Dance Beds: Social Impact of ‘800 Lifetimes’

6th December 2021

‘800 Lifetimes’ is a 45-minute contemporary dance, sound and voice performance produced and performed by Pell Ensemble. Created with local communities and inspired by modern myth-making, ‘800 Lifetimes’, uses 360 sound technology Flowfal (a wearable app that allowed dancers to move and manipulate the sound in the space in real-time). The movements, material and words were composed by New Chapters (over 55’s) Dance Group, UoB dance students and inspired by their relationship to Bedford. 

Making of ‘800 Lifetimes’ Bedford  

Spanning over four phases, the making of ‘800 Lifetimes’ extended over two years. Throughout this time, Pell Ensemble learnt how to utilize the Flowfal tech within their performance and undertook extensive audience research and community engagement. 

Phase 1 was a short Research & Development period in the studio with a sound designer, dancer, choreographer and creative tech. Pell Ensemble then shared with audiences to gain user feedback.  

Phase 2 the sound designer and choreographer researched together remotely to catalogue sound and sound design settings that allowed for clear movement composition of the sound. These were shared with a sound audience where Pell Ensemble gained further feedback.  

Phase 3 included some audience mapping in Bedford, followed a loose human-centred Design approach (HCD is a way of thinking that places the people you’re trying to serve and other important stakeholders at the centre of the design) to map the work, Pell Ensemble shared the work in progress for audience feedback, workshopped with local communities to inform the making of the work, and had a final performance.  

In the next steps, the participating community members created the core movement and words used throughout the work. At this point, due to Covid, Pell Ensemble had to take a lighter touch approach to incorporate our audiences from the beginning as originally planned.  

Project outcomes:  

 Community Engagement: 

  • 3 user/audience research events were completed.
  • It was co-created with 16 Bedford community members: movers and singers aged 22-79.
  • 59 people, all local to Bedford, participated in audience mapping, sharing and feedback.  

 16 people from Bedford ages 20-79 took part in contributing movement and words through workshops to form the core of the work. They did this over four x 2-hour sessions and 1 x one-day sessions together with the professional dancers. In the end, the participants were surveyed.  Here are some of their responses:  

“Thank you for brightening up this week! The past 18 months have been so limiting, lovely to do something different.”

  • When asked if they enjoyed the project all participants either gave a rating of 4 or 5 (out of 5).  
  • 100% of participants would be interested in taking part in the project again.  

 ‘800 Lifetimes’ was created by Pell Ensemble, directed by choreographer Rebecca Evans in collaboration with sound designer Christian Duka, creative tech Simon East using the Flowfal system, composer Dominie Hooper, dancers Antony Daly Luna, Amarnah Ufuoma Cleopatra Osajivbe-Amuludun and Caterina Grosoli. Creative mentorship from Yael Flexer. 

This project was commissioned and co-produced by the University of Bedfordshire and Bedford Creative Arts, a part of the Dance Beds programme. Produced by Step Out Arts. Supported in partnership by Dance East and The Place Theatre Bedford. Supported using public funding by Arts Council England.