The source material had the potential to result in a piece that was epic and sprawling, we were working with a rich and varied repertoire. Various themes were immediately obvious: 

  • Art versus sport. 
  • Bringing ballet to the ice. 
  • The innovative and daring choreographers, and their prolific output. 
  • The state of competitive ice skating,
  •  the challenges to achieving gold and the possibilities opened up by wins at the Olympics. 
  • The masterpiece that is never felt, by the creator, to be finished. 
  • The journey from soloist, to duet, to ensemble ice skating company. 

The first challenge was to find some way of making a theatrical production that was not just a sort of John Curry ‘Greatest Hits’ tribute show. How could we integrate dance styles ranging from contemporary to Classical Indian, to produce a holistic piece of theatre? 

The initial conversations with Mark, Yebin and Olga helped me to understand John Curry more and more. I read and watched a lot of his skating footage and interviews. Quietly, almost invisibly present throughout, was the ice. 

I was given a lot of ingredients in the early stages of making this work, and my mind began to churn them up – a bit like Krishna’s mother churning the butter, not knowing what magic may result. I look for links and patterns within the material; the process is always a mix of logical and creative thinking. 

A reason why I loved studying law as it works both sides of the brain. It’s about looking at things from different perspectives, trying to see things that are not there yet, and making connections that are abstract in shape and form. At the same time, it’s essential to maintain childlike wonder and simplicity of thought throughout. The work always has to be fit for purpose: accessible to an audience and able to hold their interest and attention without becoming boring or self-indulgent. What do I want the audience thinking and feeling at each stage? 

I knew the work was about joining the worlds of dance and ice into one landscape, but how could I connect the two? 

This was a complex, large scale production with pressure on time and ice availability. There were many strands to it. Half the work that goes into making a production like this is not to do with the piece. But, managing the team effectively. There were challenges in keeping everyone focused and on track. I was dealing with how people function, and can malfunction when under pressure, and finding ways for everyone (myself included) to thrive in this environment. I wanted to do more than just present the pieces on ice one after another. I considered how to take the audience into and out of each work presented. How would we set the scene? What context would give the audience the richest possible reading of the skating? 

We had a dance stage on the ice. Olga had already identified different dancers for certain sections from the start. There was a big list of ice choreography John Curry skated to select. What should stay? What should go? At this point, it wasn’t clear. There needed to be a balance of the chosen work, with variations in theme and number of skaters. I needed to ensure all the skaters would be spread evenly throughout the show. In part, this was a practicality: the performers needed built-in recovery time due to the intensity of the work and its impact on the body. 

The initial phase saw ideas being explored and developed while we began to find a shared wavelength of creative communication. We spent time trying to make sense of the concept on both ice and the dance stage. Throughout this process, I tried to remain open to where it might go. 

The connections started to form, and I found my through-line: the ice. 

The ice is ever-present, stable, giving, unforgiving – a muse in its own way. When we put aside all the work John Curry made, strip it all back, this is a piece about John and his relationship with the ice. How could we show this? I decided to give the ice a voice to have a conversation with John. What would the ice be saying to John? 

• He understands her through how he moves. 

• He caresses, teases, and finds a musicality on her with his blades. 

• She, in turn, energises, pushes, encourages, cajoles, and feels she is truly understood. 

• Together they can create great beauty to share with the world. 

And so I brought an actor in to try out as the voice of the ice. This worked beautifully while a skater moved on the frozen surface. I had found my way in. 

Balbir Singh

Explore the process

A lost art?
A bridge to India
Immersed in music
When Worlds Collide
The Idea (learning to dance)
Natural curiosity and questions (learning to dance)
Composer thoughts on Learning to Dance
In the presence of geniuses
The story (love and spice)
A dancer reflects on The Strategists (1)
Overview of The Strategists
Breakdown of The Strategists
Roundness of 12: a breakdown of the piece
Breakdown of the piece (love and spice)
Script (12)
Painter research
A dancer reflects on Love and Spice
Full Contact – highlights from the script
Dancer notes performance (flatlands)
Peacock Lake – genesis of the concept
Firing up the Mehfil Machine
The Collaborators
Creative Case – challenges along the way
The Guru-Shishya relationship
What is Kathak?
Life blood
Collaboration: Balbir & Gary
Colouring your emotions
Covid-19 Update on Monday, April 6th, 2020
Creative Case in action – July to September 2019
Finding my way in The Creative Spirit of John Curry
Talent Development – Abirami Eshwar
Talent Development – Kimberley Hardy
Collaborators: Lorna Brown and Gary Beacom
The Work: Act 1
The Work: Act 2
Planning the show
The 8 Dances
Performance
Who was Hans Krebs?
The Citric 
 Acid cycle
Accessibility
Balbir’s thoughts behind the work
Balbir on developing the work
Amrita Sher-Gil & Frida Kahlo
My favourite painting is. . .
Balbir reflects on The Two Fridas
Cast one
Devising in lockdown
Las dos Fridas
‘Alas Para Volar (Wings to Fly)’
Amrita – a story that lives in Art