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Fra Monty Python til winter guests

Suzie har medvirket i fem forestillinger med winter guests. Hvordan er det egentlig for en dansekunstner å jobbe så tekstbasert?

Winter Guests America Visions Of Love Photo Erik Berg
Alan Lucien Øyen, America Visions of Love - Foto: Erik Berg
Alan’s recent works are often text driven. How is it for you to work with text, and how do you approach it?
In 2008 Alan asked me to work with him on the duet In Time And It Will Snow, a dance piece in which we voiced the entries from the diary of a cancer patient in the final days of their life. The theme was concrete and drove the performance towards a definite conclusion. This was the first time I had worked with a representational text in a dance piece, rather than an abstract concept. I enjoyed the challenge and jumped at the chance of being a part of America-Visions of Love. I soon realised that my role as a dancer in this production would be minimal and I was going to be delivering text - a lot of text - alongside the brilliance of Kate Pendry and Andrew Wale. I panicked and fell apart in the first week. However, the wonderful thing about working with talented people is how much you can learn from observing them. Remembering the text was the least of my problems, and I certainly did not know how to approach it! It was a performance that chewed me up and spat me out but I enjoyed the challenge and wanted to learn more.
America 2 is my fifth production with Winter Guests, and I still fear losing my lines. Different materials demand different respect in your approach to them, and my approach now is to try to learn the text and be off the book as soon as I can. Ideally this then gives me more time to work on my character or characters without constantly having to refer to the script. I have had the same experience working with technically difficult choreography in dance pieces. I needed to know the steps before I could begin to work on my performance. Lack of time can be a factor though, and sometimes it is not until I have performed for an audience that I can really start to feel what works and what doesn ´ t.
As a professional dancer, how is it to work with text rather than dance in this production?
I still work with a dancer’s method in the sense that I need to understand and learn the choreography of a scene or situation for the text to become clear in my mind. This is a great help for remembering text, but learning the story of my character and trying to find an emotional connection to her, or him, is essential for me. As a dancer it has always been vital for me to know what my role is, however abstract the context may be, to be able to communicate to the audience through a physical body.
Working with text I experience mental exhaustion more than physical, but I have fewer bruises, hardly any injuries, and less pain in my body, which is just wonderful!
Winter Guests America Visions Of Love  Photo Erik Berg
Alan Lucien Øyen/winter guests America Visions of Love - Foto: Erik Beg
How did you start working with Alan?
When I was a member of Carte Blanche I taught a Modern/Jazz class in the evenings for talented young dancers, and Alan, being one of them, would occasionally drop by. Later, after he had joined the company, we discovered a common interest in technology. We both arrived at work one day with the original model of the ipod. It may not sound very exciting now but we were embarking on a new era of laptops, ipods, and mobile phones and we both felt very proud to be the owners of such an item. (I sound very old). I had been working with the Artistic Director of Carte Blanche at that time, Karen Foss, and we had been experimenting with the use of text in dance performances. Alan also became involved with Karens work and we developed a strong friendship. We were curious about juxtaposing text with movement. As dancers we were used to working with sensation or abstraction and with a complexity that doesn’t always occur with text alone. Alan then asked me to partner him in the duet ‘in Time and It Will Snow’, mentioned above, with which we entered a choreographic competition in Kuopio, Finland, and won. We had fun, and were keen to continue working together.
How is a regular work day for you? (when working with Alan)
‘Regular’ is not the word I would choose to describe our working day. It is constantly changing, quite unpredictable, and certainly keeps me on my toes! The start of a process is the most regular part of the work. The first few days will consist of table readings and discussions around the storyline and our characters. Once the script is ready we spend our evenings learning lines. After that we will start blocking each scene, which requires a lot of time and experimentation. We can spend a whole day blocking one scene and decide to change it completely the next day. One of the first full run-throughs we did of Coelacanth was seven hours long. If we had insisted on normal working hours we wouldn’t have been able to achieve what we did. Everyone is very generous with his or her time, and as a team we all enjoy spending time together. The last push leading up to a premiere can be exhausting, but nobody has their eye on the clock.

- ‘Regular’ is not the word I would choose to describe our working day.

Suzie Davies

Coelacanth Photo Erik Berg
Alan Lucien Øyen/winter guests - Coelacanth: Yvonne Øyen, Suzie Davies, Daniel Proietto, Huy Le Vo - Foto: Erik Berg
What relationship do you personally have to America?
I was a teenager during the Thatcher years in Britain and remember being absolutely terrified by the threat of nuclear war. I believed Ronald Reagan had his finger poised over the red button preparing to obliterate us all. During the Cold War years of Thatcher and Reagan my father, a physicist, worked occasionally for an American Airbase in Yorkshire. He used to come home with American candy, like M and M s, which was very exciting and a real treat. America felt intimidating and dangerous to me as a teenager, but paradoxically it was the land of Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Disney, Hollywood and amazing sweets. It was not until I was in my late thirties that I first visited America and I felt I ought to be suspicious, distrustful and unconvinced, but I loved the people and enjoyed every minute of the trip. America is such a huge and dominant presence in our lives. It’s like an annoying family member that you love deep down, but can’t really escape from, even if you want to.
How would you describe the word ”Psychopatriot”?
A person who exhibits an extreme form of patriotism.
What personal, professional experience do you contribute with in the work? (Alan´s or generally in an artistic work)
In the start of a process with Alan, we spend time as a group discussing the plot, relating personal stories, and perhaps writing a text or poem. Alan sometimes records our discussions, and we may be asked to transcribe a text. We might need to choreograph a scene, or perhaps someone needs to learn to play an instrument to accompany a song. It varies from production to production. We are all very much a part of the creation. In Coelacanth I learned American sign language from a video. Generally this is my preferred method of working in an artistic process. Even as a young dancer I felt I needed to be collaborating and creating with the choreographer rather than be dictated to, but not everyone is open to that way of working. I can have strong opinions and enjoy discussing and solving problems. I like to have an open dialogue with my colleagues so that I can continually receive input that stimulates the process.
I am lucky to have had a long and varied career so far, and of course I draw upon my personal and professional experiences in my work, but I still feel that on the first day of any process, I am a blank canvas and anything can happen.

America Ep. 2 - Psychopatriot, 17.–20. november 2016

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