Sunday, 29 September 2019

REVIEW: Breakin' Convention Presents the illusory Yaman Okur & Jean-Philippe Collard Neven in 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol

Fri 27 Sep
Lilian Baylis Studio
Breakin’ Convention Presents: Yaman Okur & Philippe Collard-Neven - 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol

Breakin' Convention is the powerhouse behind UK hip hop dance-theatre. The festival showcases the finest hip hop and provides a platform for emerging dance artists in the genre. This year, prominent B-Boy Yaman Okur returns to Breakin' Convention Presents with collaborator Jean-Philippe Collard Neven with the captivating 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol.

The stage is set with a skate ramp and a grand piano, at which the effortlessly cool Neven plays. But Collard Neven isn't just the accompanying musician, his role brings an extra layer of comedy and wit to the narratives that unfold onstage.

Okur is easy in his movement, he glides through illusory floor-work and complex inversions. As well as being a talented dancer, Okur is an excellent entertainer; he builds a clear relationship with the audience. Darting looks of embarrassment and fear as he flirts with a young woman and later spars with an invisible giant.

The absurdity doesn't stop coming. A reoccuring theme involving laundry baskets sees Okur under threat from the white baskets that are flung down the skate ramp by Collard Neven, who lurks behind the ramp. Okur's unique style of breaking and use of props means he can blend balmy narratives with extraordinary tricks, the result is captivating.

This multi-layered work of dance is hugely accessible and entertaining. If you've never been to the theatre or watched a ballet, 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol is a great place to start.

According to an interview by Broadway World, the inspiration behind 1mm Au Dessus Du Sol came to Okur during an earthquake in Turkey, in which 55,000 people died within 45 seconds. Okur said "feeling the ground shaking was by far one of the scariest things I've felt, and I told myself that night that I wished I was above the ground to not feel it shaking".

Maya Pindar

Friday, 27 September 2019

INTERVIEW: James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight on their creation of Ley Line with Yukiko Tsukamoto

James Pett and Travis Clausen-Knight of Fabula Collective present Ley Line, their first independent work in partnership Japan Foundation London, since leaving Company Wayne McGregor earlier this year. Ahead of the performance on 08 October, I chatted to James and Travis about the creation of Ley Line and their experiences as dancers and creators.

James Pett, Travis Clausen-Knight & Guest Choreographer Kihako Narisawa in Ley Line

Maya Pindar: What can we expect from Ley Line?

James Pett: Ley Line is a quadruple bill of four very exciting and emotionally stirring works. Three choreographers with all very different voices and movement language. 

Travis Clausen-KnightBesides three unique choreographers I think you can expect to see very mature creations that connect to human concepts we often overlook. For a small gathering of artists I think these may be some of the most talented people I have worked with. Just the sheer emotion and connection shared will be evident.

MP: Can you tell us how these four works came together?

JP: Fabula Collective's Director Yukiko Tsukamoto is Japanese and wants to bridge the gap between her time living in London and her home in Tokyo. Yukiko asked Kihako Narisawa, a Japanese choreographer based in Switzerland, to join myself and Travis to create work for Ley Line, and her piece a.é.p.s will be presented alongside our work.

Travis and I premiered our duet Informal Between last year at Sadler’s Wells where we first starting working with Yukiko. This duet is the starting point of our Fabula Collective journey - the duet has a very beautiful meaning for the three of us and it made sense for it to return again! Travis is creating a trio SALT to WATER and I am creating a solo entitled Man of the Crowd - based on the book by Edgar Allan Poe.

TCK: Yukiko Tsukamoto is the mind behind a program she is keen to produce. James and myself had already worked on a show with her for Japan and she wanted to expand on it for a London performance. It is because of her that these works are possible and I feel, at the same time, the highly creative energy we all share naturally, if not in such a clichéd sense, was going to bring us together inevitably.

MP: What sort of choreographic processes did you use when creating Ley Line?

JP: In terms of my solo Man of the Crowd, I have been doing a lot of research in the studio. The piece looks at various characters within society. I had to develop the movement qualities and emotional expression to each character specifically. They needed to be distinct. I tend to work very deeply with inner feeling to generate movement. This can be stimulated by images, music and text. From here, I did a lot of improvisation where I would film everything to capture that inner feeling being expressed outwardly in my body. This live capture was the key to me finding the particular movement and emotional language for the ten minute solo. 

TCK: I really enjoy working with a mix of approaches with my dancers as I feel that gets me the most depth of my concepts but also connects me to them individually. I will often generate an open idea that expands gradually as my dancers construct it alongside me. This can be done in tasks or by directly creating on them, where I will in some way question them physically. In this instance we also had a particular set of props, though I don’t want to give too much away. This prop made me explore space and how I can influence a single movement with it. It also led us to consider that a body isn’t always your partner. Sometimes an inanimate object can be an entity all of its own.

MP: Can you tell us a bit about your time in Japan? How did your time there inform your dance practice?

JP: Japan was an incredible experience, to bring modern contemporary works to a traditional Noh Theatre in Tokyo. The fusion of tradition and contemporary dance worked really beautifully. Being a very spiritual theatre, I felt it definitely gave our works a more spiritual sense.

TCK: I love Japan for its culture and richness towards tradition and the new. I’ve always loved popular culture, so seeing so many takes on their own traditions used alongside modern society is very synergistic if you will. I think this somewhat pushed my creative voice and encouraged me to push boundaries on what may be considered odd. Japanese, as well as other Asian movement styles, have intrigued me as there is a fluidity and difference to the technique. Asia in particular has grown something unique.

MP: Have either of you had any mentors or important role models? How have they supported you and/or your work?

JP: I have worked with Richard Alston and Wayne McGregor during my dance career. They have both guided me greatly into the dancer I am now and I am very grateful for this. They both believe in supporting the next generation of dancers and choreographers.

TCK: I’ve never been directly mentored but I have had many people teach me through my experiences with them. Wayne McGregor pushed me in a creative and ambitious sense and I attribute him to really helping me be convicted to my ideas. I like to think that all artists support each other in some small way. Considering our current strenuous times I believe that our communities, in the arts, strive to push the correct message and to shape the world into an ideal, rather than for personal want or gain.

MP: If you could collaborate with anyone, who would be your dream artist to work with?

JP: This a great question, there are many! Some are no longer alive - Merce Cunningham and Pina Bausch. Currently I really love Crystal Pite's works.

TCK: Without hesitation I would have worked with the incredible mind of Pina Bausch just to witness her in the studio. Other artists I’m wishing to collaborate with would be Olafur Eliasson, Studio Drifts creators Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn, musician Thom Yorke and also band Solomon Grey. My guilty pleasure would be Sia.

MP: What words of advice would you give other emerging dance artists beginning their own careers?

JP: Work hard, always remain authentic to your ideas, do not waste time in searching for appreciation and fame - always keep the focus on your work.

TCK: You have to go with your gut and push consistently to grow yourself. Hard work is a constant that only gives back to you, so no matter what you choose you must always strive to do your best and be open to what is being said. Respect everything and never look down. Offer your hand out to those who may ask. Everyone knows suffering and wishes to be supported.

MP: Can you sum up Ley Line is just three words?

JP: Hypnotic, emotional, dynamic.

TCKYou, myself and us.

Ley Line is showing at Sadler's Wells on 08 October. Tickets are available here:

Maya Pindar

Thursday, 19 September 2019

REVIEW: Akram Khan's Giselle returns to Sadler's Wells

Wed 18 Sep
Sadlers Wells
English National Ballet - Akram Khan's Giselle

Akram Khan's version of the classic ballet transports Giselle from her village to a migrant garment factory. Khan's re-imagination of Giselle with English National Ballet fuses ballet, contemporary dance and reoccurring moments of South Asian dance in the form of mudra hands. Tamara Rojo is a strong and resolute Giselle, contrary to the timid and shy girl presented in the classical ballet.

James Streeter in Akram Khan's Giselle (PC: Laurent Liotardo)

The space opens in darkness, gradually illuminating set designer Tim Yip's monolithic wall, which tilts and moves. Heads down and palms spread wide against the wall, the dancers push against it, leaving behind dusty handprints as they step away. The dancers are dressed in shades of grey, the men in tunic-style t-shirts and the women in gauzy skirts.

Act I sees Albrecht (James Streeter) and Hilarion (Jeffrey Cirio) vying for Giselle's attention. The young men stumble through the factory as they confront one another and chase after Giselle. The drama culminates when the factory landlords, dressed in ostentatious Hunger Games-esque costumes, demand Albrecht return with them to their world. Abandoning the factory, Albrecht leaves Giselle to die of a broken heart.

The Landlords in Akram Khan's Giselle (PC: Laurent Liotardo)

But it's Act II that is truly captivating. Khan's Wilis (the ghosts of wronged female factory workers) are both beautiful and ghoulish. Stina Quagebeur is an excellent Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis. She towers over Albrecht and Hilarion, with an all powerful and ethereal other-worldliness. Khan equips the Wilis with long, thin sticks reminiscent of sewing needles, which they strike against the floor and pummel into the bodies of the young men.

Rojo and Streeter's final pas de deux is devastatingly beautiful. Caught somewhere between life and death, Rojo slips through Streeter's arms. He seems to step right through Rojo as he reaches out to hold her. A series of tender and gravity defying lifts ends as Rojo's body turns limp and floppy.

The Wilis in Akram Khan's Giselle (PC: Laurent Liotardo)
Stina Quagebeur in Akram Khan's Giselle (PC: Laurent Liotardo)

The only missing link is the resoluteness of Khan's storyline. Without the guidance of programme notes, Tim Yip's set could just as easily be a refugee camp or the borderlines along Trump's wall, or an industrial wasteland. Is Albrecht another migrant worker? How does Giselle die? Who is Hilarion, and why should we care about him?

Despite the gaps in the storytelling, the atmosphere that Khan creates, with the help of Vincenzo Lamagna's haunting score and Mark Henderson's atmospheric lighting design, is enough to satisfy. Giselle serves up heaps of intensity and depth that more than makes up for the holes in Khan's narrative.

Maya Pindar

English National Ballet - Akram Khan's Giselle is showing at Sadlers Wells until 28 September.

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

INTERVIEW: Feet Off The Ground revisit The Way They Were Then

This year Feet Off The Ground revisit their work The Way They Were Then in their upcoming tour in London and Nottingham. The company are an all-female collective of dance artists that represent women as strong and physical in their dance work. I met with Robyn Holder to chat about the inspiration behind The Way They Were Then and their development of the work.

Maya Pindar: Can you tell us a little bit about The Way They Were Then?

Robyn HolderThe Way They Were Then is a piece inspired by a book of short stories by Uraguyan author Eduardo Galeano. Premiered at Resolution! 2017, the piece has undergone a development process spanning two years.

MP: What inspired you to revisit the work this year?

RH: When we created the work for Resolution, the process was short and we felt we didn’t have enough time to delve into the stories and choreographic processes. Some sections of the piece were well explored and others were underdeveloped. We really liked the work, felt excited by it and wanted it to realise its full potential!

MP: What sort of choreographic processes did you use when developing The Way They Were Then?

RH: We often work with a number of tools during the choreographic process, one that was key to this process was devising movement tasks based on themes with clear physical limitations and restrictions and then working to find the possibilities within these parameters.

MP: What have you enjoyed the most about developing this work?

RH: We have really enjoyed having the opportunity to come back into the studio and see our ideas and research materialise. Having our dramaturg Neus Gil Cortes in the studio with us really shook everything up and gave us clarity!

MP:  You collaborated with other groups of women as part of the development of The Way They Were Then. Can you tell us more about this collaboration?

RH: During the R&D last year, we collaborated with a group of local women from Nottingham called Faltonia whose voices and personal experiences directly informed the process. Discussing and exploring the stories with a diverse group of different ages and backgrounds helped us to see things from different perspectives and gave the work more depth. As part of this project we will be working with young women to create short curtain raisers for our performances. The curtain raisers will explore themes from the piece: female empowerment, oppression, rebellion and unity.

MP: Can you tell us about the music and the relationship it has to the choreography and/or inspiration behind the work?

RH: The music that has been created for this piece by Sabio Janiak creates an internal feeling of the pace and rhythm for us as dancers. The score also sets the tone, supports the intention and illuminates the stories.

MP: Finally, can you sum up what we can expect to see at the performances in London and Nottingham in three words?

RHWomen, Stories, Belonging

The Way They Were Then will be showing in London on 26 September and in Nottingham on 10th October. To book tickets visit: