Give the Forest a Space to Perform!

by Valeria Levi in Edinburgh, Regno Unito

Total raised £1,700

raised so far

27

supporters

What if forests had something to say and were looking for a space to be listened? Help us develop our show to make this happen!

by Valeria Levi in Edinburgh, Regno Unito

 1712324371_1705921607_logo.pngPROJECT UPDATE: April 2024

  Forest workshops coming up!  

(Check the bottom of the page and our latest update)


What is "Listen to the Forest"?

“Listen to the Forest” is an experimental dance performance blending movement together with spoken word, music and sign language. This is a work which attempts to embody the collective point of view of forests around the world, suffering from human exploitation and needing a “space to breathe”. Dance, spoken word, music and British Sign Language (BSL) echo what the Forest is trying to say and suggest that breathing is the gateway to access the voice of the Forest within ourselves. 

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PH: Brian Hartley

The connection with breathing is an essential component in the piece to rediscover the need for a “space to breathe” for ourselves and the Forest, a space to listen instead of making actions, a space to rediscover a language of respect, a space to find a balance between giving to and taking away from what we call 'Nature'.

Who makes Listen to the Forest?

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PH: Brian Hartley

Core Team:

We are an international team made of five incredible women coming from different countries, such as Italy, Scotland, England, Finland, Germany, with different abilities and practice backgrounds. 

We believe in creating a space for the Forest to speak to us and remind us how to listen. We believe that our capacity for feeling and empathy for other life-forms needs to be rediscovered in order to build a more sustainable lifestyle. We believe that we can only find the Forest within ourselves, if we allow ourselves to explore a space to breathe. 

We are excited to share more about our creative process and the work, so if you want to know more about the team and hear our updates, please follow us on our Instagram accounts.

  • Valeria Levi (performer, choreographer and project manager) @_valerialevi_. Valeria is an Italian dancer and writer based in Glasgow, who has not studied dance or creative writing in renowned schools but is learning everything she does from her daily practice, commitment and very inspiring teachers and practitioners. Valeria loves blending words with movement and is developing her practice into this direction. She has been the first tree who said ‘yes’ to the voice of the Forest within herself. 

This is the main account we will be using to communicate with our supporters. If you follow this account, you will be able to find past and upcoming content about “Listen to the Forest”! 

  • Eloise Kretschmer (musician, composer and sound designer) @eloisekretschmer. Half German / half English, Eloise has received the influences of different ways of composing and playing music. She has been trained in classical music since she was a child. She is currently studying her master in Double Bass at the University of Graz (Austria) but she doesn't mind some trap and rap tunes when she is driving our van to places!
  • Pirita Tuisku (choreographic mentor, outside eye, rehearsal director) @pirretuisku. Originally Finnish, Pirita is an all-round dance artist and mentor. Pirita loves combining different art-forms and dance styles when she is making her own artistic work. At the same time, because her practice also has deep roots in being a teacher and coach, she knows exactly how to support creative teams and get the most out of them! 
  • Sonya Smullen (set and costume designer) @sonya.iscahsmullen. Based in London, Sonya originally comes from Glasgow and has a music background. More recently, she has shifted her studies from music into set and costume design and has understood that one of her passions lies in making spaces alive through set and costume. Sonya is keen to expand her designing practice towards a more eco scenography-oriented practice. 
  • Gioia De Martino (project assistant) @gioia.demartino. Originally from Italy, Gioia is based in Glasgow where she has developed a network of artists that have shaped her physical theatre practice. She studied ballet in Italy and has integrated her dance knowledge to a more theatrical practice during her time at the University of Glasgow. She also has experience in marketing and production thanks to her time as co-director of a small digital and physical theatre company. 

Extended Team:

  • Tom Showell (light technician) @tom_showell
  • Brian Hartley (photographer and videographer) @stillmotionarts
  • Catherine King, Megan McArthur and Amy Cheskin (BSL interpreters) @catherinekingsli @megmcarthurr 

History of the Project

(Here I am using first person pronoun because the story begins only with me, Valeria Levi, and then little by little from I-story “Listen to the Forest” becomes a we-story).

GpDRrc03KjtWZThLQzwiafkMOGUf1nUSYsvFC9O4Ww2YLI7UIaxCec047dHimrBv0oXt7rr8BgssIX0dp4IajfmiL2A8I16MvMZtlybbibbk0As5qlMWKUqAXooelzNS8Cqt27xOjSlSotv674zdoOI“Listen to the Forest” (previously known as Listen to the Amazon) started from a crazy idea I had. After graduating in Theatre and Philosophy in June 2021, I started working as a freelance artist in late 2021. That year, Glasgow (which is the city where I live) was hosting COP26 and I joined different events led by some wonderful Brazilian activists. I promised them that, even as an early career artist, I would do my best to keep raising awareness on the importance of protecting forests, trees and plants not only in Amazonia but across the world. 

Of course, I kept my promise, excited and scared at the same time. 

I started my artistic research for “Listen to the Forest” in May 2022 when I was welcomed at Dance Base (Edinburgh) for a dance residency. During this time I mainly worked by myself, exploring the core of the piece and the combination between dance and spoken word, which are my privileged art-forms. Since the beginning, breathing has played a crucial role within the piece and I understood I would need to deepen my research and my practice on this topic, which I did later in the year.

1712325359_1_artist_residency.jpegBetween late 2022 and beginning 2023 I turned “Listen to the Forest” from a solo into a collaborative work. After securing financial support for this first stage of development from Creative Scotland, I gathered around me a small team of collaborators: Eloise Kretschmer, Benedetta Zanetti, Pirita Tuisku and Catherine King. I was the dancer and voice of the piece, Eloise was providing music and sound and Benedetta was responsible for BSL integration: we were all representing the Forest’s perspective, enhancing one another with different art-forms.

Over spring, we were hosted by the University of Glasgow, thanks to the generous support of Professor Simon Murray, and we had the opportunity to rehearse at the James Arnott Theatre (University of Glasgow) for two weeks. At the end of our rehearsals we hosted a first public sharing of our work, followed by a Q&A, and filmed our first draft of the piece.

Our first draft of “Listen to the Amazon” was a mainly abstract piece, open to different interpretations. It ran at a slow pace allowing audience members to get in tune with their own as well as the forests’ breath. Trailer video available here: https://youtu.be/9MgC5qFep7I 

Following this first sharing of the piece, we had a one-week residency at Tramway (Glasgow) in November 2023 to rehearse and explore new elements which supported our second stage of development. This is when Evie Waddell, Sonya Smullen and Gioia De Martino were introduced to the work to enrich what became at this point “Listen to the Forest”. 

From 29th January until 3rd March 2024, we started the second stage of development for "Listen to the Forest". This was the time for us to transform our first draft of the piece into an authentic dance theatre performance that was previewed at Assembly Roxy (Edinburgh) on the 1st and 2nd of March 2024. We are still considering our “Listen to the Forest” a work-in-progress but we are really sure that our second stage of development helped us to lay solid foundations of what the Forest is saying to us.

What have we done so far?

The second stage of development of a performance was a very exciting process but also very demanding in terms of resources, time and space which were needed to take the piece to the next level. We knew we could not have done this alone, which is why we decided to open our crowdfunding page. 

We are very grateful to our Forest friends and we would like to outline to you how many great things we have managed to accomplish thanks to your help. 

1)  First, we managed to hire some of our rehearsal spaces.

We received in-kind studio support for four weeks by some incredible partners, such as Citymoves Dance Agency Scio (Aberdeen), Studio Somewhere (Glasgow) and Tramway (Glasgow). However, we had to rent rehearsal space for the week spent at Assembly Roxy in Edinburgh. As you can imagine, theatres and dance studios are not cheap but we really needed to work in safe and spacious places in order to feel comfortable during our creative process. Thank you, Forest friends, for allowing us to rehearse in such a great space such as Assembly Roxy!

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PH: Brian Hartley

2)  Second, we bought props and materials to enrich our staging of the piece.

During our first stage of development, we did not have the support of a set designer but since we had moved to a preview stage of our work, we thought that we should look after set and costume design more carefully.

Since we were especially committed to represent the forests’ point of view in our show, we chose eco-friendly, sustainable materials to make our set as well as our costumes. We care about the life of our set and costumes as much as we care about contributing to build a world where humans are more connected with trees, plants and the vegetal sphere.

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PH: Brian Hartley

3) Third, we were a moving Forest! 

During our development activity, we travelled to different venues and across various Scottish cities, carrying our lovely set, equipment, costumes and music instruments with us. We wish we were strong enough to cycle or walk to all of these different places, but unfortunately, due to long distances, we had to rely on public transport and car rental solutions

In our agenda, we carefully looked at the best ways to avoid too many transfers (only three big transfers in 5 weeks!). Of course, we aim to limit our emissions even more in the future stages of the performance. 

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PH: Brian Hartley

What happens now? Why should you support the project?

(Read until the end to know more about some exciting news)

We are so grateful for all the support we have received so far and we appreciate the opportunity you’ve given us to give our forest a space to perform. 

The development period was particularly crucial and life changing for us because we were able to work on different practical elements of the show and build a stronger connection with the Forest speaking within us. However, we still have a long way to go and we want to nurture the project even more, which is why we decided to keep our crowdfunding page open. 

We have plans to move on to another development phase of the project, bringing “Listen to the Forest” to a wider audience. We are determined to make our forest bigger and better! Our team has great plans to develop this performance even more, reaching different audiences and building a greater community to eventually nourish forests all around the world.

To be able to do this, we need your help. As you can see, our crowdfunding did not reach the target we were hoping for but we cannot stop now. Our previews at Assembly Roxy were very successful and we got really positive feedback from our audience members. We need to build a stronger Forest and a stronger community of Forest friends, like you, who will support us on our future steps.

In this next section, we would like to tell you more about how this second stage of development was so crucial for us and it could not have happened without you! But we would also like to share what we are planning to do next, which potentialities are held behind the piece and how you can keep on being involved and follow the Forest progress

  • Developing choreography

SO FAR: From a simple and essential choreography, we have shifted into a more complex and profound way of using movement. We have effectively smoothened the relationship between dance, spoken word and music. To do this, performer and choreographer Valeria Levi asked for the support of the choreographic mentor and outside eye Pirita Tuisku. Being one of Pirita's dance students for almost 4 years, Valeria thought that the progress of her work would benefit from a well-established relationship in order to take the quality of the work to the next level. 

This goal was successfully achieved in our preview at Assembly Roxy, 

“Well-executed hybrid pieces like this one are important as they highlight the creative possibilities of dance, music, and spoken word and the power of weaving them together”  by Holli Boyd, A Young(ish) Perspective - https://ayoungishperspective.co.uk/2024/03/04/review-listen-to-the-forest/ 

Our intention to integrate the performance designer Sonya Smullen was also a success as she was able to support the team on the best ways of combining choreography with props and space.

NEXT: We aim to develop this even further in our next stage of development. In fact, we would like to build a stronger connection between dance, spoken word and set by taking the piece to different venues (indoors and outdoors) and audiences. We will keep on working hard on our practices in safe rehearsal spaces but at the same time we are aware that we cannot experience anything new unless we take some risks and get the piece somewhere out of our comfort zone. We are already in touch with venues across Scotland, Italy and France and we will keep you posted on where the Forest will take the next jump

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PH: Brian Hartley

  • Exploring how to best integrate sign language

SO FAR: From the origins of “Listen to the Forest”, we have been working closely with the deaf community to make the performance more accessible. Originally, BSL performer Benedetta Zanetti helped us translate the show’s spoken word and music in a deaf-accessible way while supporting the choreography in certain scenes. Due to other commitments, in November 2023, Benedetta was replaced by deaf dancer and singer Evie Waddell.

As part of our second phase of development, we wanted to focus on ways in which BSL could become part of the choreography as if it was a visual dance accompanying movement and music. Both Benedetta and Evie were supported during rehearsals by BSL interpreter Catherine King who has continued working with us. In this particular phase, Catherine was joined by Megan McArthur and Amy Cheskin who all were responsible for facilitating communication for Evie during rehearsals, but also helped Evie on a linguistic level, i.e., by making the BSL translation both clear and theatrical.

In other words, Evie expanded the role of the BSL performer by playing a more integrated and active role within the piece. This was clearly delivered as Holli Boyd from A Young(ish) Perspective reviewed,

“It was particularly lovely seeing a show that wasn’t just BSL-interpreted, but that had BSL at the heart of its expression.”

NEXT: We aim to continue to work on the accessibility of the piece wherever the Forest may take us next because we received some very special feedback from our deaf audience members attending our previews in Edinburgh. They all agreed that they have never seen a performance where the BSL performer was so integrated within the choreography and music-making process of the show. This feedback has encouraged us that we are on the right path and we can keep exploring and improving our connection with BSL!  

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PH: Brian Hartley

  •  Investing in audience participation

SO FAR: We would like to develop this piece in the direction of a participatory performance. Breathing and listening are some of the key-values within the performance. In the latest preview of “Listen to the Forest”, we were keen on using breath as an instrument to interact with the audience as I am a firm believer that one of the best forms of support we can give to the Forest lies in a deep, honest and authentic ability to listen and let the Forest breathe. 

To get the audience involved in the process of listening, musician and sound designer Eloise Kretschmer looked after strengthening the relationship between music and dance as well as using breathing as part of the soundscape in creative ways. This came across in the performance as,

“Kretschmer also plays a vital role. The use of music sets the tone and atmosphere for the production.” by Allan Wilson, All Edinburgh Theatre - https://www.alledinburghtheatre.com/listen-to-the-forest-assembly-roxy-2024-review/ 

NEXT: In future stages, we would like to delve into a deeper use of breathing / listening exercises. Our plan is to arrange a “spin off” series of workshops for anyone who is interested in our work based on the practices, techniques and tools we have built during our second stage of development. 

IMPORTANT NEWS!  Our first workshops will take place in Spring 2024 in Turin (Italy) and Edinburgh (Scotland). These workshops will serve as an opportunity for us to engage with people outside of the team and start researching the best ways to make our piece a participatory performance where audiences and performers come together as part of the same breathing system, who breathes the same breath. 

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PH: Brian Hartley

Will you become a Forest friend? Will you help us grow a space to breathe?


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