The Weekend Artist
September 9, 2017 Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances

Defying gravity

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UK-based artist Kate Lawrence talks to TWA about how her passion for dance and calling for adventure helped her discover vertical dance

Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances
Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances

IT is not always that adventure and art come together to create mesmerising fusions that enthrall the audiences. But for Kate Lawrence, a trained dancer and an adventure enthusiast, her fascination for heights and her passion for dance have amalgamated into a dynamic cocktail that she calls vertical dance. A UK based artist, Kate’s dance performances take place along vertical structures such as historic walls, towering structures of cathedrals and monuments and even cranes and metallic structures of the dockyard. The Weekend Artist managed to catch up with the talented vertical dance artist to know more about her art.

“I have been a trained dancer but even while working as a dancer, I was looking for extra sources of income. I even worked as a stunt woman. So at one point, my love for dance and my passion for heights and adventure came together and that is how vertical dance was discovered in 2002,” Kate said.

Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances
Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances

About vertical dance

A challenging and logistically driven dance form, Kate and her team’s performances include coordinated individual or group movements along vertical platforms. The dancers, who are suspended against walls or structures with the help of harnesses and winches unveil choreographed movements in front of audiences who are left spellbound by the precision, accuracy, and rhythm that amalgamates with the fascinating display of light and sound. According to Kate, not many in the world specialise in vertical dance form.

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“There are hardly about 50-60 artists in the world. In fact, we started a vertical dance forum about three years ago and are beginning to get together and hold meetings so as to promote the art form across various platforms. The popularity of the art form is growing slowly and steadily,” she added.

Host performance from Kate Lawrence on Vimeo.

Behind the stage

Contrary to the conventional dance-forms, where dancers land firmly of terra firma, vertical dance form involves negotiating unpredictable forces acting upon the artists. To land on the vertical surface with precision and in coordination with co artists involves a tremendous amount of practice and physical endurance and Kate practices for three hours a day, twice a week followed by a strict regime involving yoga and supplementary fitness regime. “What we do is perceived as dangerous already.

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The final performance is a result of training as well as the logistical effort that goes behind the actual dance. Our team visits the structures in advance. A lot of times, these performances require prior permissions from local bodies and city councils. Besides, there are risk assessments and identifying of critical points. Finally, the building has a large role to play as it offers the opportunities to narrate the story through the dance form,” she says.

Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances
Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances

The backdrop

Having performed at various locations across Europe and Asia, one of Kate’s most memorable performances has been the one at Bristol Harbour. “In the harbour, they have old cranes and weaving a show around those metallic structures was very exciting. Further, we took one of our performances titled Gwymon — meaning seaweed — to an abandoned quarry in Bali and also at Welsh Government building and on Venue Cymru, both in North Wales. Both these performances have been special to me,” she smiles.

Gwymon 2016 from Kate Lawrence on Vimeo.

Every performance is a dialogue between the artist and the audience, and Kate says that most of the times, the audience for vertical dance shows take time to notice that there is a person performing on the vertical structure. “I am happy we encourage people to look up,” she smiles.

 

Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances
Kate Lawrence during one on of the vertical dance performances

 

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