Interview: Fleur Darkin

Monday 4 March 2013 by Carmel Smith

Fleur Darkin in the studio. Photo: Alex Macro

Last year choreographer Fleur Darkin moved to Dundee to become Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre. The company touch down in London mid-tour this week for two nights at The Place, so we took the chance to catch up with Fleur…

You’ve been in post at Scottish Dance Theatre for five months now – how’s it going?
Like this: Dundee, Edinburgh, London, Kolkata, New Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Dundee, Helsinki, Dundee, Antwerp, Paris, Dundee, Stirling, London, Dundee, Glasgow, Dundee.

You are well known as a choreographer. Do you plan to make work on Scottish Dance Theatre?
Oh yes. And the company will work with choreographers from all over the world.

Was the move into managing a company something you felt compelled to do?
Dance needs the right conditions to flourish. The first part of my career I spent trying to create those conditions for my own practice, now I am interested in creating those conditions for other choreographers and dancers and for the delight of audiences. Scottish Dance Theatre has the right conditions where brilliant dance can flourish, which is a wonderful opportunity.

LA-born, Montreal-based Victor Quijada has worked with Scottish Dance Theatre before but is his street dance style something new for you?
As a student in New York I worked with Doug Elkins (whose piece Where was Yvonne Rainier when I had Night Fever? is surely one of the best titled dance works ever) and my first job was in a breakdance company. Since the 1980s hip hop has had a global following among young people, I don’t think it’s new to anyone. Apart from maybe some contemporary dance institutions.

Scottish Dance Theatre are the first UK-based company to commission Norwegian Jo Strømgren, although he’s toured his work to over 50 countries. Tell us more about him…
He’s smart, funny, and keeps a very happy studio. Zero creative crisis. He engaged the dancers with ideas and wit and was not overly concerned with the mechanics of the movement. He is dealing with stagecraft, playing with what the audience sees, and has a fondness for dead animals. His piece really stands up to repeated viewing, such is the level of detail. Wonderful music.

Do you think the dance ecology in the UK is quite insular? Is Scotland different from England in this respect?
I’ve been lucky to have been educated by that dance ecology, and the London institutions in particular Laban [now Trinity Laban] and The Place. The UK-wide dance ecology is pioneering and responds well to zeitgeist. I’ve seen a lot of the great dance works of our times at Sadler’s Wells, or on Dance Touring Partnership tours, artists like Wim Vandekeybus at Sheffield. We need to publicly articulate what a great job is being done here, and we could look to the UK theatre world to copy how their leaders take a public, political stance to protect their art-form. I am struck by Scotland’s commitment to internationalism. Scottish Dance Theatre is touring China, India, etc. and project-funded artists are travelling – Janis Claxton touring China, SmallPeteitKlein in the US, Claire Cunningham in Qatar. Brilliant.

What do you look for when you’re recruiting dancers for the company?
Dancers who want to push the form forwards through pushing themselves.

What have been the challenges for you in relocating from London to Dundee with your young family?
We have all found Dundee and the land, mountains and water surrounding to be just what we needed as a young family.

The challenges for women dance makers have been highlighted recently by Holly Noble and Jane Coulston’s formation of the Female Choreographers Collective. What advice would you give to younger women who want to work in dance?
I commend the forming of an alliance. Choreographers need each other and we are not in competition. Forming alliances with peers is crucial to sustaining one’s relationship to dance. It is not my political strategy to debate gender. I believe in dance more than I believe in tired social fictions about men and women. My strategy is to make dance. To younger women I say: commitment will get you to your desired destination. And I’d pass on Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”. I’d also tell them to google Sheryl Sandberg’s (CEO of facebook) and look at how this question is not dance-specific but sweeps across public life and is the question of our age. Not only do we need to consider gender but vitally, the role of parenting by either gender – and how that is constrained by the status quo. The status quo will be transformed by partnership working. So, why not open up your alliance to male choreographers too?


Scottish Dance Theatre are at The Place on Thursday 7 & Friday 8 March
www.theplace.org.uk

Your Comments

  1. holly noble 13 March 2013

    Hi Fleur,
    Jane and I just wanted to respond to your comments and say that we agree with a lot of what you're saying in this interview.

    We formed the FCC to ask questions about the seeming number of dwindling female choreographers or their lack of visibility within the public domain but we are also committed to bringing on board our male counterparts and asking them to be part of this discussion as otherwise how do you move forward?

    Our aim is to help promote and build the profile of female choreographers within the UK but alongside this objective we want to build and develop valuable and lasting relationships with both male and female choreographers and others working within the industry. Hopefully though discussion, open dialogue and honesty we can bring all choreographers to a level playing field and we hope that people will join us in this endeavour.

    Thanks
    Jane and Holly
  2. fleur darkin 22 March 2013

    Dear Jane and Holly,

    Thank you for taking the time to educate me on your mission. What you are doing is important and will illuminate a path for us all.

    Please consider me and all of the artists at Scottish Dance Theatre as supporters of your practice. Your innovation will inspire and create the future dance world.

    Stay in touch.
    Fleur

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