The Roundness of 12/(Bicycle Days) The process

Intro

Bicycle Days was created to celebrate the world’s greatest cycle race, the Tour De France, and the Grand Depart in Yorkshire in July 2014. Year after year, since its start in 1903, the Tour de France has brought together millions in admiration of the race and the racers. Travelling a distance of 3,664 kilometers, over 21 stages and finally completing the race over 23 days – it’s a race only an athlete addicted to adrenaline and dependent on power is capable of.

The full length Dance Theatre piece focuses on the journey/life of a cyclist named Johnny, who, from a young age found his love for bikes and cycling. From a child this love and passion then develops into an obsession- the determination of an athlete takes over and all he can do is strive for the Yellow Jersey.

Opening in a training session, Johnny and two other cyclists are put through their paces mentally and physically. Incredible determination fuels the vigorous and repetitive session, and the ability to push themselves to their limits. But is this enough. Does Johnny still know the reason he is cycling anymore? The love and passion that once was, is now focused on one thing- to win- to be the strongest & fastest.

Johnny is then, quickly reminded of his time as a child- the real reason why he began cycling. He dreamt of owning his first bicycle sat desperately watching in ore of his friends’ with theirs- leading his imagination into a bicycle ballet and rediscovering the freedom and adventure that can be accomplished on just a bike- his love for riding is once again regained.

Bicycle Days comes full circle through the life of Johnny. From his loss of passion and struggle as an athlete, to eventually possessing his own White Peugeot Racer and finally to the revelation of freedom Johnny rediscovers in cycling. Along with moments of humor, love and sadness Johnny’s journey from a child into an athlete unravels before your eyes.

The beginning

Bicycle Days was first premier at Rural Arts, The Courthouse, Thirsk on Thursday 12th June, captivating a dance and family audience with the blend of storytelling, dance and music. In the intimate setting the audience were able to observe the story in fine detail and sit amongst live playing musicians.

At the heart of Bicycle Days is the renowned race the Tour de France, which then stimulated the concept of the wheel and circularity. Questions were then asked about how the bike was invented and how bikes are part of the human life in many different ways.

The most functional part of the bike is the wheel and the practicality of its roundness, another concept at the heart of the work of Balbir’s work, as the circle/cycle relates to how rhythms are used in Kathak Dance. In Kathak dance the rhythm is seen to move in circle- like a wheel or clock- beginning with one and ending with one- giving rhythm a constant flow.

As well as the link to Tour De France and Kathak dance & rhythms, Bicycle days stems from all perspectives given of bikes. From the poem ‘Mulga Bill’s Bicycle’ by Banjo Paterson & ‘Taming of the bicycle’ by Mark Twain, both that depict the individual struggles with a bicycle from two perspectives, to bicycle art, top trumps & everyday objects have been modified into a bicycle e.g paper clip bikes that were originally used within the creation of the Bike Ballet section.

The storyteller narrates the story-giving context to the piece widening accessibility in relation to the audience, as well as adding humor, sadness etc. to the story.

Sections of the piece

  1. Pursuit of Winning

Storyteller’s notes:

Dance- exploring the intensity and repetition of training and cycling. The drive to push yourself further and further and, in this instance, too far.”

This section is set during an elite training session in the preparations for the Tour De France race. Training to be at their peek performance- pushing themselves physically and mentally to their limits. The repetitive movement and constant strive to be the best becomes evident, determination kicks in and nothing else matters. The music from the pianist reflects the repetitive and on going struggles of the cyclists (1234-1234-1-2-3-4, repeated constantly). Eventually it takes its toll on the cyclist’s bodies, especially Johnny’s- he ends slumped, exhausted, as the others cyclists leave triumphant. Johnny’s future as a cyclist at the Tour De France begins to look bleak.

Storyteller’s notes:

Opens with a description of the pain, body shock and mental strain our cyclist (Jonnie) has put himself through. He has pushed too far and begins to question his motives for cycling. We establish he is training for an unspecified race, perhaps he has unfinished business – a darker past and a point to prove – but he has lost sight of why he cycles. Is it to win? Yes. To be better each time? Yes. To indulge his obsessive nature? Absolutely. But there is something else too. Something missing. The sound of clack, clacking cycles through his head, like a metronome – bringing comfort and disquiet with equal measure. The sound is like a time machine. He closes his eyes and drifts back – further and further, past race wins and violent crashes, past weddings, teenage adventures and young loves that don’t have wheels, past his first bike – a White Peugeot racer, until finally, through the eyes of an infant he finds himself staring out the window on Christmas day and he sees a sight that he has always associated with Christmas morning. Bikes. Shiny, bright bikes and beaming smiles and laughter. He holds in his hands his favourite thing; a top trumps deck of bicycle cards. He flicks through them without looking, staring the other children on their new bikes. Their joy is infectious and he smiles to himself and thinks, one year. Maybe next year, that will be me. It’s all he’s ever wanted and he can’t wait.”

  1. Bike Ballet

The Bike ballet was inspired by The Bicycle Ballet Company, which incorporates performances of artists performing with bikes. Life size bikes are used in the choreography including dance, physical theatre and a variety of story lines. Taking this concept the dancers utilised bicycle shaped paper clip’s to create a bicycle movement sequence- with the idea that the bike was an extension of the body that moved as a result of the bikes movement. Larger colourful wire models then replaced the paper clip bikes.

  1. Balance

The importance of balance is evident right from being a child- learning to sit up, crawl & walk. And is especially important when riding a bicycle. This section directly relates back to the ‘Taming of the bicycle’ by Mark Twain, in which he describes his frustrations of learning to ride a bicycle, balance being one of them, as well as getting on and off and the fear of obstacles. First finding balance on a bike is difficult but once you’ve got it- you’ve got it.

Not achieving balance, and the struggle to find the state of equilibrium became a focal point of this section and ways of being able to challenge the body physically to try and achieve something, somewhat unachievable. Ending with Johnny being the only person to lose balance completely and collapse, it is once again highlighted his struggles as an athlete.

10 steps of how to ride a bike:

  1. Find a safe place to practice
  2. Make sure you know how to ride a bike safely- with a helmet etc.
  3. Make sure you know how to break
  4. Mount the bicycle
  5. Practice balancing on the bike
  6. Practice gliding down slopes
  7. Get ready to ride
  8. Pedal down the slope and onto a flat area
  9. Pedal from a complete stop on a flat area
  10. Pedal up the slop

http://www.wikihow.com/Ride-a-Bicycle

  1. First Bike (building/percussion)

This section captures Johnny as child when he finally receives his first ever bicycle, the White Peugeot Race. He adored it. He adored it that much that he would take it apart and clean each individual part. It was his pride and joy. It also reverts back to the time of most bike owners as a child, who put playing cards in their wheel spokes to make the clacking noise- it was a crazy.

Storyteller’s notes:

His first year of cycling was a revelation, but above all else he realised he didn’t care about the stunts his bike was built for, he just wanted speed. The rush of wind; it isn’t how fast you can go, but the distance you can cover. He started to covet his sisters bike a green Raleigh racer, with drop down handle bars, 16 gears and majestic 32 inch wheels, with 12 intertwining spokes and 1 inch racing tyres. It was a thing of beauty and horribly neglected. It spent it days chained to the wall in the garage, watching the world go by without ever being set free to explore it itself. In his eyes, it was a bull tied to a fence. Unnatural. He asked and asked but his sister wouldn’t let him touch it. It was hers. He found himself wondering what the bike would see. The constant dark and gloom of the garage, punctuated by moments of blinding light as the doors were opened and someone would enter, Its hopes rising for a second and instantly being dashed the next as his sister walked past without a glance, his little brother grabbed his skateboard instead, or his mum leaned the lawnmower against it! It drove him crazy as he watched it tires slowly deflate with disappointment. And then one day, whilst he sat to keep it company, he decided to change its tyre. Just the tyre. Nothing more. No one had said he couldn’t do that. What would be the harm? 6 hours later, his parents found him. It was way past bedtime and they had been looking for him. They found him, sat crossed legged the middle of the garage covered in grease and surrounded by the parts of a completely dismantled green Raleigh racer. Jonnie had changed the tyre and then inspected the brakes, and slowly piece by piece, taken the bike apart. 63 individual pieces in total. He had cleaned every single part and greased everything that needed it, and the pieces he didn’t understand before he now had total comprehension of their role within the bike as a whole. He was in his element. Of course, his sister cried murder at the outrage of her little brother ‘destroying’ the bike she never rode and their parents had to tell him off, but they also saw his dedication to the bike. They told him he had to rebuild it. And he did. Perfectly. Better than before. By the end of the next week as a reward, the bike was his, and within an hour he was miles from home, the wind in his hair, an irrepressible smile tattooed across his face, as his legs, burning with adrenaline, pushed the 32 inch wheels faster and further along the road. This was riding, this was what he had dreamed off. It was better, and since that moment whenever Jonnie was asked about his first bike, he would think of this moment and he would always say it was a green Raleigh racer. He had loved his blue BMX, but this was real cycling. Of course, he needed to make it his own, remove the bike from the memory of his sister and so, he took his pack of bike cards and taped one to each of the 12 spokes. And as he rode, the rush of wind competed with the clack clack clacking of his cards hitting the frame. Clack clack clack clack clack clack clack. It was a metronome that pushed his legs further. The sound of adventure. A time machine, with each cycle of the wheel pushing him into the future. He was Elliot in ET and the Goonies all rolled into one, and suddenly the world became even bigger still. Finally, when his legs burned and couldn’t turn the wheels anymore, he stopped and sat on a grass bank. He didn’t know where he was and it didn’t matter. He was there. His body buzzed with his effort but he didn’t care. He had never felt better in his life. He wanted to share the feeling. He needed to. He searched out a phone box to tell his mum how wonderful he felt and with no money in his pockets he rang collect. He never got to tell his mum how he felt though. When the operator contacted the call, she told his mum where he was. He was 32 miles away from home. 14 years old and 32 miles away. His mum was furious. His dad drove out to collect him, but Jonnie didn’t hear his pre-prepared lecture about safety the whole way home. He just sat in the back staring at his green Raleigh racer stuffed into the boot; its rear wheel pointed up to the sky, slowly spinning with a clack clack clack clack. He smiled and the bike smiled back. The world had changed forever.”

This section captures Johnny as child when he finally receives his first ever bicycle, the White Peugeot Race. He adored it. He adored it that much that he would take it apart and clean each individual part. It was his pride and joy. It also reverts back to the time of most bike owners as a child, who put playing cards in their wheel spokes to make the clacking noise- it was a crazy.

  1. Card game

Johnny knew his stuff about bikes and had studied his bike playing cards that included facts about each individual bike. He knew 30 different bikes and all there was to know about each of them. Packs of cards were handed out to the audience- each having one of the 30 bikes. Johnny and two of his friends challenged their bike knowledge by shouting the name of bike shown on their card, almost like top trumps. Not only was it a competition to see who would win but to see who could remember the most bikes but who had the best bikes. As expected the winner wasn’t Johnny.

Musicians:

When creating this section each dancers voice was recorded and rhythms were created from these recordings, which were played musically.

  1. The Discovery of the bike

Facts: The first bike created wasn’t from scratch it was from the assembling already existing structures that were put together to the working bicycle. The first verifiable claim for a practically used bicycle belongs to German Baron Karl von Drais. Drais invented his Laufmaschine (German for “running machine”) in 1817.

Lead and dominated by the Chello the dancers embody the chaos that was thought to be experienced by the inventor of the bicycle- the uncertainty of what parts need to be used and where the parts need to go. The movement was derived from the notion of transforming into the parts of a bicycle and the experience that inventor up until his epiphany. As dancers we were being controlled by the rhythm, which felt as though it was the thoughts of the inventor taking over, until silence- and the epiphany was reached.

  1. Circular dance

This section related back to the discovery of the wheel and relation to the circularity of the wheel in Kathak dance. Relating back to the origin of the wheel and emphasizing on the use of the wheel rather than over looking its purpose and seeing the bike, racer and the race. The movement was created from the notion of circles, throughout the whole of the body. While this was happening the flute & cello played, creating a pure, calm and mesmerizing atmosphere.

  1. Meet the Peloton

This section was purely lead by the storyteller, who reiterated the reason why Johnny first began riding and when his obsession grew.

Storyteller’s notes:

Jonnie rides again! His weekends have been consumed with riding – exploring the world. Each week in a different direction. On this occasion, during his cycle ride through the countryside he gets consumed by a Peloton. Surrounded by colour, and grunts and seeing the way the riders take it in turns to help each other ride. His solo pursuit, suddenly becomes something that can happen as a pack. His world gets bigger again. The pursuit of faster, harder, further with the time machine he rides and sense of freedom makes total sense. It is the perfect pursuit of man and machine. The pure synchronicity of the two. He knows this is what he should be. His puts his head down, stares at the wheel in front and rides. At 16, he keep space with the peloton for almost 40 miles. He is home.”

  1. Bodies as Landscapes (duet)

This section creates landscapes from which Johnny one rode his bike. It emphasizes that riding a bike is much more than a race. As an adult again he regains his love for the bike and love for a woman that is created through their love for cycling- something they share close to their hearts. The idea of love being created through the connection of a bike stems from the following poem or rhyme:

Poem/rhyme:

Daisy, Daisy give me your answer do.
I’m half crazy all for the love of you.
It won’t be a stylish marriage, 
I can’t afford a carriage.
But you’ll look sweet, 
Upon the seat, 
Of a bicycle made for two.
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsty.com/valentines-day-daisy-daisy-lyrics.html ]
Michael, Micheal, here is your answer true.
I’m not crazy all for the love of you.
There won’t be any marriage, 
If you can’t afford a carriage.
‘Cause I’ll be switched, 
If I get hitched, 
On a bicycle built for two!

As well as the love that was gained from riding the bikes together there is an emphasis, somewhat on, the views witnessed when riding a bike. There is much more to be seen than when encased in a car or other forms of transport.

  1. Meet the Peloton part 2:

This section is somewhat of a revelation- Johnny has remembered why he loves cycling and competing. The movement suggests freedom and reflects some of the movement previously shown throughout the piece, showing connections throughout his whole life that has brought him to where he is today. This is the first time that Johnny expresses his happiness and passion for what he does, which now overrides the sections of the piece that show pain and struggle.

Musicians: Piano, Cello, Flute

Dancers: 3

Duration: approx. 60 minutes

 

Writer/storyteller: Dan Mallaghan

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