Sunday, 20 November 2016

INTERVIEW: Shaun Dillon on reworking We Stand Alone Together for Resolution! 2017

On a wintery Friday evening, I met up with fellow Roehampton alumni Shaun Dillon at London's Southbank to chat about his return to The Place's Resolution! 2017. As well as sharing his experience of reworking We Stand Alone Together, we chatted about his passion for working with young dancers and life in London as a freelance dance artist.

Shaun graduated from University of Roehampton in 2012 and set up his current venture Dillon Dance after a few years of working as a freelance artist. Notably, in 2014, Shaun worked with Matthew Bourne on Lord of The Flies. Shaun's professional works include Rise, That's Not How He Wants It, We Stand Alone Together & Where We Are.

Maya Pindar: What can you tell us about We Stand Alone Together?

Shaun DillonWe Stand Alone Together began as a 3rd year project, which has taken various forms over the years. So, for Resolution! 2017, I decided I wanted to develop it into a more fleshed out work, without the perimeters a 3rd year project has to subscribe to! 

The piece itself comes from a really personal place, stemming from the person I used to be. I wasn't the happiest, wasn't in the best place mentally. So it's interesting to let this work be informed by the person I am now. It's a very emotionally... accessible work. There are themes of frustration, anger, having to make peace with something you're not ready to make peace with. Emotional complexity and being able to connect to the work is really important to me. I want to be moved by [dance] works, to leave the theatre having been through an experience.

Photo credit: Danilo Moroni

MP: Can you sum up where your inspiration comes from for WSAT?

SD: Digging away at the surface of it, the movement comes from the trials I had as a teenager and some of the things I had to deal with. I had a lot of tension and conflict within myself- on the surface there was a constant state of rage. There's an idea of feeling strong, even though you're alone, because your struggle unites you with others in similar situations. I was desperately trying to look for help in areas that I didn't necessarily believe in. So there are themes of almost looking for a higher power. But it's not a religious piece!

MP: What's the rehearsal process like with your dancers?

SD: So it's very different to what I'm used to, which is creating work from scratch. I already have the framework and the atmosphere of the piece. The rehearsal process is very movement heavy. It's important for me as a choreographer to have my dancers really moving through space. I like unison and I like my dancers to move as a pack. So the rehearsal process is a lot of me just putting movement onto the dancers. The original piece was made entirely by myself, then I put that onto an all female cast. I like to watch movement and I feel like that was my salvation- my coming of age.

MP: What challenges have you had to overcome while reworking WSAT?

SD: The music... because the university's music licence was a bit different to The Place's! So having to restructure and explore the work with a new soundscape was really difficult. I had to almost close my ears to what the piece used to sound like. I'm collaborating with a good friend of mine Jenny Whittaker, who is composing the new original score. She's doing an amazing job. Structurally, the new score is different, but tonally it is very similar. The sounds and instruments are very similar. We're working a lot with the sound of bells- it's something that you might associate with ritualistic ceremonies, almost cult-like. 

Photo credit: Danilo Moroni

MP: Can you pick one word that describes how you feel returning to Resolution! 2017?

SD: Progression. There is a real sense of progression from last year to this year, which I suppose is very natural. The support we get, the quality of what's being produced, and hopefully that will be obvious in the final product.

MP: As an emerging choreographer, what is the best piece of advice that you have been given?

SD: Hmm.. That's such a hard question to answer! Ok, 'the first thought is usually the right one'. It's not a direct quote. But it's something that I have mulled over and streamlined over the last few years. It's about going with my gut and trusting that the first idea is usually the right one. Gut instinct. 

MP: Last question! If you could dance with anyone, who would it be?

SD: It's going to sound really cheesy- but my students. It sounds so cliché! But their youthful energy, their sense of exploration and questioning of everything, their disagreement and curiosity. They inspire me, they make me want to improve and stay current; to be a better choreographer. And that is the beauty of teaching for me. So yeah, if I could spend the day dancing with anybody, it would be my students.

Dillon Dance are performing on 4th February at The Place's Resolution! 2017. Interested in Shaun's ideas? You can find out more about Dillon Dance, the amazing cast and other projects here.

Stay tuned for more articles and reviews of We Stand Alone Together in the run up to Resolution! 2017 at The Insanity In Dancing #Res2017

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