An interview with Random Dancers

Atomos

After seeing the show ‘Atomos’, I was lucky enough to have the chance to meet dancers Catarina Carvalho, Jessica Wright, and Travis Clausen-Knight.

Travis

I first asked Travis how working with Wayne McGregor is different from working with other choreographers. Travis described working with Wayne as a very fast and intense process, and said Wayne’s work is very collaborative.

Wayne sets the ten dancers a ‘task’, and then they all come up with something slightly different; Wayne then decides which parts he wants to keep and refines them. They don’t initially rehearse to the music, so the pieces of choreography that go best with the music are selected by Wayne late in the process. The dancers usually create about three times more material than is actually used.

While I was watching the show, I was wondering what the dancers were thinking about. Travis told me that Wayne will often ask them to think about something specific while they’re dancing. Travis explained that he doesn’t always think about the same things in every performance, which makes every show subtly different. He added that it isn’t possible to do exactly the same thing every night, and it wouldn’t be interesting either.

When asked about Wayne McGregor’s work with body and mind, Travis described how Wayne asks the dancers to think about the origin of their movement, whether it is coming from inside them or from a force outside their body, in the area around them.

Catarina and Jessica

I asked Catarina and Jessica what their favourite part of a project is – the creation of it or performing it. Catarina told me she loves the creation, because it’s exciting to be making new material for a piece, just as much as she enjoys performing. Jessica explained that the two things co-exist; the excitement of the creation wouldn’t have the same intensity and pressure on it if it wasn’t for the imminence of the final performance. For her, it feels different to perform a show when you’ve been involved in the creation of it – when she knows where it has come from, which parts of the piece she might have developed during a task, and which parts Wayne has given her. She says that this collaborative process is a really rich experience, and probably one of the reasons why they all love working in the company.

My next question was about their favourite piece with Random Dance. Jessica said that they have just done a new work called ‘Tree Of Codes’, which she finds exciting because it’s new and fresh; there are new music, new sets, different dancers (they are collaborating with dancers from the Paris Opera Ballet). She added that each piece has such an individual mood and journey, and has had such an intense process to it, that they are all unique and special. Catarina said she doesn’t have a favourite piece, but she usually likes the one they have just been making best.

I questioned how the dancers feel about touring, and whether they have a favourite place to perform. Jessica explained that touring is very exciting and adventurous, but that there is highs and lows. While it can be really fun to travel to lots of new places, it can also be hard to always be living on the road and out of a suitcase, and missing your family. Catarina agreed with this, adding that their current favourite place for touring is New York, because they have just premiered ‘Tree of Codes’ there.

I told Catarina how impressed I was by her appearence on Wayne McGregor’s TED talk, and asked her if working with Wayne is always that fast and intense. She told me that it is, and that he works very fast in the studio, communicating by clicking, tapping, or vocally, with the music or not, or just showing the moves. ‘We do have to be prepared,’ she laughed, ‘for working at that speed.’

I was curious about Catarina’s role as Rehearsal Assistant and wondered what it involves. She explained that she mainly assists the Rehearsal Director, but when she is in charge of rehearsals her job is to make sure the choreography is ready to go on stage while keeping its integrity.

Emily

I asked the Touring Producer, Emily Winfield – thanks to whom I got to meet Catarina, Jessica, and Travis – a couple of questions about her own job.

I was interested to know how she chooses the touring venues where Random Dance perform : is the company invited or do they ask to perform there? Emily told me that they are often invited to present work at venues and festivals around the world, but she does work strategically to take the troupe to places they’ve never been to, or places Wayne particularly wants them to visit. For example, they haven’t toured much in Scandinavia in recent years, so this is an area she is interested in exploring. To do this, she attends lots of networking events so she can meet promoters. The company has agents in France, Asia, the USA and Italy who all work on their behalf to get their work seen in those areas. She told me that the main criteria when choosing a venue is that their work fits in the space – Random Dance’s productions are big and use lots of equipment, so the venue has to be able to cope with their shows.

I asked Emily what has been her most exciting project with Random Dance so far. Touring wise, she said, it would be the new show ‘Tree Of Codes’, which they have just performed at Manchester International Festival and The Armory in New York. The company is now taking the show to Miami, London, Paris and Aarhus in Denmark. She explained that they also do a lot of projects besides their touring, some of note being New York Fashion Week, The Brits Music Awards, and working with Wayne on his feature films, such as ‘Tarzan’, which comes out next year.

What is the biggest challenge in Emily’s job? It’s planning all the logistics for touring, she admitted, whilst keeping 15 people happy. There are 10 dancers on the road, plus 3 technicians, their Associate Director, Emily, and sometimes Wayne McGregor too. As for the best part of her job, that is all the traveling they do and the different countries they get to see; she says it’s also great seeing the shows come to life on stage!

It was really exciting and inspiring to meet Emily and the dancers, I’m so grateful to them for taking the time to talk to me. I hope to get to see more of Wayne McGregor’s work soon!

If you want to find out more about Wayne McGregor and Random dance go to http://www.randomdance.org

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