Freya Jeffs – dancer, collaborator and Curator of the Cottier Dance Project

Freya Jeffs.© Chris Redgrave. (Click image for larger version)
Freya Jeffs.
© Chris Redgrave. (Click image for larger version)

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5 Questions to Freya Jeffs on Glasgow’s Cottier Dance Project and more…

The Cottier Dance Project, part of the UK’s largest chamber music festival The Cottier Chamber Project, runs between 19th-26th June – not long to go and time to catch up with its curator, Freya Jeffs.

You started the Cottier Dance Project last year – how did it go?

Cottier Dance Project logoIt went better than I could have imagined! The support from the dance community for the festival, and for their fellow dancers, was fantastic, and there was a great excitement about it all. As hoped, the informal but beautiful setting of Cottier’s Theatre (once a church) drew in a diverse crowd, and one member of the audience commented “Not being of a dancing persuasion, I found myself rather curious and unsure of what to expect… I left in awe, inspired, swooning and wishing I had learnt to dance.” Job done!

Many festivals major on bringing in international companies and talent but Cottier seems different – what are you about?

The Cottier Dance Project came from Andy Saunders’ (Director of the Cottier Chamber Project) desire to bring dance into the UK’s largest chamber music festival. The Chamber Project exists to promote Scottish-based chamber ensembles, and also welcomes international guests to the programme. That is exactly what the Dance Project does for Scotland’s dancers. The festival provides a platform for new and existing work to be shown, whilst also encouraging dancers from Scotland’s national companies to create their own work and explore their own creative talent. The main aim, however, is to get people collaborating across the arts, as there is such a wealth of artistic talent up here.

max.IMEALLdance in MEITHEAL.MEITHEAL is performed live on 25 June 2015.© Istvan Magyar. (Click image for larger version)
max.IMEALLdance in MEITHEAL.
MEITHEAL is performed live on 25 June 2015.
© Istvan Magyar. (Click image for larger version)

The festival is artist led and performer-driven, resulting in a fun mix of styles, subject matter and pushing programming boundaries, whilst keeping the artistic integrity intact. Being able to celebrate all these aspects of dance creativity amongst professionals is essential! This whole ethos gets the dancers and audiences mingling before and after performances, which creates a lively atmosphere, and encourages audiences who tend towards a specific art form to explore new possibilities. We have already had a great crossover of audiences between the music and dance, with one established music lover saying,

…I know nothing of dance, having avoided modern dance manifestations partly from fear of not knowing how to respond to it… I found it easy to be involved in the spirit of the choreography, the dance revealed new facets of the music and the music construed the dance.

Femke Gyselinck<br />performimg 21 June 2015<br />© CDP. (Click image for larger version)
Femke Gyselinck
performimg 21 June 2015
© CDP. (Click image for larger version)
My hope is that we can continue to champion Scottish-based artists, both new and established, as well as welcoming international groups with interesting collaborative ideas. The continued joy is to see audiences cross over between the arts, and to hear them express excitement about an event that made them aware of something new.

Cruel, I know, but give us just a few of the highlights you are looking forward to. (the full list is here)

There are 58 events and over 220 fantastic artists! I am looking forward to the Triple Bill of premières from Scottish-based choreographers (23rd), the collaboration from Stephen Pelton Dance Theatre and The Gavin Bryars Ensemble (21st), and we also welcome Femke Gyselinck (Rosas) with the Hathor Consort (21st), whose work was premièred at the Concertgebouw Brugge this May. The Director of ‘Peter Darrell: Scotland’s Dance Pioneer’, Elly Taylor, will be introducing the 1964 archive footage of Darrell and John Hopkins’ BBC commission ‘Houseparty’ on 20th June to open the dance film events, which will be fascinating. Many other excellent works including ballet, aerial dance and tango will be showcased during the whole festival… I could write for ages about all of them!

Film still from Houseparty. Dir: Peter Darrell and John Hopkins with Western Ballet Theatre. Houseparty will be screened on 20th June 2015.
Film still from Houseparty. Dir: Peter Darrell and John Hopkins with Western Ballet Theatre. Houseparty will be screened on 20th June 2015.
What is the link between High Heart Dance Company (which you are part of) and the Cottier Project?

High Heart Dance Company formed the backbone of last year’s dance programme during its pilot year. We worked with both traditional and classical musicians on two different projects to start the trend of dance and live music at the festival, and now High Heart returns this year as part of an expanded, more diverse programme. Both High Heart and Daniel’s Beard (host chamber ensemble) comprise freelance artists who have been involved with the festival since the beginning, and share the opinion that there is much to learn and huge scope for small-scale dance and chamber music collaboration. This gives us a strong and flexible basis for creating new work, and has also inspired others to do the same. This year the ensembles are performing ‘Fray’ on the final night of the festival, which has been choreographed by Peter Darrell Choreographic Award winner, Diana Loosmore, to music by Christopher Rathbone, Nadia Boulanger and Krzyzstof Penderecki.

Joanne Pirrie of High Heart Dance Company in Fray.Fray is performed live on 26 June 2015.© Mikah Smillie. (Click image for larger version)
Joanne Pirrie of High Heart Dance Company in Fray.
Fray is performed live on 26 June 2015.
© Mikah Smillie. (Click image for larger version)

It is my aim for 2016 to have at least half the dance programme using live music.

What’s your greatest dance wish?

Professionally, I would love to see dancers, musicians and artists be able to create work together, whether it be a solo musician or chamber ensemble. From student level on both sides, there needs to be more excitement generated about the possibilities of collaboration, and also support for these ideas to grow, especially in the professional world. Financial support is essential for artists to experiment and learn about other art forms to improve their own, and ultimately it will enhance the quality of the resulting performance.

Personally, I am determined to teach my boyfriend how to polka!

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