In late September, I will walk into a studio with 16 dancers, a composer and a string quartet, and begin creating a dance music piece.
Where a choreographer starts to work, in terms of inspiration, can be drawn from a variety of places. For me, the people in front of me will determine what happens in the next five weeks and will be the unique character of the resulting end piece. Creating the right conditions in the studio is essential in what is actually going to develop; it is rather like working in a good noisy kitchen where communication and a positive working environment, including pressure, is the key to people giving of their best. I want the dancers to engage and contribute and be fired up by working with each other and shared ideas. There is no blank canvas in front of me, but people, with their own bodies and qualities of moving and it is how the choreographer works with the specific nature of this materiality and deals with the dynamic of creating with others, that lies at the heart of the devising process.
Images and especially poetic images are hugely important to me in developing an underlying landscape to the process. The work of RS Thomas, the poetic films of Andrei Tarkosky, and the submerged quality of the shipping forecast, have all elicited responses in me feeding the creative process. Last year, with a company of dancers and violinists, we created a piece, Reading with Bach to tour libraries. In our research, the company were interviewed by a dramaturg on their desert island book choices, and a reading list developed that we used in the studio. Edmund de Waal’s, Hare with Amber Eyes, was part of the list. I had watched programmes on de Waal, and know that he is affected and inspired by poetry and music when he is making work.
The sight of Atemwende, as it was displayed at the Gagosian Gallery in New York, immediately gave me a visceral visual sense of a score of music in their curation- in vitrines framing the vessels- giving them space and presence, In conversations with composer James Keane, it is this ’other’ quality of presence and spaces in- between that excites us both; and in writing for a live string quartet, the delicacy in the quality of touch on the strings will be paramount, reaching for ’a feeling for the disappearing moment’ (Hare with Amber Eyes, page 77)
The physical presence of the vessels, grouped together, had a strongly emotional effect on me; many of the first tasks when beginning to make work, are done ’blind’ with touch as a central force to make connections between the dancers. De Waal’s tactile and visual work will be a constant reference for me.
Edmund de Waal’s exhibition, white is on at the Royal Academy Library till January 2016.
The dance/music piece, will be performed at Laban Theatre, Deptford, October 22 23rd 2015. Dancers from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music & Dance, will tour until December, adapting the work to different stages and halls in school and colleges, as part of their third year BA professional training.
As I play Bach’s solo violin works, I often think that this music was composed nearly 300 years ago and the fact that it still inspires and moves people today. I find myself feeling a connection not only with Bach and the many people who have listened to his works over the 300 years but also with the people who performed his pieces and have inspired other performers to interpret the music in certain ways, influencing how we all hear it today.
Along with the listening and performing history, the instruments themselves have their own histories. When I play Bach on my 250-year-old violin, I connect with all the previous owners who have played the same music on it. The instrument itself has already played these pieces many more times than I ever will, and knows them far better that I do, and always will.
The historical implications of an instrument can be compared with those a book that is hundreds of years old. Those who have handled these books and instruments have left their mark; we can feel the impact of the hours spent with them. There’s the appearance and smell, and the evidence of the physical journey their owners have taken them on. As we read these books and play these instruments, we are in a shared past and future. I often wonder if the next person to own my violin will be able to feel the time, effort, energy and emotion, all that I’ve poured into this instrument.