Aug. 5, 2011 (Friday, Week One)
Interviewed by Lin Yatin
Alexander Whitley (UK)
Q: When you first knew you would be taking part in this, did you have any ideas or expectations of what you would be doing?
A: Well, a little. The first email I received told me a little about TNUA and the Beijing Dance Academy being involved; I guess it was exciting just to imagine all the opportunities that would come from it. Even until a week or two ago, there was still a lot I didn’t know about how it would all work and come together as a project, so it’s been very nice to finally be here, to see how everything is coming together, and to engage with all the other choreographers and dancers.
Q: It seems from the rehearsals that you and your dancers have been coming together pretty well. Would you like to talk a little about it?
A: Unfortunately I’m only here for two weeks due to other commitments in London, but I’ve tried to take advantage of this opportunity to explore ideas that I might not ordinarily do. A lot of my previous choreographic experience has been in the presence of big companies with lots of other priorities, so I haven’t had very many opportunities to work for long, concentrated periods of time with the same group of dancers. In that respect, this opportunity has been really great for me, because it has given me an intense focus I haven’t had before. This week has been my play week: I’ve been trying lots of different things, making as much as I can, but also giving the dancers an opportunity to create material around the ideas I’ve been giving them, so next week we’ll have the task of putting it all together.
Q: You were saying that you have been playing with ideas. What kind of tasks or goals have you set for them?
A: All of the ideas I’ve been working with are derived from the project’s theme “Uncertain… waiting…” I’ve found this a very useful resource to draw both direct and less direct ideas from, relating not only to the movements but also to the structures organizing the movements. As for the tasks I’ve set out, some of them have been games for them to play: I give them one or two rules to follow, and they play a game, giving me the opportunity to see how a structure could emerge from some simple rules. Or I might give them more specific tasks: in one of the tasks I gave them, they had to imagine an object they really wanted, and then describe it in space with their bodies. Their movements were generated by the idea of the thing they wanted, but I also tried to get them to focus on the thing in space. The idea behind that task was to keep their attention always on something outside of themselves. It’s been interesting to see how they’ve engaged with the ideas, since that was one of the unknowable aspects before coming here: how easy would it be to work with my usual method of setting out tasks and engage with the dancers in the creative process, rather than making all the material myself and getting them to follow? Sometimes it’s taken a few tries for them to understand exactly what the thing is, but some of my ideas are quite complicated, even for
Q: What do you expect to achieve from this process?
A: I like to think of every piece I make as something new, a chance to try out new ideas. Hopefully this piece will be a reflection of that to some extent: there will be things in this piece that haven’t been in my previous works. Already there are some ideas I’m working with, so the challenge right now is to put it all together. Hopefully, the dancers will be shown in a different light as well: it’s an opportunity for them to show themselves in a way they might not have been seen before. One of the things I’ve found interesting is the best way to work with what their strengths as dancers and my strengths as a choreographer are, finding the middle ground between challenging them enough to do things they haven’t done before, but also not pushing them to far so as to make them feel uncomfortable. I think that’s one of the most important skills for a choreographer, to bring out the best in the dancers, while also putting out a good show.
(transcribed by Kevin Wang)