Bodies in Flight in their 17th performance project GYMNAST delved into our fascination with the athlete’s drive to physical excellence, their supreme attention to bodily task, the high point on the parallel bars, the thousands of minute adjustments needed to hold that still.
In collaboration with video-artist Tony Judge and composer Jen Bell and Night Bus Choir, GYMNAST used the training session as both source and structure, from warm-up routines to the display of gymnastic exercises, from novice to expert, to explore the continuing power of the Olympian ideal of athlete as interface between human and superhuman, the mortal and the divine.
This project responded to the 2012 Games by exploring the athlete’s drive and determination to acquire the skills necessary to achieve physical excellence, both from the insider’s point of view – the trainee gymnast, and from the spectator’s – the admiration we feel in watching the achievement of physical mastery. Using the gymnast’s training session as both source and structure, moving from basic warm-up routines to the display of gymnastic exercises, we developed a micro-choreography revealing the beauty of the gymnast’s supreme attention to bodily task, placed alongside new writing set to music and sung by a choir. In parallel, video-maker Tony Judge created the video consisting of interviews and sequences capturing the training regime and micro-choreography of the gymnasts’ movements. The work was presented in various forms: as multi-screen video installation, sometimes with live gymnastics and/or live choir; as theatre performance or a gymnasium presentation. Four videos were selected by the BBC for their Big Screens contribution to the Cultural Olympiad and shown at 22 locations nationwide in the run-up to the Games.
NICOLE ANDREW gymnast, JOSHUA AVALLONE gymnast, JENNIFER BELL composer/conductor, SOPHIE GAUNT gymnast, SARA GIDDENS choreographer/co-director, SAM HALMARACK composer/post-production, SIMON JONES lyrics/co-director, TONY JUDGE video/photography/artwork, BEN TAYLOR gymnast
The Night Bus Choir: Martin Bailey, Dominic Cauldwell, Jamie Darwen, Bertie Goffe, Lucy Goldsack, Kate Howson, Alex Kalinowska, Andy Marshall, Adrian Mantle, Phaedra Mawle, Alex Reid, Ruth Russell, Gemma Smart, Jan Swann & Katy Wilkes
On video: gymnasts from the following clubs – Alfreton Leisure Centre Gymnastics, Amber Valley Gymnastics Club, Notts Gymnastics Academy, Sharley Park Girls Gymnastics Club, The Belgian Gymnastics Federation, Tibshelf Gymnastics Club
And their coaches: Diane Andrew, Rachel Dixon, Colin Edwards, Ian Kime, Amber Moore, Gary Newton, Sue Snelgrove, Claire Starkey, Andy Sverdloff (Sports leader), Jemma Thurgood & Barry Winch
Interviewees: Joshua Avallone, Abi Barnes, Becky Downie, Jack Grist, Aiden Gwyther, Jake Houtby, Katie Johnson, Charlotte Matthews, Chloe Pryce, Evie Washington, George Woodhouse, Jennifer Woodhouse & Abbie Woolley
Performed and presented at: Ferment/Bristol Old Vic, Surface Gallery (Nottingham), Arnolfini (Bristol), Atkins Gallery (Hinckley), Mayfest/City of Bristol Gymnastics, Rushcliffe Academy (Nottingham), BBC Big Screens (nationwide)