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Pioneering performers at DMU release new work in wake of COVID-19

Pioneering performers at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) have skilfully transformed their end-of-year show from physical to virtual during a global pandemic.

Watch the DMU X Gecko trailer for a taste of what's to come

The 18 Performing Arts students who form the DMU X Gecko ensemble have worked closely with award-winning and internationally-acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko, to create a ground-breaking performance celebrating being together while staying apart. 

Their innovative work will premiere on YouTube at 7pm on Monday 20 April.

Before social distancing and lockdown measures were imposed, the final-year students spent an intensive week in DMU’s studios, working on a performance based on physical and emotional connection with Ryen Perkins-Ganges, a devising performer from Gecko.

Since then, the group has had to adapt quickly, rethinking their original concept and moving rehearsals online through the use of Zoom.

Still from the trailer made by Karina, using the editing team's clips 

Ensemble member Karina Kinsey said: “It seemed like a mammoth task, but with the support we’ve received from both our lecturer Rosie and Gecko, our performance has developed into a celebration of being together while staying apart. 

“By continuing our practice just like we did in the studio, we’ve created a new ‘normal’ and we’ve been able to develop within the current restrictions.”

Coursemate Robyn Whiteoak said: “It’s been a lot more challenging, but also a lot more rewarding. We’re just so happy that we’ve still been able to produce a performance against all odds.” 

The group has been rehearsing together online and then recording individual choreography as solos, which have been edited together to look like a live performance.

The group rehearsing before lockdown was imposed

“We’re really lucky that our degree gave us a good grounding in technology and editing too, because without those skills I don’t think we could have adapted so fast,” said Robyn.

“Our stage management team has become our technical team and we’ve had to create a new editing team to pull this off. It’s exciting because we're one of the first theatre companies to collaborate virtually, so it's a fresh new way of working.” 

As a listed practitioner on various GCSE and A-level syllabuses, Gecko theatre company was already familiar to many of the students before they even embarked on their degree at DMU.

Karina said: “For most of us, Gecko is our biggest artistic inspiration and we dream of being within that elite band of performer. Having the opportunity to create work with them and receive such incredibly intimate training has pushed us further than we could have ever imagined. 

“I can’t express how grateful I feel to have had this opportunity. Even though our end product is so different to the original plan, it’s more than I could have ever asked for.”

Another ensemble member, Chloe Holden, described the experience as ‘once in a lifetime’ and Tom Inglis said: “Having studied Gecko at school and enjoyed so many of their performances over the years, it’s been such an honour and an inspiration working with them.

“Learning about every aspect of putting on a performance, and having to adapt to such extreme circumstances, will definitely strengthen our portfolios going into the sector and beyond.”

Rosie Garton, DMU’s programme leader for Performing Arts, said: “These students have worked so hard on turning a very disappointing situation into a new way of working. 

“I think it is an exemplary example of adapting to changing times and they now will be leading practitioners in creating physical performance from places of isolation.”

Follow DMU X Gecko on InstagramTwitterFacebook and YouTube.

Posted on: Friday 17 April 2020

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