INTERVIEW: Fertile Ground | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: SOMNIUM, PH Filipe Alcada, dancers Ellie Marsh, Lila Naruse

Technology and fantasy go hand in hand in Fertile Ground’s new season of dance works, which premiere at Newcastle’s Dance City this month. The repertory dance company headed up by co-directors Renaud Wiser and Malgorzata Dzierzon present an innovative programme which is as forward-thinking in its approach as it is imaginative in its subject-matter.

Myths & Dreams combines dance, film and digital sculpture by four choreographers whose work touches on themes of isolation, confinement and individuality. Renaud and Malgorzata have explored multi-disciplinary approaches to their work for many years, as they explain. “Myths & Dreams is a continuation of that interest, situating dance in dialogue with film and architecture, which in this programme enables a deeper exploration of the themes and evokes images that would otherwise be difficult to express through movement alone.”

Having found herself living in away from home in Hong Kong during 2020, Malgorzata’s dance film Somnium captures and expresses our dreams, memories, anxieties and desires during this recent period of change. “Some of the ideas for Somnium came out of sleepless nights rather than dreams, as well as the richness of the nature I was surrounded by, the sense of anonymity behind the masks in this densely populated city and my anxieties around border closures.” She explains. “Some of these feelings, as well as the dancers’ dreams shared with me during the creative process, have made it into the film. Dancers navigate between live action and projected image as if moving in and out of their bodies and consciousness.”

Myths & Dreams combines dance, film and digital sculpture by four choreographers whose work touches on themes of isolation, confinement and individuality

In the piece, dancers seem to dream of nature, with the plants having a digital, holographic look to allude to the lives we have led through the screen. “There is a scene where masked dancers move through a fantastical landscape freely inspired by Dalí’s surrealist vision The Persistence of Memory and a duet in which performers try to connect across the boundaries of their imaginary bubbles.”

While her work may have been made during the pandemic, she seems Somnium as a means of escape, rather than confinement. “The films want to capture and give expression to our anxieties at this time but also create an elusive, fleeting space where we can meet and feel free despite lockdowns and restrictions.”

Renaud’s production, Labyrinth, is a cross-disciplinary work inspired by the myth of the Minotaur, portrayed by the symbol of hybridity where the dancers are immersed in a virtual environment created by sculptor Marie Lelouche. Using motion-capture technology and projections, the Minotaur’s maze is rendered visible by the dancers’ movements. While his work wasn’t borne directly from the pandemic, the themes of solitude and entrapment will no doubt resonate with audiences. “The technology we are using has been a very important part of the making of the work, from scanning elements of architecture for the construction of the virtual sculptures to the dancers accessing them via virtual reality headsets in order to create a vocabulary closely linked to their forms and volumes.” Renaud explains. “In the work, the technology is there to support the choreography and is discreetly used to bring materiality to the digital sculpture. Audiences will get a sense of Marie Lelouche’s beautiful work by joining us ahead of the performance for a virtual reality experience of the maze and during the show via a projection and sound installation closely connected to the choreography.”

Fertile Ground present Myths & Dreams at Dance City, Newcastle on Thursday 14th October, with a further performance in Sunderland to be announced

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