Thursday, 21 March 2013

Maite Delafin Interview (2011 Fringe): Imprints

Back in 2011, I spoke to Maite Delafin, from Nux, about her gentle work dealing with Alzheimers, Imprints. I recently discovered the full text and am delighted to share it here...

Original choreography by Maite Delafin and Simon Conlon
Reworked and performed by Maite Delafin and Michael Sherin
Original Music by Poppy Acroyd
Sound design by John Lemke
Set design and costume by Nux
Light design by Nux

A mesmerising and touching dance/theatre work telling the story of how the lives of a loving couple change as the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease start to show. This subtle tale of compassion and tenderness weaves movement, performance, music and sound design together, creating an immersive experience. Imprints is a creative collaboration between Maite Delafin (performer and Artistic Director of Nux), performer Michael Sherin, musician Poppy Ackroyd and sound designer John Lemke.

You call this work a physical theatre piece, but there is no question that you are a dancer and choreographer? What led you to take the physical theatre categorisation on board?
I consider myself as dancer and choreographer but in this piece I am acting as well as dancing so I believe 'performer' could be more appropriate in this case. Increasingly dancers are required to bring other skills (such as acting) to the rehearsal room and actors to have movement skills as the boundaries between dance and theatre become blurred, so the  labels 'actor' 'dancer' sometimes become redundant and 'performer' is a more accurate description of the practitioner. 

In this work the narrative line is very strong, movement is created to tell the story if this couple, the physicality and the acting involved in this piece made the categorisation obvious to me. I actually made the decision before I started to do a physical theatre work to explore the subject matter.

2. As a teacher and soloist, and a choreographer, you have often been "in command". Does this change when a work like this is collaborative in process?
My last work Grounds performed for the Fringe 2008 was a solo or a duet depending of how you look at it as Poppy Ackroyd, the musician was performing the music live. I definitely consider that that work was a collaboration as well as Poppy and I really worked together and both influenced each other in the composition of the dance and music. 

I personally don't like being fully 'in command', I really believe in the huge potential of collaborations, specially when it involves different art forms. I think I'm good at getting people together and in choosing the right team, I like coordinating the project, but during the creative process we all have an input and influence, inspire each other in our respective art disciplines. It is the way of working I like the most because you are constantly challenged and surprised.

3. The subject matter is very bracing: what made you go for a collaboration of this sort to explore Alzheimers rather than straight up dance? Were there areas that dance could not quite reach?
It is a deep subject matter indeed and I really want the audience to engage with it. Sometimes I feel that people are scared of contemporary dance. Quite often when I say I do contemporary dance, a lot of them don't really know what it is and others tell me 'ah, this weird abstract dance than no one understands'... it makes my feel a bit sad in a way because I think dance can reach very deep levels in people if they accept to let go and sense the dance rather than try understand every single move. 

I have faith in it and I'm not planning to give up on it, but I was, for my own professional development interest interested in exploring working with a narrative line. I wanted to challenge myself finding a balance where the acting, the dancing, the music and the sound could merge together to tell this story. I also want this work to raise awareness in this disease that affects so many people and I feel that physical theatre is a good way to reach more people.

4. Working with an actor - did you find that there were approaches that an actor would use that are very alien to you as a choreographer?

What was important to me was to work with someone who had experience of devising work and was comfortable with working in a physical manner. Both of the performers who have been involved in the creation/re-working of 'Imprints' fit that bill.

Initially I created Imprints with Simon Colon who is an actor and a clown doctor but had a physical theatre training. Simon had to move to Australia so he couldn't continue this collaboration. Michael Sherin with whom a reworked the piece has both an acting and dancing background. I didn't want to work with someone with no acting experience. I only started to work and collaborate with actors a couple of years ago when I've joined Poorboy ensemble directed by Sandy  Thomson so I felt I really needed someone with experience in drama on board. 

I do think dancers and actors have different approaches that are both interesting. I feel dancer (at least some of us) are more in the doing first and thinking after, when a lot of actors would do it the other way round. Again it also depends on the kind of training you had, but yes such collaboration is very stimulating for me, as both discipline work really well together and it makes the whole process and the result very rich, diverse and interesting. 

5. And how did you decide on your musical collaborator?
For Imprints, I've decided to work with Poppy Ackroyd who composed the original soundtrack and John Lemke who did the sound design of the piece. I choose the artist I work with because I think they are talented but also because they are people I really connect with on a human level. Both are equally important to me because that is when real collaboration can happen, when people can communicate and exchange in a very natural way, being able to be honest and straight forward with each other. It is really important to create a safe environment where you can explore. I really enjoyed working with Poppy for Grounds and really believed her musical universe would work for the story of Imprints I had in mind. 

The soundscape that John Lemke creates and manipulates live for the piece is fundamental in this work, it has a very strong importance in the narrative line. The sounds really contributes to the mental and emotional journey of the characters. The music soundtrack and soundscape really complement each other.   

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