Interview: Alexander Wengler - Artistic Director, Nobulus

Monday 7 October 2013

Image: Andreas Brandl and Jurgen Knoth

Austrian urban dance company Nobulus is touring this autumn with Out Of the Shadow, a full-length performance telling an apocalyptic fable with a 10-strong acrobatic dance crew. First performed at Breakin’ Convention 2008, the piece now returns to the UK for the first time in five years. We speak to Artistic Director Alexander Wengler to find out more.

What motivates you as an artist?
Movement. I have been driven by movement throughout my life. In fact I cannot divorce movement from some of the most important decisions I have made or things I need to do. I guess that is how my mind and body are connected. Through movement I find answers.

What is the show about?
I like the idea that like a phoenix rising out of the ashes, humans will always try to rise again. They have a resilience that drives them to try, to imprve, to recover. Equally that choice is individual. To the person addicted to drugs, the choice to rehabilitate can ultimately only be theirs.In the production this is what I’m presenting, the idea that the internal struggle exists for us all individually but we have some collective responsibility for how we make positive changes to help the planet and create a peaceful existence for all. I really believe that it is our generation who will have to deal with the impact of our lifestyles in order to change the future for the better.

What is the most important element of the production to you?
The most important element to me was the narrative. Of course it is a balance between movement and narrative but the primary lead for me was the story. Movement for its own sake didn’t drive me. That is the hardest part of choreography, discarding movement that isn’t quite right for the purpose of the work. I realised that years ago. Without having made this choice about movement I wouldn’t have been able to make this production.

Tell us about the characters you created for this production?
When I started to create the Prince/Man I was trying to create a new picture of perfection. I was looking to create a prince. I asked myself, ‘what are the characteristics of a prince?’ He should be straight-backed but not arrogant, I wanted a humble prince. In some ways I think he is like Adam [Adam and Eve from the Bible]. He is fresh and new, with a child’s naivety. He will find his princess. I call them a Prince and Princess but you understand it doesn’t literally mean they are royalty rather that they are the prince and princess of their own stories.

The Compassionate Narrator was inspired by the idea of white light. I kept coming back to the idea that we are all the product of light; without the sun this universe would die. White light is made up of all colours, which made me think of the balance of a human, all the emotions and sides of human nature.

The dancers create some incredible objects and animals with their bodies. How did you work on these images?
When we started making Out of the Shadow we had no resources, no money. So we couldn’t build a set, we had to do that with our bodies. Originally I had a dream of building a set when we were able to do a bigger production. When I got to that point and we were making a full length version I realised that if I added a set it would take away so much from the show it would change it completely. I decided that the strength was with us using our bodies.In hip-hop we are always creating illusions. As a B-boy when I do a freeze I might be a baby, a chair or even Superman!

This production imagines the end of the world – what inspired that?
I am inspired by so many things. In terms of this moment, the two men standing face to face, eye to eye. They are fighters, warriors. This last section sees them at a point where they can’t see a way back. There is no choice other than to fire. They weren’t able to understand that you can take a step back to take two steps forward. This section was inspired by Japanese movies, Japanese animation, Marvel comics. I’m really inspired by film.

In Michael Mann’s film 300, the Spartans fight and in one scene, it moves between slow motion and real time. For me that was an amazing effect and something I tried to create for the stage. I believe that even at that point, that feels like the end point, there is something that can be done to change the course of action. This really is the role of the Compassionate Narrator to point this out. It’s an opportunity for us to reflect on how your individual action, multiplied by billions of humans is damaging the world. You can help change the course that the world is on.

Out Of The Shadow has its UK premiere at the Oxford Playhouse on 8 October 2013, then tours the UK until 18 November. For more information, see www.outoftheshadow.co.uk/tour-dates/

Image: Andreas Brandl and Jurgen Knoth

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