A preview of Ballet British Columbia at Sadler’s Wells

Posted: February 27th, 2018 | Author: | Filed under: Interview, Preview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A preview of Ballet British Columbia at Sadler’s Wells

From an interview with Emily Molnar, artistic director of Ballet British Columbia

Ballet British Columbia

Artists of Ballet British Columbia in Crystal Pite’s Solo Echo (photo: Michael Slobodian)

On March 6 & 7 Ballet British Columbia will be performing on the Sadler’s Wells main stage. For those who might read into the company name images of evergreen forests, indigenous peoples, paintings by Emily Carr, a rugged Pacific Northwest coast and English weather, the association with ballet may not immediately spring to mind. But those who know the names of Crystal Pite and William Forsythe (both of whom feature large in the Sadler’s Wells program this summer), may be surprised to learn their connection runs through Ballet British Columbia (Ballet BC). The company, founded in 1986, is based in Vancouver and Pite, who was born in the province, started her dancing career there. In 1996 she joined William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt and when she returned to Vancouver she began to choreograph for various companies, including Ballet BC, and founded her own company, Kidd Pivot. In 2010 Pite and Kidd Pivot moved to Frankfurt as the resident company of Kunsterlhaus Mousonturm. The paths of Pite and Forsyth are in turn intermingled with the career of Emily Molnar, Ballet BC’s current artistic director. Molnar is a graduate of the National Ballet School in Toronto and a former member of the National Ballet of Canada before she, too, joined Ballet Frankfurt where she met Pite. Forsythe’s approach to constructing and deconstructing ballet was a huge influence on both dancers. Molnar returned to Vancouver as a principal dancer at Ballet BC and took over the artistic directorship in 2009. So while the company’s name serves to identify it geographically, its artistic lineage is very much aligned with Frankfurt.

Although she also makes work on the company, Molnar has spent the last nine years selecting a broad range of works from different choreographers to develop a dialogue on dance and performance with her audiences. To commission and create 40 new works for a company of 18 dancers and to maintain healthy home seasons in a theatre the size of Sadler’s Wells is evidence of the success of her approach. She describes herself as having been a difficult student because she would constantly question the school regime, the way dancers trained and the technical as well as psychological effect of such training on the dancer. This propensity for questioning fed into her approach to choreography — working with Forsythe must have been especially stimulating — and later to her artistic directorship of a company. She is constantly instilling in her dancers not so much the ‘how’ of a performance but the ‘why’, and in building her choice of works and programs she pays attention to ‘why’ an audience may set foot in the theatre and to the dialogue that inevitably ensues. She wants to reward her audiences for taking that step, but she also wants to lead them on a journey that may take them outside their familiar frame of reference.

The program at Sadler’s Wells comprises works by Pite (Solo Echo) and Molnar (16 + a room) along with a third by the contemporary female voice of Sharon Eyal (Bill), a dancer and choreographer who spent 23 years working with Ohad Naharin in Batsheva in Tel Aviv. Pite and Eyal (along with her collaborator Gai Behar) are recognized names in the UK, so Molnar will be the outsider, setting up the kind of dialogue with audiences here that she has pioneered in Vancouver. Augurs are good; the program was first aired at the International Dance Festival Birmingham in 2016 and my friend Ian Abbott was impressed not only by Molnar’s ‘integrity, sense and articulate coherence’ in her advocacy of female choreographers at a pre-performance event but by the company’s triple bill which he likened to a delectable three-course meal. Dance Consortium was so impressed by the bill of fare and presumably by the bill that it has chosen to tour Ballet British Columbia in the UK this year.

 

UK Tour Dates


Ian Abbott previews Mamoru Iriguchi’s Eaten

Posted: August 4th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Preview | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Ian Abbott previews Mamoru Iriguchi’s Eaten

Mamoru Gets Eaten…By A Narrator, Dance Base, November 25, 2016

Mamoru Iriguchi as Lionel in Eaten (photo: Ian Abbott)

Ian Abbott saw Mamoru Iriguchi’s Eaten as a sharing in November last year. He has since added to his preview in advance of Iriguchi’s performance of Eaten at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.

What I offer here is an outsider’s inside perspective on Mamoru Iriguchi’s continued research and development of Eaten, his work for families. Eaten explores what eating and being eaten mean in nature as well as on our tables; its particular focus is on the offering of one’s body (wholly or partially) for consumption by others.

Continuing to work with long-term collaborators Nikki Tomlinson and Selina Papoutseli, Iriguchi’s Eaten is a series of observations and reflections on the wider context, culture and debate around what we eat. Until now Iriguchi has taken on multiple roles that include the eater, the eaten and many others in between. However, with Tomlinson and Papoutseli he is looking to introduce an additional presence of narrator to see how it might shift the dynamic and reading of the work.

Narrators usually adopt one of two roles: the omniscient and the limited. In the former, the narrator does not participate in the story but knowing everything that has ever happened or will happen views it from outside, supplying comments and evaluations often directly to the audience with such techniques as flashback and anticipation to convey understanding and to heighten any necessary tension. In the latter, the narrator is a protagonist embedded inside the story and is thus restricted to interactions that do not transcend the chronology of the work; we can’t know anything of which the narrator is unaware.

Iriguchi often presents solo work that challenge ideas of duality. In 4D Cinema he played with time, bent perceptions of what is live and what is recorded whilst playing versions of himself and Marlene Dietrich. In Eaten he is again skewering two-ness through his choice of language, illustrative examples and performance persona. There is a charm and a total believability when in the first half of the 25-minute sharing he plays Lionel (the Mamoru-eating lion) and Mamoru (Lionel’s main course). With a slight shift of vocal range and anatomical straightening the oscillation between the two roles is clear and what we get is a philosophically and morally complex conversation delivered in simple and precise detail about who should eat and/or be eaten.

After a delightful section where the joy of unbridled movement takes over as Mamoru teaches Lionel to waltz, there is a short section that exemplifies the relationship between narrator and other:

Mamoru:        “I feel strange Lionel, I’m melting”
Lionel:             “We’re melting together”

With stillness in play and Lionel pushing raspberries out through his lips like an almighty poop, we see emerging from Lionel’s bottom a black morph-suited Professor Poo of Pooniversity. Eaten’s idea of melting between time, bodies, and first and third persons has an absurd and workable logic that constantly reveals itself like a matryoshka doll. Our identities are not fixed, our food is not fixed, our life is not fixed: why should our narration and performances be fixed?

At this moment Tomlinson (previously acting as a temporary, seated narrator in the first half) steps into the dormant Lionel costume; it is now the turn of Professor Poo to drive the narrative forward in the second half as Lionel/narrator takes a fixed position, barely moving for the remainder of the sharing. Professor Poo asks children and grown-ups what we should and shouldn’t eat whilst delivering the telling line: “You aren’t just what you eat; you are what you eat eats.

Eaten posits different beliefs and it is left open for the audience to interpret what is right for them. The narrator lightly frames the landscape so Mamoru/Lionel/Professor Poo is able to riff between the bowels of logic and absurdism.

With Tomlinson, Papoutseli and Iriguchi there are already three narrative stomachs that Eaten has to pass through before anything emerges on stage. It’s clear that as a solo performer Iriguchi doesn’t like to make work alone and the presence of Tomlinson and Papoutseli over the past decade in the studio has created a structure of challenge, nurture and support which ensures there’s no mixing up of the I, your and you with who’s who and who’s poo.

As post-truth politics and fake news cycles continue to grow, the melting narrative of Eaten can help us ask from whom do we want to receive our food narrative: a poo, a lion, the media or the government? There are plenty of unreliable narrators in the global food narrative, but what Iriguchi is offering for consumption through Eaten is a considered, open and downright hilarious perspective on the impact of food and human choices on our planet.


A preview of Alexander Whitley’s new work, 8 Minutes

Posted: June 8th, 2017 | Author: | Filed under: Preview | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on A preview of Alexander Whitley’s new work, 8 Minutes

Alexander Whitley, 8 Minutes, Studio Wayne McGregor, May 25, 26

8 Minutes

Dancers rehearsing Alexander Whitley’s 8 Minutes (photo: Johan Persson)

Eight minutes is the time it takes for light to reach the Earth from the Sun.

On the white floor in the white space the figures and gestures of the seven dancers (Luke Crook, Hannah Ekholm, Tia Hockey, David Ledger, Leon Poulton, Victoria Roberts and Julia Sanz Fernandez) are as clear as atoms under a microscope moving with the detached precision and fluidity of dynamic particles. We are in the larger of the two studios in the Wayne McGregor Studio complex in the former Olympics media centre under the surprisingly composed gaze of choreographer Alexander Whitley. He wants to run for the first time his new work, 8 Minutes, but the closer he gets to starting the more the dancers are wondering ‘what comes next’ and the more Whitely realizes there are transitional details he hasn’t fully worked through with them. It is that moment in the choreographic process when the creator will see the first complete view of what until now has been rehearsed only in sections. It’s nerve-wracking for both the dancers and the choreographer and being a late Friday afternoon brains are tired if not fried.

There is a good deal of expectation sitting on Whitley’s new work as it is his first full-scale main-stage work for co-commissioner Sadler’s Wells. It was Alastair Spalding who brokered the idea between Whitley and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL) to create a work based on solar science. Whitley has always been interested in and inspired by science and RAL has always been interested in finding artistic means to disseminate the knowledge that comes out of their research (the complete 8 Minutes project includes workshops in schools with a scientist and two dancers). This is the first time RAL has approached dance as a medium. Hugh Mortimer, the scientist who has been overseeing the project, sees himself and Whitley as interested in the same ideas about the world but differing in their approach; scientists seek an understanding of the universe as objectively as possible, while artists approach it more subjectively. And as Whitley points out, he shares the scientist’s interest in movement but on a vastly different scale.

Whitley is not choreographing to illustrate the science directly, but in talking with Mortimer he has narrowed down notions such as magnetic fields to translate into choreographic form. Some concepts were eliminated as untranslatable, but others led to interesting movement ideas that embody what Whitley describes as ‘relative complexity’. As he explains, “A lot of the material came from thinking about the physics and applying it to the body; how the body can get anywhere near the speed of light or thinking about scales unimaginably large within the body, or working with the minute atomic scale of things. It was about taking these principles and framing questions. It really has thrown up a quite different vocabulary of movement.”

For 8 Minutes, Whitley has collaborated with electro-acoustic musical innovator Daniel Wohl whose task is to imagine sound from the sun’s soundless environment, and visual artist Tal Rosner who has the advantage of access to RAL’s library of extraordinary solar images. It will be another week before Rosner’s contribution is added to the choreographic mix, but Whitley has relied on the composition of each section of Whol’s score for shaping the work.

Back in the studio, it’s a question of making form out of flow, adjusting the complex spatial patterns with the dancers in sections that have some predictable names like ‘a new day’, ‘sun’s rays’, ‘sun bathing’, ‘chasing the sun’ and some less predictable like ‘spring lambs’. It is choreographic imagery that helps dancers and choreographer keep track of sections that will be connected in the run-through. As one would expect from a dancer and choreographer who is naturally musical, Whitley knows his score intimately and he cues the dancers to sounds that take careful and repeated hearing (“This is easier on headphones”, he quips at one point). He accompanies his verbal corrections with kinesthetic ones, demonstrating a mastery of the phrases he wants his dancers to embody. In short, he is in control of his work and the dancers respond tirelessly with their own ability to refine and connect the phrases.

Watching the full run-through is to see a mature choreographic entity emerge that places human activity and solar science on the same plane, that imagines the effects of time and space on our daily lives. The solar science is the same but its influence on the movement of the dancers shows a transformation in Whitley’s vocabulary which in turn is influenced by, and influences our hearing of the score. The two work together beautifully. In the next few days Whitley will be seeing the lighting, visuals and costumes added to the mix for the first time. Uppermost in his mind as he watches the emergence of his work in all its complexity will be the kind of fragile ecological balance our planet requires for its continuing existence.

8 Minutes, a Sadler’s Wells commission, co-commissioned by DanceEast and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance,
will première at Sadler’s Wells on June 27 and 28 at 7:30
Sadler’s Wells Box Office: 020 7863 8000 www.sadlerswells.com
Twitter: @awdc_