A group of over 60s enjoyed learning new dance moves at Sadler’s Wells as part of the Get Creative Festival 2018.
Motionhouse Rehearsal Director Junior Cunningham led a free workshop in the theatre’s Rosebery room as part of the nationwide celebration of art and creativity. Thirty people joined him to try out some moves inspired by Charge, the company’s latest production currently showing at The Peacock, Sadler’s Wells’ West End venue. After warming up and contact improvisation exercises, participants learned a dance sequence that was then performed to music. You can watch a clip of them in action here.
Motionhousecreate and tour a wide range of inspiring and powerful dance-circus productions to theatres and festivals in the UK and across the globe. The company’s distinctive, highly physical style integrates elements of circus and acrobatics with breath-taking dance and digital imagery to surprise and delight audiences.
Originally from Birmingham, Junior was encouraged to study contemporary dance by his sister when he was 17. He joined the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in 1999 and graduated in 2002 with a BPA (Hons) Degree in Contemporary Dance. Soon afterwards, he joined Motionhouse as an apprentice, before becoming a full-time member of the company the following year. He has since performed in a number of Motionhouse productions, including Broken and Scattered, which we presented at The Peacock in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
Sadler’s Wells also presented a performance of Motionhouse’s Captive – a blend of dance, acrobatics and aerial work set inside a large cage – as part of the Big Lunch in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in June 2016. The family-friendly day attracted over 8,000 people.
Taking place between 17 and 25 March, the Get Creative Festival encourages people to try their hand at something new and creative. The annual festival is a merger of the previous Get Creative Weekend and Voluntary Arts Festival – now joined together to make one huge nationwide event.
Get Creative Festival is brought to you by arts and creative organisations and individuals across the UK and is supported by 64 Million Artists, Arts Council England, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Arts Council of Wales, the BBC, Crafts Council, Creative People and Places, Creative Scotland, Family Arts Campaign, Fun Palaces, Voluntary Arts, and the What Next? movement.
As part of the celebrations marking the 20th anniversary of Sadler’s Wells current building, we commissioned our Associate Artist Michael Hulls to create a light installation for the stage curtain of our main auditorium, which is usually lit with red light.
“I immediately imagined a slow wave of light descending the curtain that would be understated and subtle. Something people might not immediately sense, something peripheral. I’ve always been interested in creating movement through light, movement that might not immediately be apparent, and this was an opportunity to do that,” says Hulls. “Something you might catch out of the corner of your eye while chatting to friends or reading the programme for the show you are about to see. A slowly repeated descent of a curtain of light, to create some gentle pre-show movement in the auditorium.”
The lighting installation will grace our stage curtain pre-show throughout the year, starting with the performances by Richard Alston Dance Company this week. Watch a clip of the installation and find out when it will be on here.
Renowned choreographer Richard Alston is celebrating his 50-year career in dance. During this time, he has created over 140 dance works, some of which will be presented alongside brand new pieces in Mid Century Modern at Sadler’s Wells this week. We spoke to Alston to discover more about the man behind some of the most influential dance pieces to be created over the last half century.
What dance production changed your life?
I decided on my career after a performance of Ashton’s La Fille mal gardée, but earlier in 1965 at Covent Garden I was absolutely thunderstruck by Balanchine’s Agon and in particular by Susanne Farrell and Arthur Mitchell dancing the extraordinary pas-de-deux – there isn’t a single duet I’ve ever made that doesn’t have some sort of resonance with Agon.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a zookeeper for a while and then decided to be Margot Fonteyn (I was an imaginatively ambitious child). My early childhood was spent in Paris and, after going to the circus, I really wanted to be a bareback rider – the one I’d seen was dressed in green as a cowboy. I ran home, got my green Cowboy hat out of the toy cupboard and jumped on and off a sofa until the springs were completely broken. My mother was livid.
Michael Clark performing in Alston’s piece Dutiful Ducks in 1982.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Most importantly Balanchine – and I’d ask him to cook! Merce Cunningham and John Cage (they loved Russian food), Trisha Brown who always made me laugh so much. Oh and Stravinsky. A provocative mix but a good one, I think.
Who would play you in a film of your life?
Gregory Peck or Henry Fonda were tall enough and both elegant. Much better looking but hey.
Who is your dance icon?
Still Margot Fonteyn, the most musical dancer I ever saw. Another choice would be Fred Astaire definitely. Am I allowed two?
If you could have any super power, what would it be?
A magical way of conjuring up food and shelter for the homeless in London. I get very distressed especially at this time of year.
Do you have any regrets during your 50 year career in dance?
I always regret that I’ve not been more strategic about things, but I’m not that sort of person so what’s the use of dreaming…
Elly Braund and Liam Riddick performing Alston’s newest piece, Carnaval
What three things would you take to a desert island with you?
A large bookcase full of books, a large cask of really good red wine, oh and a glass!
What has been the proudest moment of your career so far?
I am unequivocally proud of the repertoire I gathered together at Rambert – Tudor, Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown, Siobhan Davies they all gave or made wonderful pieces for us. Yes, I’m still proud when I think of that time.
Richard Alston Dance Company present Mid Century Modern at Sadler’s Wells on 23 & 24 March. Tickets are available now priced from £12 by calling our Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.
Dramaturg Hildegard De Vuyst discusses her work with composer Fabrizio Cassol and director Alain Platel, adapting Mozart’s Requiem in a powerful new production coming to Sadler’s Wells.
Cassol has made it abundantly clear that this reinterpretation of Mozart’s Requiem is the most perilous musical undertaking he has ever attempted.
This artistic adventure began some three years prior to its first performance in Berlin (18 January 2018) when Cassol and Platel began to think about the next stage in their long-standing collaboration. It must have been conceived during the Coup Fatal tour, an encounter between 13 Congolese musicians and the European baroque repertoire, for which the two had joined forces to complete the finishing touches. Their very first collaboration, however, was more than ten years ago. This would normally have been the choir project with which the KVS in Brussels opened its renovated theatre. However, due to delays in the renovation work, VSPRS, based on Monteverdi’s Vespro de la beata vergine, came out first. Then came pitié!, whose final performances in Kinshasa could be described as pretty historic. These created a strong link with the Congo that still resonates today.
An adaptation of Mozart’s Requiem was what most appealed to Platel. This is probably because during that period, death had crossed his path a number of times: he had had to bid farewell to his father, had lost his faithful dog, and had sat at the deathbed of his mentor Gerard Mortier. For Cassol, the knowledge that Mozart had not finished the Requiem opened up the possibility of relating to it as a composer. Others had added to it, in different eras. Why not a fresh interpretation for a time in which the world has become so much bigger and the distances so much smaller?
Cassol found a beautiful edition of the Requiem in the library of the conductor Sylvain Cambreling and set about studying it. The variations in handwriting enabled him to distinguish the parts that Mozart had written from the additions made by others. However, it would be misleading to suggest that Cassol stripped away the additions and only retained pure Mozart. The original has also been reworked. Cassol has made sketches of it; an imaginary distillate that contains the essence of Mozart’s writing and will always be recognised as Mozart. The texts have been reduced to their essence.
Equally, it would be simplistic to think that the additions are African. As Cassol reiterates: there is little that is African about the added rhythms or harmonies. For him, it is all part of a musical world of sound that he has always advocated and which is fuelled by specific musical traditions (pygmy, India, Mali) that have always been linked to equally specific forms of spirituality. Herein lies the great challenge for Cassol: imagining a different kind of ceremony for mourning that is neither Western nor African. It is likely that this need in him was also fuelled by a serious loss in his own private life, by an acute need for nourishing vitality.
Watch the trailer for Requiem pour L.
What else did he do in terms of reworking? Anyone familiar with the Requiem will immediately think of mass choral singing. Cassol has replaced the masses with individuals, thus creating an alternative expressive space where the melodies follow on from one another. Consecutive vocal parts then become a clarification between people, thus making the Requiem something ‘of the people’. Because of these vocal parts – often the only thing by Mozart that remained – Cassol needed a number of lyrical voices. For this he initially looked to South African opera singers that he had got to know through his work with Brett Bailey, for whom he adapted Verdi’s Macbeth.
Generally the vocal distribution rests on a solid foundation of four voices: soprano, alto, bass and baritone. Cassol deliberately opted for triangles, omitting the bass. This allows for greater flexibility, whilst also creating a kind of instability. Across from the trio of lyrical singers stands a trio of black voices that hail from the oral tradition: the Brussels-based Fredy Massamba, alongside Kinois Boule Mpanya and Russell Tshiebua, the backing singers who already worked them-selves into the foreground in Coup Fatal, and were also part of the Platel production Nicht schlafen. However, the voices do not always sing together and therefore cannot always seek support from one another. For Cassol, this is an extension of the idea of the fugue, which makes the mu-sic more joyful.
Mozart’s score does not include an end for the Requiem. Generally, the end goes back to the be-ginning (Dies Irae), but for what Platel had in mind this would prove impossible. That’s why Cassol gradually allows the Requiem to merge into the Mass in C. The Requiem is in D, which for Cassol means the most open, radiant tonality: joy that slowly slides into the heavier, darker and more dramatic C.
Cassol regards himself as the architect of this music. But let us not forget that the work is also informed by the input of the musicians during rehearsals. Thus the Latin texts of the Requiem or the Mass in C have their counterparts in Lingala or Swahili, with here and there a touch of Tshiluba or Kikongo. Russell Tshiebua often acts as a translator and text producer. Massamba recites in his mother tongue, Kilari from Brazzaville. Sometimes the translation comes first and the music second; sometimes there are first notes and only then the language that best suits them. However, the translations never differ fundamentally from the Latin texts.
The most difficult are the often abrasive harmonies that are stacked up against one another in such an idiosyncratic way. This is most unlike the Congolese’ or Africans’ usual way of doing things and it requires a different cultural response; pretty complicated if you have to learn everything by ear, for in many places the score goes against what musicians are familiar with. It only falls into place when all the voices are filled in, which is why the musical rehearsals took so long (the first rehearsals date back to April 2017). It is not only a formidable challenge to bring together musicians with these different backgrounds; it is also important that these musicians are able to express their way of life in the music.
The figure three has always had a special place in masonic rituals. In order to pay tribute to Mozart and his freemasonry, not only are there triangles in the voices, but also three likembes (or thumb pianos). At times, the music becomes somewhat Cubist: in Confutatis, rhythms, influences and worlds collide to create a multifaceted image. Luckily Rodriguez Vangama, Cassol’s right-hand man, is on stage, the orchestra leader of Coup Fatal who continues to exert such tight control on the band now. The euphonium or tuba (Niels Van Heertum from En avant, marche!) seems to belong to the angel of death, launching his appeal in Tuba Mirum; in Hostias it is as though it is creeping into the head of the dying L. The accordion underpins and undermines the vocal harmonies in equal measure, and the percussion acts as the proverbial knock on the door. We reach the borders of what is expressible. The one question left for Cassol to answer after this Requiem pour L is: after this, what is there left to do? There is a sense that it is finished.
Requiem pour L. runs at Sadler’s Wells on 20 & 21 March. Tickets are available now priced at £20 by calling the ticket office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.
Over the last few months, as part of its ‘Get Into Dance’ scheme, Sadler’s Wells has appointed some local people new to dance as Dance Ambassadors, and supported them in their first steps of dance discovery. Two of our Ambassadors – local residents Janice Gittens and Kate Marshall – came to see the new work from Ballet British Columbia at Sadler’s Wells, and a film was created capturing their responses.
The Ambassadors scheme encourages people from local communities who have not yet visited Sadler’s Wells to come and experience dance, with the incentive of a specially subsidised rate. To enhance their experience, a range of activities are provided, including skills training in critical thinking and dance journalism, talks from dance specialists about the work they’re seeing, and invitations to special behind-the-scenes experiences.
Over the last few months, as part of its ‘Get Into Dance’ scheme, Sadler’s Wells has appointed some local people new to dance as Dance Ambassadors, and supported them in their first steps of dance discovery. Two of our Ambassadors – local residents Janice Gittens and Kate Marshall – came to Sadler’s Wells for the first time to see the new work from Ballet British Columbia and a film was created capturing their responses.
The Get Into Dance Ambassadors scheme has been supported by The Movement, a collaboration between The Lowry, Birmingham Hippodrome and Sadler’s Wells, funded by Arts Council England. This two year pilot project has been formed to try new approaches to audience development, with a view to increasing audiences for dance at the three participating venues.
Ballet British Columbia is Canada’s leading contemporary dance company, and is presented by Dance Consortium. They are touring the UK Friday 9 to Saturday 24 March – for full details visit danceconsortium.com.
In celebration of International Women’s Day, we look at some of the inspirational women who have shaped Sadler’s Wells’ history and continue to influence the world of dance today.
1. Lilian Baylis (pictured above) Lilian Baylis is one of the most important figures in the history of Sadler’s Wells and British theatre, whose legacy continues to be felt today. Having been the driving force behind the development of the Old Vic as the home of high-quality accessible drama and opera, in 1925 Lilian Baylis began fundraising to rebuild Sadler’s Wells, where she envisaged “tickets affordable by artisans and labourers” in North London. The fifth Sadler’s Wells building (since the original theatre was founded in 1683) opened in January 1931. Her direction enabled the creation of what later became some of the UK’s top performing companies, including The Royal Ballet, English National Opera and Birmingham Royal Ballet, as well as the renowned Royal Ballet School. A second space on the site of Sadler’s Wells was named the Lilian Baylis Studio in recognition of her, and provides a home to smaller scale work and work by emerging artists.
2. Dame Ninette de Valois Dame Ninette de Valois (Edris Stannus) was a ballerina, choreographer, ballet company director and teacher who founded The Royal Ballet. Born in 1898, her career had a huge impact on the world of classical ballet and she lived to the incredible age of 102. Lilian Baylis, who at the time was director of the Old Vic, was a great supporter of her work. The pair established an agreement for de Valois to create dances in support of the theatre, which – after the reopening of Sadler’s Wells in 1931 – led to the founding of Sadler’s Wells Ballet, later The Royal Ballet, making her one of the most influential figures in our history.
3. Dame Marie Rambert Born in Warsaw, Poland in 1888, Marie Rambert became the founder of Ballet Rambert, later known as Rambert Dance Company. She trained under the Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev and danced with Ballet Russes early in her career before moving to London at the outbreak of the First World War and eventually establishing her own company. Rambert was the first company to perform on our new stage when Sadler’s Wells current building opened in October 1998, and remains a regular and popular part of our programme today.
4. Martha Graham American dancer and choreographer Martha Graham is highly regarded as one of the most important faces of modern dance in the 20th Century. A trailblazer of her art form, Graham collaborated with the leading fashion designers, visual artists and musicians of her day and established the Graham Technique – a style of movement which is taught worldwide. Her legacy lives on through The Martha Graham Center based in New York, which houses the Martha Graham Dance Company and School of Contemporary Dance.
5. Pina Bausch Pina Bausch was artistic director of Tanztheater Wuppertal for over 35 years and remains one of the greatest choreographers of our time. During her directorship, she created over 40 productions for the company. We have presented many of them on the Sadler’s Wells stage and developed a close relationship with Tanztheater Wuppertal, which considers us their London home. Throughout her career, Bausch had an interest in film-making and collaborated with Federico Fellini on And the Ship Goes, as well as creating her own film The Complaint of the Empress and appearing in Pedro Almodóvar’s film Talk To Her. Her untimely death in 2009 shook the world of dance. “She was an artist of the kind that the world is only blessed with from time to time,” said Sadler’s Wells’ Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding. “Her repertoire of works has inspired generations of audiences and artists, with an impact that is hard to overestimate. She was a dear friend to me and I will miss her greatly. There is now a big hole in my life, and that of countless others.” Pina, a documentary film by Wim Wenders, was released in her memory shortly after her death. The company continues to present her work in theatres around the world. In 2015, it became an International Associate Company at Sadler’s Wells.
6. Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker Belgian choreographer Anna Teresa De Keersmaeker is an innovative leader in contemporary dance. Her bold and uncompromising choreography explores the relationship between music and movement and is influenced by subjects such as geometry, numerical patterns, the natural world and social structures. Based in Brussels, her world-renowned company Rosas has performed many times on our stage and is an International Associate Company at Sadler’s Wells. In 1995, De Keersmaeker established P.A.R.T.S. (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) in Brussels, one of the world’s leading choreographic schools. Our Associate Artist Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui spent a year there as part of his dance training, while our other Associate Artist Akram Khan took part in the school’s X-Group project, a creative programme for young choreographers.
7. Siobhan Davies Siobhan Davies trained at London Contemporary Dance School and started her own company in 1981, also joining with Ian Spink and Richard Alston to found Second Stride, and launched her own company again in 1988. She has twice received the Laurence Olivier Award for outstanding achievement in dance. She came regularly to Sadler’s Wells with innovative and iconic works throughout the 90’s, gradually moving away from making work for the stage in favour of other contexts such as gallery, evolving from a national touring dance company into a ground-breaking investigative contemporary arts organisation based in a bespoke building since 2006 in Elephant & Castle.
8. Nilda Guerra At the heart of Cuban dance maker Nilda Guerra’s choreographic style and vibrant shows are the exploration and fusion of diverse dance styles and trends: Cuban popular and traditional, classical and contemporary, jazz and folkloric. Her hit Havana Rakatan, produced by Sadler’s Wells, premiered at The Peacock in summer 2007. Since then, it has enjoyed many successful West End seasons and toured extensively around the world to audiences of over 221,000. Her company Ballet Rakatan has performed at prestigious international venues such as the New York City Center Theater, Sydney Opera House, Amsterdam’s Carré Theatre, Rome’s Teatro Sistina, Oslo Opera House and Tokyo City Hall among many others. Nilda’s latest show Vamos Cuba! – a “high energy celebration of Cuban culture” – premiered at Sadler’s Wells in 2016.
9. Sasha Waltz The Berlin-based choreographer, whose birthday falls on International Women’s Day on 8 March, recently returned to Sadler’s Wells with her company Sasha Waltz & Guests to present Körper, the first in a choreographic trilogy focused on the human body. The piece premiered in January 2000 at the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin, where Waltz was co-director for five years. Our Artistic Director and Chief Executive Alistair Spalding describes the production as a “modern classic”.
10. Sylvie Guillem French ballet dancer Sylvie Guillem began as an aspiring gymnast with Olympic hopes, but changed career path when she arrived at the Paris Opera Ballet School on a year’s exchange. In 1984, aged 19, she became the youngest dancer in the history of the Paris Opéra Ballet at that time to be made an étoile (star), the highest rank within a ballet company. As a Principal Guest Artist of The Royal Ballet between 1988 and 2007, she gained international fame for her roles in the classical repertoire. As an independent artist, her curiosity and desire to experiment with, and inhabit, different movement languages led to rich creative collaborations with leading modern choreographers and theatre directors including William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Jiri Kylian, our Associate Artists Russell Maliphant and Akram Khan, and Robert Lepage. She was appointed a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist in 2006 and, since the end of her dancing career in 2015, has become our first Associate Artist Emeritus.
11. Sara Baras Flamenco superstar Sara Baras has been performing for over 30 years and leading her own company since 1998. “It has given me the freedom to show the world how I feel and to learn how I can best present my flamenco productions. I have been able to do shows both with and without narrative, and to develop the work with dance and music in a very positive way. I’ve had to take a lot of risks – if you run your own company, you can stray from the familiar path to present something new,” she told The Guardian. Ballet Flamenco Sara Baras has performed at Sadler’s Wells’ on numerous occasions, and returns to our annual Flamenco Festival in July. Her prodigious stomping footwork, curving torso and powerful expressiveness have captivated audiences the world over.
12. Crystal Pite Canadian dance maker Crystal Pite is a Sadler’s Wells Associate Artist and one of the most original choreographic voices working today. A former company member of William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt and Ballet British Columbia, she established her own company, Kidd Pivot, in Vancouver in 2002. Her distinct style integrates classical elements with structured improvisation. Her work Betroffenheit, a collaboration with playwright and actor Jonathan Young, sensitively explored the themes of trauma and suffering, earning great public and critical acclaim as well as multiple awards, including an Olivier for Best Dance production. A five-star review in The Guardian praised the work as “human suffering transformed into heroic brilliance”.
13. Jasmin Vardimon Jasmin Vardimon is a leading force in British dance theatre. Born and raised on a Kibbutz in central Israel, she joined the Kibbutz Dance Company and, in 1995, won a British Council On the Way to London Choreography Award. She moved to London in 1997, where she founded Jasmin Vardimon Company (previously Zbang). She has been an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells since 2006 and presented many of her works on our stage, including Freedom, 7734, Justitia, PARK,Pinocchio, and most recently, Medusa. Jasmin was the first Guest Artistic Director of National Youth Dance Company in 2012-13.
14. Kate Prince Kate Prince is the Artistic Director of ZooNation, which she founded in 2002. Three years later, we commissioned the company’s first first full-length work, Into the Hoods, conceived and directed by Prince. The production premiered in 2006 to huge critical acclaim. It became the first hip-hop dance show to transfer to the West End and the longest running dance show in West End history. We presented another of her most popular works, Some Like it Hip Hop, three times at The Peacock theatre, our West End venue. In May 2010, Kate became an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells and ZooNation became a Resident Company. An Old Vic, Sadler’s Wells and ZooNation: The Kate Prince Company production, co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, her recent work Sylvia is a modern musical celebrating the life of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, which premiered in September 2018.
Kate’s next production is Message In A Bottle, a new dance theatre show co-produced by Sadler’s Wells and Universal Music UK, set to the iconic hits of 17-time Grammy Award-winning artist Sting.
15. Liv Lorent As Artistic Director of balletLORENT, Liv Lorent’s choreography has taken classic fairy tales and reinterpreted them for modern audiences in innovative dance theatre productions. She has received many awards for her work, including the Jerwood Choreography Award and an MBE for Services to Dance in 2014. She has been commissioned by leading dance companies, including BalletBoyz, Scottish Dance Theatre and Singapore Dance Theatre. Newcastle-based balletLORENT is a National Strategic Partner of Sadler’s Wells. Her production of Rumpelstiltskin was presented as part of our Family Weekend last year, followed by a UK tour.
16. Tamara Rojo Before being appointed Artistic Director of English National Ballet in 2012, where she is also a Lead Principal, Tamara Rojo had already crafted an extremely successful career as an internationally recognised ballet star. Trained in Spain, where her professional career began, Tamara moved to the UK in 1996 to dance with Scottish National Ballet. A year later she joined English National Ballet, where she danced all of the company’s principal roles before being invited to join The Royal Ballet as Principal Dancer in 2000. She danced with the company for 12 years, collecting accolades from critics and audiences alike, including a Laurence Olivier Award for Best New Dance Production with Goldberg: the Brandstrup- Rojo Project in 2010. In 2014, under her directorship English National Ballet became an Associate Company at Sadler’s Wells. Since then, the company has been presenting two annual seasons at Sadler’s Wells, and we have produced new contemporary ballet works together.
Tamara Rojo is a strong and vocal advocate of equality, on and off the stage. She is among the mentors of University Women in the Arts, a mentoring scheme for the next generation of female leaders in the arts. In 2016, she commissioned She Said, a triple bill of new works by female dance makers, which had its world premiere at Sadler’s Wells. This spring, English National Ballet returns to our stage with She Persisted, its second programme dedicated to female choreography.
17. Sharon Eyal Sharon Eyal is one of the most original and in-demand choreographic voices in contemporary dance. She started her career as a dancer with Batsheva Dance Company in her native Israel, going on to serve as Artistic Director and House Choreographer for the company. In 2009, Sharon began creating pieces for other dance companies and, in 2013, she launched L-E-V with her long-time collaborator Gai Behar. At the confluence of movement, music, lighting, fashion, art and technology, L-E-V is a cutting-edge company that could be equally at home in a techno club or a theatre. Sharon’s distinctive movement language is characterised by visceral, uncompromising physicality, which draws influence from Gaga, the movement research developed by choreographer Ohad Naharin. Her works deal with resonant themes such as the isolation of love and obsessive compulsive disorder.
Sharon made her Sadler’s Wells debut in 2016, with L-E-V performing OCD Love. She became an Associate Artist at Sadler’s Wells in 2018. As Guest Artistic Director of NYDC for 2017-18, she created new work Used To Be Blonde for the young company, which received its world premiere on our stage in spring 2018, followed by a UK tour. Later that year, her choreography made headlines at Paris Fashion Week for Christian Dior.
Choreographer Liv Lorent has been creating award-winning dance in the UK for over 20 years. She established her company balletLORENT aged 20, making the move from dancer to director. Her production of Rumpelstiltskin, which has been adapted into a new retelling of the story by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, will be presented at Sadler’s Wells as part of the season marking the 20th anniversary of our current building, before embarking on a UK tour. To celebrate International Women’s Day, we spoke to Liv about the female figures who have inspired her career and her view on the representation of women in fairy tales.
What was the ethos behind setting up your company balletLORENT?
balletLORENT was launched in 1993 with a graduation quartet called Shards that performed as part of an international platform of dance in France.
We were called Lorent Ballet at that time, and I called us that as I felt somewhat “other” than contemporary dance at that point. Having the word ballet in the company name reflected my heritage in terms of coming from Belgium and a desire to create dance performances that had ethereal, romantic and narrative aspirations… it was a 20 year old’s decision-making process!
The company was unusual in the early 90s, as it was more normal to have proven oneself as a distinguished dancer before turning to choreography. At that point choosing to focus immediately on choreography, and not perform in my own work, was even more unusual than being a female dance-maker. However, I wanted to have an independent company and all the freedom of creative choice I believed that would give us.
Your latest production, Rumpelstiltskin, is based on an adaptation of the classic fairy tale by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy. What attracted you both to this story?
It was one of Carol Ann’s favourite stories long before it was mine. I think we both liked the magic of the alchemy of straw turning into gold, and with this interpretation enjoyed looking at the importance of Rumpelstiltskin finding his name and having his name found, and heard rather than being “name called” and rejected from the world he inhabits. We have celebrated him as the misunderstood outsider, and elevated the Shepherd’s daughter to a woman of resilience and invention, who does much, much more than weep helplessly in a pile of straw.
Rumpelstiltskin follows on from your productions of other fairy tale classics, including Rapunzel and Snow White. What is different about your interpretations of these much-loved stories?
I think that we very much enjoy updating them for 21st-Century audiences, and championing the unsung heroism in some of the characters, and giving an audience a deep understanding of why the dark behaviour of some of the characters’ behaviour happens. So, for example, the King in Rumpelstiltskin is not a greedy gold loving fanatic out of a love of riches, but a broken man mad with grief longing for gold as it helps remind him of his Queen who died while giving birth to their child. That child is Rumpelstiltskin and his ability to spin straw into gold is born out of his mother’s intense love… the mother he never knew.
Retelling these stories allows us to offer a reason why these famous fairy tale characters go to such extremes to get their needs met; especially when those desires are so powerful such as the need for one’s own child, or the need for love. It can make the characters relatable, forgivable and more like us.
Do you think it’s important for children to see new interpretations of these fairy tales?
As a parent reading fairytales to my children, I see them as yet another way to help explain some of the more challenging elements of life in a positive way. There are many, many different versions of each story and it is worthwhile choosing your version carefully before starting to read out loud! Many of the stories contain examples of great fortitude and resilience, as well as great adventure and courage in trying to change your life. Good inspiration for us all!
Many of the stories look very different to us now, such as Sleeping Beauty being kissed awake by a Prince when she is sleeping. Some of us want a different awakening for her, and have enjoyed the film of Maleficent for this and there are many other great endings out there. I loved the latest film version of Beauty and the Beast and agreed with Belle that she rather missed the look of the Beast when the Prince was uncovered at the end! I think that the new interpretations are a vital and continuing way that these tales have been retold through generations.
How do you feel about the way female characters are presented in fairy tales? Is this something you have addressed in your productions?
It has never interested me to show a woman abused, degraded, humiliated or exploited. If a classic fairy tale is leaning in that direction we will update and reform the role. Over our 25-year history, our dancers have performed female roles with great attention to the power, the vulnerability, the beauty and the passion of women. Equally, I would say we do the same with male dancers and the roles of men in our work. In all of balletLORENT’s work we have been very driven to present female and male roles in a powerful and enhancing fashion, while the drama comes in the truth of trying to hold on being the kind of human we want to be, and sometimes failing. I am interested in compassion and acceptance for difference. We make the work with the resolutions we would like to think were possible in real life.
Who are your female icons in the world of dance who have influenced or inspired your work?
They are so many. Every time I make a work with dancers who are collaborating with me they become goddesses and heroines in the making to me! And when I was a lot younger I was fully inspired by the rule-breaking women in dance such as Isadora Duncan and Martha Graham.
As a leading female director and choreographer in the UK, what does International Women’s Day mean to you?
It’s always good to bring the consciousness back to women I do think that we are all just “getting on with it” – whatever that may be – work, family and survival. It takes days like International Women’s Day to reflect sometimes on how far we have come, and yet how far there is to go. I think many of us are living in a day-to-day of unconscious bias, and yet the changes to this are moving rapidly.
Speaking of my own experience I wish that I had put up with a lot less and demanded differently, but I am from a generation brought up in the 70s and 80s. As a mother, I look forward to a better world for my daughter, and seek to arm her with much more self-confidence than I had.
I’m only now starting to feel that as a professional I have done ok; if the journey I took is in any way motivation for other women to make their own creative choices happen I can only welcome that.
Many of your productions feature a diverse cast of community and professional dancers as well as presenting intergenerational work that has featured children, older people and pregnant women. Is this something we can expect to see in Rumpelstiltskin?
As an independent dance company, we are privileged to put together a cast of people that best fits the stories we are trying to tell. Several professional dancers have been working together in balletLORENT for around 20 years now, and our shared skill-base and building of repertoire brings a great level of confidence to then be very daring and adventurous.
Some of the youngest dancers in the company have the benefit of extremely experienced mentorship, and a great family feel within the company. This foundation lends itself well to extending our arms further to include very young children and older guest performers that create an authentic feeling “otherworld” for our fairytale to play out in.
The production of Rumpelstiltskin fully enjoys this capacity within the company and will feature five year olds alongside performers in their 70s.
What do you want audiences to take away from Rumpelstiltskin?
I would like the audiences to give second thoughts to our own experiences of internal prejudice and fear against people who are seemingly different from us, and to see that happy endings are possible even if your start in life was not so good. Gold and straw are equally magical, and love is the most powerful force of all.
We know that the sheep and the lambs are a hit, so they will be well remembered, as well as the dancers’ fantastic dramatisations of their roles. We expect that the music will stay in your heart and your ear, as will the refreshing take on the story and the amazing lighting, set and costumes. The cast are unique, and audiences have been very moved by the production. Rumpelstiltskin has been made with a lot of love as well as skill.
Rumpelstiltskin runs at Sadler’s Wells as part of Family Weekend on 30 & 31 March. Tickets are available now priced at £12 for children and £18 for adults by calling the Ticket Office on 020 7863 8000 or book online.
balletLORENT is a National Strategic Partner of Sadler’s Wells.
A number of Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists received nominations for the 2018 Olivier Awards today.
In the Best New Dance Production category, Grand Finale by our Associate Artist Hofesh Shechter at Sadler’s Wells, Tree Of Codes by our Associate Artist Wayne McGregor and The Paris Opera Ballet at Sadler’s Wells and Flight Pattern by our Associate Artist Crystal Pite at the Royal Opera House all received nominations, alongside Goat by Ben Duke, performed by Rambert as part of a mixed bill at Sadler’s Wells last November.
In Outstanding Achievement In Dance, Francesca Velicu has been nominated for her role in our Associate Company English National Ballet‘s performance of Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps, part of a mixed programme the company presented at Sadler’s Wells in spring last year. Other nominees in this category are Rocío Molina – for pushing the boundary of flamenco in Fallen From Heaven (Caída Del Cielo) at the Barbican – and Zenaida Yanowsky, for her performance in Liam Scarlett’s Symphonic Dances at the Royal Opera House.
Two Sadler’s Wells’ Associate Artists are among the nominees for Best Theatre Choreographer: Kate Prince for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Apollo Theatre and Christopher Wheeldon for An American In Paris at the Dominion Theatre.
The full list of nominations is available here. The Awards ceremony will take place at the Royal Albert Hall on Sunday 8 April.
Many congratulations to all our Associate Artists on their nominations! We’ll keep our fingers crossed…
Image: Hofesh Shechter’s Grand Finale Photo: Rahi Rezvani
We are delighted to celebrate National Apprenticeship Week 2018 with two nominations.
Our Human Resources Apprentice Tiegan Hummerston, pictured above, has been nominated for the Creative Apprentice of the Year award with Lewisham Southwark College. Sadler’s Wells has received a nomination for the Apprenticeship Employer of the Year award. Apprenticeships are among a number of opportunities we offer every year to help those who want to develop career in the creative industries, which also include internships, work experience placements and technical placements.
Tiegan said: “I am very grateful and fortunate to be nominated for the Creative Apprentice of the Year award and feel proud to be representing Sadler’s Wells on the evening. During the past year and a half, I have gained so much from my experience at Sadler’s Wells. Before I started my apprenticeship, I had many doubts about my future – which everyone does – but have since grown so much as a person and have learned what is going to be best for me. After my time is up at Sadler’s Wells, I am looking to dive straight into the world of Human Resources careers – while of course staying within the creative and cultural sector, because it’s the best!”
Tune in at 9.45pm this Tuesday 6 March to a post-show conversation with the Artistic Director of Ballet British Columbia, live from Sadler’s Wells.
Emily Molnar will be chatting to our Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Alistair Spalding following the UK premiere of three works on our main stage. This will include Solo Echo and Bill, choreographed by our Associate Artists Crystal Pite and Sharon Eyal, plus a third piece, 16 + a room, which has been created by Molnar herself.
This is an exclusive opportunity to put your burning questions to the leader of one of the world’s most cutting-edge dance companies by sharing them on social media using #AskBalletBC, before or during the event.