, just got up as quick as I could and just kept running. And imagining no one had seen it, obviously everyone had seen it. But at that point you’re like I just have to keep going. And yeah I think that for the other people it wasn’t that funny but for all of us on stage it was pretty hilarious.
[LB] Well. There’s something that happened very recently actually. We were in a venue where the changing rooms were very very cold and we normally wear either shoes or barefoot and in this performance I was meant to be barefoot. However, I had some socks on because my feet were freezing and I had forgotten that I still had those socks on and I walked onto stage and performed a duet with socks on. Which was stupid. Looking back on it, it was funny but not a very good moment!
[DD] This one wasn’t actually on stage but it was during one of our dress runs in the studio of Starchitects. I was running with this box which had a projection on it so I was very focused in that moment and then I turned around and there’s this Chinese pole that I just kind of forgot was there and I just went beelined straight into the pole with the box. And luckily I didn’t make that mistake on with an audience. But I learnt that lesson now.
[S] What was your dream job as a child?
[DD] I think I was kinda unsure. I grew up in quite a big farming background and I think as a child I never really wanted to be a farmer as such. And dance community wasn’t massive but when I sort of realised that was a nice hobby of mine it eventually became the thing that I wanted to do. And I guess here I am doing it so.
[JP] So, I mean I’m going to be so so original and I’m going to say a football player.
[JP] Yeah I was one of these kids that I loved, I have loved all sports or kind of move. Dancing, everything that includes moving my body, I have always loved. So I played football for a long time when I was a kid. Even at the same time I was dancing. I was finishing dance school and I would go to play football. That was kinda like my main hobbies but I wanted to be a football player but then some reason. A random reason I chose I wanted to be an architect. Never really liked architecture, but I just liked the idea of making houses and then I was like no that’s not really what I want to do. And then focused on dancing and that’s where I became me.
[LB] I’ve always wanted to be an astronaut. Just to get away from things and see amazing sites that nobody has seen.
[A] What do you think your younger self would think of you right now?
[JP] I think I would have been really proud. Yeah, I feel like especially as I am dancing in a foreign country. When I was growing up I didn’t know if I could be a dancer back in Spain or not, what would I be doing. I think I would have been really proud to know that I am a dancer, I am working as a dancer full time. And in another country. Yeah I feel like I would have been really happy.
[LB] Probably look at me and say you haven’t changed a bit, you’re still a child. Like cause that’s basically what we are able to do here, we’re basically able to be children and be creative and do whatever we feel like we want to do. Within reason, obviously but there’s still that element of play that’s really important.
[DD] I think I would be, this is going to sound really weird but I think I’d be like proud/impressed. Like I don’t think, the lot of tricks I have learnt. I don’t think that when I was small I would think was possible. Like learning just to do like a one handed cartwheel. I was like wow when I was little and now I’m like I can do a bit more than a one handed cartwheel. So I think I’d be like that’s cool.
[S] How would you describe your job in three words?
[JP] In three words? Exciting, hard and fun. Yeah it is a lot of fun.
[LB] Surprising, unbelievable and different.
[DD] This is going to sound a bit contradictory but energetic, tiring and it’s what is a good word for this? Thrilling. It’s like really exciting a lot of the stuff we do.
[S] Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
[JP] So I would love to be in a similar place that I am right now to be honest. I would love to be still dancing hopefully, still moving. Hopefully my body will be able to do that. But I feel like in 10 years time I feel like I can still be dancing. I think I will be a really, I’ll hopefully have matured and have more knowledge of my body and more knowledge of what I am able to do and that probably will have changed my way of movement. Yeah hopefully still a dancer.
[LB] Well in 10 years time I hopefully will still be dancing. But 10 years for a dancer is quite a long time.
[DD] I’d love to still be performing. I can see that being possible, but there’s where I want to be. Be performing with a company, with my own company. That’s where I want to be with people around me that still inspire me. Yeah I’d like to keep going.
I would also like to try some things abroad. I’d like to go out of the UK and try some things there. And yeah experience as much as I can.
[S] What would you say to inspire younger dancers?
[LB] Just have fun. As long as you’re having a good time and you find something interesting and intriguing in that area then there’s something there to perform to dance. Whether that’s being on a stage or being something like a flash mob in the middle of the street. It’s all the same thing, it all comes under the umbrella of dance and performing and as long as you enjoy it that’s what you should strive for.
[DD] Give everything a little go. Try a little bit of everything. Cause you’ll find something in there that you’re like oh I like this. Cause that’s what I did and that’s what took me on this journey. Just going this is nice, this is great, this is something I’m interested in. Yes it’s a lot of hard work but you get a lot out from it.
[A] Thank you, I think that’s everything.
[DD] That’s alright, thank you very much.
[JP] Thanks, that was great.
[Applause and laughter]
[LB] Oh God, don’t ask me to do that again!
[LB] I’m kidding, I’m kidding, thank you so much.
[S and A] Thank you.
[A] Whilst watching the workshop we saw some children playing on one of the set pieces and fancied a go ourselves
[S] Then Lewellen and Dylan taught us a few tricks on one of the set pieces.
[LB] No socks, which is great! In case you slip. Chalk if you need, but you shouldn’t need it. Basically this is hard, it’s slippy, if you bang your head it hurts. So try not to do that! If you’re swinging just be aware of who’s around you. So you don’t kick anybody or you know whatever.
But basically grab onto something and hang and see what you feel. It’s basically a big playground.
[Host] So is this part of the set?
[LB] So yeah this is part of the set for Nobody. We have a screen like a fabric screen that goes over the top of this that can be projected on. We also take it down and use it as is.
There’s a similar show called Captive which uses a slightly bigger cage where we swing. The whole show is inside that one cage. That’s one of our outdoor shows. It’s about 10 years old now , but Nobody is our new show. We kind of recycled the set for that. So that the movements that we started developing with Captive we then use some of them to influence the movements for Nobody. But obviously as time goes by we get more comfortable with the sets we can start doing more crazy things.
Jumping up the skill level. So the stuff that we do in our older shows we then build on and add onto the new shows.
[A] It’s fun.
[A] It’s officially fun!
[LB] So with your left hand grab this one.
[A] Right yeah.
[LB] That one yeah and your right hand this one and you want to post your feet through the hole and come to sit. Nice!
[S] Well done Ava!
[A] That is so fun.
[LB] Really cool.
[A] You just hold on there.
[LB] You want to sink backwards, so your knees. That’s it, yeah. That’s it and then let your head back.
[Applause and laughter]
[LB] And then from there we can go to many different places in terms of what we can perform.
[Music Plays ]
[S] Thank you for listening to this episode of Unravel the Arts.
[A] If you would like to find out more please visit www.ShoutOutfortheArts.co.uk
[S and A] Bye!
Photos by Shout Out for the Arts.