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DANCE TO DANCE TO - INTERVIEW WITH LUDVIG DAAE
Rita Natálio

"What if ballet would look different? What if we had a different idea of what high culture is when it comes to movements? What is we change the social dance that was historically named ballet?"

 

 

RITA NATÁLIO: How would you present “Dance to dance to” in 2 or 3 lines?

LUDVIG DAAE: In previous works, as “Hyperfruit”, where I collaborated with filmmaker Joanna Nordahl, we worked a lot with verbal communication, video, songs, and some dance. Dance was a tool, among others, to communicate specific things, as I always departed from specific images or a theoretical research. This time, in “Dance to dance to”, I decided to come back to dance and composition as a central aspect of the work. I am off stage for the first time and I have initiated the process of creation with a physical research in mind.

RITA NATÁLIO: In “Dance to dance to” you try to operate a ballet translation to pop culture. How is this possible?

LUDVIG DAAE: Well, a lot of my work comes from popular culture. Some people see some of these procedures as a way of bringing an ugly aesthetics to stage, there is, as a way to meet pop culture with high culture (which is how contemporary dance is considered). But, in 2017, I think we should be over with that, everything should be leveled and considered an art form, without considering this diference between low and high culture. For me, Beyonce or Justin Bieber can be sources of inspiration and I don’t see their appearance in my pieces as strange elements, not more than any reference to fine arts.

In “Dance to dance to”, I try to focus in this subject by looking to specific dance movements. For instance, in my case, where ballet is part of my background and a personification of the fine arts. We all know its origin is linked to nobility. In a way, ballet was very “posh” to its time, stories about princes and princesses were told to a powerful white audience. That’s why it doesn’t talk to everybody and a lot of people feel excluded from the ballet world. In this context, I tried to research on how ballet movements themselves could bring (or not) this sense of exclusion and elitism. I perceived how random these specific movements are to power contexts. Specific movements have become ballet and are associated to high culture without any specific way of showing this through dance. So, this was a thought for me: what if ballet would look different? What if we had a different idea of what high culture is when it comes to movements? What is we change the social dance that was historically named ballet?

RITA NATÁLIO: So in a way you are “recoding” movements. But how to you see the contexts of power that surround certain dances, like ballet and hiphop, and that produce a specific understanding of each dance tradition? How is power working in your work?

LUDVIG DAAE: In the process of research, I have looked to specific Swedish and Norwegian dances, but as I don’t know these dances in depth, I couldn’t really detach them from a very general image of folk dance. Also, I felt stuck to a boring definition of gender and color. Then, I arrived to disco dance, which is a social dance that plays with androginy and gender. Off course, that by working with this technique I had to face power issues linked to the cultural appropriation of this specific context. Disco dance is not detachable from the context of dance clubs, drugs or parties.
First, I had to be careful how to present a re-reading of dance history where, supposedly, disco dance had become ballet. Second, I wanted to create a piece which is not didactic or linear, I mean, to tell a linear story about how noble people in the Renaissance were dancing disco and then dance became other things, etc. That is why the idea of a “remake” came to light: the idea to introduce a fictional character (a Mexican choreographer called Esmeralda Vasquez) from where I could operate this change in history. With this fictional character we could establish a coherent dialogue with Esmeralda’s supposed original and traditional movements from the 18th century, without having to tell all dance history form A to Z. And, after all, it is really nice to share the spotlight with someone who is not male or white or European (because Esmeralda is Mexican), so in a way I am happy to introduce a feminist point of view of dance history.

Finally, but still regarding the question of power, I also try to reflect on power at a micro-level, specially in the relations between everyone in the team. I really don’t want to occupy a place in the top of the pyramid. I prefer to be a facilitator rather than a dictator and I want everybody to participate at a same level. 

RITA NATÁLIO: Yes, and maybe this is linked to my feeling of a certain automation in “Dance to dance to” as if dances were build upon a collective imaginary and not produced by a singular gesture of one author. As if dances develop by themselves. Do you recognize this in your work?

LUDVIG DAAE: Yes, because I am very sick of the idea of the author as a genious. I work much better with a group in a more horizontal way, when people don’t have to fit what I want as an author. But this “automated” quality is also something I wanted to try out since the beginning of the process. If ballet is re-written in “Dance to dance to”, I prefer to step out instead of trying to make a good piece in a more traditional way. I decided to avoid compositional manouvers or to work with contrast and dramaturgical curves, which is a heritage from classical dance and theater. I tried to put myself in the shoes of a disco dancer, and to imagine a piece according to that. To work with the on-going situation of dancing in a club, with its social status. So, I decided that in “Dance to dance to” the music should just start and the piece should be non-stop.

RITA NATÁLIO: This automated quality can also be read in the context of your work with the internet, which is also the case in “Hyperfruit”. I feel there is an intrusion of the internet in your vision as a choreographer, as if internet and image-based culture could alter dance history and dance ethics. What do you think about this? How do you place yourself as a choreographer in the Age of Internet and hyper pop culture?


LUDVIG DAAE: I am obsessed with the internet and everything about it. But I don’t see internet as something that is a fashion or a subject of work. It’s just life. It’s reality, as air or love is. In this sense, I am not interested in “representing” internet. I am interested in how it affects our communication, which is not separate from how we perceive stage art today. Live art, dramaturgical curves, the building of characters, the building of a plot or dilemas are glued to a way of producing performing arts that are not relevant or real to me anymore. It’s not how we live our lives anymore. So I think we need to change how we deal with dramaturgy and communication on stage. We don’t have to mirror society but we need to recognize that society changes. We don’t have to make “an internet piece” but also we don’t have to stick to traditional dramaturgy.

In this sense, “Dance to dance to”, as well as “Hyperfruit” or “Fun, Laughs, Good Time”, tries to escape the idea that I have to conduce a piece according to what I like, according to my own taste. I work with structures that allow me to escape the forms I was educated to like and to produce in my ballet education or at PARTS. I mean, I try to force myself to escape the idea of producing a “good piece”. If I want the audience to have an experience I prefer to propose something I am not in control of.