Interview: James Wilton | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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LORE is a new production from award-winning dance company James Wilton Dance taking place at Dance City on Thursday 7th December. It’s a folklore-inspired journey into a pagan world of gods, demons and humans and explores our connection to nature. Its soundtrack is composed by Michal Wojtas, who draws influence from Viking, Celtic and Slavic folk music.

There will be an informal post-show talk that will take place after the performance in the atrium of Dance City, where you can talk to the Dance City team, the Choreographer and members of the company.

Ahead of the event, we caught up with James Wilton to find out more…

How long have you been involved in dance? Which productions inspired you growing up?
I only started dance at 15, but did a lot of sports and martial arts before then, and that physicality has always been important to me. In terms of works that inspired me, Blush by Wim Van Dekeybus and Bird Brain by Australian Dance Theatre really inspired me when I first started out. The physicality of it really blew me away and I used to watch videos of it on loop.

What made you decide to set up James Wilton Dance in 2010? What have been the highlights since setting it up?
I’d always been interested in creating my own work rather than dancing for another company, and so starting JWD was really the natural thing to do in terms of getting my work out there. 

In terms of highlights, there are so many, but I think this summer performing The Four Seasons with an orchestra was pretty hard to beat. Also 10 years ago almost to the day we performed a work for 50 dancers at Wembley Stadium as part of the Rugby League World Cup with 70,000 people watching, which was pretty epic!

Where did the idea for LORE come from?
I love folklore and mythology and wanted to create something that drew out some of the common themes through cultures across the world, things like a connection to nature, reverence of trees, water goddesses and the wild god of the woods. I also wanted to make a work about how we relate to nature and to use lots of nature in the work. There is wood, acrons, woad, flower petals, rope and these massive sculptures called Valhalla Ladders which look like the skeletons of trees extending into the ceiling.

How did you go about researching the myths and folklore that the production is about?
A LOT of reading. I now have shelves full of books on mythology, and they’ve really shone a light on how much modern culture uses these myths. Best example is the Harry Potter books where virtually everything mythical is cut and pasted from folklore. Dobbies, Piscies, Basiliscs… it’s all taken directly from the lore.

How did Michal Wojtas become involved in the project? What did his music bring to LORE?
I’ve worked with Michal for years on other projects, but those works had always had more of an electronic focus. This time out, the focus was on using traditional instrumentation and it has been amazing. I think there are about 15 different instruments in the soundtrack, all traditional folk instruments from all over Europe, Kora’s, Hurdy Gurdy’s, Duduk’s, it’s amazing! Makes you feel like you’re sat around the campfire 1,000 years ago, yet somehow feels modern as well.

LORE is about connection to nature. How important in this current climate is this message?
I feel like we’ve lost our connection to nature somewhat and that really impacts how we view the world. Our increasingly urbanist, electronic-led lifestyle is dragging us further and further from this, and I think this creates a sense of apathy towards the environment.

What do you hope people take from the performance?
I’d hope people would come away with their own stories or interpretations of the work. The images are created in a way that people can project their own ideas onto them, for example, there is a masked god in the work, and some people may interpret this as Cernnunos, god of the woods, or Fenrir the dog god of Viking Lore, or even just a personification of fear and darkness. I’m really happy to speak to audiences after the show and learn what they thought each image was, as people’s pre-existing knowledge of stories and mythology really changes this view.

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