Feature: Is Less More?

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Dance Umbrella 2010 *Alongside its performance programme, Dance Umbrella hosts
artist talks. To accompany the 2010 festival theme of “the search for the
essential”, this year’s discussion is called Spectacular Simplicity, with
panelists Jonathan Burrows, Nacera Belaza, Ros Warby and Charles Linehan.*

*Warby, Linehan and Belaza gave Sanjoy
Roy a quick insight into their thinking – and it turns out that simplicity
is not so simple after all. Here is a taster of their different takes on the

Ros Warby in 'Monumental'Photo: Jeff Busby Ros Warby
The piece I’m performing is called *Monumental*. In some ways it’s not simple at all. It plays on subtle layers of human experience, and it has a complex layering of choreography across dance, film and music. But the framing and performance are simple: stripped back to expose the essential aspects of the dance.

To attempt to work “essentially” or “simply” is a rigorous and complex endeavour. I am interested in performance when the moment is clear in intent and form. The information you get from that – from the body and the intelligence of the performer – is infinite and indefinable. As a choreographer, it’s a simple and intelligent approach to framing and directing that reality keeps me curious about the dance and the work.

I consider my work theatrical. The work is framed within a theatre setting. Emotion and thematic content are very present, but I don’t create work from emotional experience, or let it evolve thematically. Rather, I notice emotional layers and content arising, and I let them be there, in balance with all other the aspects – the space, the dance, the sound, the film. So emotions and themes are present, but they don’t dictate or dominate.

I think audiences get the most out of the work by not gravitating toward a fixed outcome. Also by paying attention to the musicality of the work rather than the movement, and perhaps by seeing the work in increments rather than as a beginning, middle and end.

Is less more? Yes. You can be very active, theatrical and passionate – and still do less. If the performer and/or choreographer is attempting this, usually both performer and audience notice and experience more.

See Ros Warby in Monumental, Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House
Fri 22 & Sat 23 October, 7.45pm
Enter our competition to win a pair of tickets

Nacera Belaza in 'Le Cri' [right]Photo: Laurent Philippe *Nacera
Belaza* **My work looks simple – but that has its own complexity.
Simplicity it not my goal – rather, I begin with the desire to say something
essential. And that seems to demand simplicity. I like to start with a simple
structure, and maintain it. So I feel that I am digging into the work, not
adding to it.

I’m very interested in the connection with the audience. In
ritual dances, you often sense a very strong bond between audience and
performer. I try to keep that connection as my main constraint. To enable that,
I realised very quickly that I had to have simple, repeated movements,
otherwise the audience tends to start looking for something to understand. That’s
why all my pieces begin with some kind of empty space, or silence, and the
dance grows as an extension of that. Once the audience realises that they don’t
have to understand, they are open and available to share the same space.

People say they are coming to see “dance”, but
underneath what they really want is to live a strong experience. Ritual dance
doesn’t push you to think, or to understand something. It’s a shared
experience. I aim for that on stage. The feeling of being together is more
important than any understanding. I love it when an artist realises that what
we really need is to create a bond.

Is less more? Reality is made up of two parts, visible and
invisible. For me, the invisible is often more important.

*See Cie. Nacera
Belaza in Le Cri, The Place,*
Tue 19 & Wed 20 October, 8pm

Charles Linehan's 'The Clearing' Photo: Pari Naderi Charles Linehan
My work is not necessarily simple, but it does feature simplicity. I take out extraneous elements that I find unnecessary, like flamboyant costumes, props and so on. I think everything has an essence, and can therefore be simple.

Simplicity is an intuition, complexity is a process. I think we use intuitions to understand, and when we arrive at a point where that understanding is shared, it creates a sense of objectivity.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not theatrical. My work is “theatre” in the sense that it is a performance in time, and has the lifespan of a single performance. But I prefer that the audience experience emotion rather than have performers emoting on stage. Put two people on stage there is already a relationship. I’m interested both in the choreographic interaction of people in a performance space, and in the ambiguities of their relationship. To show that, sometimes you use complex structures to reveal simple, isolated moments. I think these moments can expose what it is to be human. And within the human, there is always emotion.

I don’t give advice to audiences about how best to approach the work. I let it be up to them.

Is less more? Well, given the opportunity I would bulldoze the WH Smiths at the front of King’s Cross Station to reveal the simplicity of its dual arches. So in this case, yes.

See Charles Linehan’s Inventions For Radio 1964 & The Clearing,
Greenwich Dance at The Borough Hall
Wed 27 – Fri 29 October, 7.45pm

Roz Warby, *Nacera
Belaza and Charles Linehan are all taking part in the Dance Umbrella talk* Spectacular Simplicity at The Place on 20 October, at 4pm – along with Rosemary Butcher, Ramsay Burt, Eckhard Thiemann and others.

Tickets £7 (£5 concessions)
More details/booking: www.danceumbrella.co.uk


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