Posts Tagged ‘EDC

08
Dec
18

EDC’s New Artistic Director: Amy Hollingsworth

 

Brisbane’s Expressions Dance Company (EDC) has announced the appointment of Amy Hollingsworth as its new Artistic Director.

 

Marian Gibney, Chairman of EDC’s Board said, “We are delighted to welcome Amy Hollingsworth to the artistic leadership of EDC. Amy has presented the Board with an exciting vision for the future of the company as we look ahead to the 2020’s. Amy brings to the role her recognised talent, experience within the national and international dance sectors, and a commitment to both excellence in dance and in broadening the reach of the company, within our local community and beyond. ”

With over 20 years’ experience as a dancer, choreographer, director and industry advocate, as well as in film and dancer education, Amy is highly regarded for her passion and leadership within the Australian dance industry.

Taking up the position in January 2019, Amy will replace outgoing Artistic Director, Natalie Weir. Amy said she is honoured to assume the artistic leadership of one of Australia’s most respected contemporary dance companies. “I am deeply committed to building on the legacy created by Natalie and her predecessor, Maggie Sietsma,” she said.

“I cannot wait to step into this role with vigor and passion to deliver a bold fresh new vision. At the heart of my vision for EDC is to lean in to making incredible new work, showcasing the stunning dancers and delighting our audiences, but also to creating an environment for creativity to truly thrive. In this environment, our artists and collaborators will work as a collective, forming a creative tribe where conversations crackle with energy and ideas. We, with the help of our partners, supporters and stakeholders, will make a truly profound contribution to the landscape of dance and more broadly to our community.”

Amy will join EDC following three years as the Creative Associate and Ballet Mistress at Queensland Ballet where her talent as a curator and choreographer was particularly evident through the successful 2017 and 2018 Bespoke seasons.

 

Her vision for EDC includes furthering the company’s respected work in dance education and increasing collaboration opportunities with dancers and other artists to bring exceptional dance to existing audiences and the wider community.

 


Amy Hollingsworth is a multi award winning dancer and director, based in Brisbane and was described by the UK Observer as one of ‘the most compelling and intelligent dancers on the world stage’.

 

Born and raised in Australia and classically trained at The Australian Ballet School, she performed as a leading dancer in companies such as Rambert Dance Company, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Peter Schaufuss Balletten, Bonachela Dance Company, Michael Clark Company, Hofesh Shechter Company, George Piper Dancers and Sydney Dance Company.

With an impressive international performance and creative career spanning large-scale classical ballet to independent contemporary dance, film and pop music, Amy is a highly versatile director of dance with a strong, passionate, musical and emotionally resonant creative voice. Her work in direction and education draws from her background and breadth of experience and is as diverse as the companies that engage her to coach and mentor.

Her achievements outside of her career as a performer are many, but most notably she was a founding member of Bonachela Dance Company and Assistant Director. She then excelled in her roles as Dance Director for Sydney Dance Company and then Rehearsal Director for Expressions Dance Company before joining Queensland Ballet as Ballet Mistress and Creative Associate in 2016. Her skills in the development of choreographers, eye for detail and coaching excellence of dancers has been widely noted and critically acclaimed.

Amy has also choreographed numerous works, has been involved in the production of dance films and worked across commercial industries. In addition to her credits as a performer, coach, director and creative associate, Amy is a sought-after keynote speaker at dance industry events, and is currently the Chair of Brisbane’s Supercell Dance Festival.

15
Oct
18

Everyday Requiem

 

Everyday Requiem

Expressions Dance Company

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

October 12 – 20 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

I have tried to approach this work with a sense of nostalgia for the past, but even more, with a sense of what is important in moving forward for a 70-year-old man. Forgiveness, acceptance, love and family — surely that is what is important.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, EDC

 

 

In making Everyday Requiem, the singers and I have aimed for simplicity and beauty, interacting with jarringly everyday imagery.

Gordon Hamilton, Artistic Director, The Australian Voices

 

 

Everyday Requiem is choreographer Natalie Weir’s final signature work for Expressions Dance Company as Artistic Director. After 10 years, in which the company has grown and developed under her leadership, and in which she has created a string of outstanding works, she is moving on to a new phase of her life and career.

 

Everyday Requiem is the story of 70 years in the life of an ‘ordinary man’, reflecting the way our lives are complex mixtures of mundane routine, everyday joys and disappointments, ecstatic happiness and shattering tragedy.

 

 

Vocal ensemble The Australian Voices is an integral part of this work, performing an a cappella vocal score by their Artistic Director and composer, Gordon Hamilton. The six singers not only sing with a moving purity of tone and faultless diction: they also act, they engage with the dancers, and perform some demanding choreographed movement while singing. Isabella Gerometta, one of the singers, subtly conducts the ensemble.

 

Their vocal performance includes interesting effects and techniques such as harmonic chant, and singing while gargling. Snatches of text from the traditional Latin requiem appear in among more banal, everyday words, such as lists of items from a schoolbag, and pet names used by lovers. A song by Tibetan musician Tenzin Choegyal also runs through the work.

 

The focal point of Everyday Requiem is the Old Man, played by guest artist and veteran dancer, choreographer and actor Brian Lucas. He looks back on his life, seeing its progression from childhood to youth and first love, to maturity, marriage and fatherhood, and on to middle and old age.

 

 

Lucas is a tall and commanding figure, but projects great warmth and tenderness in this role, conveying a wisdom born from hard experience, and a yearning for happy moments in the past while appreciating the present. He has a powerful stage presence.

 

The choreography for dancers playing the roles of people in the Old Man’s past is intensely athletic, fluid and expressive, with duos full of inventive lifts that flow naturally out of the movement. Mixed in with the complex movement are repeated motifs of simpler, more everyday ones, such as slow dancing, and playing the child’s ‘hand over hand’ game.

 

Jag Popham is a playful incarnation of the character’s Infancy and Childhood, showing a strong bond with his Mother, Australian Voices member Sophie Banister, who evokes a tender affection that is one of the enduring themes of the life story. (There is no Father character.) Humour springs from the playfulness in the movement and music, the vocal text introducing the refrain of names of items in a child’s schoolbag.

 

Jake McLarnon is strong and intense as the Adolescent and Young Man, very much resembling a younger version of Lucas. His duos with Isabella Hood, as his Young Love, are athletically lyrical, showing an awakening passion. The duos become trios when the Brother (Scott Ewen), compounding earlier sibling rivalry, steals the girlfriend. Ewen plays the cocky, bullying brother with relish, and portrays a later reconciliation with great sincerity.

 

The Young Man marries The Wife, played by guest artist Lizzie Vilmanis. Vilmanis is EDC’s Rehearsal Director, a former company dancer, and also now an independent artist. Standing in for an injured Elise May, she is wonderful in this role. Technically strong, fluid and precise, she expresses all the emotions of the role without histrionics, but making a powerful impact.

 

As the Mature Man, Richard Causer projects a brooding physicality and frozen anguish on his return from war. While his relationship with his wife remains strong, the difficult relationship with his daughter (Alana Sargent) is a key part of the ongoing story. Causer and Vilmanis are well matched, and generate a heart-wrenching intensity of emotion. The daughter is the character most overtly expressing emotions, which Sargent does with speed and abandon.

 

There is a note of optimism and recovery all through Everyday Requiem, and it finishes with a moving 70th birthday party. The large group of nostalgic and happy party guests are older dancers from WaW Dance (a Brisbane ensemble of mature-aged dancers led by Wendy McPhee and Wendy Wallace).

 

The set and costume design (Bill Haycock) and lighting design (David Walters, assisted by Christine Felmingham) are simple and very effective: a dark backdrop is sometimes lit to glow dark gold, and tables and chairs are shifted around in different configurations.

 

The singers wear white, and the male dancers wear conservative pants, shirts and jackets in neutral colours with touches of black, and jungle greens for a war scene. The women’s costumes stand out as touches of colour: a salmon-pink cardigan for the Mother, a full-skirted 1960s yellow dress for Young Love, a dark-red plaid dress for the Wife, and a light denim blue for the Daughter.

 

 

On the first night, the performance was briefly interrupted by a fire alarm at a significant moment. However, this was soon forgotten as everyone involved in the performance drew us straight back into the story.

 

After the emotional and celebratory conclusion of Everyday Requiem, the first-night audience leapt to their feet in a standing ovation, clapping, whooping and cheering in response to the performance, and to Natalie Weir in particular. It was a well-deserved acknowledgement of a stunningly beautiful work that pierces the heart with joy, sadness, and ultimately celebration. It was also a fitting tribute to Weir herself and her achievements as a choreographer and Artistic Director.

 

16
Jun
18

4Seasons

 

4Seasons

QPAC, Expressions Dance Company & City Contemporary Dance Company 

QPAC Playhouse

June 14 – 22 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

 

The Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project is more than just a dance exchange. It is an exchange of ideas and an intertwining of culture, with an enormous amount of generosity and respect between everyone involved.

Natalie Weir, Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

 

A collaboration between Expressions Dance Company (EDC) and Hong Kong’s City Contemporary Dance Company (CCDC), 4Seasons is the latest development in EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project. Presenting three very different works by three choreographers, it premiered in Hong Kong last month.

 

First on the program is Summer, created by independent choreographer Kristina Chan for the CCDC dancers. She has imagined a future world of fierce heat as global warming worsens, exploring how people react to changed climate.

 

The dancers are already on the stage when we enter the theatre, slowly walking, crouching, and writhing on the floor in silence, under a burning orange light shining through a silk canopy above. They are dressed in black and grey.

 

This is an ensemble work, with no individuals singled out — it is as if we are watching a community of organisms from a distance as they are burnt by fierce heat, blown by gales, and fearfully watch the orange sky.

 

The dancers move in slow motion with great fluidity and control — a population weighed down, moving through an oppressive atmosphere. They huddle together, shielding each other, entwining, collapsing, recoiling, and occasionally running.

 

The music, James Brown’s Summer, is ominous, with long drone-like notes humming and blaring, pounding beats, noises like a helicopter, rumbling, the sound of the wind, and rasping breath.

 

An endpoint seems to arrive when the sky falls and envelops the dancers in a silvery shroud. However, in an anticlimactic final section after a short stillness, some people extricate themselves and crawl away. Others survive to struggle on, with eventually only a lone figure left standing.

 

This work is intense and, despite its apocalyptic vision, at times hypnotically beautiful in a minimalist way.

 

 

Following a very short break (when the audience remains in darkness), the second work on the program begins. Dominic Wong, Assistant Artistic Director of CCDC, created Day after Day on the six EDC dancers and one CCDC dancer, using music by Nils Frahm, Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter and Patrick Ng.

 

Focusing on partings and reunions, in analogy with changing seasons, it opens dramatically with the group entering quickly, carrying Alana Sargent above them as if she is swimming through waves. Their transparent white pants and blazers contrast with the darkness of the previous work, and accentuate the rapidity and detail of the movement.

 

The EDC dancers dived into this work with great energy and commitment, meeting the demands of an astonishing variety of movement. In a complete change from Summer, this is frenetic and tic-like at first, with scratching movements, heads jerking like birds, little jumps and wriggles, nodding and head shaking. In one section, the thrashing music, white suits and high-energy movement are reminiscent of a nightclub.

 

Behind the EDC dancers, Bruce Wong of CCDC is walking in ultra-slow motion across the back of the stage. With shaved head and almost naked, he is a complete contrast to the other dancers. He suggests the passage of time, or an underlying reality of life with non-essentials stripped away.

 

When Wong turns towards the front of the stage and begins to walk forward towards a column emitting bright white light, the mood changes. The music becomes plaintive and has a singing piano-like tone. The movement of the EDC dancers changes pace, with slow-motion lifts and slow turns. As Wong reaches the column, the work ends. 

 

 

The culmination of the program is the signature work 4Seasons, choreographed by EDC’s Artistic Director, Natalie Weir, for all 20 dancers of both companies. Weir’s music choice is Antonio Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, ‘recomposed’ in a contemporary and compelling interpretation by Max Richter.

 

The costumes are in soft colours of pale pink, pale grey-green, burgundy and dark blue that reflect the seasons and look lovely together. In this work, as in the other two, the visual and costume design by Cindy Ho, and lighting by Lawmanray contribute hugely to the different moods and styles.

 

Duos representing each season are punctuated by interludes for the full ensemble. Alana Sargent and Ivan Chan evoked spring and youthful romance, entwining around each other. Bobo Lai and Richard Causer projected the sensuality and storms of summer, matching their power and energy. Elise May and Yve Yu, with long extensions and coiling embraces, savoured the richness and fulfilment of autumn.

 

The winter duo for Qiao Yang and Jake McLarnon was electrifyingly beautiful from the instant it started. In its expression of longstanding love, coupled with a poignant realisation of time running out, the couple seemed to melt and soar in intertwining and folding lifts. It was as if the movement itself had become embodied, rather than bodies putting effort into making movement.

 

Qiao is an extraordinary dancer, whose every move is viscerally expressive. In McLarnon she has an extraordinary partner whose strength, line and feeling complement her perfectly. Their interaction is in essence like that between the two companies: the fluidity, control and speed of the CCDC dancers and the athleticism, attack and broad-brush fluidity of the EDC dancers melding and influencing one another.

 

In full circle, the winter couple is followed by a look back at youth. Felix Ke, one of dancers representing spring, dances a lovely solo with a yearning quality, and many slow-motion acrobatic movements. Rousing ensemble work end 4Seasons on a high note. With the pace and variety in this work, and the quality of the performances, it flew past, ending too soon.

 

The whole program is an inspiring celebration of dance, music and the spirit of collaboration, drawing together so many different elements: Vivaldi, Max Richter, the climate apocalypse, romance, passion, fierce athleticism, transcendent beauty, meditative slowness …

 

Production pics by Cheung Chi Wai

 

13
Mar
18

Converge

Converge

Expressions Dance Company

With Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University

Conservatorium Theatre, South Bank

March 10 – 17 2018

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

Programs such as Converge are essential—a choreographer not only has to have talent, they need to practise their art; it is through these experiences that they can learn their craft and develop distinct choreographic voices for now and into the future.

Natalie Weir

Artistic Director, Expressions Dance Company

 

In its Converge program, Expressions Dance Company gives four choreographers a chance to create new works, as well as to collaborate with emerging composers and an ensemble of 16 musicians performing live on stage. This is the Queensland Conservatorium’s first such opportunity to work with a contemporary dance company, and a rewarding experience for performers and audience alike.

 

The first piece on the program is by Melbourne-based Stephanie Lake, who is now an established choreographer with her own company. Her high-energy Ceremony, originally conceived as an abstract expression of the music (by György Ligeti, Chinary Ung, Javier Alvarez and Steve Reich), evokes the intricacies of fast-moving machinery, its pace and varying rhythms sweeping the audience along with it.

 

 

Ceremony is an exhilarating experience, particularly the sequence for the dancers alone, using body percussion and breath, followed by the hypnotic energy of Reich’s Music for Pieces of Wood. Together, the six dancers and the musicians create complex rhythms, intertwining movement and patterns of coalescing and unfolding with magnetic precision and energy. The green and white costumes designed by company member Alana Sargent — tunics, shorts, kilts and Tshirts or singlets — have a sporty style that suits the energetic movement.

 

Of the four works in Converge, Lake’s is the most polished and tightly connected to the music.

 

Second and third on the program are works by two of Expressions’ own dancers: Richard Causer and Jake McLarnon. Causer worked with composers Isabella Gerometta, Padraig Parkhurst and Michal Rosiak, and McLarnon with Tanya Jones and Jarvis Miller.

 

 

Causer’s Imposters is about layers of identity, and how we show different layers in different circumstances. Sargent’s costume design contributes to the visually intriguing expression of this idea: pale orange lampshade-shaped skirts with a reinforced hoop in the hemline can be inverted to conceal the dancers’ upper body and heads.

 

A pile of lemons was another symbol of layered identity, the lemon’s enticing colour and smell concealing its sourness and bitterness. The dancers bite into the fruit and spit out chunks onto the floor. (Was this inspired by Will Holt’s 1960s song Lemon Tree with its refrain Lemon tree very pretty …?)

 

 

Elise May is a powerful figure in this work, crouching amongst the lemons, shielding her face, and showing a fear of the other five cast members, which is reciprocated. At times, the dancers appeared to be performing a surreal ritual, twirling like dervishes in their long skirts.

 

Jake McLarnon’s Isochronism is a promising choreographic debut. This duo expresses the theme of performing movements at the same time, or, like a pendulum, performing the same movement within the same time irrespective of how big the movement is – like dancers of different sizes when dancing in time to music. McLarnon also refers to the work of artist Jasper Hills as an inspiration for his piece.

 

 

The movement is athletic and close knit, and on first night was danced by Scott Ewen and McLarnon with a masculine power and energy. It would be interesting to see how the duo differs when danced by a male and a female dancer, as originally cast.

 

Xu Yiming’s Aftermath completes the program, his involvement in Converge being part of EDC’s Chinese Australian Dance Exchange Project. Aftermath brings a complete change of mood and style, although it has a surreal quality in common with Causer’s earlier piece.

 

It shows four people struggling with what life throws at them — a perplexing mix of demands and responses, introduced by the dancers laughing wildly, yelling orders and responding with actions. In keeping with these random challenges and the sometimes clumsy way we meet them, the movement is often hunched and awkward or grotesque, interspersed with moments of fluidity.

 

In contrast, the music (Georgi Gurdjieff/Thomas de Hartmann) is serene and meditative, with its plangent chords and echoes of religious ritual. The feeling is of an underlying harmony behind all the struggle, which is worth it in the end.

 

As always, the Expressions’ dancers give a powerful performance. The dancers are a strong ensemble, with Elise May’s dramatic force, Alana Sargent’s razor-sharp energy, and Jake McLarnon’s expansive strength particularly standing out.

 

With the musicians upstage centre, and the rest of the stage bare, the lighting by Ben Hughes is crucial in creating the different moods and environments for the four pieces.  The musicians are softly lit, but still clearly visible, enabling the audience to experience both the way they convert movement into sound, and the way the dancers respond to the sound with movement. Feeling this interaction adds another dimension to the performance.

 

 

Converge is a program of great variety, with many intriguing and exhilarating moments.

 

 

 

 

Converge Masterclass with Jake McLarnon –

 

Saturday 17 March, 2pm-3:30pm at Expressions Dance Company Studio, Fortitude Valley

 

An insightful 90-minute workshop with Expressions Dance Company (EDC) ensemble member and choreographer, Jake McLarnon. The workshop will explore the creative process behind Jake’s new contemporary dance work for Converge, EDC’s thrilling first season for 2018.

Foundational contemporary dance training required.

Tickets are $30
A $10 discount is available to the masterclass for patrons who have purchased tickets to the performance.

BUY MASTERCLASS TICKETS

 

01
Sep
17

Dancer Auditions

BECOME PART OF THE EDC ENSEMBLE IN 2018

 

Expressions Dance Company (EDC) is now seeking expressions of interest from male and female dancers wishing to be considered for an audition for a professional position in the company. The company is seeking to fill 1 male and 1 female position from the start of 2018.

 

 

EDC, led by artistic director Natalie Weir, is an award-winning Queensland contemporary dance company with an ensemble of 6-8 dancers. Previous Natalie Weir productions include Behind Closed DoorsWhen Time Stops7 Deadly SinsCarmen Sweet, R&J and where the heart is. Weir’s signature choreographic style requires strong ability in partner work and character interpretation.

Weir says, “We’re like a close-knit family here at EDC, not just the dancers but also the office staff. We have an environment of total support and passion for what we do.

Being an EDC dancer is all about collaboration. Not just because we often work alongside amazing musicians and other arts companies, but because I like to embrace the creativity and artistry in every individual when making new work. Each dancer brings something unique to the ensemble, which is so inspiring as a choreographer. So with every new addition, the company grows and evolves. It’s like a living, organic thing.”

EDC is seeking dancers with a solid understanding of contemporary and classical partner-work and the relevant strength to meet the demands the company’s repertoire. Tertiary training or equivalent vocational training is a pre-requisite. They are looking for dancers with professional industry experience who have strong contemporary and classical technique as well as a range of creative skills including improvisation, task work, ability to explore character, convey emotion and develop/sustain expressive movement qualities.

 

“I am looking for dancers who have generosity of spirit and flexibility in both body and mind.”

Natalie Weir, AD EDC

 

Applicants should have strong communication skills and the ability to work effectively in a team environment. EDC values flexibility in body and mind, ability to apply various movement techniques, openness in collaborating and generosity.

 

Register your expression of interest online by 8 September 2017.

 

Successful applicants will be notified via email by 20 September 2017 and invited to attend the audition in Brisbane on Wednesday 27 September at your own expense.

 

13
Aug
17

Mozart Airborne

 

Mozart Airborne

Expressions Dance Company & Opera Queensland

QPAC Cremorne Theatre

August 4 – 12 2017

 

Reviewed by Ruth Ridgway

 

 

We imagined a collaboration where music, voice and movement are equally valued and which brings our artists and our respective audiences together in celebration of all the flaws, foibles and magnificence of the human condition.

Directors’ Note, Lindy Hume and Natalie Weir

 

It was an inspired decision by artistic directors Natalie Weir and Lindy Hume to join the forces of Expressions Dance Company and Opera Queensland in interpreting some of Mozart’s electrifying and beautiful arias and piano works.

The result, Mozart Airborne, opens QPAC’s newly refurbished Cremorne Theatre, a perfect space for this intimate and emotion-filled performance.

The six EDC dancers and six OperaQ singers (all recent graduates or alumni of the Queensland Conservatorium) perform pieces by six choreographers. The brilliant and expressive playing of pianist Alex Raineri, onstage throughout, is the heart of the performance.

The twelve pieces making up the program include a variety of music and combinations of performers, proceeding without a break for just over an hour. No narrative thread connects the pieces: rather, they present a variety of emotions and energies, likened by the artistic directors to an anthology of short stories. The choreographers were asked to interpret the music of the arias, and, while understanding the words, not necessarily literally interpret the text.

The order of the pieces and changes in mood keep the attention engaged. The building intensity of the final third of the program, culminating in the Lacrimosa from Mozart’s Requiem, provides an emotionally satisfying experience, resolving in the Lacrimosa’s final amen.

Choreographed by Natalie Weir for the whole cast, the Lacrimosa is solemn and unearthly. The shifting patterns and groupings of the ensemble evoke religious ritual. In repeated surges of movement, one dancer is lifted above the whole group, echoing the soaring music and the final appeal for mercy.

The performance opens with the limpid, poignant Fantasia in D Minor K397, also choreographed by Weir. To this solo piano work, the singers and dancers move across the stage, EDC’s Richard Causer seeming to observe the others as they pass by. His hands wind around each other as if he is trying to hold onto something.

Weir’s third piece, Là ci darem la mano from Don Giovanni, represents a flirtation between a man (dancer Jake McLarnon and baritone Samuel Piper) and a woman (dancer Elise May and mezzo-soprano Melissa Gregory). While the duo is playful, the exultant and passionate movement, with its spectacular lifts, matches the richness of the music and the voices.

Richard Causer has choreographed a riveting piece on Das Lied der Trennung K519. For tenor Dominic Walsh and dancer Michelle Barnett, it is about the anguish of two lovers forced to part. Walsh stands still, in a shaft of blue light, pouring out a stream of beautiful, heart-wrenching sound, while Barnett winds around him. The intensity and power of her movement within a restricted space compellingly convey grief and desperation.

Mozart Airborne is a very special experience. The concept of the collaboration between the two companies is beautifully realised, with total integration of the music and the movement—and of the dancers and the singers, whose movement and acting blended seamlessly. This performance made me oblivious to everything else, suspended in multiple expressions of Mozart’s sublime music.

19
Apr
17

Behind Closed Doors with EDC

WHAT: Behind Closed Doors

WHERE: QPAC Playhouse

WHEN: Friday 19 May to Saturday 27 May 2017

A sneak peak ahead of the season…

By Ruth Ridgway

Behind Closed Doors

Coming up in Expressions Dance Company’s 2017 season is the new work Behind Closed Doors. Choreographer Natalie Weir and the dancers explore what lies behind the façade of outward appearance, and turn the audience into voyeurs. Taking us into the private lives of hotel guests and staff, they reveal human nature in its darkness, fragility, and playfulness. Behind Closed Doors features live jazz played by the contemporary music ensemble Trichotomy.

An interview with Natalie Weir, Artistic Director of Expressions Dance Company

What inspired you to create Behind Closed Doors? Is it connected with your 2010 work While Others Sleep, which explores what happens at night in a hotel?

Yes, this is a re-visioning of While Others Sleep, taking some of the central ideas but we’ve moved into different areas this time. I’ve always been interested in voyeurism. I did a work called Insight years ago here at EDC, also with Greg Clarke, the designer. It used the Edward Hopper painting, ‘Night Windows’ as its inspiration and it was about looking through an apartment’s window. While Others Sleep in 2010 had so many ideas within it that I thought were great and I wanted to take to another level. I also wanted to work with Trichotomy again. Our audiences have grown and many have not seen the work, so why not set it in a hotel again and put it on a main stage? It has so many elements that are of interest to the audience and so many short stories within it. The audience have all stayed in a hotel and may relate to the story.

How did you and Trichotomy work together on Behind Closed Doors? Has music been especially composed for this work?

The music is part of Trichotomy’s quite extensive body of work over many years with a lot of pieces composed by Sean Foran. Sean is such an amazing person to work with – everything is easy. I felt like we really gelled when we worked together the first time. I’ve listened to a lot of his original music and this time I’ve spent a lot of time listening to his new stuff. There’s a lot of talking backwards and forwards with Sean. He alters his original music for me to match what I need, and then finds a way to blend the scenes together. Music is extremely stimulating and, because it’s jazz, it immediately sets the mood. When creating the show I imagined that Sean and the band are in the lobby playing in an expensive hotel. The music has a lot of range. It can be cool, sexy jazz but can also be very dramatic and dark. When we get into the rehearsal studio with the band they will watch the choreography and will be able to respond to the dancer in front of them – there might even be some improvisation. We’re lucky also to be joined by Rafael Karlen on Saxophone and vocalist Kristin Berardi. The great thing about these guests is that, not only are they amazing but, because they are a saxophonist and a singer, they can move around the stage and can become part of the action.

How did you and the dancers create the work? Did you create characters and a narrative for the characters, or did you follow particular themes or concepts?

Some of the characters have remained from While Others Sleep and some are quite new. I usually enter the studio with a strong idea of the characters and talk to the dancers about it – and then it’s collaboration between the dancers and me. They create a lot of the movement themselves and I direct it. They also research their characters, which is great because it takes them on a journey through the work. It’s my job to direct the dancers into the right place and to pull all the parts together. This is a big work with a lot of different parts including a set that moves and revolves, so I make sure this comes together seamlessly and keep the direction of the work moving forward. The dancers aren’t dancing what I tell them – it comes from them and then I shape it. I don’t tell them how to be a character they make that decision and own it, which makes it far more personal

The publicity for Behind Closed Doors has a ‘noir’ feel to it, but also mentions playfulness and fragility. How would you describe the balance of the moods and emotions in the work?

It is a balancing act because there are moments that are light and frivolous and others that are very dark. It’s finding a way to structure the work so that each of the moments has a time to be, but not detract from the other and that’s about finding the through line from the work from start to finish. Once you have all the parts you have to bring them together and the work has to be larger than the sum of the parts. While each part has its part as a small story and is part of the theme, it’s the strong narrative that brings it together. Some of the scenes go into the absurd and tongue-in-cheek and it wonders through the landscape of the human psyche. I think it will be very entertaining but it definitely has some depth and guts.

The publicity images of Elise May and Richard Causer in evening dress are very glamorous. Can you tell us more about the costumes and design of the work

The show is set in a very classy hotel and the costumes are designed to range from being quite real through to being quite fantastical. There are so many characters and scenes and the costumes are really important in bringing out the story and the images of the work and making us believe that the characters are real. Greg Clarke, the designer, has been influenced by the photography of Gregory Crewsden and films such as Blue Velvet and Mystery Train. There’s men’s suits, some glamorous dresses and even some underwear. And then some fantasy items that you need to see to understand! The design is really stunning. The costume design exposes the characters and helps inform the audience about who these people are and where they’re from.

The work can put the audience into the role of voyeur. How do you think they may feel about this? How has this potential audience response influenced the creation of the work?

At times the audience are like voyeurs watching something that perhaps they shouldn’t be, as if looking through a window or a door, but other times the characters really take the audience on their journey. That’s when the magic happens – the audience goes from being a voyeur to feeling like they believe in these characters and feel joy, sadness and darkness alongside them. It should be a wonderful theatrical experience for the audience because the gamut of the work is so broad from quite funny to very sad. It will be a roller-coaster ride. Isn’t that what theatre should do – transform the audience…?

Finally, what do you hope the audience takes away with them from Behind Closed Doors?

I know the audience will leave in absolute admiration at the beauty and physicality of the dancers and they will be in raptures over the incredible music played live. Having the musicians on stage playing live changes the theatrical experience. I hope the audience will recognise moments of their own lives, or someone they know within the work, and I hope they come away smiling and feeling moved. To connect to the audience is my ultimate aim. This work does not seek to alienate anyone, but to connect them. I always say that dance has the power to move people, even when you’re not sure why, and that’s its ultimate power.

Two quick questions for dancer Elise May:

What have you always wanted to know about what goes on ‘behind closed doors’ in a hotel?

As a dancer I’ve spent countless time checking in and out of hotel rooms on tour. There is a certain an allure to the homogenised hotel experience, no matter where you travel there are crisp white sheets, city views and monochrome corridors. But when you spend enough time in hotels you begin to notice the coming and going of other guests and wonder about the reasons for their stay or observe the odd hours that people keep. On occasions I have even started to project my imagination into the enclosed private spaces on the other side of the walls or behind the hotel doors… What is happening in the room beside mine? In a very identical room a very different scenario might be playing out, what could it possibly be? The inner private worlds of others has been a topic of interest in popular culture for some time. The concept of voyeurism has been featured in films such as ‘Rear Window’, ‘Minority Report’, American Beauty and countless others. For me, this fascination with the private lives of others is really an interesting starting point for a creative work and provides lots of meaty areas of exploration in terms of character development and movement creation. 

Can you briefly describe your role(s) in Behind Closed Doors, and how you have prepared for them?

My role in Behind Closed Doors is that of a lonely woman who is dealing with feelings of vulnerability and loss of her recently departed husband. We see her character first in the earlier stages of their relationship when they visited the hotel on their honeymoon. The romantic getaway was one of perfection in her memory and is an experience that comes back to haunt her as she returns to the hotel after his death. In an attempt to reconcile her feelings of grief and move on with her life she travels on quite an emotional journey throughout the work. In preparing for this role physically I have experimented with many different qualities of movement from abandoned, flung, weighty movements to angular, anguished and sharp dynamics. My role also involves a lot of incredibly intricate and sculptural partner work which is Natalie Weir’s choreographic forte. In researching the role I also looked into the 5 (or 7) stages of grieving as coined by psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross which can manifest as a mixture/ or ‘jumble’ of strong emotions experienced by those who face major life changes including loss, the prospect of death or the death of a loved one. Although my role deals with some very heavy content, I think Natalie’s choreography weaves these scenes and characters together in a way which is poetic and really casts a microscope or possibly even a mirror over the human condition.

Natalie Weir's Behind Closed Doors. EDC. Image shows EDC's Richard Causer 2. Image by Jeff Camden COLOUR.low res. jpg

Two quick questions for dancer RIchard Causer:

What is your most memorable ‘behind the scenes’ experience at a hotel?

A few years ago I worked part time in a five star luxury hotel in London called Cafe Royal. There I was privy to many behind the scenes moments. One exciting memory I have was something I thought only happened in the movies. I worked as the restaurant host and events host. We would be given a guest list of names that we would expect to arrive for certain private functions or events. As these guests arrived I realised I was welcoming many A-list celebrities who checked in under fake names. It was extremely exciting as this happened on many occasions and I would have to contain my excitement which I never did too well. Instead I would lose all use of words and just smile from ear to ear. Not subtle at all!

What has been the creative process for you, as a dancer, working with Natalie Weir as the choreographer for Behind Closed Doors?

Working with Natalie is always such a heart-warming experience. The rehearsals are always calm and everyone is very respectful and supportive of each other. Working on Behind Closed Doors has been a fun satisfying challenge, we are all working with specific characters and get to play dress ups a lot. I have enjoyed researching my character by watching some great films and reading some interesting online forums which continue to feed me with new stimulus. What is great about working with Natalie is she allows us the freedom to continue developing our roles from the beginning of the process to the very last performance.