Dance show inspired by cancer diagnosis during pregnancy to play the Burnavon
PREGNANCY and the planned arrival of a new baby is one of the most precious experiences a woman can go through. Pair this special time with a cancer diagnosis and the landscape changes dramatically. This devastating situation forms the inspiration behind a new dance production, which is coming to the Burnavon on Friday 8th June.
Dancer and choreographer Suzannah McCreight was 16 weeks pregnant when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2010. After surgery to remove her thyroid followed by radioactive iodine treatment Suzannah was cleared of the cancer. Two years on, she has used this life-changing event as the inspiration for Plants & Hopes, which features an original score by acclaimed composer Brian Irvine. The production is being staged by Belfast’s leading contemporary dance company, Maiden Voyage Dance.
Drawing on the experiences she went through as the pregnant mother of a toddler whilst dealing with the life changing news that she had cancer, McCreight uses the metaphor of a garden in the performance and reflects on the struggles and joys that unfold in a space where both wanted and unwanted growth compete for attention.
Speaking about the process of developing the work she commented: “I had agreed to do some research work on a new dance commission with Maiden Voyage when I found out I had cancer. Devising the production with Brian Irvine through a series of workshops became a welcome distraction. Between surgery and follow up treatment, with my scars still healing and my bump affecting every move, it quickly became apparent that what I was going through would have a huge effect on my creativity. The piece was going to end up being very autobiographical and centred around the events that were taking place in my life.”
McCreight and Irvine worked together very closely at the research stage of the production with Irvine devising a composition in parallel with the emerging movements and themes of the piece. Speaking of this way of working Irvine commented:
“As a composer, working collaboratively with an artist provides a unique opportunity to absorb another perspective into the creation of the music. To share Suzannah’s experience and develop a score from working closely with her was very special.”
McCreight underwent surgery to remove her thyroid at 23 weeks pregnant at the Ulster Hospital. This was followed by radioactive iodine therapy last March at the City Hospital Cancer Centre after her new baby had been safely delivered. The impact these events had on Suzannah and her family was extremely difficult and she has used the tough experiences she went through as inspiration for the production:
“I was often going through a similar routine as both a cancer patient and an expectant mother. Nurses, consultants, waiting rooms and lists of instructions were abundant in each situation. They even used the same ultrasound machine to find my tumour as they did to view my baby. The anticipation of scan results arouses similar hopes and anxieties in each situation. With one such thyroid scan, the radiographer let me sneak a peak at my baby and even told me I was having a boy. This is just one example of how a joyous event could erupt out of a difficult episode and it inspired a scene of scanning movements within the piece. The performance is filled with such examples of difficulty alongside hope and joy.”
She added “The metaphor of life in a garden seemed particularly apt with scenes of planting, growing, cutting back and transplanting. There is a vibrancy about the performance, like a flourishing garden that is full of life and potential. The intervention of medicine features, seemingly interrupting the natural flow of the performance’s growth. But just as in reality, the medical and organic sit side by side, they work towards the same goal – life.”
Commenting on the impact of dance on people undergoing treatment for cancer Dr. Jenny Elliott, Chief Executive of Arts Care added:
“In my experience of creating, facilitating and performing contemporary dance pieces with patients in cancer centres I have evidenced the powerful contribution dance makes to individuals who have experienced the trauma of a cancer diagnosis and treatment. Patients often reflect that it is the re-connecting with their physical body and expression of complex emotions in the dance that aide their journey back to well-being and full health. Suzannah’s courageous choreographic expression of her journey will offer a unique insight into how the dancing body reconciles and re-identifies at different stages of life experience to bring wholeness, healing and hope. It is a story waiting to be told.”
Maiden Voyage is offering a number of dance workshops, and ticket & transport deals to schools and groups to attend the performance. For further information and to book contact Eibhlin at email@example.com
Plants & Hopes is principally funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Lloyds TSB Foundation and Belfast City Council.
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Friday 24 May 2013
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