Interview: Naomi Tadevossian - 'It definitely is fun, hurtling and sliding down the set, but it’s also as scary as it looks.'
Motionhouse, one of the UK’s foremost Dance Theatre companies, brings Scattered to London. The show features their trademark highly-physical style of dance and acrobatics, combined with lavish imagery projected on a groundbreaking curved set.
We speak to Naomi Tadevossian, a dancer with Motionhouse, about what it’s like to dance with the iconic set and how she recovers at the end of this high-intensity show.
Tell us a little bit about the thinking behind Scattered
Scattered explores our relationship with water. Kevin Finnan (Motionhouse’s Artistic Director) takes his inspiration from common human concerns and our connection to the world we live in. With Scattered, he wanted to examine water as a magical substance in our everyday lives and how without it, life on Earth could not exist.
What do you think has made the show so successful?
I think the phenomenal success of Scattered is down to the combination of its amazing set and the music and the visual imagery which work together to create a cinematic experience. This engulfs and immerses the audience, taking them on a journey that really fires people’s imaginations. I think when Kevin made the show in 2009, nobody imagined that we would still be performing it in 2017!
The set comprises of a ‘vertiginous sloping wall, inspired by a quarter pipe’ which you slide and climb. How did you feel when you first tried it out? Is it as fun as it looks?
Yes it definitely is fun, hurtling and sliding down the set, but it’s also as scary as it looks. It’s really high!
I knew I was going to be performing Scattered for a time before physically learning it. The other dancers and Kevin, our artistic director, were excited for me but would also subtly say things like ‘I wonder how you’ll feel on the ramp/if you’ll make it up ok?’
After familiarising myself with the ramp over time it became easier to gage the correct distance and force to use, because when you hit it slightly wrong the bumps and bruising will tell you!
As a dancer, how important is a set and scenery to your performance?
The set and scenery is as integral to the work as another performer. The imagery creates the scene; whether that be emotive or an environmental change to the character you are embodying. It also sets a mood for the audience, guiding them through their journey.
As a performer our interactions with one another create a type of energy that we also feel with the set. The ramp is such a large structure that when the audience enters the theatre they get a slight shiver of anticipation, and I think as a performer we have a very similar buzz.
One of my entrances in Scattered is from sliding off the top of the ramp, and I do feel very cool doing this! One of the things that makes working for Motionhouse so exciting is that each production has a new set to explore, with new abilities and limitations to test.
We are currently creating Charge , the third and final part of the Earth Trilogy, and again, the set is an integral part of the show. We’ve begun working on the set to establish the physical language for the production and I’m excited to see where we take it to.
We’ve also recently been training for another pretty impressive set – the side of a 30 metre wall in Randers Harbour for the Aarhus 2017 European Capital of Culture celebrations in September. We’ll be abseiling down the wall and aerial dancing against it, all with a digital backdrop. This set will challenge us in other ways – which we are looking forward to experiencing.
Scattered also uses film to great effect. What’s it like dancing within digital environments?
Joining Motionhouse for Broken was my first introduction to working alongside film with dance. Kevin is a very collaborative creator; he is inspired by other artists – our film makers Logela, our composers Sophy Smith and Tim Dickinson, and the individual skill of the dancers, etc. All of these elements create the work in its entirety and play a part in creating the finished production. The film is particularly apparent for the dancer; it provides cues for physical interactions with the ramp (hitting a certain splash or swiping on a set count) and other times it changes the overall intention of the scene, for example imagining we are in a hot desert or are ice cubes melting.
How do you think technology will continue to influence dance and performance?
I think that technological advances mean that digital can more easily work with dance or other art forms. I think this is really positive because it potentially enables a diverse audience to connect with the arts. Collaboratively it’s exciting for artists to combine their ideas to develop the depth of two different fields of creative arts. The boundaries feel more limitless when combining different skillsets and I think that excites audiences as they can’t anticipate what they are about to see.
The show is ‘highly-physical style of dance and acrobatics’ how do you recover after the show and prepare your body to do it all again the following night?
I’ve heard Motionhouse dancers being given the nickname ‘powerhouse’. Given Kevin’s interest in integrating circus and dance, we are all especially keen to work on fitness and strength to make sure we can prevent injuries and stay strong. However, we don’t live at the gym so we spend our time gaining strength from actually playing on the sets and exploring ways to lift and partner each other.
After a show, most of us drink protein shakes and eat a large meal to replenish our body, but also a post-show drink with the team helps the muscles relax! The shows push our bodies but as performers that’s what we hope to achieve. We thrive off challenges and new skills and that’s what keeps us enjoying what we do. Performing your heart out and gasping for air at the end, is a sign of a great show.
Scattered is at the Peacock Theatre from the 26 – 29 April 2017.