Pre-Professional Year’supcoming graduation season, PPY19 Revealed, features newly commissioned works by guest choreographers Idan Cohen, Leah Marojević and Vicki Van Hout.
Ahead of the season, we sat down with Idan to discuss the collaborative process behind his mythology inspired work, his choreographic style and his words of wisdom for the Pre-Professional Year dancers.
Q. Can you briefly describe your process with the Pre-Professional Year dancers?
I worked with Pre-Professional Year through the month of May, researching the opening act of C. W. Gluck’s opera Orfeo ed Euridice. We looked at the mythological story of Orfeo, as the mimesis of an artist. A performer who could enchant all with his music.
Orfeo’s noble attempt to save his beloved wife Eurydice was done through his art: using his divine music and singing, he descended into the underworld, demanding life and love. In collaboration with the dancers we’ve deconstructed key themes and motives of the story of Orfeo looking at the very core of the act of ‘performance’, and their experience as young artists/performers. I asked the dancers to reflect on Orfeo’s experience focusing on their own understanding of the subjects and topics that came up through my interpretation of the story. The movement vocabulary required musicality and attentiveness, a combination of technical skills and creativity. My goal was to unite the dancers under one vision, in a way that would enable them to present their versatility, technical and artistic abilities.
Q. How would you describe your choreographic style?
I search for an artistic balance between a movement vocabulary that is technically challenging yet doesn’t jeopardise the theatrical aspects of the act of performance. Each piece I create is inspired by a different theme, story or cultural background, and so is different than its predecessor. Here, the story and beautiful music of Orfeo served as the inspiration. We were looking at the combination of dance and opera through a fresh, thoughtful and energetic point of view. I am fascinated by the meeting point of movement and story-telling, combining humour and wit with a physically demanding movement that is emotionally driven and thought provoking.
Q. What do you love most about dance?
I believe in the importance of a diverse cultural heritage and its positive impacts on our lives. Within our everyday movement and body language there are endless stories constantly being told.
The quest to share and learn from one’s surroundings forms the core of a truly good work. All of us, artists and audience members, just need gather, watch and listen with open hearts and minds.
During the last few years I have been deepening my interest in directing opera through contemporary dance, researching and strengthening my knowledge of these two art forms in order to create what I see as a natural hybridisation of two worlds.
Directing opera through contemporary dance opens a whole new world of collaborative opportunities. With Sydney Dance Company’s Pre-Professional Year I’ve had the privilege of working with a fantastic team of gifted artists. Linda Gamblin and Omer Backley-Astrachan were instrumental in the creative process, and I was honoured to work with the composer Me-Lee Hay and costume designer Fiona Holley on realising and developing my concept.
Q. If there is one thing you wish to imbue in the Pre-Professional Year dancers, what would it be?
The mutual adventure I shared with the Pre-Professional Year dancers required integrity, honesty and generosity. I feel privileged to have worked with this group of beautiful performers, and more importantly, wonderful people. As a whole and as individuals they were open to explore, challenge and share their knowledge and creative skills. Orfeo dared to challenge his fate, to go beyond limits and conventions. All of us as artists challenge our own limits and choose to walk a path that is challenging, sometimes even dangerous. Yet, in a world filled with so many lies, artists are so often seen as nothing more than clowns, perhaps even fools… In today’s world, might Orfeo’s strengths and talents be looked at as a mere joke? A gimmick? I feel empowered, and hope that this group of young performers as well as our audiences will leave the theatre feeling the same.