Interview: Lea Anderson - on music, dance, design & making new work

Thursday 1 October 2015

Lea Anderson's 'Ladies and Gentlemen' Photo: Janire Najera

Lea Anderson is an independent choreographer, filmmaker and artistic director, who received an MBE for her services to dance in 2002. She has made hundreds of works with many collaborators, and is recognised for outdoor and site specific performances in alternative venues (like Glastonbury Festival), for her work for TV, film and video and for an innovative and responsive programme of work with young people. Her work has been studied from GCSE to post-graduate level.

Lea founded her all female company The Cholmondeleys, in 1984 with Teresa Barker and Gaynor Coward; the sibling all male company The Featherstonehaughs, followed in 1988. Both companies were forced to disband after losing their Arts Council England funding in 2011 and since then Lea has been focusing on her own projects. We caught up with her to ask about three projects she has been working on lately: Ladies and Gentlemen, Pan’s People’s Papers and Hand in Glove

What was the inspiration for your new stage show Ladies and Gentlemen opening at The Place this week (Thu 1 – Sat 3 Oct)?
I was inspired by a picture. Steve Blake and I wanted to make some work that was not lead by music, or dance, or design but all three together. We created a few small ideas for Blysshe Dance in Cardiff. We auditioned performers who were both dancers and musicians.

You often work in collaboration with other creatives. Tell us about the relationship between you, Steve Blake and Tim Spooner…
We like to leave space for each other. We have clear rules. There is a choreography of props in this work and each prop has its preferred way of moving. We are making a world.

How would you describe the movement style of your choreography for this piece?
The props move. Hard to describe the movement style of props. There are some human dance steps – inspired by music-hall and imaginary opera.

You like to work in a variety of non-traditional locations, how does working in different spaces inform your choreographic language?
Dance outdoors is different to cabaret in a pub. It is viewed differently, in a completely different context. I start by imagining how the audience will see the work and who the audience might be.

Typically, costumes for dance are treated as something added on at the last minute, whereas with your work they feel like they are very much integral to the movement – how does this process work?
It’s different for each work. In Ladies & Gentlemen Tim designed the costumes and brought them in on the first day of rehearsals. The performers wore them every day of rehearsals. They were their characters from the start. Obviously no one can do anything that their costume does not permit. They need to make a vocabulary for their character in the costume and with their instrument and that is interesting and intriguing. The costumes had names from the start: The Man, The Woman, The Twins, The Pet and The Other One.

This process of giving costume a greater ‘voice’ is something your other current project Hand in Glove is exploring, can you tell us a bit about it?
It’s a performed exhibition with London Contemporary Dance School which challenges the way costume for performance is displayed and exhibited. It’s a chance to experience the work of designers Sandy Powell, Simon Vincenzi and Emma Fryer in a moving, close-up environment, as final year students from LCDS perform vignettes of the choreography from The Cholmondeleys and The Featherstonehaughs including Yippeee!, Draw on the Sketchbooks of Egon Schiele, Flesh and Blood, Russian Roulette, Smithereens, The Realms of the Unreal, Big Feature, Go Las Vegas. Research from this will be incorporated into a larger future project.

How do you share the vision of each work with your dancers?
Usually through images or film clips. Never written text. Always a huge number of rules and restrictions.

Tell us about the Pan’s People’s Papers project which saw you exploring the digital space as a performance space over three days as part of the Brighton Digital Festival in September…
More dance seems to happen on Facebook in tiny clips and comments than in real life nowadays. Marisa Zanotti (my collaborator) is a film maker and wanted to make a work that exists only on social networks, posted by a cast of characters. A different way for a story to unfold. A work of fiction. [ Watch a excerpt ]

We both have an interest in the work of Flick Colby. Her group Pan’s People inspired a lot of young women and girls in the ’70s to become dancers.
With Pan’s People Papers 1- A Legion of Echoes we are testing an audience and their engagement.

Ladies and Gentlemen
1 – 3 Oct, 8pm, The Place.

Hand in Glove
8 & 9 Oct various times, Candid Arts Trust

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