Friday, 29 July 2016

Wunderbar Dramaturgy: Rob Heaslip and Laura Murphy

Created and Performed by Rob Heaslip and Laura Murphy
Music by Irene Buckley
Lighting by Rob Moloney
Directed by Tom Creed

Wunderbar is showing at ZOO Southside from  Aug 5th to 13th at 6:30pm (40 minutes)

The two performers could be anyone; strangers or siblings, friends or lovers. They invite you in to decide for yourself. Teasingly, they start dark, quiet and intimate, building up a feeling that something’s gotta give. 

As if observing an uneasy truce, they test one another. With roguish intent they burst into action. When the music kicks in, the dancers do too in a whirlwind of pent-up energy. With live music and beautiful lighting design, Wunderbar is dark and bright, bubbly and troubled, mysterious and playful, and not to be missed.

What was the inspiration for this performance?
Our inspiration for Wunderbar came from the two of us working in the studio together. On day one we found ourselves face to face, both thinking about how easily gender and role came into the equation by simply looking at both of us standing still in the space.

Our work is never about something that can go unnoticed, more so something that will always be seen and noticed; we are a man and a woman, two dancers, two individuals, two choreographers. We decided there and then that we would simply build upon everything that was already there, that the work, even from the beginning was already about something - our relationship as humans, colleagues, and friends.

We wanted to create this duet to explore the interaction between us as two people. We explored this from a very physical place looking at our individual movements and how we altered them to create a duet. Did we become dependant on one another? Is the dependence addictive? What would happen if it were removed?

Wunderbar explores a dependency to reach an equilibrium within human interactions. Through a physical research of routine, dependency, tactile-responses and instinct we investigated the addictions of searching for stability. What would happen if an attained equilibrium were to flinch, alter or break down? Would we adapt or would our partnership fall apart?

How did you go about gathering the team for it?
Rob is based in Edinburgh, while Laura is based in Ireland.
We began working together in 2003 upon the completion of a Masters in Contemporary Dance Performance at The University of Limerick, Ireland. We pursued our own ambitions while also joining each other on different smaller projects, but it didn’t take long for us to start looking at working collaboratively.

We officially started working on Wunderbar in 2013 at Firkin Crane, Cork. Since then the work has been developed throughout Scotland and Ireland, toured in both countries and even ventured to China.

Live music is important to our work, and Laura has previously worked with composer Irene Buckley. We felt it was important to build a team of professionals from the beginning so Irene has been in the studio with us since the very beginning.

Lighting Designer Rob Moloney came on board in 2014, again at the early stages of development. Rob fitted right in with the team and integrated into the work seamlessly. He had worked previously with Tom Creed who was our director for Wunderbar.

We knew that as professionals they were perfect for the job, but seeing as the characters created in Wunderbar come from such depth within our friendship, we knew that Rob, Irene and Tom all needed to know us on a personal level to really understand and enjoy what the work wanted to say.

How did you become interested in making performance?
We both make performances individually and dialogue about dance together all the time! We became interested in making performance work together via conversations. We met in the studio in 2011 and tested some ideas prior to making Wunderbar. Ideas sparked and we took it from there!

We knew from the get go that we wanted to make a duet. We wanted to find a meeting point where we could both choreograph and dance simultaneously. We needed to find a common language. While it took a long time and we explored many working methods, we now have a strong collaboration and are in the process of making our second duet You and Me, and You.

Our joint work addresses themes of unconscious, unsought and unexpected behaviour of individuals in duet performance. This allows us to work as individuals and find a common ground to create something new in duets that we may not do alone.
Was your process typical of the way that you make a performance?
Absolutely yes, and absolutely no.
The success of the collaboration comes from the fact that we come from two very different and opposite viewpoints, but the beauty is how we make them meet in the middle and move forward without compromising either. It really creates quite a mix, one that has been so interesting for us in making Wunderbar, and even now, is growing and getting even more adventurous making You and Me, and You.

Our process represents a meeting point of where we both are in our own respective process.
Within our creative concepts we approach our choreographic practice from two different viewpoints – Rob’s practice of Instinctual Response which involves elements of improvisation and Laura’s Choreological Studies background, which involves movement analysis for performance.

The themes of our work and the dance vocabulary is crafted by exploring both isolation and companionship in duets.  We do this through various improvisations of set tasks - as two bodies, as two dancers, as two people.

When crafting our themes and content we ask such questions as: 

What if we can never part contact? If we separate, what will happen?

We ask if by separating can we improve upon working together?

What do you hope that the audience will experience?
Wunderbar  is aimed at a universal audience. It explores themes that everyone can relate to; individualism, partnerships and dependency. Although it is a man and a woman on stage, our relationship is open to interpretation. We could be brother and sister, lovers, friends, cousins or whatever the audience imagines…

The two performers on stage represent something that is already integral to the lives of the audience members - human encounters and relationships. We are offering a way to see the lighter and darker sides of it in a playful manner.

We spent a lot of time working with Irene, Tom and Rob so that the soundscape and the lighting design would serve to create many differing pallets so that the world that we move within is always present but never intrusive. Both the lighting and the music are incredibly beautiful and help those watching us to get lost in the performance and the ambiguity of our relationship.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience?
We are interested in creating a work that addresses subconscious behaviours that occur between two people - as both dancers and choreographers. We address this via our physical dance, our bodily physicality.
While we know the themes of Wunderbar well, we hope that the work offers space for the audience to interpret as they wish and perhaps accesses their subconscious. In a way we wanted to take advantage of all the unconscious and subconscious decisions that the viewer will be making while watching us. Harking back to accepting that even if we stood still in the space, a viewer would immediately create their world for us. 

Our strategy was to show behaviour people are already aware or unaware of in their daily lives - but hopefully in a different light. We are merely the vessels for the beautiful imaginative world that the human mind is capable of creating.
Do you see your work within any particular tradition?
We hit on many traditions as we are both trained as contemporary dancers and choreographers, however we try to find a place where our work is playing with something more experiential.
Individually we both have different backgrounds - Rob comes from Folk Theatre while Laura hails from Visual Arts. We enjoy our mix, it adds something new to the pot that is the arts world - folk, visual, immersive, live performance, contemporary dance.

With our new creation You and Me, and You we are moving away from narrative and more towards live performance and most of all - immersive. We’ve already have encouraging and favouring feedback from showing an excerpt of it at Dublin Dance Festival 2016, so keep a look-out for it on the horizon.

You and Me, and You 
Dance Live Aberdeen, October 2016 

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