Participants | Thick & Tight: Daniel Hay-Gordon, Eleanor Perry

Thick & Tight are a dance duo whose work incorporates mime, drag and cultural reference. After being commissioned by Kings Place for the Noh Reimagined Festival, and with an invitation to train with artists in Noh and Kyogen Theatre in Japan, their Residency explored how these art forms can be incorporated into their own work, and where their practices overlap and diverge.

The short film you see as part of this year’s Festival of New is a very early stage of a larger project. We’ve been commissioned by Noh Reimagined Festival to create a work in response to Japanese Noh and Kyogen, 600-year-old classical Japanese dance-drama art forms. We’ve tried to comprehend the performative, thematic and contextual elements of Noh and Kyogen. Inspired by the rhythms, structure, choreographic languages and metaphysical philosophy found within, we’re finding connections with our own practice in dance and queer performance. We feel very lucky to be invited to respond to these highly respected art forms and learn more about Japanese culture and aesthetics. Alongside our creative response, we’re learning more about cultural appropriation and having discussions around queer anti-racist practice with collaborators, peers, students and audiences.

While at Snape Maltings, we undertook extensive research into Benjamin Britten’s Church Parable Curlew River, based on the Noh play Sumidagawa (Sumida River). We were given access to the archives, which included original librettos, first performance photographs and books Britten collected while touring Japan. We also went out most days into the reed beds around the River Alde to record the local curlew population and take field recordings of their haunting, plaintive calls. We mixed these sounds and historic research together with an ongoing exploration into LGBTQ+ history, especially in Japan. This research culminated in the early stages of Unclouded Moon, a piece which seeks to unveil our abstract and emotional relationship to nature and the ancient.

This piece shall go onto be presented at Kings Place as part of the Noh Reimagined Festival and hopefully in Tokyo at the National Noh Theatre, where we’ll perform the work alongside renowned Japanese artists. Since our residency at Snape, we’ve begun training with a Kyogen master over Zoom, researched more into the history of Noh and Kyogen, created a work inspired by elements of Noh for students at Northern Contemporary Dance School and begun a series of interviews with Japanese heritage queer artists. To continue creating the work during lockdown, we’re setting weekly choreographic tasks for each other and our design collaborator Tim Spooner.

We would like to thank Akiko Yanagisawa, John Fensom and Jamie Orchard-Lisle.

Superbly funny and surprisingly poignant…unbearable sad beauty
5 Stars

The Stage

Appallingly entertaining
4 Stars

The Observer