Feature: Mark Baldwin

Friday 9 April 2010

Mark BaldwinPhoto: Hugo Glendinning **

*Mark Baldwin is Artistic Director of Rambert Dance Company. In their 80th anniversary
year the company are looking forward to moving to a new home on the South Bank.
Constant Speed – Baldwin’s first work for Rambert won many accolades and is still in the repertoire
for their May season at Sadler’s Wells. He answers a few of our questions…*

When did your interest in dance first start?

Every since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a dancer. My mother used to take
me to the ballet as a very small child. I remember watching Giselle with her when I was about 4yrs old. She was Fijian and I loved watching Fijian
tribal dances.

Did you train in dance – and where?

My neighbour, when I was a child, was a ballet teacher, who taught classes on
a Saturday morning. Although I attended very few, I still remember them vividly.
When I was 18, I won a scholarship to the University of Auckland, to study Fine Art at Elam School of Fine Art. I used the grant money to train
at the New Zealand School of Dance, where I studied ballet every morning. I was lucky. In Auckland, at that time,
there were several good teachers who taught in various studios around the city,
so I went to different classes every night. You could say I had a very unconventional
training, as in those days there wasn’t a contemporary dance school in New Zealand.
And this was the only way I could give myself a thorough training. The teachers
I trained with were generous to a tee.

Can you remember the first dance company you saw?

The first dance company I saw was the New Zealand Ballet when I was four.

Who or what are your main influences?

At the Art School I attended, there were books about Merce Cunningham and his collaborators John Cage and Robert Rauschenberg. Something about their approach to the work fascinated me. How they dealt with
ideas. How they realised their art. Also, my first boyfriend, an artist himself,
and two of my dance teachers had something of the Madame Rambert in them – insisting
I dance and choreograph! My Batchelor of Fine Arts has had a significant impact
on my thinking.

What’s your favourite book?

The biography of Samuel Beckett by Anthony Cronin

And film?

Satyricon by Frederico Fellini; Orphe by Jean Cocteau; The Enigma of Casper Hauser by Werner Herzog; The Sound of Music by Robert Wise; Black Orpheus by Marcel Camus

And CD?

I have two huge drawers full of CDs. But if I had to choose I’d say Wagner, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

What is your usual starting point for a new work?

It’s always different. It is usually an idea or music, hopefully both.

*You’ve been Artistic Director of Rambert for nearly four years now. How do you
feel about combining that role with making your own work. Is it a difficult balancing
act?*

Yes. It is a tricky balance looking after the careers of dancers, choosing dancers
who are appropriate for this company and balancing a programme for them. Dealing
with Rambert’s business issues such as special relationships with theatres and
regional touring aligned with expectations from our key stakeholders and the board.
As this is our 80th year there is also the capital campaign and the social and monetary issues to
deal with. I like to think that we are pursuing our future with energy and thought.
This does not leave a lot of time to plan new work that I would like to do. However,
it is never far from my daily thoughts and sometimes I really miss it.

I did have a recent opportunity to make a full-length work which took me away
from Rambert for January and February. It was hard to be away from the Company.
The work though – The Wedding – was a big success for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and my collaborators, Witti Ihimaera, Tracy Grant and Gareth Farr.

*Your award winning Constant Speed celebrates Einstein’s theory of relativity. Will you be looking for other sources
of scientific inspiration in the future?*

It would be lovely to think that we could be trusted to make a significant work
about another branch of science. It was amazing how much interest *Constant Speed* generated from other scientific bodies, interested in similar projects.

*Rambert is working towards moving to a new home on London’s South Bank. What
will that move mean for the company?*

This project is so important to us. Rambert has outgrown its current home in
Chiswick which is, quite frankly falling apart around our ears. Unstable floors
make it unsafe for the dancers to jump, and none of our rehearsal spaces are large
enough to replicate the stages upon which we perform – with or without our live
orchestra. All this makes the transition from rehearsal to performance unnecessarily
unpredictable. As new work is a real force with Rambert Dance Company, these restrictions
limit our growth and future output.

The new facilities will enable us to expand our creativity and develop new talent – both dancers and choreographers. Our unique archive will be accessible to the
public for the first time, sharing some of Britain’s essential dance history.
Our community capabilities will be greatly expanded, offering unprecedented access
to dance both educationally and experientially. And our location on the South
Bank places us alongside some of London’s illustrious creative spaces, including
the National Theatre, the South Bank Centre and of course Tate Modern.

Rambert has its 80th anniversary next month. How will you be celebrating?

The target this year is to raise money for the building. The anniversary is a
wonderful opportunity to recognise our 80-year history, but we also need to stay
forward-looking, hence the capital campaign. This project gives us the chance
to secure a home for Rambert’s next 80 years. We are currently planning a big
party for our November Sadler’s Wells season – gathering old friends who have been associated with Rambert over the
last 80 years to share memories, and the excitement of our new home.

If your life’s work hadn’t become dance, what might it have been?

I would like to have been a painter, singer or a violinist.

What’s happening next for you and for Rambert?

Our May Sadler’s Wells programme includes a new work from choreographer and director Aletta Collins – bloom. It has great energy and will be hugely engaging not to mention entertaining.
Plus, we are very privileged to present *Pond Way* by the great choreographer Merce Cunningham. And the Einstein-inspired *Constant Speed* returns to London a year after its premiere. This is a beautifully balanced
programme, taking you from organised chaos through the cool beauty of Merce Cunningham
to the invigorating spills of *Constant Speed*.

Plans for the autumn include a new work from Darshan Singh Bhuller who comes fresh from his Directorship at Phoenix Dance Theatre. Commissioned by our Partner Company The Lowry in Salford, this is a very exciting commission for Rambert Dance Company. We’re
planning to revive another of Rambert’s seminal archived works, plus introducing
some more new works from our own budding choreographers.

We’re always talking to people about future commissions, with a number of international
choreographers on the horizon. And then hopefully something else for me to choreograph
in the next year or so…

www.rambert.org.uk

For more on Rambert’s London May 06 season: sadlerswells.com

Article posted May 2006

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