Making waves at the beach

Mechanical diggers, artists and surfers contribute to a multimedia seaside event
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The Independent Culture

Dancers attached to the arms of JCB diggers are poised to fly through the air with the greatest of ease on the beach at Watergate Bay, Newquay, Cornwall. It will be the grand finale of Machine Dance, a new piece by Motionhouse Dance Theatre that aims to "integrate people and machines".

Dancers attached to the arms of JCB diggers are poised to fly through the air with the greatest of ease on the beach at Watergate Bay, Newquay, Cornwall. It will be the grand finale of Machine Dance, a new piece by Motionhouse Dance Theatre that aims to "integrate people and machines".

It is part of The Edge, a large-scale production combining visual dance performance and extreme sports, and the result of a year-long creative process. The Motionhouse artistic director, Kevin Finnan, brought together 600 children from the local community, visual artists, singers, surfers, professional dancers and actors to create the beach spectacular. "We must be the busiest bus company at the moment, getting all theses kids, to the beach and back for rehearsals," says Finnan, who has organised the whole performance with his wife, Louise Richards, Motionhouse's executive director and a former dancer herself.

Rehearsals have even seen dancers going through their steps in the backyard of Truro's Acland Plant Hire. "Obviously the JCB digger drivers have never done a dance project before," explains Finnan. "They come and rehearse with us on the beach, but at times it is easier if we go to them in Truro."

Other performances and installations will be dotted along the beach. In Grumpy Heads, actors buried up to their necks in sand, argue with each other and harangue the audience as they pass. Botticelli's Venus, set among the rocks, takes it's inspiration from the painting. For Pirate Fleet, a fleet of miniature pirate ships stranded on the beach hoist their colours and dance on gangplanks.

In Sandscape, the audience is led through a city of giant sandcastles, built on the beach, and Wind Field is a geometric field of more than 200 yellow and red windmills, all made at local schools. Surf Safari takes place by the shoreline, as a choreo-graphed surf lesson is ruined by a large group of small children armed with buckets of water. "This is a send-up of those cool surfers you find at the beach - and of Baywatch," says Finnan. Finally, a long table is set for Creation Feast, with the gods arriving for the meal by surfboard, kite buggy and kayak.

Motionhouse is committed to site-specific dance projects outside the confines of conventional venues. Previous dance sites have included aircraft hangers, shopping centres, parks and market squares. In July, Dancing Inside will entail 800 inmates of HMP Dovegate, Staffordshire, performing in three dance pieces.

Why the beach as a venue? "The beach is about so many things; in evolutionary terms it's where we're from," says Finnan. "It's a place where we develop new ways of having fun and challenging ourselves on the beach and in the water. I wanted to bring all these elements of physicality, philosophy, art, movement, dance and sport together - and move it from one end of the enormous Watergate Bay to the other."

'The Edge', on the beach at Watergate Bay, Newquay, Cornwall, 25 June at 5-7pm, 26 June at 6-8pm

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