The stuff of making existence bearable

30th October 1998 at 00:00
The Borders may currently be a disaster zone for manufacturing jobs, but can still claim to have a vibrant arts scene. One gem is The Studio on the Green in Selkirk, set up at the beginning of the decade by Jenna Agate and her partner Trevor Timms, to offer the community an imaginative range of physical therapies, movement classes and creative workshops for all ages.

Youngsters up to the age of 13, for example, can enjoy weekly creative dance classes aimed at allowing them "to find a way of using space, be theatrical -and have fun," says Agate. They also get experience of presenting their own work, as in a recent performance of Alice in Wonderland.

She has considerable experience of bringing dance to communities in Scotland, and is a one-time associate director of the Scottish Youth Dance Festival and the Borders Dance Festival. Wherever she works, she includes a strong special needs element. At The Studio on the Green there is a regular dance and movement class for under-fives with learning disabilities, aimed at developing essential motor skills, co-ordination, balance and mobility, and using them in creative expression.

The Studio operates as a charitable trust which provides its own sponsorship for certain community projects out of earnings raised through classes and workshops. One activity it supports, along with willing volunteers, is Go For It, a dance company of young people and adults with learning difficulties.

Earlier this month Go For It joined up with a group of women to create and perform a work with Laurie Booth, one of Britain's top choreographers.

After only four days of improvisation and rehearsal, they gave a remarkably coherent and structured hour-long performance based on Booth's own work Night Walk. Go For It set the scene by crossing the stage, two by two, suitcases in hand.

Booth entered, displaying his fluid brand of movement, every muscle and joint seemingly able to operate independently of the others. He too had a suitcase, from which he pulled the baggage of his life, including a porcelain coloured doll. Its life-sized representations then came on stage, women who - in a dream-like reflection - echoed the themes of his own dance.

Their slow, measured pace brought a lasting resonance to Booth's rapid fire motion and hinted at the longing and determination that drives so many. In James Joyce's words on the soundtrack, it is a life made more bearable by dreams and detachments. But all nights - and their dreams - come to an end. As sunrise dawned, Go For It reappeared, instantly lighting up the scene.

The Studio on the Green, tel: 01750 21997

Kay Smith

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