In the opening film of footSTEPS Season 2, I dance my way through a giant maize maze in the shape of Star Wars' R2-D2 in the Gloucestershire countryside.
Every summer, dozens of maize mazes pop up in the UK. Constructed in the shapes of various characters, these mazes are only open seasonally, according to the crop - yep, that's right, the maze is first and foremost created to grow maize (also known as corn), and the maze is is constructed using the maize to create bonus fun for the summer months. You can find the location of your nearest maize maze at the Maize Maze Association website. (My goodness, that's a lot of 'maizes' and 'mazes'!)
This summer, we visited Elton Giant Maize Mazes, which is home to 3 maize mazes and an activity maze in the heart of the Gloucestershire countryside. We chose their giant R2-D2 maze as the site for the opening dance film of Season 2 of footSTEPS (if you're new to footSTEPS, you can check out Season 1, set in Wales, here). All of the maize mazes are open from mid-July to early-September. In summer 2020 there was also a Paw Patrol maze and another giant one in the shape of Olaf from the Frozen movies. The characters depicted in the mazes change as the crop grows every year, and if you're feeling intrigued about whether they have previously portrayed any of your favourite movie characters, you can have a look at their past mazes here.
In these mazes, the maize grows up to 3 metres high. Unless, that is, the badgers get at them. We were informed that badgers feed in parts of the mazes at night, pushing over plants and eating the cobs, and we certainly saw evidence that they had been there.
There's a lot of arm action going on in this film, which for me echoes the growth of the maize. I found myself interested in the lines created by the plants - how the stalks appear perfectly straight, but the leaves and the cobs shoot off at different angles. I tried to emulate this with my wrists, at times extending my arms fully whilst creating various angles with my wrist joints.
I really like how both myself and the camera move through space here - I'm particularly fond of how you can't quite tell which direction I will head in next, as openings in the maze seem to appear from nowhere. This, for me, hints at the vastness of the maze, and gives the impression that it's impossible to be aware of the scale of the maze from the inside. It feels like it could go on forever.
I found it quite entertaining to play around with pulling the maize plants towards me at times. I think this links back to a feeling I had in the film we made at Troed-y-rhiw Lido in South Wales, where I experimented with touching the different textures on one of the walls, something I felt compelled to do after being very careful about what I touched during the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.
We experimented a little more with me coming towards the camera as well. I particularly like how this works towards the end of the film as my movement becomes faster and more forceful. It's as if I am challenging the camera to a duel somehow... or challenging it to keep up with me, perhaps?
There is something really aesthetically pleasing for me in this film - I very much enjoy the effect of the sunlight shining through the bright green leaves, and the juxtaposition of these colours next to my almost-white sweatshirt. This very simple backdrop provided an interesting site to create a film that I found incredibly satisfying to make.
The Activity Maze
A personal highlight of the mazes at Elton was the activity maze, complete with crawl-through tunnels, crash mats to jump onto from height, and a series of tangle boxes which you must fight your way through. There's even areas where you have to answer a question correctly (by pressing the right button), or you get sprayed in the face with water! Hours of fun!
Have I left you inspired to look at more of our dance films in green spaces? Take a look at the following posts: