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

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Juggling isn’t just for the circus. World renowned juggler Sean Gandini and his company are making sure that the art is taken for the seriously athletic and skilful practice that it is. Having brought numerous shows to the big stage, including the critically acclaimed Smashed, Gandini’s latest project is 4×4, a combination of juggling and ballet that explores time and space. In collaboration with Royal Ballet dancer Ludovic Ondiviela and composer Nimrod Borstein, the work, which comes to the Sage Gateshead on Wednesday 3rd June, is a challenging and ambitious piece that highlights the similarities between the two art forms.

Ahead of the performance, I asked Sean Gandini what we can expect from 4×4, what it was like to work with Ondiviela and his secret passion for ballet.

Tell us a bit about 4×4; what can we expect from the show?

The show is a mixture of ballet and juggling. It is a playful look at how these two disciplines intertwine. It is a very visual piece.

What attracted you to the idea of mixing your usual juggling practices with ballet within the new performance?

I have always had a secret crush on ballet. We come from the contemporary world where in some quarters ballet is a forbidden fruit. Whilst playing Smashed at the Royal Opera House’s Linbury Studio Theatre, I bumped into someone from the ballet world and mentioned that it would be great to combine juggling and ballet. They got the ball rolling!

What was it like to work with the Royal Ballet Company and world renowned choreographer Ludovic Ondiviela?

We hired independent freelance ballet dancers and the Royal was kind enough to give us  rehearsal space and were supportive of the project. Ludovic was wonderful to work with. Initially he was just supposed to translate my ideas but he ended up doing much more than this. The piece has his imprint on it.

Juggling and ballet are both art forms that require a lot of skill and practice but what other parallels do you think there are between the two mediums?

Both disciplines are very choreographic and are essentially pathways in time and space. Ballet has a bigger and richer history and a sense of classicism. This sense of classicism is actually one of the things that interested us when we started thinking about the piece. But I think our biggest revelation is quite how similar both disciplines can be.

“I have always had a secret crush on ballet. We come from the contemporary world where in some quarters ballet is a forbidden fruit”

Have there been any particular challenges in putting the production together?

Not really, it was a stimulating and easy process. It was also a learning process, since the performers need different kinds of warm ups and different rest times. But, actually, it was one of the easiest most enjoyable rehearsal periods we have had.

A lot of your performances and productions, including this one, have strong ties to mathematical ideas. What attracts you personally to maths and why do you use it as an inspiration in your works?

I have always loved mathematics. Philosophically, I am intrigued by its ability to describe our world so accurately. From a practical point of view, it is a very useful tool to make things and understand things. Actually, the mathematical ideas underpinning 4 x 4 are not so complex. I think the complexity arrives from the refinement of the forms.

After the tour of 4×4, what have Gandini Juggling got planned for the future?

Apart from wanting to dive deeper into this new found ballet-juggling world, we would like to do something that has text and perhaps songs. We have always used text in a juggling kind of way, disregarding its meaning and using it as a substance, so it would be interesting to play with it in a more conventional way.

Gandini Juggling 4×4 comes to the Sage Gateshead on Wednesday 3rd June.

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