Choreographer Sharon Watson has joined with a former RLPO conductor-in- residence to create a new dance work.
Choreographer Sharon Watson has joined with a former RLPO conductor-in- residence to create a new dance work. It was a challenge, she tells Laura Davis
YOU’D think understanding the science behind DNA would be complicated, but for choreographer Sharon Watson that was nothing compared to getting her head round a piece of music based on the double helix.
The work, by former Liverpool Philharmonic composer-in-residence Kenneth Hesketh, was written for her latest dance piece Repetition of Change.
They worked in tandem – he composing, she researching, both exchanging emails – until the commission was ready to tour.
“When I played it to the dancers without even giving them any idea of the concept or even the research I’d done, some of them were stunned,” says the Phoenix Dance Theatre artistic director.
“There were a couple of them that just went ‘yeah’ and nodded their heads and one just went ‘don’t get it’.”
Unused to choreographing work to contemporary classical music, Watson was also taken aback by what she heard.
“My last piece of work was to (indie rock band) Wild Beasts, which is so easy on the ear,” she explains.
“You can find a rhythm, you can find a narrative through it. Those are the things I’m naturally drawn to, something that has a flow that you can go on quite a natural journey with. Ken’s music isn’t quite like that.
“It’s so layered and it’s got serious depth to it. I was really quite frightened but I spent time listening to it and trying to decipher what he’d written and to see whether it gave me any energies, which it did.”
The work is one of four dance pieces Leeds-based Phoenix is touring to venues including the Liverpool Playhouse. The programme also features Douglas Thorpe’s Tender Crazy Love, about a couple pushed to the extremes of desire; Jose Agudo’s Ki, inspired by Genghis Kahn’s extraordinary life; and All Alight, a seven-strong piece set to the emotive score of Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello by major British choreographer Richard Alston.
Repetition of Change was commissioned by Manchester-based contemporary music ensemble Psappha, who are playing the piece live for the Manchester and Leeds legs of the UK tour. At the Liverpool Playhouse, the dancers will perform to a recording of the score.
Psappha’s original brief was for a work about forms and shapes with Egyptian references, but when Watson began thinking about the concept it reminded her of DNA.
“It’s such a massive subject and I’m not a scientist,” she says.
“This kind of thing blows me out the water so I had to think about what it was that was inspiring me to make this work.
“The structure of DNA is absolutely what captured me. The double helix was unbelievably fascinating.
“The language on that page was like reading dance text. The DNA would buckle, it would stretch, it would rise, it would rotate, it would propel.
“If I’d shown that to the dancers without the pictures they could have gone, ‘okay we know this language’.”
Watson worked with each of the nine dancers individually so that within the whole work they each have a solo – just like DNA, which we all have in common yet each person’s is different making each of us equally different, Repetition of Change features soloists who come together to form a whole.
“It was a fantastic opportunity and it came from one little idea,” says Watson.
“It’s like DNA – you have one molecule, one cell and out of that we’ve now got this whole production.”
Phoenix Dance Theatre presents Particle Velocity at the Liverpool Playhouse on March 12-13.