BWW Interview: NATALIE WEIR on 4Seasons
Natalie Weir is an acclaimed choreographer, known internationally for her highly physical partner work, her organic movement style and her touching insight into human nature. She has created over 170 professional works in her 30+ year career and was a founding member of Expressions Dance Company (EDC).
On her journey with EDC, Natalie continues to create work that balances artistic risk with accessibility and that speaks of humanity Natalie has worked extensively throughout Australia, creating many works for most of the country's major classical and contemporary dance companies, as well as having choreographed works for The American Ballet Theatre (which included a season at The Metropolitan Opera House ('The Met')), Houston Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet theatre. Her Australian and internationally-created works have toured extensively, with her works with EDC including the 2010 piece Where The Heart Is which won Best Performance by a Company at the 2011 Australian Dance Awards and Best Choreography and Best Ballet or Dance Work at the 2011 Helpmann Award. I was a fortunate enough to be able to give fit a call into her busy schedule to discuss EDC's upcoming piece 4Seasons as well as a bit of an insight into her journey with dance and why she chose to follow this path. The interview is as follows:
What inspirations did you draw upon to create 4Seasons?
Natalie: For me, the initial inspiration to create a work called 4Seasons was in the music, which was the beautiful Vivaldi and then in researching Vivaldi I came across Nex Richter who has also composed a variation on Vivaldi except it's more contemporary, which was really exciting. In thinking about what the entire evening would be, because it was going to be in three works, it felt like the 4Seasons theme was a very good idea that choreographers could all interpret in their own way
in 4Seasons you work alongside Hong Kong's City Contemporary Dance Company. How was this collaboration born and how did the cross-cultural collaboration process start?
Some years ago, I made a connection with Willy Tsao, the artistic director of the three companies that we are working with in China and we got talking about trying to formalize our interest in working together more and so we applied for funding to do these types of projects with these three companies over five years. I've been really looking forward to working with CCDC and Hong Kong for a long time; they've all got a great international reputation and so I'm really excited to be working with them this year. With 4Seasons, discussions started about two years ago with CCDC about the evening and in October last year my company and I went over there and I created the 4Seasons part of the program with twelve of their dancers and six CCDC dancers who were melded together in this piece. Next year we are going to collaborate with another company in Beijing and we do dancer and choreographer exchanges, we do workshops in each other's countries It's a really beautiful partnership and it feels like we're all connected and although Kristina lives in Australia she was born in Hong Kong and that feels like a really nice connection to the text well.
Could you tell us a bit about the story of 4Seasons and the narratives it explores?
I've created the story which combines the two companies together and then Dominic Wong, the assistant artistic director of CCDC, has been here for the past month choreographing the EDC dancers and at the same time Kristina has been in Hong Kong choreographing the CCDC dancers. My piece, rather than being the seasons of the climate, it's more to do with the exploration of the seasons of life. I've looked at it through the relationship between a couple, with each couple being a different season. There are four duets and they're all performed by different dancers. They're all very different and they're all stunning; each featuring an Australian and non-Australian dancer. You see the youth, optimism and the feeling of eternal love as Spring, in Summer you see how the relationship has had difficulties like the summer storms or a rocky time, Autumn brings beautiful colour, serenity and a sense of peace and then Winter is almost a retrospective time looking back on the life that someone has led. It's quite poetic, emotional and really beautiful and it feels like all of the dancers are almost tied together in the choreography; the idea of humanity being tied together.
Is there a specific reason why you chose to explore the seasons of change through the lens of a couple and not a friendship or siblings etc?
I felt like it would be interesting if it was just a man and a woman and it could be different men and women at different times in their lives, it doesn't necessarily have to be the same couple. People can interpret it in different ways and largely that was due to my love of partner work and my love of the aesthetic of the male and the female forms intertwining; it's one of the signatures in my work.
What was it like working with Kristina Chan again?
Kristina has been in Hong Kong creating the work for the CCDC dancers so I haven't worked so much with her yet but I'll be in Hong Kong next week so I'll meet up with her then. She's worked with us before for Mozart Airborne and is a choreographer who is emerging strongly with a significant choreographic voice.
A lot of artists are utilising their art forms as a means to promote change in the political sphere. Do you think this particular work adheres to that?
Not so much this one as its more poetic and beautiful. It's pure dance and made for people to really enjoy but Kristina's work has taken on the concept of climate change and I think Dominic was also quite interested in comparing climate change as well as relationships. So, I guess there is a social comment within those works but I don't think it's forced.
What inspired you, as an artist, to enter the realm of dance? Why did you enter it?
My mother introduced me to ballet and took me along to my first ballet class. I don't think I was particularly interested at that time and I stopped for a while and then I regained interest and she took me back. By the time I was in my teens in high school I was going to ballet seven days a week, studying all the forms and it became a passion. I left school and went straight to QUT to study an associate diploma in performing arts as I couldn't see in that point anything else I wanted to do other than dance. But, while I was there choreography was a part of the course and I discovered through that that I had a kind of raw talent for choreography, which was nurtured and looked after. I was offered my very first choreographic commission at the age of eighteen which was with EDC and I lost interest in working in dance as a performance side of it, with my carrier taking off all around Australia and then internationally. Then this job came up, I applied and here I am. It's nice as as a dancer I would be way finished in my carrier because of my age but I'm still going because of this road that I took and it just seemed to be meant to be. Secondly, it's my passion for dance. It's not just a job, it's part of who I am and often people who do ballet as young kids, even if they give it away, still remains a passion for their whole life, which I think is quite interesting how it grabs a hold of you and won't let you go.
Show Title: 4Seasons
Choreographers: Natalie Weir, Expressions Dance Company (Australia), Dominic Wong, City Contemporary Dance Company (Hong Kong) and Kristina Chan (Australia)
Season: 14th - 22nd June 2018