CHOREOGRAPHER OF THE MONTH With Scottish Ballet about to deliver a superb and diverse double-bill in Glasgow, artistic director ASHLEY PAGE talks to us about his passion for choreography
What made you want to be a choreographer? I’ve always been interested in the creative process across all the arts, and as a dancer at the Royal Ballet I had the good fortune to be involved in the creation of new work with some of the finest choreographers in the world. It’s also to do with having something to say about the art form; wanting to suggest a certain way of looking at things, plus a curiosity about how things are made.
What was the inspiration behind your work Pennies from Heaven? The music. Those songs have been with me since I bought the soundtrack of the Dennis Potter TV series [of the same name] just after it was first shown in the late 1970s, and I’d been waiting for the right moment and situation to make a dance piece to them. What are you looking for in a dancer – and also in the choreographers you commission? Intelligence, musicality, commitment, courage and a hunger to investigate. It’s the same with choreographers, as well as a temperament which allows for a positive and inspirational working relationship with the dancers – and therefore a good experience in the creative process.
What do you hope audiences will take away from Scottish Ballet’s autumn double-bill, featuring your Pennies From Heaven and Jorma Elo’s Kings 2 Ends? Joy, fascination and a sense that they’ve been thoroughly entertained. ■ Scottish Ballet, Theatre Royal, Glasgow, Thu 29 Sep–Sat 1 Oct.
108 THE LIST 22 Sep–20 Oct 2011
PREVIEW CONTEMPORARY DANCE WAYNE MCGREGOR / RANDOM DANCE: FAR Edinburgh Festival Theatre, Tue 4 & Wed 5 Oct
While it’s true that behind every piece of dance lies hours of thought, few choreographers can lay claim to quite the mental heavy work of Wayne McGregor. In recent years, his exploration into the world of cognitive science has helped generate a large body of useful research – and produced some rather lovely dance along the way.
For McGregor and the scientists he works with, the connection between mind and body, and the impact it has on the creative process, has proved endlessly fascinating. With the results of their on-going study ploughed back into McGregor’s work, both at the Royal Ballet, where he has been resident choreographer since 2006, and with his own company Random Dance. The latest example of which is Far, a work for ten dancers inspired by the Age of Enlightenment, which took place across 18th century Europe. ‘One of the things that struck me most about the Age
of Enlightenment is this sense of the body coming under question,’ says McGregor. ‘It was the first time that dissections took place and we started to understand the anatomy of the human body. The layers were being unpeeled, and that’s very analogous with the work we’ve been doing with cognitive scientists, understanding the relationship between body and mind.’
As well as Far’s scientific in-put (which is very much behind the scenes), McGregor has also collaborated with Australian electronic composer Ben Frost for the score, and designer Lucy Carter to create an atmospheric backdrop of lights.
‘Instead of poking directly into your eyes, the lights
point sideways and cast shadows,’ explains McGregor. ‘And we can write text and numbers into the shadows. It’s brilliantly beautiful and very much in the spirit of that time, because they were still using firelight during the Age of Enlightenment, and there’s something about shadow and how light moves that felt very important about that period. So we wanted to try and create that in a digital way.’ (Kelly Apter)
PREVIEW KATHAK/HIP HOP DANCE KATHAKBOX macrobert, Stirling, Fri 23 Sep
Picture the scene – you meet somebody from a different country, you can’t speak their language, they can’t speak yours, but somehow you find a way to communicate. Well that’s exactly what Sonia Sabri has been doing for the past nine years, only for her, the language is dance. Since its formation in 2002, Sonia Sabri Company has been finding new ways to bring the worlds of Indian kathak dance and hip hop together. ‘I’m not necessarily blending kathak with another dance form,’ she says, ‘but looking at the dialogue between different dance disciplines. It’s not about fusing other genres to kathak, but finding the meeting point.’
That meeting point has involved working with musicians and dancers
from a range of backgrounds. Sabri’s latest production, Kathakbox features classically trained kathak dancers, a b-boy, a tabla master who uses his voice, rather than his instrument, to create rhythms – and a beatboxer. As Sabri explains, beatboxing and rap may feel like new inventions but for purveyors of the ancient kathak style, it’s old news.
‘Beatboxing has always been a key ingredient in kathak,’ she says. ‘The concept originally comes from Indian and African traditions, where dancers have to mimic the sound of the drums. And the whole idea of rap, which again is associated with hip hop, has always been used in kathak – it’s just in a different language.’ Although Kathakbox is alive with sound, surprisingly all of it is produced by the human body. ‘It was quite a challenge,’ laughs Sabri. ‘But I wanted to create music without instruments, because there is already so much there musically in kathak. Dancers have to train in beatbox and percussion in their footwork, and they all have the ability to sing, so there’s enough there to create a soundscape.’ (Kelly Apter)