DanceEast issues party invitation to see Didy Veldman tie The Knot
PUBLISHED: 17:20 02 February 2018
DanceEast unveils a premiere and a party for new contemporary dance piece The Knot. Arts editor Andrew Clarke spoke to choreographer Didy Veldman about the enduring magic of marriage
Fancy letting your hair down and attending a fun wedding party? Then, leading choreographer Didy Veldman is issuing an invitation.
DanceEast, on the Ipswich Waterfront, is staging the world premiere of The Knot, Didy’s exploration and celebration of the rituals surrounding marriage.
This latest contemporary dance show follows last year’s collaboration with DanceEast with The Happiness Project. Both works premiered in Ipswich before embarking on a wide-ranging UK tour.
Veldman, a former Rambert dancer, left the company in 2000 to pursue a choreographic career, working as a freelance before establishing her own company Umanoove.
In the UK, Veldman has been commissioned by Rambert, Northern Ballet and Scottish Dance Theatre and in 2019 she will create a new work for Birmingham Royal Ballet with composer Gabriel Prokofiev.
For the present Didy is concentrating on tieing up all the loose ends on The Knot.
The Knot examines what a wedding means and how it feels. It looks at the role of ritual, doubt, religion and gender and scrutinises the romanticised ideas of Walt Disney which challenges our perceptions of matrimony.
Can you tell me your thoughts about the show and what inspired its creation?
DV: “It all started with the music. I created a work called Les Noces (The Wedding) for the Geneva Ballet in 2015 based on Stravinsky’s music of the same name. The commission was to do a work based on a piece by Stravinsky and I could choose the piece of music I wanted to work with.
“I had always loved Les Noces, so I thought: ‘Why not? Let’s give it a try. It’s a bit of a challenge but let’s run with it.’ As I was working on it, I felt it was a shame that I only had 25 minutes because I had started my research and found it so interesting how marriage has changed over such a short period of time. There was a lot more that I wanted to say.
“I felt that in 25 minutes, which was how long the piece by Stravinsky was, I could only scratch the surface and that’s when I started thinking about doing a whole evening based around the idea of marriage.
“I wanted to explore the whole notion of a wedding, what it means, what it entails... I wanted to examine the social and personal significance of marriage in contemporary Western society. But, I also wanted to make it fun. It’s not a dry topic for discussion, it’s a fun evening.
“The audience is invited to a wedding party in The Knot. Performers take on the roles of the bride, groom, best man and bridesmaids as the work unfolds and explores familiar scenes of tying the knot - the authenticity of the vows, the formidable wedding speeches and the photography. The audience are part of the congregation, the wedding party, guests at the reception. It’s all about involvement.”
It sounds like an ambitious project?
DV: “Oh, it is. You only really become aware of it as you start work on it. The more you explore the topic, the more there is to say. I started to look at the pressures of making a marriage work, how do you make it last, the notion of divorce comes into it... The Happiness Project seemed very straight forward by comparison and I am working with many more dancers this time around.
I see that in order to make this into an entire evening you have commissioned British composer Ben Foskett to come up with new music to be played alongside Stravinsky’s masterpiece Les Noces. Will Ben’s work be a completely separate piece or will it echo Les Noces?
DV: “I will admit that it is rather daunting to have your music played alongside a classic work by Stravinsky, and we did have many discussions looking at how best to go about that. What we came up with was that Ben would write a piece that gave me space to create whereas the Stravinsky score pushes you into being very physical, so the two have proved to be contrasting and still complementary.
How have you cast this? Do you work with the same dancers on every piece or do you cast each show afresh?
DV: “To be honest, it’s a bit of both. I do audition and shape the company to suit each work but there are two dancers back in the company from The Happiness Project. I love working with my dancers in the studio. I go away and work out in broad terms what I want to do, what the shape of the piece is like and then work with the dancers during the rehearsal period to work out the exact steps, so it is a very collaborative process.
Is it just looking at Western marriage or are you looking at marriage around the world in different cultures?
DV: “I am not exploring different cultures specifically but I do think there is a general line that joins us all together. We can all relate the central tenets of marriage, of being together or being tied together.
The Knot, by Didy Veldman’s Umanoove, is at the Jerwood DanceHouse, Ipswich, on February 9.