On Wednesday, 16th of April, we left Southampton for our last stop with Compagnie Käfig and Dance Consortium – Brighton. All the beautiful cities we have seen so far travelling with this tour paled in comparison with this wonderful seaside resort. We were lucky enough to have a great weather- with the sun shining and the sea so close by we felt a bit on vacation.
We arrived early at Queen’s Hotel in Brighton, but our rooms were waiting. After a smooth check in, we went to see the Brighton Dome, the theatre where Boxe Boxe was scheduled to play on Thursday and Friday.
The Dome is an old building, with a history of over 200 years. It was built in 1805, originally as a riding school, with an Indo-Saracenic style exterior and an Art Deco interior. Nowadays, it is a vibrant multi-arts venue, housing a museum, and three different performance spaces. After we were given the tour of the building it was back to business. As in every city we had to buy water for the dancers and to take the costumes to the dry cleaner. Since we were new to Brighton, we had to find our way around the city and locate the closest dry cleaner to the theatre. We now know that at times Google Maps is a manager’s best friend, especially when you have to move fast and you do not know the city.
The next day we woke up early to a beautiful sun shining. We had to pick up the musician’s costumes from the dry cleaners at 11, so we had plenty of time to take a walk on the beach! We got back to the theatre just in time to attend the open rehearsals. And we must say that is was one of the peaks of the day!
Due to the limited space on stage, Mourad had to adapt the show and make small changes to it to ensure that all the dancers are safe and have space to perform. Although there were people watching the rehearsal, they started by going through the show without music, fast forwarding the performance to see what works and what doesn’t on this small stage. It was good for us to see the artistic director at work, to see how he coordinates the movement, how he makes changes and how he cares for his company and his performance.
We left the rehearsals early to meet with Tijana Topalovic Best and arrange front of house and programmes for the performances. In the evening, right before the show, we had a lovely dinner with Heather, Eckhard Thiemann and Claire Soper. Again, it was a great opportunity to meet people from the industry, create some contacts and see their take on current issues and events from the arts and dance sector.
After this, we went right back to the Dome to see Boxe Boxe once again. And it was the best performance we have seen on this tour. The dancers were focused and slid across the stage like clockwork. The musicians played beautifully and moved around with ease. The whole performance was fluid yet powerful, combining raw force with grace, comedy and a bit of tragedy. Once again it had something for everyone in the audience to resonate with. And the feedback was incredible – standing ovations and a lot of clapping and shouting. After a short break, the curtain went up again for a session of Q&A with the company members. The front row was swarmed with a very excited cluster of fans, the oldest of which was probably 12 years old. In the short break they rushed their parents to take a seat as close to the stage as possible. And they came loaded with questions for the company, mainly because, being so impressed by their moves on the stage, they wanted to know how they can one day become dancers.
Friday was our last day in Brighton and we woke up early to attend a meeting with Cath James, Programme Director for South East Dance and collaborator for Brighton Dome. Cath is working with the Dome for the Dance programme and she told us the way she finds and programmes shows. She told us that she plans the shows well in advance and that she wants every season to have a main theme. Also she told us about some issues she encounters in her work, for example the unbalanced image the Dome’s programme sometimes gets because of the uneven mix of shows programmed by the team and shows put on by external organisations that hire the venue. During the meeting, Jeanette Siddall, Consultant Executive for Dance Consortium, joined us, so we had the chance to talk with her about funding of Dance Consortium and the relationship this organisation has with the Arts Council of England.
Shortly after the meeting we moved into the auditorium for the last performance of the tour. The audience was mainly composed of young children and their parents. And, without saying, the reaction to the show was again fabulous.
When the curtain went down for the last time, we knew that the tour was almost done. We had one last task to complete – a group photo in front of the truck, that Paul the driver polished all morning for the occasion.
Having the evening off, we organised an outing with the dancers and the musicians on the Brighton Pier, in order to relax and have some fun. And it was a great ending for a great tour!
As we write this we are back in Liverpool. It is funny and weird how these couple of weeks have passed and how much we have learned about tour management, life on the road and about ourselves. We had an amazing time experiencing the “joys of touring”, seeing issues arise and being solved on the spot, meeting new people from the industry or spending time with the amazing Compagnie Käfig and Dance Consortium. After two weeks we have seen Boxe Boxe six times in different venues and on different stage. We learned to appreciate each person’s contribution for the show, from the front of house staff, to the marketing department, the truck driver, the technical crew or the dancers and musicians. And all in all we must say that the greatest pleasure on tour is when at the end of the day the curtain goes up and the show goes smoothly, with everyone happy – on stage, backstage and in the audience.
When we started we knew little about dance and how to tour a dance company, but now, we must confess that our hearts are sold to the craft. Compagnie Käfig with Boxe Boxe has put on a very powerful and compelling performance in every venue we visited. For those who didn’t get the chance to see it, we strongly recommend to keep a close eye on this beautiful company, case they come by the UK again!
All said and done, we can say that we know now that being a tour manager is a 24 hour a day, seven days a week job, that either you love it or don’t. There’s no middle, just great rewards, both personal and professional.
In the end we would like to say a big THANK YOU to Dance Consortium and Heather Knight for giving us this fabulous opportunity and to Compagnie Kafig we want say C’était un plaisir d’avoir fait votre connaissance! Merci beaucoup pour c’est incroyable tournée. C’était super cool de bosser avec vous! J’espère vous revoir bientôt!