Bauhaus Buhnenchor – collaboration with Allie Carr

2 weeks ago I was lucky enough to be invited by Allie Carr on a research weekend to The Midland Hotel in Morecambe. Along with fellow artists Ruby Tingle, Helena Ohman and Bethany Wells, the 5 of us explored, allowed ourselves to be inspired and respond to our environment and beautiful surroundings. This included a tour of The Midland Hotel and the nearby Victorian Winter Gardens. Allie received a ‘Develop Your Creative Practice’ grant from Arts Council to be able to instigate and offer this as a coming together to dream about the possibilities of a collaboration between the 5 of us inspired by The Midland Hotel.

Ruby Tingle, myself, Allie Carr, Helena Ohman and Bethany Wells at The Midland Hotel, August 2021

Still dreaming about the possibilities and remembering the magic, glamour and serenity from this fabulous research weekend, it got me reflecting on my first collaboration with Allie in 2018.

Back story: I met Allie in 2014 but was quite drunk wandering around Castle House exhibition but my favourite part of the exhibition and what my slurred memory can remember so vividly was coming across Allie’s beautiful cigarette card recreations. I love them, they are so great. So when we met properly (sober) in 2018 I was like ‘ah yeah, you do the cigarette cards, they’re amazing, yes let’s collaborate, please…’

‘Bauhaus Buhnenchor’ performance 2018

I collaborated with Allie as choreographer on ‘Bauhaus Buhnenchor’, facilitating a series of sessions to generate material and then shaping and directing the piece with Allie and the dancers. Including myself and Allie there were 8 performers altogether.

Using images from books as inspiration, we developed a series of still poses which were incorporated into the work. Each pose had a nickname, just makes it easier to remember them all doesn’t it?

Our first pose we called ‘Weaver’s Elbow’ and is based on the painting by Oscar Schlemmer which he based on the posed photograph of the Weavers on the stairwell at the Bauhaus. A few months after the performance we gathered on the stairwell at the Sheffield Library to create a series of photos. Pulling poses from the piece, we played with spacing and angles inspired by the women on the stairs at the Bauhaus. (Allie really likes staircases, they feature a lot in her work) 

If you’re like me and had never heard of the Bauhaus, it was a German art school from 1919 – 1933 combining crafts and the fine arts. It was really interesting for me to learn about this part of history through collaborating with Allie as this research continues to influence and inspire her work and practice.

‘Bauhaus Buhnenchor’ explored chorus-lines, avant garde aesthetics, body culture and took inspiration from the Weimar-era culture, particularly the Bauhaus. We lifted 5 images in total from a variety of books exploring these themes and translated them onto the body. You can see the transition from page to body to performance.

This intriguing image we nicknamed ‘sick baby’:

We adapted from head up, to head pulling away, as if the baby has just been sick on you, in your face (but without a grimacing face!)

Our 3rd pose we called ‘Mrs Potts’. I love this quirky little image. They look fun, a party starter. We adapted this image to have slightly more angular teapot arms than the original curved arms hence the name.

I’ll go back through my notes and find the names of the books we took the images from but under the image the caption reads:

A 1929 programme for a typically exotic entertainment at Rudolf Nelson’s theatre on Kurfurstendamm where Josephine Baker and Max Ehrlich appeared, among others’ 

Josephine Baker sounds like a hoot. Apparently her performance at the revue ‘Un Vent de folie’ in 1927 caused quite the stir as her costume was a short skirt made of artificial bananas and a beaded necklace. This become an iconic image and symbol of the roaring 20s. What a babe.

Taking inspiration from the imagery from this era we developed our 5 poses, and moved through the sequence set to a metronome beat. I love the satisfying choreography from the patterns and connections this created between all the dancers:

Pose 4: ‘cute / cheeky elbow’

Looking back, I am so intrigued by this image. What a delightful curious little thing – the swirly question mark, the heart, the little foot extending from 2 planks of wood – it makes me smile just to look.

I also hope you are enjoying my grey sock and yellow trainer combo, particularly the tucked in culottes. Taking these pictures for behind the scenes documentation, I wasn’t planning to share on social media and my blog, but here I am.

As well as the poses, we also took inspiration from images of people leaping and jumping in the grounds at the Bauhaus and included a section in the piece of us leaping freely across the stage.

What I love about these images is how carefree and joyful the jumps are. There was no technique or specific shapes to hit, simply the freedom and joy of throwing your body through the air.

Inspired by the Bauhaus the scarfs were designed by Fison Zair (who also makes fantastic earrings) to support the performance and development of this work in collaboration with Allie. 

I am in love with this scarf. It’s totally gorgeous. We all went for a different look with our styling to contrast against the unified black and white outfits. I was envious of Jo who did an amazing head scarf tie as I’ve never been able to do this. I’ll keep practising…

What I love about these reflective posts is how much I learn from revisiting the work. This week I learnt how to say ‘Buhnenchor’ (yes I collaborated on a project I couldn’t pronounce the name of!) and what it means:

Bauhaus – building house

Buhnenchor – stage choir 

I also feel that I understand and have absorbed better the aesthetics from this era through reading and looking at more beautiful images of the Bauhaus.

Our 5th pose ‘Sass’ was specific to and inspired by the Tiller girls kickline and chorus lines. The kicklines are fluid but also mechanical. There’s something quite caterpillar about them, the dancers moving together, each an important cog of the machine. We did an endurance kickline in the piece with me and Allie left to the end (you can see in the trailer at the end of the blog) but also deconstructed the Tiller Girls line movements and moved through them in a canon sequence to no music with me counting (video below):

From a few years of knowing Allie and collaborating together, I feel that Allie’s work is part live art performance, part entertainment and part academic lecture. I loved the formality in this piece of Allie standing at a lectern presenting the research as each dancer held a pose and then the switch to singing a translated version of the ‘Lullaby of Broadway’. I’ve had it in my head whilst revisiting and sharing these posts. It’s a good ear worm to hum!

Vision and concept – Allie Carr

Choreographer – Lucy Haighton

Dancers – Allie Carr, Lucy Haighton, Julia Bisby, Cecelia Rose Anderson, Roanna Wells, Emily Stokes, Liz Searle and Jo Dunkley.

Documentation – Shared Programme

Scarf Design – Fison Zair

Performance Venue – DINA, Sheffield