You’re based between Berlin and Nottingham – what first brought you here?
I did a BA in Contemporary Dance and Arts Management at De Montfort University in 1999-2001, and I loved the Nottdance festival; it was experimental and bold. Some years later, I applied to Dance4 for a residency to do my first solo piece, Inventory/Räumung, which they showed at Nottdance. I moved my artistic base to Nottingham and now it’s like a second home. I’m part of the artistic community here – I hope that can continue following Brexit.
Your Hidden Spaces collaboration in Sneinton back in 2014 encouraged audience members to make their own way around Backlit Gallery, guided by audio. Is this level of audience interaction something that you always aim to include?
Hidden Spaces was a very unusual format of working for me, an installation. It asked the audience to create the choreography by themselves, to be fully in charge of their experience, decide the order of things, choose their own pathway through the exhibition space. I have done other interactive performances with a very high level of audience involvement, for example, Relay, which was a collaboration with Nottingham-based Barret Hodgson of Ventmedia and Italian choreographer Donatella Cabras. Audiences were invited to be co-authors of the performance. They could either just watch the live edited recording of show, or get into the performance space dance with us, get dressed up, create a new identity for themselves. People got up to all sorts of mad behaviour, including turning off the main power switch and stopping the show. I think that was actually one of the Dance4 producers!
In my work for the stage I don’t give that much freedom. I do enjoy that there is a particular set up that suggests rules of behaviour for everyone, that there is the idea of a fourth wall between audience and performer. It’s great to play with this. However, I always include and take seriously the experience of the audience in any of my pieces. Particularly when performing in theatres, to me there is a clear sense of the work coming to live together with its audience on the night. There is constant feedback between performer and audience. That’s what makes a live performance a live performance. And to me that is very much an interactive relationship.
You’re currently collaborating with sound artist Mattef Kuhlmey on your show, The Amplitude...
Collaboration is challenging because you are in constant negotiation, you need to be clear with what you want and need, and be open to change. If it works out, it’s a hugely enriching way of working. I find it’s easier when working with another discipline, and Mattef is very versatile so it’s been particularly good. He transforms the movement into sound, which he mixes and composes into music live on stage.
Most of the work was done in 2015, we’re currently preparing for its premiere at Nottingham Lakeside Arts, developing lecture performance versions and workshop formats for the autumn tour. We also plan to create a version for a club – where people are ready to dance and we can create the music live on the night. Thinking broadly about interdisciplinary collaboration also means connecting to audiences of other disciplines – an audience for electronic music won’t necessarily come to see a dance performance, so we go to the club.
The show itself is described as “movement and sound collide in space” – can audiences expect a multi-media aspect to the production?
They do collide in space, but not just in the piece, they do it all the time. Part of the idea was to make it sound a bit more exciting, but we also wanted to give more context and detail on how sound actually works and how movement produces sound. I guess it could be called multi-media – the performance works with dance, sound and light. It also gives a physical experience of sound travelling through the room, even through the audience. However, if you’re expecting to see pyrotechnics or some other kind of visually explosive content, you’ll need to make this happen in your own head while watching.
Can you tell us a bit about the inspiration for the piece?
I’ve worked with the notion of the empty space of the stage not being empty through several dance pieces. It started in 2008, with the piece Inventory/Räumung, and is ongoing research; knowing there’s more to what we see is endlessly fascinating to me. And it relates to the world outside of dance. The Amplitude developed from the same place – developing sensitivity and empathy towards our environment. I felt the next logical thing to explore was sound. Movement produces acoustic waves – we just can’t always hear them: first there is movement, then sound. Not the other way around. This felt like it was worth taking further with a sound artist, so we started very simple; from the idea of the acoustic wave.
How do you go about choreographing a piece?
Every piece is different, but in general, I research into a certain topic and then build on those ideas. I bring them to my collaborator and he or she brings his. And then we try them out and decide which ones are worth keeping. Scenes develop, an order of scenes develops into a sort of dramaturgy. I will ask peers to give feedback as early on in the process as I can handle it. I video myself dancing and watch it back a lot – especially when I’m working solo.
I like to have breaks between rehearsal phases to digest what happened. Do several showings to small audiences to get feedback. I usually work with a set structure for a piece, an order of what happens when, clear cues for light and sound and a somewhat set text. Leaving room for each performance being a little different. I don’t like setting the movement. I work better with movement qualities and scores, because I have been improvising in performance for many years now. And again, I feel this keeps the pieces alive, both for me and for the audience.
photo: Steffen Ruttingernter
You’ve worked a lot with Dance4 over the last nine years and were involved with the pre-development consultation of the iC4C. Can you tell us a bit about that?
Early on, Paul Russ asked me to be involved because of my interest in architecture and urban studies and because of my long relationship with Dance4. For him, it was important to involve dance artists in all stages of the process, because the building is for artists and for building relationships with Sneinton and St. Ann’s. I was asked to converse with local residents to try and understand what people needed and wanted in relation to what Dance4 could offer. Feedback from these conversations went into the planning and building.
That sounds amazing, to work so closely with the neighbouring communities...
I also did Hidden Spaces – the sound installation with local social history at Backlit. And when I did my MA thesis in Historical Urban Studies, I was shocked by the local residents’ incredibly low interest for some public consultations Dance4 and I had set up, and wanted to find out why. I researched community participation in urban planning in Nottingham from the sixties onwards, and from that I understood why no one bothers to go to consultation meetings anymore. Dance4 and the artists they are working with can now be sensitive and understanding when attempting to collaborate with local residents in the coming years.
How important do you think organisations like Dance4 are to the contemporary dance world?
They’re absolutely essential, if not existential. My work would have developed in a very different way if it wasn’t for their support. As producers of the Nottdance festival, Dance4 tours artists across the UK and is very involved in educational work. With the fabulous new studios at iC4C, Dance4 has clearly upped its game. It’s an international dance centre now. It’s a bit staggering, but an exciting transformation to be part of.
The Amplitude, Lakeside Arts Centre, Tuesday 4 October, 7.30pm