DANCEFEST: The Happiness – An interview with Karla Shacklock

this month, the inaugural dancefest will kick off, featuring the best new dance and physical theatre in the south west. Karla shacklock (choreographer, the life and times of fanny hill) tells us about her search for happiness and how she explores this universal theme in her new show the happiness

Karla Shacklock Company present The Happiness

Karla Shacklock Company present The Happiness

What inspired you to create The Happiness?

It began with a very personal quest to understand for myself if I was really as happy as I wanted to be… This quickly led me to discover that everyone has something to say about happiness, its a concept many of us are dealing with on a daily basis. So it made perfect sense to make a show about it, to create a space where we can bring people together to all consider our own happiness and what that might be. Could there be a nicer concept for a show!

You spoke to an array of people from philosophers to happiness gurus. How did this help to shape the finished piece?

It has been absolutely fascinating talking to people and reading books, blogs, journals and the huge wealth of social media that is dealing with the idea of happiness. At the touch of a button, or the turn of a page you can quite easily find yourself emersed in ‘The 7 Secrets to Happiness’ or ’10 top tips for having a Happy Life’ or ‘The Happiness trap’ or watching a hugely energised ‘Life Coach’ telling you exactly how you can be happier (!!!!). Ideas of happiness differ from person to person and between different cultures and different generations. We have tried to suggest some of what we discovered in the work and we even have our very own ‘guru’ type character offering his ‘secrets’ to happiness. Hmm… come and find out for yourself if you want to take his tips on board!

Karla Shacklock Company present The Happiness

Karla Shacklock Company present The Happiness

For those who are new to dance or are unsure if the show is for them, what’s the special something that makes The Happiness worth the risk?

Firstly the subject matter really is universally resonant. The work is easily accessible because everyone that comes can relate in some way to the idea of happiness, or indeed unhappiness. We make our work in such a way that audiences are let in to the work and invited to share a journey with us, rather than sit back and watch us. So even those audiences who are less accustomed to ‘reading dance’ are quite easily able to be swept up in an emotional adventure which they can relate to.

Secondly, this show really is for any one who enjoys performance, not just dance. We have two dancers, an actor and a live musician in the performance team, and although the show is very physical, it speaks many languages and appeals to a wide range of audience.

The third thing that makes the show special is that every single performance is unique. The performers decide the order of the show live in the moment of performance. This gives the show a very real, live and on the edge energy, which proves extremely visceral for our audiences and allows them to engage in quite a deep an emotional way. And finally… when else do you get to leave a show feeling REALLY happy!

What would you like the audience to take away from the performance?

We really do make work for our audiences and the most important thing for us is that the audience have an experience, an adventure. We hope that our audiences will consider their own relation to happiness, to go away and think about how happy they are, what makes them happy, if they could be happier and so on. But equally important is that the audience are able to experience happiness live in the moment with us, that they experience catharsis and empathy and that by the end they are celebrating happiness with us. This was certainly the case at our premiere performance last week, where the audience were positively buzzing afterwards and desperate to join us on stage for a happy party! Wonderful.

The Happiness plays in Bristol Old Vic Studio as part of DanceFest on 23-24 April. Book tickets and find out more here. 

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