Tag Archives: Happiness Project

Is everybody happy?

Donald Hutera checks out The Happiness Project, a new touring work from choreographer Didy Veldman that comes to Theatre Royal, Winchester November 10

‘Are you happy?’

It’s a key question, asked of the four dancers in Didy Veldman’s new production The Happiness Project – an approximately 70-minute show that comes to Theatre Royal, Winchester on November 10.

The Dutch-born choreographer was formerly a member of Rambert Dance, among other companies. She then went on to carve out a successful career as an international dance-maker based on the Continent. Having relocated to the UK for the past two and half years, Veldman is this month launching her company Umanoove with a piece that takes as its theme Western society’s search for fleeting pleasures and deeper fulfilment.

Speaking briefly at the opening performance of the production’s current tour, which occurred last week at the Jerwood Dance House in Ipswich, Veldman said she spent about six weeks developing the piece with a top-notch cast: Dane Hurst (winner of two Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards), Hannah Kidd (a nominee for the same awards, the current roster of which has just been announced), Mathieu Geffre and Estela Merlos. Between them this quartet has worked for and/or with Richard Alston, Phoenix Dance Theatre, National Dance Company Wales, Shobana Jeyasingh, Mark Bruce, New Movement Collective, Rambert and many other choreographers and companies in the UK and abroad.

Aural alert: the show’s score, an alternately brooding and urgent mix of live and recorded music, is by the Romanian-born violinist Alexander Balansecu. The man himself slips about among the dancers as a constant presence, instrument in hand and ready to fuel moods and actions. Balanescu’s ‘sound’ is proper contemporary-classical, so don’t attend expecting to bop along to Pharrell Williams’ popular upbeat anthem…

Working with the designer Kimie Nakano, and lighting expert Ben Ormerod, the joint pursuit of Veldman’s creative team was ultimately to devise a dance-based work that, in her words, tries to shed some light on what happiness is and how it manifests itself in human beings. Or, as she put it, ‘How do we deal with it? How do we achieve it, or crave it, or sometimes buy it?’

As a long-time dance-watcher I appreciate Veldman’s ambitions with the work – a chamber-sized series of shape-shifting vignettes that can seem by turns amusing, wondrous or, occasionally, shallow.  Perhaps inevitably, given such broad and elusive subject matter, The Happiness Project may not reveal anything definitive about what happiness is or means or the lengths we go to acquire it. There are also passages that are maybe too busy and vague, or facile and trivial, while over-all it possibly lacks some of the keen and sometimes messy complexities I associate with being alive.

But there are nevertheless felicities dotted throughout. These range from the sounds that Balanescu produces (as well as his genuinely interesting stage persona as a somewhat lumpen-looking middle-aged man in a jaunty hat), to the treasure chest-like boxes used as a main prop (along with a pretty expressively free-floating, ambiguous plastic sheet), to the confident and fresh unit formed by four truly fine movers. Each dancer has his or her moment and, in some cases, more than one. I was especially taken with Hurst’s intense, honest and self-questioning delivery of text and motion when replying to the show’s key question. Merlos, meanwhile, made virtually everything she did matter to me, whether swooping through the air while being held aloft by the two men, slinking closely round Balanescu as he plays, enjoying a delicate duet with a symbolically half-empty (or is it half-full?) glass of water or simply, and temporarily, placing a plastic bag with a smiley face on it over her head. Her sensitive intelligence continually shone through – qualities that at times glimmer in the performance as a whole.

So, did The Happiness Project make me happy? In part, yes. It might do the same for you. Catch it while you can.



Win Guide to November

The city is treating us to a display of fiery reds and golden browns so dig out your knitwear, wrap up warm and read about what Winchester has to offer this month.

wot-no-fishThere’s a chance to see some great story telling at the Theatre Royal on the 4 November in the form of Wot? No Fish! In 1926 shoemaker Ab Solomons drew a doodle on the wage-packet he gave to his wife Celie. Throughout their marriage, right up until 1982, Ab developed his art, drawing a wage-packet picture every week for Celie.  One of Lyn Gardener’s top ten shows of 2014, this is a great night at the theatre. We saw it a the BAC and can thoroughly recommend!

Winchester Bonfire and FireworksRemember, remember, the fifth of November.  This year, the 58th annual Winchester Round Table Bonfire & Fireworks event takes place on Saturday 5 November.  Around 20,000 people will take to the streets for the torchlight procession around the city, culminating in an impressive fireworks display at the River Park Leisure Centre recreation ground.  Tickets are available to buy online now and money raised will go to charities and good causes in Winchester.

Winchester Short Film Festival

Now in its fifth year, the Winchester Short Film festival runs 4 – 12 November. Promoting emerging and seasoned talent in film-making, the festival will present a selection of films from the WSFF 2016 competition in a range of venues across the city including the Railway Inn and the Hampshire Records Office. For a full programme, or to book tickets, visit the festival website here. Our wonderful site sponsors Dutton Gregory have also kindly sponsored the WSFF festival too, a really supportive business in this fine city.

happiness-project-270x270For more culture, visit the Theatre Royal on the 10 November for the chance to see the Happiness Project. Best known in the UK for her productions for Rambert, Northern Ballet and HeadSpaceDance, international dance artist Didy Veldman launches her own company Umanoove with a choreographic investigation of western society’s endless search for fulfilment. For more details or to book tickets, visit the Theatre Royal website here.

Here’s the trailer:

Winchester Wine FestivalWhat better way to warm up the season with the Winchester Wine Festival.  It’s a chance to sample a selection of wines, curated by Winchester’s own BBC1 masters of wine, Susie Barrie and Peter Richards. There’s also the chance to stock up for Christmas or attend specialist masterclasses.  Tickets are £30 per person and can be bought online here.

Winchester Christmas Market

And finally, the crisper weather can mean only one thing – it’s time to get festive.  The Christmas lights will be switched on at the Broadway on 17 November.  Events will start at 4pm.  Winchester really knows how to do Christmas.  There’s a website dedicated to it wth a handy guide to dates and events available here. The famous Winchester Christmas market in Cathedral Close opens 18 November – 20 December boasts its open-air ice rink, which is a suitably festive family trip out (20 November 2014 to 4 January). For those who are less Torvill and Dean, more mulled wine and stollen, there are plenty of other festive distractions on offer in the beautifully lit Germanic fairytale cabins, including holiday food and Christmas gifts.

Enjoy, Wintonians, and we’ll bring you updates throughout the month @Win_Guide.