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> > > Unlimited 2014: Ian Johnston: Dancer

Created with the late Adrian Howells, 'Dancer' is a gentle provocation on what it is to be a 'dancer'. Producer Lucy Gaizely answered a few of Dao’s questions about what promises to be a fun and thought-provoking show in the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on Saturday 6 September.

photo of Ian Johnston centre-stage, dressed in a suit, holding his arms around his shoulders, with Gary Gardiner in the background, also dressed in a black suit with a bow tie

Ian Johnston performs Dancer. Photo © Niall Walker

Ian Johnston and Gary Gardiner both love to dance in public. Ian is a dancer, actor and performer, who over the last few years has held a number of leading roles in contemporary performances presented by Sense Scotland, as well as collaborating widely with organisations such as Dance Ihayami, Artform and Indepen-Dance.

Gary is a performer, director, producer and creative learning practitioner, working across a range of local and international contexts. He is the Artistic Director of 21 Century Challenges, which pioneers arts education practice and contemporary performance work.

What was the inspiration behind creating Dancer?

Adrian Howells (who sadly passed away in March 2014) had been working in residence with Sense Scotland for 2 years through The Arches in Glasgow. He met Ian and become very interested in Ian's love of dancing and desire to create art works.

Adrian and Ian invited Gary to collaborate with them, making a piece of work that would explore Gary and Ian's love of dance, the notion of professional dancers/ artists; asking the question 'Who is and who can be an artist'?

In his role as a co-collaborater Adrian was integral to the development of ‘Dancer’. Gary and Ian said “You can see Adrian in the work. It is close and intimate with a healthy dose of 'camp' and these are all Adrian's signatures. Moving forward without Adrian isn't difficult because we can hear him in the room, the conversations and aspirations we had for the work are still there and Adrian will always be a part of that.”

Essentially the work looks at the authenticity of Gary and Ian's untrained bodies, how disability and ability can be discussed and understood with equity and ultimately to facilitate Ian's desire to be an artist in his own right.

Gary's work emerged from the realms of live art and contemporary performance practice, taking inspiration from the many avant-garde movements of practice. He makes work that promotes social change, often participatory in its form. Adrian had developed a considerable body of one-on-one performance work exploring intimacy, vulnerability, mutual nurturing and genuine exchange with an audience. 

For the last 10 years Ian has been working with Jon Reid his Drama tutor at Sense Scotland and has become more and more inspired being involved in many performances including shows at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ian's Mum passed away two years ago and urged Ian to continue with his performance work, which drives him forward.

What responses are they looking to get from their audience?

They are interested in creating dialogue around authentic movement and how this encourages us to think and feel. The show also questions disability and its visibility in society. Gary and Ian play with the idea of this in the work and feel that it offers much conversation regarding who is able to call themselves an artist.

What challenges does producing the show for Southbank Centre present?

Southbank is a really prestigious venue. We are boldly calling this show 'Dancer' and some might disagree. The challenges both positive and negative are that we are opening up a debate in a big arena!

It will be great to share this work at the Southbank Centre. Ian and Gary have something to say and would love to extend this discussion as far as possible.

The opportunity to further tour this work would be fantastic.

Dancer will be performed in the Royal Festival Hall, Spirit Level (Blue Room), on Saturday 6 September at 3.00pm and 6.30pm. Please click on this link for further details.

Please click on this link to read a review of their 2013 work 'He's The Greatest Dancer', on The Public