News: Requiem for Aleppo
Josephine Leask speaks to composer David Cazalet and choreographer Jason Mabana about their collaboration Requiem for Aleppo.
David Cazalet’s score is a deeply personal response to the loss of Aleppo and its people. After watching endless news clips about its destruction and the plight of its refugees, he started to avoid the news and get-up early to write.
The result was the score for Requiem for Aleppo. Structured around Christian liturgical music, the piece is heavily interwoven with Arabic music, poetry and real life testimonials from Syrian people reflecting on war, escape, exile and their sense of nostalgia. Together with the recorded soundtrack – which features Arabic song by Abdul Salam Kheir, guitar by Cazalet himself and Christian mass sung by the Apollo Voices choir – there will be a live performance of Syrian folk sung by Lebanese singer Juliana Yazbeck. The collage of genres is intended to echo the rich, diverse heritage of Aleppo.
Cazalet, believing that dance could bring his music to life, approached choreographer Jason Mabana, who also wanted to respond to the situation in Aleppo.
“The urge to express physically what I felt was very strong” Mabana explains, “I hope to convey a sense of humility through the choreography and a strong sense that we are all in this together. That we are dancing for Aleppo.”
Made for twelve dancers, all from different countries, the choreographic language is meant to be simple, dynamic and passionate, embracing what the performers share in common. With four weeks to work with the group, whom Mabana refers to as his new family, he arrived in the studio each day with set material. Building on his own mixed dance background of flamenco, hip-hop and contemporary dance, he describes the movement as very physical, structured like the music but also loose and fluid. It incorporates the dancers’ strengths as versatile, articulate performers, intrinsically connected to their bodies, who are able to work collectively through complex partnering and lifts.
Although Mabana says it’s important that the work is abstract and avoids literal or over-emotive narrative, he’s used strong images – such as destroyed buildings – as both a trigger for material and as stage designs. He felt it was crucial that the dancers embodied the community that has been so violently shattered. This feeling is also reflected by Cazalet who talks about how Requiem for Aleppo is not intended to be a political work but more “an expression of solidarity for people who have no voice.”
Requiem for Aleppo premiers at Sadler’s Wells on Sunday 23 April 2017. The event will be live streamed to different cities throughout the Middle East and Europe. All proceeds from ticket sales will go to the charities Syria Relief and Techfugees