Friday, 13 December 2013

SDT chatter...

Scottish Dance Theatre: New works by international choreographers Victor Quijada (ex Peter Darrell Choreographic Award Winner) and Jo Strømgren (TOURING: Spring 2013)

uses the Los Angeles street-dance culture of his youth in his new piece Second Coming. Quijada’s first piece for Scottish Dance Theatre was supported by a Peter Darrell Choreographic Award and went on to win the National Dance Award for Outstanding Company Repertoire (Modern) in 2003.

Scottish Dance Theatre is the first UK company to commission Norwegian 

He will take the dancers on a wild journey through the darkest, coldest season in Winter and will create a radical dance theatre that is both enigmatic and mysterious. He was a big hit of Aurora Nova's programme in either 2005 or 2006 with The Hospital and The Convent.

Jo Strømgren

I am interested in the way your career has moved from classical ballet towards Ibsen and the famous "nonsense" languages. Do you see a continuity from your training in ballet into the pieces that you brought to the Fringe, and are most easily described more as"physical theatre"?

Somehow I’m happy that my education was classical ballet. It’s a rigorous and authoritarian artform, where you need to fill a form that is already defined, by others or by history. Happy because it made me realise that this is NOT me at all. It sort of vaccinated me against becoming a dedicated follower of any method or ideology. So the continuity from classical ballet to a wide range of genres and artforms is more a liberating reaction to this strict introduction to the art world. At the same time, this complete lack of bonds to anything also allows me to actually work fearlessly with classical ballet. I create freely and with ease with the most conservative companies there are, experiencing something not unlike the Lego-box trance I remember from childhood rainy days. It’s as if I cannot fall. Or as if a fall isn’t something negative. An open approach, driven by curiosity, has a value on its own, no matter bad reviews, booing, or empty auditoriums.

In the press release, the work is described as being formed by a process that is "wild and rigorous." Certainly, I can see from previous works that both disciplined technique and moments of chaos define your work, but how do you reconcile the two approaches when you create a work?

One can do something new (which always means reinventing the wheel since everything has been done before somewhere) by theme and form and style etcetera. But I find it more interesting to always change my own way of working, as in always looking for new tools to tell a story or what can be associated into a story. On one level I reduce my own importance, trying to be a humble servant to the idea itself. On another parallel level I become a dictator since I tend to like the idea of a distinct personal vision. I like this also when I see other shows. There is always a lot of chaos in my process, that’s at least how some people experience it. But that’s a tool also, to keep people a bit confused. Some may think I’m whimsical and impulsive in the process, but I’m actually a cynical efficiency freak. I just hide it well. But “wild and rigorous”…well, I wouldn’t know. But for the record: No dancers were harmed in this production.

You are using Schubert for this work: at what point did the music come into the process?

Quite early. I wanted to do something nice on the surface, but with a sinister undertone. And those words could be a description of Schubert himself. I would call his life a tragic one, and I sense this in the music. It’s not rock’n roll of course, where you can scream your guts out with anger and despair, but still there is a nerve in this romantic music that implies he’s not on top of everything. Not at all. He’s going down. And he did. I had another idea on the list also, featuring the music of Matt Elliott, which he granted me the permission to use, but I hope I can use that idea somewhere else. Perhaps if I’m invited back to Scottish Dance Theatre??? Haha. In that case it should NOT be in wintertime.

Do you feel any identification with the label of "Norwegian choreographer"? Does your work reflect a national character, or is it informed by Norway?

“Norwegian choreographer” as a label has little relevance I think. Even though we tour the world more than others. Actually, the export of Norwegian dance is currently bigger than the export from all the other 6 countries in the Nordic region together. But still we’re a small community and too small to be a label of any importance. And there is no wave or trend either, we’re all different. I don’t know what that’s a token of really. Culturally it’s more relevant to use a label like “Nordic choreographer”. There are some sets of references that are alike for all of us. Not sure exactly which they are though. But people outside the region seem to detect a certain something. My first review abroad mentioned “a healty dash of Nordic scurrility”. Perhaps there is something in that.

How was working with SDT? How far do you make work "on" dancers, using their particular physicality?

I used to be a hardcore improvisation dancer, but got tired of it. Perhaps I went to far. For sure I injured myself badly after some years. And improv is sometimes as talking when drunk – the words lead by themselves, and a point can easily get lost. In the end you may just talk but have nothing interesting to say. So I have been exploring other ways to produce material. Like the old-school way of showing movement patterns to the dancers. Creating steps yourself, if ever so intricate, and transposing this onto dancers is in many dance genres and communities a handicraft that is lost completely. But going back at times is also good. In Dundee, the rehearsal period coincided with a knee injury of mine, and I thought why not – I’ll sit on a chair this time, and ask the dancers to provide shitloads of material. A refreshing flashback to earlier days for me, and hopefully a good process for them with a lot of personal investment. As for now, “Winter, Again” is definitively a company piece, they have adapted my vision and made it their own.

What keeps you making dance theatre, or theatre at all? Is there something about the medium which you find especially exciting?

I dislike when artists over-estimate the communicative potential of their art form. Some tend to grasp more than they can carry. Some may try to give answers to complex political situations through neo-classical choreographies. Some may try to round up philosophical issues by rolling on the floor with loose limbs resembling worms. Good luck. I don’t mean to undermine colleagues, but there is something about using the power of abstraction in dance for what it’s worth. Competing with far more efficient vehicles of communication is rather useless I think. As experiments it can be interesting, but I witness a certain inflation in the dance world today with pieces that actually says nothing, even though they try harder than ever. Or they say nothing compared to what you can read efficiently in a newspaper article, or in a book, or see in a documentary film. As a thumb rule, the people we compete with have often a far more intellectual education, a far more experienced civilian life, and far more info to rely on than a dancer, or a choreographer for that matter, who has spent most of his/her life in a dance studio. 

I think much of my drive is to explore more and more of the communicative potential in dance, as in what can I transmit to the audience that they cannot get anywhere else. I’m not an expert, and I’m not excessively confident, but when knowing that I my work has been exposed in 55 countries by now, I tend to conclude that I must do something right. I’m not famous, I’m not trendy by far, and I’m definitely not from a cool country. So I think it has to do with the attitude towards this communicative potential. As in using the abstraction for what it’s worth. Either in theatre, dance, or dance theatre. Or puppet theatre or film, or whatever risky project I’m into.

Victor Quijada 

Hip hop theatre is a growing concern in the UK. How well do you feel the art is handling the transformation from street to theatre space?

wow, BIG question.

i'll try to keep the answer short.

I think I was asked that question when my company performed at the first Breakin' Convention in 2004.

and this theme brings up a lot of other questions...

like what constitutes Hip Hop Theatre?

When a b-boy crew performs a showcase routine at Battle of the Year, is that "Hip Hop Theatre"?

I think a lot of things have, and will continue to change.

Transformation from street to stage is not just happening in "Hip Hop Theatre";

The way i see it, the way that the street dance (urban dance) forms are shared and learned and experienced has changed dramatically in the last decade.

Technology has been a big part of this, but also, when Hip Hop went from subculture to pop culture as it has, then you start seeing traditional dance studios that once taught ballet, tap & jazz,

adding hip hop and break classes to their curriculum; you see studios specifically dedicated to the urban dance forms become more common.

I believe that the popularity, the dissemination, and the technical codification of the forms all have an effect on how Hip Hop dance culture will continue to develop in the traditional theatre setting.

How well do you feel the art is handling the transformation from street to theatre space?

With so much being out there and with such variation in the degree to which the transformation is actually happening, or wanting to happen, it is hard to generalize.

Everything has rules or intrinsic principles. There are rules in Hip Hop; and each dance style has its rules. There are also rules to the theatrical event.

I believe that the more understanding the Hip Hop Artist has of the inherent Theatrical rules, the easier and more successful he is at transgressing these rules.

I see more and more young dancers that have had an excellent training in classical ballet technique, in contemporary, AND can pop, krump, or do a six-step.

This is the future: dancers and artists with knowledge from different ends of the artistic spectrum. This allows the transformation to take hold and flourish.

Is there anything in hip hop dance that makes it especially suitable for the type of work you have made with SDT? I know that it is a personal story, but beyond that, is there something about its style that allows it to be more expressive, perhaps, than ballet in this case?

The work I make uses a movement vocabulary that is influenced by my past as a young b-boy & hip hop freestyler, and very heavily informed by the contemporary ballet works I performed during my career. I have developed a distinct style that (in my eyes) allows a dancer to be all things: explosive, acrobatic, sharp, fluid, gentle, introspective, honest..

For me, the movement vocabulary is a means to an end; the shapes the body makes is not the goal in and of itself. I use movement as a replacement for text and dialogue. Physical partnering sequences are back and forth negotiations of will between two performers.

I open the "hip hop" drawer, open the "break" drawer, the "contemporary" drawer, and the "theatre" drawer - and I leave them open. I draw from each as it I need, usually leaving the stereotypical cliche identifiers alone and taking the essential that is needed to serve the purpose of the work.

How has it been working with dancers trained in a different tradition?

Over the past 10 years I have become quite well equipped to introduce dancers safely and efficiently to the demands of my choreography.

You have been describing as having "a signature style." Are you comfortable with this description and how would you define that style?

I would probably describe it as a "post-contemporary ballet-break dance-theatre" style.

I can imagine that LA is a little more temperate than Scotland at this time of year... how have you found working in Scotland, and is there much continuity between the US and Scotland culturally?

Born and raised in Los Angeles, my dance career took me to NYC when i was 20. Since 2002 I am based in Montreal.

I created the bulk of the piece last summer, and Dundee was beautiful. I was back recently and not so lucky with weather.

but rain or shine, you can always count on Scotch whiskey. :-)

Data for the Doubtful Part 7

Having had my own dreams of Tramway (someone was re-staging classic works in a decaying building, I am was trying to persuade my family to join me at a midnight showing), the deconstructed lullabies of Data for the Doubtful Part 7 visits a location that inhabits my consciousness like a brooding Leviathan... 

when Barry Burns recites from his dream diary, he inadvertently slips into my dream-space. Twenty-four hours later, it's the specifics of certain scenes that remain, the music has receded into atmospheric background, gentle and illustrative.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Sarcastic Churnalism

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I still get sent stuff I'd rather not put up here... but here's a press release that I am sure is going to end up as the basis of an article in a national newspaper. Pretty sure this is offensive in some way, but I haven't quite worked out how yet. Probably gender, possibly an example of how the English aren't taking the referendum seriously...

Over to you, internet...

Inline image 1London, 5th December: Victoria Milan, the controversial online dating site for married or attached people looking for an affair, has launched a new campaign in the United Kingdom with David Cameron and Alex Salmond.

Can't help but love it when a business calls itself controversial... it's so radical and dangerous, being an on-line dating agency. I bet the establishment is shaking in its shoes, because no politician ever has had an affair.

Mobile billboards with images of David Cameron, Alex Salmond, and a British women wrapped in the Union Jack flag boasting the slogan “Relieve the passion, have an affair. Don’t burn the flag” are gracing the most famous places in London before heading to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh for the following month starting on 4th of December.

The campaign shows that sometimes it’s better not to break up a genuine relationship, such as the one between Scotland and the United Kingdom (or between men and women), but rather to have an affair.

“Alex Salmond and his fight for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom is a perfect example of a relationship crisis that could use an affair” says Sigurd Vedal, CEO and founder of Victoria Milan. “We know from the "thank-you" letters of our 3 million members that an affair can bring passion back into their lives, helping them to revive their marriages and long relationships” he adds. 

I'll just take a moment to ponder what on earth Sigurd is talking about. Is he suggesting that Alex Salmond is sexually frustrated? Or that the entire Scottish nation just needs a quick bunk up with France? 

Right, and letters from members does not constitute proof of anything... why the hell did some Christians spend so long worrying about gay marriage when Victoria Milan is a far greater threat to traditional values.

I would spend some time mocking the company's name, but I can't be bothered. I bet it's the name of a porn star, too. Anyway, this review, which was probably put up by a rival site, says it's rubbish anyway.