The Grid Experience by ZoieLogic Dance Theatre
Since lockdown began, most of our lives became constricted to familiar and unfamiliar four-walled spaces: our own homes; our make-shift home offices; the screens of our TVs and laptops; and the assigned box of the numerous Zoom calls for work, catch-ups and quizzes. As we adapted to these new constraints, it became abundantly clear that our return to face-to-face interaction with others in the flesh was moving further and further away.
One person who chose to ensure that our eventual reunion would be celebrated with a fanfare was Zoie Golding, the Artistic Director of ZoieLogic Dance Theatre, who staged the phenomenal The Grid Experience in Southampton's Guildhall Square on Saturday 29th August.
Having conceived the original idea in early spring, at the very start of lockdown and the beginning of our relationships with familiar and unfamiliar spaces, Zoie convinced her brilliant team and stakeholders to establish a new community performance project which would result in a large-scale performance in Southampton's Cultural Quarter. The resulting project invited members of the public the opportunity to safely share space with others, and have fun while discovering this new normal.
By hosting online rehearsals streamed directly to the homes of the 64 people taking part, the company were able to teach everybody a dance which would then be performed together for the first time in the Guildhall Square.
Talking about The Grid Experience, ZoieLogic Dance Theatre said:
"We created The Grid Experience in response to people experiencing a physical and social disconnect as a result of the lockdown. We know this can have a profound effect on mental health and wellbeing. Dance and movement is a great way to combat this, and we have created a unique way to do so within physical distancing guidelines.
"Starting in August, and over the next 18 months, we will develop this project to help people understand shared space in new and creative ways. Our aim to break down the barriers that have been built until dance can bring us physically in touch once again."
Fast-forward to the performance day, and Guildhall Square was transformed by ZoieLogic's technical team and partners Rees Leisure to replicate a huge 64-square grid upon which the performance would take place.
I was fortunate enough to attend on the day, and I was struck by how, in such a short amount of time, the team had been able to bring together a remarkable event to the city's Cultural Quarter in a way which not only engaged the passing public, providing participants with an experience they wouldn't forget, but was also in keeping with the strict social distancing and covid-secure guidelines. I was awestruck by their amazing work – and this was before the performers had even arrived!
What happened next will stay with me forever.
The 64 performers began to arrive, were assigned to their own square on the grid, and got themselves acquainted with their performance space and fellow performers. These initial interactions felt so normal, yet were framed with the new normal in which we find ourselves in.
It's been a long time since I've been fortunate enough to be in the same space as a community preparing to perform, and I was taken aback by just how much I missed it. Mixing this in with the fact that this would be the first performance in Southampton since lockdown, and that it was going to take place at the heart of the Cultural Quarter (a place very close to my heart), I was filled with unprecedented amounts of joy, and I was only there to help out – I can't imagine how the performers and the team at ZoieLogic must have been feeling.
The resulting performance was packed with power, passion and poignancy – a shining example of how work created with and for a community can bring about moments of pure joy, celebration and solidarity. It is one I will never forget and has cemented itself in my top three performance experiences as an audience member.
Thank you to ZoieLogic Dance Theatre, the performers, and all who contributed to this project for bringing public performance back to Southampton with the biggest bang! I can't wait to see the next instalment of The Grid Experience.