The Gyratory Dance Project
Lewisham Borough of Culture
St Laurence Church June 2022
The Catford Gyratory, a 1km one-way system where the South Circular Road crosses the A21, is famous throughout London and beyond. People from many different places converge from seven directions and come together in a circle dance, before continuing their journey.
The Catford Gyratory Dance Project was part of Lewisham’s year as London Borough of Culture, celebrating both Catford’s rich amalgam of cultural heritage and the power of art to bring diverse community groups together. Ten different associations that meet near the Gyratory presented performances celebrating Catford seen from their own perspective, engage in a conversation about journeys, home, local history and identity; and a dance that featured birds,circles and patterns that brought a community cast of about 80 together.
Local artistic director/choreographer Dagmara Bilon and sound artist Elliot Popeau-George fused the power of dance, storytelling and sound art in a collaboration with the Igbo Ambassadors, Lewisham Choral Society, Januka Quadrille Dance Group, The Turkish Society, St Laurence Church Choir, The Caribbean Elders-Hummingbirds, The Diamond Club, The R&B Line dancing group, Bring me Sunshine at St Laurence Church in Catford for this memorable event.
My vision for the Gyratory Community Dance Project in Catford was about listening to individual members of the community and their stories. I was interested in the contrasting qualities of the harsh, busy traffic system and the delicateness of humans, and how they intersect. Inspired by Jo Cox’s well-known statement that ‘there is more in common than that which divides us’, in this project I aimed to focus on celebrating our unique distinctive backgrounds while simultaneously looking for the commonality that connects us and binds us together. The performance weaves together the various community group into a dance that features birds, circles and patterns to a live sound score. The sound score consists of recordings of gyratory traffic sounds and people’s stories of journeys, and what ‘home’ means to them. These stories have been shared in small groups while making birds out of clay and painting them blue. The colour blue is a signifier of the rivers that flow through Catford and remind us of the precious natural elements that flow in our urban environment. In this performance, the birds bring us together and symbolise freedom of movement and migration, as well as the fragility of life that seeks protection and care.
Artistic Director/Choreographer: Dagmara Bilon
Sound Artist: Elliot Popeau-George
Assistant Choreographer: Christelle Lafille
Community Groups: Igbo Ambassadors, Lewisham Choral Society, Januka Quadrille Dance Group, The Turkish Society, St Laurence Church Choir, Hummingbird Senior Citizens Club , The Diamond Club, R&B Line dancing group
Funders: Lewisham Borough of Culture, Heritage Lottery Fund, St Laurence Church