Interview: Deborah Baddoo 'The themes of migration and identity touch a real primal nerve. They evoke responses that are common to all people.'

Thursday 27 April 2017

As State of Emergency celebrates 30 years of producing performance, Deborah Badoo and Steve Marshall bring Where is Home? to London. Exploring the concept of identity and migration Where is Home? is a new twist on a 1000 year old fable presenting music and dance from South Africa, mixed with urban culture from London and Los Angeles.

Tell us a little bit about how you came to produce Where is Home? and what the shows about:

The story is set in South Africa and crosses a range of styles of both dance and music. We have a long connection with South Africa and have attended their dance umbrella since 2008. This production crosses continents, it is set in Johannesburg, London and Hollywood. It’s a universal tale, investigating themes of global human migration and displacement. In this quest for adventure, freedom and love, the characters seek their fortunes, experience war and oppression, fall in love, discover the price of fame, and travel to distant lands only to find that what they seek was right under their noses all along.

The piece is an international collaboration with dancers from USA, South Africa and the UK. What’s been like to bring those dancers together? How has it influenced the piece?

We auditioned dancers in the UK and SA and over 350 dancers applied to be part of the project. The narrative lent itself to a South African interpretation stylistically. The story is based on a 1000 year old fable that has had many manifestations regarding the structure and concept of the work. State of Emergency’s Musical Director met the South African Grammy winning flutist, Wouter Kellerman, in LA and it seemed like an ideal opportunity to develop a collaboration with the music, which in turn re-connected us with South Africa.

Music has always been a big part of State of Emergency’s work. Talk us through how you approach the music for each show and how it’s made alongside the choreography:

State of Emergency Co-founder, Steve Marshall, is a Grammy nominated music producer and so the relationship between dance and music goes back to its origins of when the company was set up in 1986. In many ways Where Is Home? is a return to the original State of Emergency format of music and dance collaboration. Steve follows the concept of working hand-in-hand with the choreographers to set a mood and environment in which the choreography and music can evolve together. There are three sections to this production’s music; South African, Urban London, Jazz and Blues and Soul. It is a dance musical with a distinctively trans-continental stance.

The show deals with some big, topical questions such as ‘where do you come from? where are you heading? where is home?’ how do you think dance helps audiences explore these bigger questions?

I see a lot of value in our works’ emotional content.Where Is Home? is a ‘dance musical’. It’s dance, strengthened by music and song, created to connect with people’s emotions. An absence of dialogue enables us to cross boundaries of language and communicate more directly on a subconscious/emotional level. The themes of migration and identity touch a real primal nerve. They evoke responses that are common to all people.

You celebrate 30 years of producing wok as a state of Emergency this year, how has Dance Theatre changed in that time?

Aside from the obvious shrinking in funding for dance theatre, and indeed all arts, I see a growing disconnect between dance and music, which is a European construct. This disconnect has become part of an institution in European aesthetics.

State of Emergency stands for a unity of art forms and has done since its beginnings. From the general audience reaction and feedback to our show so far, it appears that they are looking for something different. What we are seeing is that more and more programming is being dictated by a bureaucratic structure. What we need are more artists being involved with influencing the programming and funding agenda.

In funding circles there is a constant conversation about diversity and how we should all be striving towards this. However, in reality, funding and support has been reduced for organisations that have been making a real contribution to the progress of cultural arts in the UK. There is a huge demand for culturally diverse work that is not being met.

What has been a stand out moment for you in those 30 years?

For me, taking our work to an international audience at Grahamstown Festival in South Africa and to Toronto, Canada in particular. For our musical Director, working with Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards.

Where is Home? is at Rich Mix on Saturday 06 May.

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