Interview: Candoco's Joel Brown, Laura Patay & Stine Nilsen Q&A

Monday 4 July 2016 by Alice Westoby

Candoco Dance Company's Joel Brown & Laura Patay in Arlene Phillips 'You And I Know'. Photo: Pedro Machado

Lets hope this year’s rainy and windy summer doesn’t put a stop to outdoor festivals that the capital is so full of at this time of year!

It seems as though the weather would put some off, but that certainly wasn’t the case on Friday evening at Canary Wharf for Greenwich+Docklands International Festival. The crowds gathered around the dance space to watch Candoco Dance Company’s You And I Know and, as if choreographer Arlene Phillips had choreographic authority over the weather, the sun broke through the clouds just as the love duet began to unfold, with the city skyline in the background and, eventually, bright blue skies.

Alice Westoby spoke to performers of the piece Joel Brown & Laura Patay and Candoco Dance’s Artistic Co-Director Stine Nilsen, to find out more about the duet.

Arlene Phillips was the choreographer of these piece – was the final product a combined effort between all three of you?
Laura Patay: Arlene had quite a clear idea of what she wanted when she came to the studio. First we talked about it, and she was sure she wanted a love story and a life story. We planned it song by song, and after we tried to add some movements from our own improvisations and some are clearly from Arlene.

So it’s a love duet in four parts. Are they four different stages of the relationship you’re portraying and if so what are they?
LP: The first one for me is seduction and flirting with Joel. I am in the role of a fan girl and I want to be different and try to catch his eye.
Joel Brown: The journey starts with this couple meeting and then going through the insecurities and flirtations of meeting somebody.
Stine Nilsen: In short, I guess you could say the first part, which Joel sings, has Laura as a groupie. Then comes flirtatiousness and seduction, second is the relationship turning into this normal mundane relationship, then comes a big drama and fight and the last song is the calm after the storm.

How did you work in the studio, was it section by section?
JB: Yeah, we worked pretty chronologically actually.
SN: When we first approached Arlene we gave her a brief that it needed to be outdoors, we wanted the music to be uplifting and accessible and then we ended up on a folky festival feel. She had a very clear setting in her head; she imagined a festival on the west coast of America near a beach, which is why there are water sound effects. She definitely wanted to set a scene, and then the relationship came next.

How does performing outdoors differ compared to performing indoors?
JB: I don’t really perform differently, I just perform!

It’s fairly exciting to think the audience are that close, they are so close compared to what you experience in the theatre.
LP: Yeah definitely, you can see their expressions. If you compare it with other dance pieces we perform they are more abstract and don’t have as clear stories, and because it’s outside you have to remember that a little kid needs to understand that you’re angry or your happy.
SN: When we are in different places you don’t know who is going to come, but what I am so happy about is Arlene has managed to create something that seems to reach both the 4 year olds, commuters and others. It’s a love story but something that everybody in a way can relate to. It doesn’t have to be a lover’s story; love is something we all experience so there is a way into the piece for everyone.

Would you say this piece has reached audiences that Candoco Dance doesn’t normally reach?
SN: I would think so as we range our artistic commissioning from much more abstract contemporary dance from icons such as Trisha Brown and through to Arlene who is a household name. We try and put the dial forwards and backwards between those things to try and reach different people, as so many people won’t know us even though we have been around for 25 years. To try and reach those people in new places are why the outdoor performances are so important.

Candoco Dance Company’s You and I Know took place at Jubilee Plaza on 1 & 2 July 2016.
Part of Greenwich+Docklands International Festival 2016.

Alice Westoby studied Dance at the University of Chichester and now works in arts marketing in London, as well as writing about dance for A Younger Theatre and London Calling. She has taken part in The Place’s Resolution Review 2016. Find her on Twitter @alicemayw_

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