Restoring faith in the work: Eliza Sanders with “Pedal.Peddle”

ED: Eliza Sanders was part of many projects at QL2 before and during her studies at NZSD; and was the recipient of a Curated Residency at QL2 Dance in 2015.

“Hello world, here is my first ever blog entry. It’s long and rambly, as things by me tend to be. Although the idea of writing something people might read makes me feel sick, as usual, the things Ruth and Gary make me do tend to teach me a lot. This has been a very helpful process of reflection and self-evaluation as I try to find my feet as an independent dance creator.”

Eliza Sanders. PHOTO: Stephen A’Court.

Eliza Sanders, by Stephen A’Court.

I used the Curated Residency opportunity to produce and perform two shows of my new full-length solo work Pedal.Peddle. I created the work during the second half of 2014 while I was coming to the end of three years training at the New Zealand School of Dance. A few months before I returned to Canberra I premiered Pedal.Peddle in Wellington with the help of Battleground Productions.

For me, the purpose of this residency at QL2 was to learn about what it takes to produce and promote a show through my own production company, House of Sand, and to have the experience of remounting a work in a new space. I was also keen to bring what I had learned in my three years away back to Canberra, to share my experiences with the people who had supported me in my early training and my life before I moved.

I had four days in the QL2 theatre during the end of April.

I came into the studio and started performing for the camera as I had done throughout my creation process in New Zealand, and I felt overcome with a sense of helpless loneliness. I had lost belief in the work. After sharing my work with a live audience and being fed by their response during the performance in Wellington it felt completely lifeless to be performing alone in the studio. I began to feel that the work I had created was worthless. It was a huge struggle to put energy into rehearsing and an even bigger effort to promote it.

Poster-2-And I came into the season with the incredibly naïve perspective that because I was bringing my work back to my hometown I would have an audience eager and waiting for me. I forgot that if people don’t know about things they usually don’t go to them. Clever. I had an incredible amount of anxiety about whether my Facebook posts and my posters (which were printed a week before opening night) would have any effect on anyone.

I felt particularly uninspired during my rehearsals, as though I had been spending every waking minute promoting a show I was not even sure I believed in anymore. I was ecstatic, however, to have four wonderful dancers rock up to take a class with me and take my mind off all of this.

“The dancers did more than take my mind off my stress in producing Pedal.Peddle, they restored my faith in the show.”

Their enthusiasm reminded me why I love moving and telling stories and reminded me of all the hard work and thought I had put into the show before the Wellington season. The act of sharing my process and exploring some new ideas with four very talented and open Quantum Leap dancers was invaluable to me in remounting my work. I hope they learned half as much as I did. I left the studio with a renewed energy and belief in the work I was going to share.

From then on, everything went pretty smoothly. A few more bookings started to roll in online so my nerves started to settle. I did a dress run for Ruth and she gave me some really good practical feedback – nothing that made me feel I needed to change huge elements of the show but enough information to give me some tasks to focus on and feel like I was moving forward.

I employed almost everyone in my family to help out with last minute things. Dad came in and provided a hammer and nails for the clothesline and Mum was briefed on how to operate ticket sales. I finished setting up the foyer space and headed into the theatre to warm up. It felt strange to be gearing up my body to do a show without having any other performers to iron out my nerves with.

It was enlightening to hear what a new audience though of the show. In all of my work I am interested in creating material that people can relate to but which is quite ambiguous. I loved coming out after the show and hearing how people interpreted what they had seen, and the issues it addressed for them. In some instances these ideas were closely in line with my own concept, while others’ interpretations shed light on an entirely new way of understanding my work. It was great. The different concepts people had uncovered in the work fed me with energy and motivation for the second performance on Saturday night. The audience helped me to find fresh insight within my own performance. I really appreciated being able to have that personal contact with my audience immediately after both shows. It gave me a real sense of the impact my work had on people and it continues to inform me on how to proceed in creating new work.

I had a lot of struggles to overcome in the weeks preceding my Residency at QL2.  When it came to the crunch I was incredibly lucky to have Ruth, Gary and Phuong to gently guide me over the speed bumps I had unintentionally laid out for myself. I learned that promoting a show takes time and I hate it. I learned that I know even less than I thought about lighting design and operation. I learned that part of what I love about performing is sharing it with other people on stage and in the rehearsal room.

Pedal 4Although all of these things are important, the lesson that resonates the most with me was revealed to me during my first performances of Pedal.Peddle in New Zealand and was confirmed for me in Canberra. That is, people see things in my work that I cannot see on my own. This is the most exciting and encouraging thing for me to know. It has encouraged me to keep investigating ideas I have for future works and to discover what these ideas may mean to another person.”

ED: The season of Pedal.Peddle was very well received in Canberra.  Reviewer Peter Wilkins:

“It is all surprise. I did not expect the witty snatches of dialogue. I did not expect the purity and seduction of her song and the words of Edith Piaff or Laura Marling or Jordie Lane amongst others. … I approached without expectation and I left with a deeper appreciation of the power of the dancer to persuade and surprise. Sanders defies expectation and excites with the originality of her dance. Her work requires the commitment of an audience to engage with the image, evoke the emotions and arouse the intellect. If this occurs, Sanders’ work will offer a new experience in the lexicon of dance.”

“She emerges as a refreshing new talent in contemporary Australian dance.”

Read the full review.

Update: Eliza has just finished a successful showing of Pedal.Peddle and Castles at the BATS Theatre in Wellington.