Tell us about Layer Three. What’s the concept behind the performance?
Simply to connect talented people, who I know from different places, with each other. I felt inspired by what each of them could bring to the mix and hoped that it would become a platform for collaborating and learning more about myself as a choreographer, performer and human.
Where did the idea originate from?
It started with a mutual interest that Marley Butler, founder of Naplew Productions, and I share as artists. The interest in human layers goes hand-in-hand with my personal exploration of myself and therefore also became the focus of my creative interest. The number three derives from the connection built between Sarah Butler, Kieran Shannon and I, forming the base trio, while the other dancers, Danielle Thorpe, Eleonore Batteux, Alex Bailey, Freja Coles, imply that there are really endless layers to count.
How do you capture a process as complex as the human experience through dance?
We can't capture it but we can explore and play with different states of mind, feelings, memories, shapes and forms. We generate movement material through structured improvisation and tasks focused on this topic.
Did Layer Three explore specific layers of human experience or was the meaning shaped by the audience’s response to the performance?
Both are true. The solos within the piece were specifically developed from Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, which discusses our motivation to satisfy basic levels of human needs to meet higher-level growth needs. It is often displayed as hierarchical levels in a pyramid and speaks about the progress and stagnation we can experience on that journey. At the same time, the audience is always a main factor when it comes to searching for meaning. Each of them will have felt, interpreted, thought of something else. I guess the kind of conversation that comes alive between performers and [the] audience is the beauty of it!
Layer Three grapples with humanity. For you, what does it mean to be human?
I agree with the German author Hermann Hesse on that question and I couldn't express myself better than he does: “Mensch werden ist eine Kunst” - to become a human being is art.
The production took place in The Space at the Nottingham Contemporary. How important was the performance space for a production that addresses human experience?
I think that The Space is a very atmospheric location that suited and highlighted the Layer Three production immensely. The simplicity of the performance space, movement material, costumes and the use of lighting created strong visuals of the bodies moving in that space. I can see [Layer Three] working in very different environments; more intimate spaces or outdoors.
The dancers in Layer Three wore casual clothing. What was the costume choice intended to express?
In my head, I had the image of an open rock formation that shows layers of colourful sediments.
Can you talk us through the choreography process for Layer Three? How did the idea evolve into the final performance?
I like to think of it as a jigsaw. For a while, you are looking at one specific jigsaw piece, which would be a specific task. We used butter and toast quite a bit for our trio work; two dancers act like the solid layers of the toast that hold and carry the melting butter – the third dancer involved. We would come back to this structured improvisation in different combinations, alongside building other pieces.
Do you follow a similar creative process for every routine you choreograph or is choreography more of an organic development?
It is an organic development. You set up a range of rules and tasks according to the nature of the piece. You can let the music inspire and guide you. You can change and discard rules and movement material. There is a similar creative process but always with new structures, rules and tasks.
Who are your choreographic influences?
I think it's really the variety of teachers and choreographers I have experienced closely in my life, like Benoit Egloff, Jamie Thomson, Retina and Jasmin Vardimon Dance Company. They are the ones that shape your practice and movement style most. Then there are aspirations. I would love to be more closely influenced by Ohad Naharin's movement language, “Gaga”. The language of Gaga originated from the belief in the healing, dynamic, ever-changing power of movement, and its improvisational nature of the exploration enables each participant to deeply connect with the language.
What are your thoughts on Nottingham’s dance scene?
I think it's great that we have many talented dance artists and companies that are actively creating and touring work across the UK. I don’t think I’m only speaking for myself when I say that it would be lovely to have a platform for local dance artists to meet on a regular basis to share workshops and classes with each other. I'm sure it would strengthen our dance community immensely and would allow individuals to develop and open up ideas for collaborations more often.
You have also tried your hand at acting in the feature film Coffee in Winter. How did that role come about?
Manjeet Gill from Black Country Cinema found a profile of me online and contacted me about auditions for Coffee in Winter. Since I wasn't looking for any acting work, I explained politely that I was a contemporary dancer with no acting background but, since they love working with non-actors, I went for the audition and became part of the project.
Do you plan to consider further acting projects, or are you focusing solely on dance at the moment?
I haven't actively looked for or done any acting since [Coffee in Winter], but the film-makers from Black Country Cinema recently invited me to audition for a role in their new film. I'm happy to say that we have already started work and the actual shooting is going to take place towards the end of this year. I'm very excited and agreeably surprised about another acting opportunity.
Layer Three was performed in The Space, Nottingham Contemporary on Saturday 29 July 2017.
Naplew Productions website