The Scottish Dance Theatre heads to London to present two premieres this March at The Place’s Robin Howard Dance Theatre. Running 7 – 8 March, the company perform two new works by international choreographers, Victor Quijada and Jo Strømgren. Currently directed by Fleur Darkin, the Scottish Dance Theatre showcase the strength of ten of their dancers in these productions. LA-born, Montreal-based Victor Quijada uses the Los Angeles street-dance culture of his youth in his new piece Second Coming, and Norwegian Jo Strømgren takes the dancers on a wild journey through the darkest, coldest season in Winter, Again, set to songs from Schubert’s Eine Winterreise. Aesthetica speaks to Maria Hayday, a member of the cast about the two productions and her work with the company.
A: As one of Scottish Dance Theatre’s newer members, can you talk us through your experience with the company to date, and why it’s such a special organisation to form part of?
MH: My experience so far has been pretty complicated as I was injured quite seriously in my first week with the company, during the creation with Victor Quijada. I am now recovering from the herniated disc in my back and really excited to be back in the studio. The injury quickly taught me many things about Scottish Dance Theatre. The support I received was exceptional and the continued emphasis on the long term value of me as a dancer with the company really helped me to stay calm and focus on my rehabilitation. Now that I’m back up on my feet I am struck by the great atmosphere in the studio amongst the dancers and can’t wait for the forthcoming tour.
A: The two pieces you’re premiering in London contrast significantly with one another. Will you undergo different processes to prepare yourself for performing in each, and what will these involve?
MH: For me, I am currently an understudy for Victor’s work (due to the injury) so my main focus and preparation is on getting into the humorous and slightly dark realm of Jo Stromgren’s world before each show. The movement qualities are often fluid and it will be important for me to connect the performances with Joan (one of the dancers) who I join in a sensitive duet. For the others, yes, due to the striking differences between the works it will really be a question of jumping between different universes at the interval!
A: Victor Quijada, choreographer of Second Coming, is an exciting talent whose previous work for SDT won a National Dance Award among other plaudits. What would you say are the defining qualities or energies of his work?
MH: Victor’s movement material is very fine tuned and specific due to his multi-layered background ranging from B-boying urban dance right up to classical ballet influences. It’s important to remain connected to the space around you at all times during the piece and his use of floor work is quite different compared to the familiar contemporary dance manner of “giving into the floor”. Second Coming is a complicated “piece within a piece” which requires the dancers to be very open and vulnerable but also confrontational and full of attitude in some moments.
A: As a director and playwright as well as a choreographer, Jo Strømgren undoubtedly brings a sense of the theatrical to his work, Winter, Again. What particular challenges and rewards does this piece bring?
MH: Jo was a delight to work with and I feel each of us really connected to his piece. For me, my character alters in different moments throughout the piece and the challenge lies in adjusting my theatricality well enough to stay true to the intentions of each aspect of this character. We have all enjoyed the open and detailed way in which Jo works – sharing his wealth of experience and allowing us to have freedom in the movement ideas and lots of artistic license for our individual character developments
A: The two works are to be performed at The Place’s Howard Dance Theatre. Are there any specific characteristics that you feel make this a perfect setting, and how does the venue lend itself to each piece?
MH: Having trained at the Place, I am very familiar with the theatre and think it will be a great setting for both pieces. Victor’s piece requires a certain amount of intimacy with the audience and I know that this venue will provide that perfectly. Although Jo’s piece, I think, would also work really well in a larger space, there is a lot of detail going into the costumes and The Place theatre will show them off really well.
A: Can you tell us a little more about the music that each of the pieces is set to, and how this assists in building the overall effect?
MH: Victor Quijada worked closely with his own sound designer Jasper Gahunia (AKA DJ Lil’ Jaz) so the music and movement are tightly linked. He created a fantastic score which really enhances and highlights the complex movement material. It, like the dance itself, has elements of urban beats alongside really rich atmospheric tones. In one section the dancers really play with their tight connection to the music to create a hilarious effect.
Winter, Again, is set to music by Schubert and Jo worked carefully to draw out beautiful and unexpected connections between the score and both the dance material and theatrical elements on stage.
A: Following these performances, do you know what’s next up for Scottish Dance Theatre?
MH: Onward and upwards. We’ll continue with our tour of these two great pieces and meanwhile we are meanwhile we are working on the company’s exciting two works for children.
1. Maria Falconer as photographer.