How can dance efficiency be sustainable?

Phrases by Hannah Draper.

The black and crimson riso-printed posters for Burnt Out are hanging – Penny Chivas’ hand clasped over her mouth with the opposite arm stretched overhead – a name for assist, a sign of hazard, and a gesture of safety from inhaling noxious air. Created in collaboration with photographer Brian Hartley, the hand means of riso-printing created a distinct end in every print.

This tailor-made strategy bleeds by into the broader plan for the 2023 sustainable Scottish tour and ethos of Burnt Out. Created in 2021, Burnt Out is a solo dance theatre piece made and carried out by Penny Chivas, instigated after the devastating Australian wildfires in 2019-2020. Three years on, Penny is touring the present in Scotland after a profitable Fringe run final August. Earlier than this, the work will be performed at Dance Metropolis in Newcastle after the organisation’s continued assist of the work by residences and rehearsal house and a work-in-progress sharing.

The tour has been organised with Katy Dye as Sustainability Advisor and with Sheena Miller from the Rural Touring Company. Working since 2017, the organisation helps corporations in Scotland tour work to rural areas in Scotland. The organisation fashioned to fill a necessity to assist artists carry work to rural areas and convey prime quality touring work to underserved areas.

Burnt Out would be the first manufacturing to tour on public transport solely, bringing with it a number of recent logistical concerns for the group. Penny will journey by prepare and ferry throughout rural Scotland, together with the Orkney islands, supported by the Artistic Scotland Touring Funding for Theatre and Dance. I spoke to Penny and the manufacturing group about organising Burnt Out’s sustainable Scottish tour later this 12 months.

House and Place

Sheena spoke with me concerning the widespread false impression of needing completely different performances for various areas, and the concept of rural versus city audiences. She says that “something you possibly can carry out in a central belt you possibly can carry out in a rural space” whereas emphasising the robust reference to reside efficiency in rural Scotland given the lengthy historical past of reside music traditions. What’s completely different, Sheena tells me, is the way you join with rural audiences in comparison with within the metropolis, and the extra concerns.

Whereas the touring group might be travelling on public transport, audiences can even be inspired to journey on this means. In rural areas this might be tougher with elements just like the lengthy, darkish nights in Scotland in November, which means some performances might be within the afternoon as an alternative of the night, whereas buffer time has been added in round ferry journeys to permit for the not unlikely likelihood of poor climate situations.

We’ve labored in a means that challenges the affect of consumerism…

Inside this planning, Sustainability Advisor Katy tells me that, “greener methods of working can exclude folks of various talents with out considering of the wants of all of the people participating. In order a group we now have tried to consider find out how to work sustainably in an inclusive means.” Working with the Theatre Inexperienced Guide, Julie’s Bicycle, and contemplating The Equity for a Green New Deal manifesto has helped the group craft a holistic strategy to the tour, whereas working with venues to assist them meet these sustainability targets.

Whereas relationship to position has been necessary in contemplating tour places, how folks relate to their environments can also be massively related for the way Burnt Out’s subject material of Australian coal has change into a direct mirror to a narrative and dialogue about Scottish oil. After final summer time’s report temperatures in areas throughout the UK, and the growing have to reckon with our international locations’ fossil gasoline histories and persevering with industries, plainly Burnt Out’s message is turning into extra, not much less, related over time.


Sustainability calls for the necessity for time – one thing which feels counter-intuitive within the race in opposition to the quickening modifications in our local weather. Time for making selections that inform longer-working processes. Making considering sustainably transcend a ‘tick the field’ train. 

Katy highlights: “it has been fascinating to consider sustainability as one other artistic selection. How can the ethos of working sustainably improve the content material/aesthetic and viewers expertise of the efficiency? On this means working sustainably doesn’t really feel like a limitation, however opens up a brand new and refreshing means of working which challenges the affect of our disposable/throw away tradition of consumerism and extra.”

Whereas Burnt Out was initially made as a black field efficiency, it’ll now be carried out in a spread of venues together with village halls, solely utilizing the technical gear already in these venues. Though this may be argued as a limitation, it truly challenges concepts of how theatre can and must be introduced and seen.

Penny describes the necessity for folks to have an opportunity to make use of and utilise the time we now have now to contemplate alternative ways of residing and find out how to deal with this disaster in our communities earlier than we’re in a scenario of getting to reply, relatively than mirror.


‘The place is the typical particular person’s emotional feeling across the local weather disaster?’

This query is a guiding thought for Penny by this tour. Pre-show workshops and post-show discussions have been designed to have interaction with native folks’s tales and the way communities are experiencing the local weather disaster, resembling visible artists and native nature stroll leaders. The workshops will concentrate on inclusive motion practices, breathwork and methods of coping with local weather nervousness. The tour mannequin prioritises an engaged and embodied interplay with audiences, enabling an trade of concepts and dealing strategies to discover how individuals are working and exploring these points, each by direct motion and methods of experiencing pleasure and pleasure in nature.

Sustainability is a large buzz phrase proper now, with many claims to it falling flat upon inspection. Nonetheless, the Burnt Out group is dedicated to interrogating what sustainability means when it comes to broader conversations round how the work is skilled. By permitting audiences the house and time to expertise and discover feelings of upset and anger across the local weather disaster earlier than, after, and throughout the present there may be an effort to extend and guarantee a mutual significant engagement between the efficiency group and communities, working in the direction of what Katy recognized as “one unified voice for our actions to be efficient.”

Katy hopes that these practices change into normalised: “I’d prefer to see much less expectations placed on people to make inexperienced selections which can financially punish them/put plenty of effort on them. We want legal guidelines to be made that make it an incentive for us as makers/residents to observe our work sustainably and reside extra sustainable lives.

Picture by Lorna Sim.

This tour of Burnt Out may and must be a mannequin for different small touring corporations, becoming a member of a rising variety of artists in Scotland resembling Hazel Darwin Clements’ Maya and the Whale (toured on two bikes with panniers) which are committing to new methods of delivering theatre and proving there’s a completely different means of doing issues which must occur now and for the long run.

Burnt Out is being carried out at Dance Metropolis, Newcastle on 16 June 2023. Guide here. Dates for the Scottish tour tbc.