Dancer Vicci Riley holds another dancer in a martial arts style grip

Meet the Artist: Vicci Riley

Leading up to our special event to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Moon Landing – One Small Step – we’re going behind the scenes with the incredible Dance Artists who’ll be making the performance come to life!

Your practice brings together so many elements – tell us a little bit about yourself…

I’m an independent dance artist: performing, facilitating and creating work in professional, health and community contexts. At the moment I’m leading Contact Improvisation classes with LIC at the Bluecoat, and collaborating with arts organisation Restoke on a performance project about motherhood. I’m also working with Aleasha Chante on some new projects.

As you can probably tell, I’m an advocate for the benefits of dance on health – dance for me is a way of belonging in the world, a way in which I can relate to others and my environment and feel present in my own skin. That’s why I run a weekly reminiscence arts day for people with dementia and their carers, working on memory through song and dance, as well as work with objects, crafts and materials. I’m also currently training with the Dance Consortia North West mentoring programme.

And what about your career highlights to date?

I produced a solo show last year, commissioned by MDI and funded by Arts Council England, which animated a huge amount of research I had done about the emancipated women in the heyday of Herring Fishing. It felt great to bring their stories alive, and particularly to share a herring supper afterwards with my audience to discuss their thoughts and questions! Highlights in my work happen in small ways and often, and they’re not really about me. I observe transformations in people through facilitating – noticing increased body awareness, new interactions or just the sheer delight in playing.

For One Small Step, your group will be animating some of research that led to moon landing?

Yes! Much of this research involved programming, data entry and geometric calculations, and importantly, was performed by African American women. These women were human computers, and were fundamental in the success of the early space programme. My ideas for the youth group I am working with involve exploring ways to create physical algorithms, spacial trajectories, determined by these trailblazing women. We will use rhythm, patterns, contact skills and maybe a couple of sets of wooden ladders…

Is that unique story part of what inspired you to get involved in this project?

Definitely – I’m looking forward to working with a group of young women, and to hear their ideas about the early space programme and the future of space travel. I hope to offer them some new ways of making collaborative dance performance using movement and visual elements, and display the vitality of these women during the Space Race.

Finally, if you went to the moon, what song would you play for us back on earth?

It has to be Starman by David Bowie.

Discover the story of the 1969 Moon Landing with us at World Museum on Saturday 20 July.