Towards the end of 2015, we went back to the wonderful Dulwich Picture Gallery to prepare their 2016 preview video. It’s always exciting to hear what is going to be coming into the gallery each year, and this year is no different.
We spoke to curators Ian Dejardin and Xavier Bray about major exhibitions by artists such as Nikolai Astrup, Winifred Knights and Adriaen van de Velde. Dr Bray then also told us about temporary displays in the main gallery including an installation by contemporary artist Mark Wallinger being shown alongside van Dyck’s self portrait, revealing X-Ray images and reuniting works by Dou that haven’t been seen together since they were exhibited in 1665.
This year we had the extra pleasure of visiting Eve, one of the participants, along with her family at home to hear about the benefits that working on the Visual to Vocal project has had not only for Eve, but for everyone involved. It was very generous of the family to invite us into their home so we were able to get an intimate portrait for this film.
Dementia and Alzheimer’s touch us all. Anything that can help support those living with and caring for people with these diseases should be encouraged and celebrated.
The project involves a group of older people from Blackfriars and a group of young people from Salmon learning a piece of dance repertory with Rambert animateurs.
The first part of the project was a welcome day for everyone at DPG for all the participants to meet and mingle because, for the majority of the project, the groups will learn the dance separately so they can move at their own pace. The day began with some lunch and then everyone got up and started moving around, saying hello to one another and playing some ice breaker games which culminated in getting into pairs and discussing families. Then sharing what had been learned about each other’s families with the whole group.
The participants took a very quick break before starting to look at some of the repotory that Rambert will be working on with them throughout the project. It was a really lively section of dance so it was great that the older people were able to dip in and out of the dance but also very encouraging to see how determined some were to get through the whole routine… and some just danced to their own rhythm – which was amazing!
Then the participants split into two mixed age groups and went on a tour of the Gallery where they learnt about the the Linbury Family through a number of portraits that are some of the first to greet you as you enter the gallery. The Linbury Sisters is a Gainsborough painting and, for me, one of the most iconic images from the gallery and certainly the image I tend to think of when I think of the gallery.
Then we looked at Le Triomphe de David, depicting David’s victory over Goliath.
We didn’t just look at these pics but had a wonderful guided tour from Phillipa who really encouraged the participants to explore and investigate even the most secondary characters in these images; exploring the body shapes, relationships, drama, dance and family relationships that they revealed.
After the tour we chatted, on camera, to some very enthusiastic participants, older people and children, who were very excited to be part of a new way of investigating the Gallery’s collection. Maureen, a regular visitor to DPG, was very familiar with the Gallery and had previously danced with an African dance troupe in Peckham. Young Miracle had visited the Gallery with her school and then brought her mother back with her to visit the gallery before joining this project for another chance to spend time in the gallery and work with its historic collection.
I also spoke to Liz, a retired professional tap dancer, who, despite having problems with her knees, was enthusiastic and very inspirational; absolutely ready to give it all a go!
It was a packed afternoon all finished off with tea and cakes where I got to chat to some of the children who really enjoyed the gift shop. I also spoke with Jeanie, who had been a Ballroom enthusiast in her younger days, as well as rock n roll Aidan, who I had seen dancing to his own beat earlier in the workshop!
We were made to really feel part of the team working on this project with Blackfriar Settlement, Salmon Youth Centre, Megan Taylor – our great photography mate, Rambert and of course the lynch pins, Michelle and Aimee, from Dulwich Picture Gallery. We’re really looking forward to joining the groups at their rehearsals which start next week.