Stephanie Lake writes about choreographing the dance element for Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Elektra.
I approached the creation of the choreography for Elektra as a subconscious response to the highly expressionistic and emotional music. Rather than a literal representation of the Elektra narrative I wanted to work in both an intuitive and abstracted way – finding imagery and nuance and creating an atmosphere through the physical action that could sit alongside the incredible score.
Elektra’s obsession and lust for revenge all feed into the movement material; the raw, brutal and violent aspects of the story find their way into the dance vocabulary without ever being literal. Working with eight of the superbly gifted Sydney Dance Company dancers I began by building the movement language that would form the bedrock for the choreography. Using texture, specificity of detail and dissonance we explored the shifting tension between a certain recklessness or violence and delicacy/playfulness. The dancers don’t play characters or represent the unfolding narrative as such but instead embody the emotional content of the score.
I have worked with a few things specifically – a sense of gravity or force into the ground – with dancers stomping in unison, hitting the floor with force, being blown in a storm, push and pull – as well as highly detailed choreography, speed, manipulation of time and interplay between bodies. There are duets, trios and quintets that see the dancers being not only manipulated by each other – at times with tenderness, at others with threat or force – but also by external forces, things unseen and seemingly out of their control.
The score is complex and demanding and fittingly, so too is the choreographic material for the dancers. The creation of this work has been enormously challenging and so – like all challenges – the satisfaction of this beautiful result has been exciting. The collaboration with the Sydney Symphony has been one of trust and open-mindedness and I believe the result is most interesting for the crashing together of the old and new.