Airthrey Dance Trail Launched

Today sees the launch of Airthrey Dance Trail at the University of Stirling, an immersive outdoor dance and poetry experience devised by professional dancer Grace Turner. The self-guided nature trail, funded by Scene Stirling, features a series of films inspired by the landscape of the campus, from its lochs and gardens to its ancient woodland and historical Monument backdrop.

At seven marked points along the route, audience members are invited to stop and view the films on their phone. 

Grace is currently working as the head aerial stunt performer for Wired Aerial Theatre at the world famous Bregenzer Festspiele Haus in Austria, but 2020 was a far different experience for the dancer:

“When the pandemic hit, all of my work was cancelled, and I decided to move to Scotland to be with my fiancé who works at the University of Stirling. I’ve been such a nomad due to the nature of the work I do, so Covid-19 finally allowed me to settle and have roots.

 “Being locked down made me search outside for a creative outlet. I realised that there were so many amazing walks around Stirling and thought, how can I connect my creative practice as a dancer with getting people outdoors. So, I decided to create a dance trail that people can follow and watch films inspired by the setting they are standing in, connecting dance performances and audiences in a Covid-safe way.”

Each dance performance, captured by documentary film maker Michael Rea, is accompanied by the words of local poet Frances Ainslie and narrated by local community theatre practitioner Hannah Uttley.

 Grace said: “Frances and I visited the campus separately before making the films, so each aspect – dance and poetry – is our individual interpretation of the setting.”

 The team hope the project will inspire audiences to appreciate and engage with nature in a whole new way.

Michael said: “It’s been really good to be involved in a project that combines a multiple of creative disciplines – filmmaking, dance, poetry, narration and graphic design – and blend them together into one interactive experience. It’s really unusual and I hope many people go on the trail and enjoy all these elements in the real locations, it really makes a difference.”

Frances added: “The Airthrey Dance Trail was great to be involved with. The fusion of movement, nature and words opened a dream-like creative space – a clearing in a forest.”

Creativity has long been a part of the University of Stirling’s identity.

Sarah Bromage, Deputy Curator of the University’s renowned Art Collection said: “The Art Collection’s focus is to make art and culture a part of everyday life for staff, students and visitors. This trail will encourage visitors to engage with our beautiful campus and to explore the many ways in which people can creatively respond to the nature that surrounds them.”

This isn’t the first-time nature has inspired Grace’s dance routines. She runs Turnaround Dance Theatre with her two sisters, Ellen and Lily.

Grace said: “Growing up in rural Lancashire and living in the countryside has had a big influence on our work. But no two pieces are the same, one day we’ll be performing aerial circus for kids, another day we’ll be performing in a care home for people with dementia.”

Grace hopes to expand the trail to other locations across Stirling: “We’ve started with a loop of the loch, but I would love to eventually make this project into a Stirling wide series of trails.”

An interactive map of the trail, with links to watch the films, can be downloaded for free here:

You can also follow and tag the project on social media @turnarounddance

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