Kyle Page is a dancer and the artistic director of company Dancenorth
Emma: We heard that your child is with you on tour. How is it to be on tour with your family?
Kyle Page: It’s amazing! He is an incredibly resilient and robust little human. He is brought up among these dancers, so he is constantly surrounded by a large family while we’re on tour. He is very comfortable with these people and with the touring life. He loves planes, he loves airports and he is only 20 months old. We still get to do our work and he is growing up in a tribe. There is a lot of love. He loves dancing. My wife was performing when she was pregnant, so he’s been dancing since before he was born.
Emma: How did the collaboration with the musicians come into being?
KP: The collaboration started in 2015. We crossed each other on different occasions and we decided to work together. Gideon (Obarzanek, who choreographed the piece together with Lucy Guerin) spent some time in Indonesia where he experienced some very traditional rituals in remote places. I think he was so affected by the experience of seeing, feeling and listening to the music and with what music can do to drive the sense of connection or collective experience. He wanted to bring that on to the stage and in to his world as a maker. It’s an intense electric and very visceral sound. His experiences in Indonesia were an inspiration for Attractor, which can be seen as a ritual for non-believers. The audience has a rather ecstatic experience. They get to witness a sense of community in which a large group of people is sharing space and physicality, elevating a sense of connection between one another and to oneself. To be within your own body. It’s a special experience for the audience. The world is so sedentary. We become less and less aware of how we can move and how we can connect with other people physically.
Seya: Do you know if this ecstatic experience has something to do with a certain type of movement? Is there a purely physical action influencing the ecstatic feeling?
KP: Some of the movements reflect some of the traditional trance states, but for this work – which lasts one hour – we are not actually inducing a trance state. We do not have the time, the duration or the conditions to create a real trance. However, there is a lot of repetition in the movements and we do refer to the physicality that would be used to reach a trance state.
Emma: What is the performance about for you?
KP: I think the idea of the collective experience and the ritual for non-believers is the essence for me. As a viewer you have a rich sense of empathy, because you see twenty people coming from the audience (20 volunteers take part in the performance) and you can very easily imagine that it would be you. It makes you feel very connected.
Emma: How does this performance fit in the oeuvre of Dancenorth?
KP: One of our pillars is the idea of collaboration. I think there is something very true in the idea that the whole is often greater than its parts. We believe that a collaboration is truly open and generous in its nature, and like to disrupt the barriers that exists in the creative process. This work beautifully fits into our oeuvre because it’s anchored in a sense of generosity from a range of different collaborators. All of the collaborators feel a sense of ownership and authority in the work. The dancers are invested in the conceptual narrative and in the entire journey of the work. We are open to learn from each other and to open our perspectives.
Seya: Do you tend to work with the same dancers?
Kyle: We have a fulltime ensemble of six dancers. This show had eight performers in it, so two are independents. Most of our works have six or seven dancers. The other collaborators (for example our light or sound designers) sometimes shift. There is a pool of people we know we connect with. Because we tend to bring people together and allow them full autonomy, this connection is important to us. They can basically do whatever they want. They’re a big part of the whole. We don’t have a fixed view of the process, it always feels very unknown and spacious, open to explore.
Emma: What was the average duration of this creative process; from the first idea to the premiere?
Kyle: This project was built over eighteen months. I think the total time we spent working on it was eight or ten weeks. The shortest we have done is six weeks and the longest we have done is thirteen weeks. If we have between ten and twelve weeks, it feels like a healthy amount of time to have a development and then leave it for a couple of months. I think having this space in between is a very useful thing. After this resting time, you can approach it in a different way.
Seya: Are you hoping for a certain reaction or experience of the audience?
KP: In the work that Amber and I make we like to ask something of the audience. I think you can do that by leaving a little space, rather than having a fixed narrative. We don’t want it to be a passive experience. We like the idea that we can challenge, provoke or excite a particular response in the audience. This doesn’t mean that we want everyone to feel the same thing. One of the reasons we love contemporary dance is because it’s a subjective art form. You can be sitting next to someone and have a completely different interpretation of what you are seeing, even though it feels completely real or true to you. That’s a beautiful thing. For each member of the audience it’s a unique experience based on their own history and experiences.
Emma: How does it feel as a dancer to witness the process from a distance? How is it to be off the stage?
KP: I’ve been a dancer since I was nine. My first job as a dancer was at Dancenorth when I was seventeen. In 2014, I decided to leave fulltime dancing and do more independent projects. It feels very familiar to direct the dancers because I’m a dancer myself. Being on the outside of a work and creating it is different. The level of responsibility is different. You sit back and have to see the global relationships between everyone on the stage. I hope Amber and I can maintain a sense of connection to the individual experience of a dancer. Especially from my position as an artistic director, I believe having a strong connection with what the dancer is feeling is crucial.
Interview: Seya Hulsbosch and Emma Meerschaert