British Council: Ise City Residency Programme 2019 – 20

Following more than 600 submissions, the British Council invited six UK-based artists all specialising in different art-forms to take part in a unique artistic research residency in Ise City in Japan. Company Director, Nicole Vivien Watson was one of the six artists selected. The residency provided a unique look into the beauty of Japanese culture and its traditions including exclusive access to one of the most prestigious Shinto shrines in Japan, which is not normally open to the public. This residency was part of our UK in Japan 2019-20 programme and is a joint initiative between the British Council and the British Embassy Tokyo. In collaboration with the Department of Industry and Tourism Ise City.

 Nicole Vivien Watson meeting and dancing with Suzuka City’s Deaf Dragons. British Council: Ise City Residency Programme 2019-20

 Nicole Vivien Watson with Suzuka City’s Deaf Dragons. British Council: Ise City Residency Programme 2019-20

2020 begins with an expression of thanks to The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation agreeing to support Surface Area Dance Theatre’s 2020 programme of engagement in Athens. At a time when borders and gates are becoming ever-more restricted, it is an honour to receive funding from Greece. We are committed to reaching out and making friends across the borderlines. Thank you to the Foundation for acknowledging the intentions of our work and commitment forward.

The John S. Latsis Public Benefit Foundation is a non-profit organization established in 2005 with the purpose of continuing the late John S. Latsis’ philanthropic legacy by incorporating and advancing the activity of public benefit foundations that he established in the late ‘60s and in the early ‘90s in Greece, with the aim of better addressing contemporary social issues and challenges.
‘Behind the Face of a Rock, Throwing Stones’ photography by Paul Miller, Dance City, 2019.

With thanks to The Greggs Foundation, Local Communities Fund we can purchase the necessary technology and equipment that will enable members of the D/deaf community to access a range of events and opportunities that place dance and creative movement at the heart of engagement. We look forward to launching new activities in 2020, to coincide with a national and international tour of performance repertoire and community outreach activities.

“The Greggs Foundation is based in Newcastle Upon Tyne and is closely associated with Greggs plc. The Greggs Foundation is a grant-making charity which improves the quality of life in local communities, distributing around £3 million per year to charitable organisations throughout England, Scotland and Wales.

“We would like to extend a massive thanks to Director Nicole Vivien Watson and our friend and choreographer Chris Fonseca who continue to utilise and experiment with our technology. Collectives like Surface Area Dance Theatre enable us to connect people from all walks of life with music and sound while also raising important issues and educating about the D/deaf and Hoh communities”.

Link to full blog-postSUBPAC. We are very excited to continue this journey, with the reassurance of knowing that working with SubPack technology is effective in supporting our efforts – to remain a fully accessible and inclusive organisation.



‘What is Translation?’ seeks to explore communication and how the processes of interpretation and translation are negotiated. Within the D/deaf world many communication channels are instrumental in how, for example, British Sign Language is fully understood. The parameters of this understanding rest upon an agreed use of sign language structures and vocabulary, that involves a complex system of signed and expressed physical movements. ‘What is Translation?’ seeks to explore the complexities of language and our necessity to find a shared understanding of the world around us.

Commissioned by Surface Area Dance Theatre CIC with support from Dance City’s Creative Summer programme.
Photography by Paul Miller, Dance City, 2019.

Surface Area Dance Theatre completes a Creative Summer residency at Dance City, to further explore “Behind the Face of a Rock, Throwing Stones”, that will premiere at Dance City on the 6 of June 2020. One significant area of research set out to explore the use and range of ‘Subpack’ (as pictured). A wearable technology that translates sound into vibration, that is then felt when in contact with the body.

Company members included in the research and presentation of Behind the Face of a Rock, Throwing Stones”, Director Nicole Vivien Watson, Performing Artists; Charlie Dearnley, Christopher Fonseca and Alex Rowland, Visual Arts by Graham Patterson and Composition and Sound by Tom White.
Behind the Face of a Rock, Throwing Stones currently exists as an enquiry and process of choreographic research, that is centred upon an experiential understanding and knowledge of British Sign Language, D/deaf culture, Japanese culture and Butoh. Language, sensation, communication and physical expression through movement, are four of the principle interests that will be researched and thought-over throughout studio rehearsals and events taking place in 2019-2020.

In December 2018, the first of four periods of studio research took place in Leeds, (UK) during which, the named collective began the first chapter of their shared journey. The opening or gateway, to the collective’s coming together, was supported by the introduction of the Japanese concept of Ma (間), which can be translated as a gap/pause/interval. Together the collective began to physically interpret the possibilities of Ma, responding with an assertive series of gestures, postures and settlements of physical contact — Instigated by the proposition of using the entire body as a listening instrument, capable of feeling, touching and seeing the colours and textures of sound, sound in space and in silence.

With thanks to support from; Arts Council England, The British Council and The Tokyo Embassy.

Company Director, Nicole Vivien Watson is in residence at Earthfall, France. Nicole is taking the opportunity to visit Earthfall’s studio, dedicating a week of studio research to a study directed by Hiroyuki Ikema’s ‘Folk Dance of Japan’ in cooperation with the National Folk Dance of Japan (1981), published by National Recreation Association of Japan with assistance from the Commemorative Association for the Japan World Exposition.


Courtesy of the British Council and the British Embassy Tokyo, Company Director, Nicole Vivien Watson will be returning to Japan in the Autumn, to hold a residency at Ise City, the home of Ise Jingu (Ise Grand Shrine). The starting-point of her research will be investigations into the architecture and artistry of the shrine’s Torii (鳥居)(Gateway to the shrine). Every Japanese shrine has a Torii, passing through the gateway is a symbolic action, a sign that one has passed from the every-day into a spiritual world.

“I’m very thankful to be one of the six artists invited to take part in the programme and to have the opportunity to hold meetings with Japanese Shinto priests, craft makers, local residents and artists, making new friendships and discovering even more about a country, culture and people I hold so dear”. Nicole Vivien Watson

– Sunrise at Ujibashi Bridge, Ise Shrine (around the winter solstice), photo by Jingushicho (Jingu Administration Office)

By clearing evidencing progressive strategies, Surface Area Dance Theatre is celebrating a further two years of Disability Confident Employer status, awarded by the Department of Work and Pensions and has committed to four priorities;
1, challenging attitudes towards disability
2, increasing understanding of disability
3, removing barriers to disabled people and those with long-term health conditions.
4, ensuring that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations.

Surface Area Dance Theatre is committed to making the most of the talents disabled people can bring to the organisation and will continue to challenge negative stereotypes by supporting and encouraging ability.