The creative process can sometimes be a struggle…

Germaine Cheng gets an exclusive insight into the development of two brand new works being premiered next week…

The creative process can sometimes be a struggle, as evidenced in the afternoon I spent at Markova House watching rehearsals for two upcoming performances as part of Big Dance 2012 – Dance Holland Park Choreographic Showcase and Dance in Focus Performance Premiere.

Dance Holland Park will be performed in the scenic grounds of Opera Holland Park, giving emerging choreographers from West London Dance Companies, an opportunity to present new work inspired by famous operas. James Streeter, Junior Soloist with English National Ballet, has created a duet for two men, Richard Bermange and Daniel Hay-Gordon. They rehearse the penultimate death scene in which Bermange kills Hay-Gordon – a burst of masculine energy with a constant, almost sinister plucking of strings serving as an undercurrent in the music. Streeter is keen to jump in, putting aside his can of Coke to help the duo find choreographic solutions out of seemingly awkward, grotesque shapes. They move at breakneck speed, leaping off each other before Hay-Gordon swivels dramatically around Bermange’s feet to lie on his back, dead – much like an updated version of Tybalt killing Mercutio.

“You’re not actually dead yet!”, Streeter calls out to Hay-Gordon lying on the studio floor and joins him on the ground, determinedly trying to find a position in which he looks like he’s on the brink of death. They finally settle on Hay-Gordon lying on his side, but there is a hint of dissatisfaction on the choreographer’s face – he’ll come back to that I’m sure!

Only when I speak to Streeter after, I find out the two characters in his piece are Onegin and Lensky, two men whose friendship turned sour – not unlike Tybalt and Mercutio. The piece portrays Lensky as the protagonist, rather than the titular Onegin of the opera it is inspired by as Streeter focuses on the opera’s first two acts.

While Streeter’s dancers play clear, well-drawn characters, the dancers in Hubert Essakow’s creation are anonymous. His piece to be presented in conjunction with Dance in Focus, an exhibition of dance photographs by Chris Nash and participants of English National Ballet’s recently organised dance photography course. Four dancers are put through their paces in a mentally gruelling three hour rehearsal, as they are required to display an exceptional anatomical awareness in creating their own movement phrases. Essakow seeks the clarity with which they move, resulting in physically logical and sequential movements which segue effortlessly into the next.

Photograph by Daniel Paul Jones

This proves to be a challenge as one dancer soon finds himself paralyzed in a certain position – his movement sequence a disjointed series of sculptural shapes. Essakow steps in, cautioning against over-thinking and patiently works with the dancers, curating their choreographic output. Fleeting off-balance moments are juxtaposed with gracefully undulating arms and a clear individual movement language begins to emerge from each dancer. Taking inspiration from photographs, Essakow is interested in the movement and flow beyond the still – an interest that extends to the importance of the creative process rather than the finished product on stage.

Germaine Cheng

Please click the links here to book tickets forĀ Dance Holland Park – Choreographic Showcase or Dance in Focus Performance Premiere at City Hall