How can dance efficiency be sustainable?

Phrases by Hannah Draper.

The black and crimson riso-printed posters for Burnt Out are hanging – Penny Chivas’ hand clasped over her mouth with the opposite arm stretched overhead – a name for assist, a sign of hazard, and a gesture of safety from inhaling noxious air. Created in collaboration with photographer Brian Hartley, the hand strategy of riso-printing created a unique end in every print.

This tailor-made strategy bleeds via into the broader plan for the 2023 sustainable Scottish tour and ethos of Burnt Out. Created in 2021, Burnt Out is a solo dance theatre piece made and carried out by Penny Chivas, instigated after the devastating Australian wildfires in 2019-2020. Three years on, Penny is touring the present in Scotland after a profitable Fringe run final August. Earlier than this, the work will be performed at Dance Metropolis in Newcastle after the organisation’s continued help of the work via residences and rehearsal area and a work-in-progress sharing.

The tour has been organised with Katy Dye as Sustainability Advisor and with Sheena Miller from the Rural Touring Company. Operating since 2017, the organisation helps firms in Scotland tour work to rural areas in Scotland. The organisation shaped to fill a necessity to assist artists convey work to rural areas and produce prime quality touring work to underserved areas.

Burnt Out would be the first manufacturing to tour on public transport solely, bringing with it a number of recent logistical concerns for the crew. Penny will journey by practice and ferry throughout rural Scotland, together with the Orkney islands, supported by the Artistic Scotland Touring Funding for Theatre and Dance. I spoke to Penny and the manufacturing crew about organising Burnt Out’s sustainable Scottish tour later this 12 months.

Area and Place

Sheena spoke with me in regards to the frequent false impression of needing totally different performances for various areas, and the concept of rural versus city audiences. She says that “something you’ll be able to carry out in a central belt you’ll be able to carry out in a rural space” whereas emphasising the robust reference to reside efficiency in rural Scotland given the lengthy historical past of reside music traditions. What’s totally different, Sheena tells me, is the way you join with rural audiences in comparison with within the metropolis, and the extra concerns.

Whereas the touring crew will likely be travelling on public transport, audiences may even be inspired to journey on this means. In rural areas this will likely be tougher with components just like the lengthy, darkish nights in Scotland in November, which means some performances will likely be within the afternoon as an alternative of the night, whereas buffer time has been added in round ferry journeys to permit for the not unlikely probability of poor climate circumstances.

We’ve labored in a means that challenges the affect of consumerism…

Inside this planning, Sustainability Advisor Katy tells me that, “greener methods of working can exclude folks of various skills with out pondering of the wants of all of the people collaborating. In order a crew we’ve tried to consider how one can work sustainably in an inclusive means.” Working with the Theatre Inexperienced Ebook, Julie’s Bicycle, and contemplating The Equity for a Green New Deal manifesto has helped the crew craft a holistic strategy to the tour, whereas working with venues to assist them meet these sustainability objectives.

Whereas relationship to position has been necessary in contemplating tour places, how folks relate to their environments can also be vastly related for a way Burnt Out’s material of Australian coal has develop into a direct mirror to a narrative and dialogue about Scottish oil. After final summer season’s document temperatures in areas throughout the UK, and the rising have to reckon with our international locations’ fossil gas histories and persevering with industries, evidently Burnt Out’s message is changing into extra, not much less, related over time.


Sustainability calls for the necessity for time – one thing which feels counter-intuitive within the race in opposition to the quickening adjustments in our local weather. Time for making choices that inform longer-working processes. Making pondering sustainably transcend a ‘tick the field’ train. 

Katy highlights: “it has been fascinating to consider sustainability as one other artistic alternative. How can the ethos of working sustainably improve the content material/aesthetic and viewers expertise of the efficiency? On this means working sustainably doesn’t really feel like a limitation, however opens up a brand new and refreshing means of working which challenges the affect of our disposable/throw away tradition of consumerism and extra.”

Whereas Burnt Out was initially made as a black field efficiency, it’ll now be carried out in a spread of venues together with village halls, solely utilizing the technical tools already in these venues. Though this may be argued as a limitation, it really challenges concepts of how theatre can and ought to be introduced and seen.

Penny describes the necessity for folks to have an opportunity to make use of and utilise the time we’ve now to contemplate other ways of dwelling and how one can sort out this disaster in our communities earlier than we’re in a state of affairs of getting to reply, somewhat than replicate.


‘The place is the common individual’s emotional feeling across the local weather disaster?’

This query is a guiding thought for Penny via this tour. Pre-show workshops and post-show discussions have been designed to have interaction with native folks’s tales and the way communities are experiencing the local weather disaster, corresponding to visible artists and native nature stroll leaders. The workshops will concentrate on inclusive motion practices, breathwork and methods of coping with local weather nervousness. The tour mannequin prioritises an engaged and embodied interplay with audiences, enabling an trade of concepts and dealing strategies to discover how individuals are working and exploring these points, each via direct motion and methods of experiencing pleasure and pleasure in nature.

Sustainability is a large buzz phrase proper now, with many claims to it falling flat upon inspection. Nevertheless, the Burnt Out crew is dedicated to interrogating what sustainability means when it comes to broader conversations round how the work is skilled. By permitting audiences the area and time to expertise and discover feelings of upset and anger across the local weather disaster earlier than, after, and throughout the present there’s an effort to delay and guarantee a mutual significant engagement between the efficiency crew and communities, working in direction of what Katy recognized as “one unified voice for our actions to be efficient.”

Katy hopes that these practices develop into normalised: “I’d wish to see much less expectations placed on people to make inexperienced choices which can financially punish them/put numerous effort on them. We’d like legal guidelines to be made that make it an incentive for us as makers/residents to apply our work sustainably and reside extra sustainable lives.

Picture by Lorna Sim.

This tour of Burnt Out may and ought to be a mannequin for different small touring firms, becoming a member of a rising variety of artists in Scotland corresponding to Hazel Darwin Clements’ Maya and the Whale (toured on two bikes with panniers) which can be committing to new methods of delivering theatre and proving there’s a totally different means of doing issues which must occur now and for the longer term.

Burnt Out is being carried out at Dance Metropolis, Newcastle on 16 June 2023. Ebook here. Dates for the Scottish tour tbc.