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.
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'.
Our first draft of “Listen to the Forest” is a mainly abstract piece, open to different interpretations. It is a show which runs 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
(Note: “Listen to the Forest was previously known as Listen to the Amazon”)
What are we trying to achieve?
From 29th January until 3rd March 2024 we are running the second stage of development for "Listen to the Forest". This will be a space for us to transform our first draft of the piece into a refined and polished dance theatre performance which will be previewed at Assembly Roxy (Edinburgh).
The second stage of development of a performance is a very exciting process but also very demanding in terms of resources, time and space we need to take the piece to the next level. We are currently facing different costs I would like to outline to you in order to help you understand what lies behind our target.
1) First, we are spending our resources on hiring some of our rehearsal spaces.
We have 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 will have to rent rehearsal space for one more week in Edinburgh.
As you can imagine, theatres and dance studios are not cheap but we really need to work in safe and spacious places in order to feel comfortable during our creative process and take inspiration on potential ways in which we can best communicate to our audiences.
2) Second, we need 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 because we are now moving to a preview of the show, we thought that we would need to look after set and costume design more carefully.
It is our priority to keep our set and costumes as simple as possible and, especially because we are committed to represent the forests’ point of view in our show, we are choosing eco-friendly, sustainable materials. 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.
3) Third, we are a moving Forest! During our development activity we will be travelling to different venues and across cities, carrying our lovely set, equipment, costumes and music instruments with us. We wish we could be strong enough to cycle and walk to all of these different places but unfortunately we are aware that we will have to rely on public transport or car rental.
In our agenda we have carefully looked at the best ways to avoid too many transfers (only three big transfers in 5 weeks!) but of course we are still learning how to improve ourselves and limit our emissions in the future!
We hope this helps give you a clearer understanding on what makes our 6000£ target. We would be very grateful if you could support us in making this dream come true and give our forest a space to perform. Remember, alone we are a drop, together we are an ocean.
Why should you support the project?
The development period is particularly relevant for us because we still need to work on different practical elements on the show and build a stronger connection with the Forest speaking inside us.
During this development we will explore the potentialities held by the piece in the following ways:
- Developing choreography
From a simple and essential choreography we want to shift into a more complex and profound way of using movement and smoothen the relationship between dance, spoken word and music which has worked really well so far but needs to be polished. 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.
Moreover, we intend to integrate the performance designer Sonya Smullen who will take care of set and costume design to enrich the overall staging of the piece as well as support the team on the best ways of combining choreography with props and space.
- Exploring how to best integrate sign language
We have closely been working with the BSL performer Benedetta Zanetti whose role has mainly consisted in translating spoken word and music in a deaf-accessible way and supporting the choreography in certain scenes. Due to other commitments, Benedetta will be replaced by deaf dancer and singer Evie Waddell who will keep on translating music and spoken word into BSL.
However, as part of our second R&D, we will focus on ways in which BSL can become part of the choreography as if it was a visual dance accompanying movement and music. In other words, Evie will expand the role of the BSL performer by playing a more integrated and active role within the piece.
Benedetta was supported during rehearsals by BSL interpreter Catherine King who will continue working with us. Catherine will facilitate communication for Evie during rehearsals but will also help Evie on a linguistic level, i.e. by making the BSL translation both clear and theatrical.
- Investing in audience participation
We would like to develop this piece in the direction of a participatory performance. Because breathing and listening are some of the key-values within the performance, I am keen to delve into a deeper use of breathing/ listening exercises as an instrument for interacting with the audience, and understand that one of the best support we can give to the forest lies in a deep, honest and authentic listening.
To get the audience involved in the process of listening, musician and sound designer Eloise Kretschmer will look after strengthening the relationship between music and dance as well as use breathing as part of the soundscape in creative ways.
Who makes Listen to the Forest?
We are an international team made of seven incredible women coming from different countries, such as Italy, Scotland, Finland, Germany, with different abilities and practices.
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 need 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 (choreographer, performer and producer) @_valerialevi_
This is the main account we will be using to communicate with our supporters. If you start following this account, you will be able to find a series of Listen to the Forest Live Chats where we are introducing ourselves and the work and more upcoming content!
- Eloise Kretschmer (musician and sound designer) @eloisekretschmer
- Evie Waddell (BSL performer) @eviejowaddell
- Pirita Tuisku (choreographic mentor and outside eye) @pirretuisku
- Sonya Smullen (set and costume designer) @sonya.iscahsmullen
- Catherine King (BSL interpreter) @catherinekingsli
- Gioia De Martino (co-producer) @gioia.demartino
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 becomes a we-story)
“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.
Between 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.
During November 2023 we had a one-week residency at Tramway (Glasgow) to rehearse and explore new elements which will support our second stage of development. Evie Waddell, Sonya Smullen and Gioia De Martino have been recently introduced to the work to enrich “Listen to the Forest” with new elements and, as a team, we are really excited to go further in our research and process.