BWWInterviews: Martin Del Amo gives BWW An Insight Into The Intriguing SONGS NOT TO DANCE TO

BroadwayWorld takes the opportunity to get an insight into SONGS NOT TO DANCE TO ahead of its season at Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres Parramatta. Choreographer and dancer Martin del Amo shares some of the background to his new show in which he and dance partner Phil Blackman explore the music that "should not be danced to".

The inspiration for the work came from the "perversely tempting" idea of the challenge of creating a dance performance set to songs which Del Amo and Blackman believe shouldn't be danced to. 2012 Helpmann Awards Nominee Del Amo wanted to "playfully" create a work that allows the performers to share their attempt to dance to these works, "against all odds" with "as much dignity, resilience and humour as possible". They seek to embrace the challenge of being "outside of one's comfort zone" through the use of choreography and therefore "claim it" and "triumph over adversity".

Del Amo views the challenge as a "metaphor for attempting to do the undoable" and seeks to explore the "pleasures and discoveries" that may be arise from confronting the conundrum. The dancers use "basic compositional strategy" or simple actions then expand on them, drawing on "rules" of dance to create "infinitely complicated results". Challenging and working through these rules also lead to the question of whether the performers are creating, following, or both, all to the soundtrack of the music which adds another layer of meaning.

Whilst Del Amo and Blackman, based in Lismore, have worked together as part of the Campbelltown Arts Centre and Northern Rivers Performing Arts (NORPA)Regional Dance Exchange in 2012, SONGS NOT TO DANCE TO has allowed the two to build a committed, mutually beneficial, artistic partnership that allows both to share different "choreographic vision" and "be stimulated and challenged by it". Del Amo seeks duet partners that are "artistically adventurous", open to experimentation and exploration, even if the ideas may appear "rather silly" to start and he feels that Blackman meets this criteria well.

Given that the music is supposedly 'undanceable', the question of whether the performances are completely choreographed or improvised experimentations with the work seemed pertinent. Del Amo shared that the show is a blend of both choreographed and improvised work where there are cues in the music that indicate changes, where each dancer will be spatially at any point in time and what movement "sections" go with certain parts of the music but the detail of the movement is not completely prescribed. The dancers still have the scope to "explore and experiment" within the framework of the choreography they have developed. They can discover new aspects with each performance. The dancers have also chosen to limit themselves by refraining from drawing on emotions that are tied to the music to influence the choreography, instead wishing to focus on the dance and the music, without the feelings that the songs may evoke.

Del Amo's dance style is greatly influenced by his early training in Body Weather; a system related the Japanese avant garde dance form of Butoh developed by Min Tanaka. The system focuses on "sensitising the body, stimulating sensory awareness and challenging familiar movement habits and patterns". It works on the principle that "the body doesn't dance in the space but is danced by the space itself". Del Amo draws on this basis to develop his own distinct style and "choreographic language" which includes "physical fragmentation, slowing down of time and interplay of movement and stillness". This grounding is also blended with the influence of the late 90's European 'conceptual dance' movement that artists such as Raimund Hoghe, Jerome Bel and Xavier Le Roy bought to prominence in their challenging of the ideas of what dance can be and the notion that choreography is "primarily about setting steps to music". They questioned "what else can dance be?" by looking beyond the "virtuosity, musicality and excellent dance technique". Del Amo therefore views his style as "Contemporary Dance" as he believes that, unlike the bad reputation it sometimes holds for being "perceived as impenetrable, obscure, exclusive and arty", it covers "a vast array of diverse styles and genres" from the "commercially oriented" to the "utterly experimental".

Whilst this piece is about dancing to music that is supposedly undanceable, Del Amo also enjoys creating "dance - music collaborations". He has worked with composers and sound artists, including Gail Priest, Cat Hope, Mark Bradshaw, Alex Pozniak, James Brown, Madeleine Flynn, Tim Humphrey and Eugen Ughetti and favours collaborations where the composer or sound artist works with him, as the choreographer to develop a complete work.

Del Amo's aim of the performance is for audience expectations to be challenged and provide a "fun and accessible yet thought provoking dance experience". He seeks to trigger memories of the joy of dancing in the privacy of your own home with no one watching, or "burning up the dance floor in the wee hours of the morning" with recognisable songs that trigger individual emotions for each audience member.


Lennox Theatre, Riverside Theatres, Parramatta

Thursday 5 - Saturday 7 March 2015

8pm daily, 12:30pm on Friday 6 March

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