Dance and Cycling are not the most obvious of bedfellows so I was really interested to see what was going to happen at the Ghost Peloton performance, a collaboration between Phoenix Dance Theatre and NVA with around forty volunteer cyclists as part of the Yorkshire Festival, 100 days of cultural activity and performances leading up to the Tour de France. Anticipation was high for me as I’d been keeping my eye on the idea as soon as it had been announced and was hoping to be one of the riders taking part but alas I had to make do with watching the performance rather that riding in it and totally mesmerising it was too.
I had no idea what to expect and wondered how the volunteer cyclists were going to ‘dance’ but as I thought about it perhaps there are similarities between dance and cycling as after all one of the holy grails of cycling is to achieve ‘flow’ the moment when you, your bike and the environment you are in merge to become one huge grin on your face. I occasionally get these highs and when they happen they are truly magical. If you watch a pro peloton the way it moves is like a one whole living organism flowing over the roads, parting and reforming around roundabouts or obstacles and anyone in any doubt about the potential of bikes to flow and dance take a look at flatland bmx star Keelan Phillips in the clip below. Now I can’t say my dad dancing ever flows but I have no doubt that flow and becoming at one with your surroundings must be an important goal for top dancers.
As dusk turned to darkness a solitary rider rode into the arena (which was the old Tetley brewery yard) and I must admit I felt quite emotional as the two thousand people focussed their attentions on one person on a bike, glowing in the darkness. This was in such stark contrast to the daily existence of many cyclists who are not the centre of attention but are rather pushed to the margins. I’m a confident rider and ride most days but there are times when it is lonely and scary so to have this feeling turned on it’s head and have people celebrating the bike as the star of the show was a really great feeling.
What followed was an hour or so (I was too bewitched to notice the time) of unadulterated pleasure, an assault on the senses as movement, light and sound played out in a dizzying performance. That solitary cyclist was soon joined by many more who flowed around the arena, changing pace, splitting up into smaller pods, circling and swooping around. As they moved their bikes and special suits the riders were wearing changed colours to quite brilliant effect. The lights could be controlled so that all or certain parts of the rider or bike could be lit up which created some fantastic effects. At one point one rider went totally yellow (signifying the yellow jersey) and sprinted off on a lap before joining up with the rest of the peloton where as soon as they did the lights changed to match the other riders. The changes continued and at one point the whole line of riders became the French flag.
It was impossible not to think of Tron as you watched the riders zip around and what would have been brilliant would have been to have had Kraftwerk’s iconic Tour de France song beating out, but even without that the music and beats created a fantastic rhythm to accompany the movement of the riders.
So brightly lit choreographed cyclists mesmerising thousands of people in a disused former brewery yard. Who’d have thought it? I understand that the performance is only one part of Ghost Peloton and that this will be combined with dancers and the peloton moving through iconic parts of the Yorkshire Tour de France stages combined into a short film. Should be well worth watching.
I left the show with two overwhelming emotions, firstly one of real joy to have witnessed something so special and memorable but also one of reflection, wondering if this performance might help to change perceptions of cycling and cyclists as, after all, I don’t want to become part of a real Ghost Peloton.
(Huge thanks to Becka @veggieg3ek and Stuart Petch @thelightoutside for supplying the photos for this post.)