Interview: Tanja Liedtke Q&A

Thursday 6 September 2007

Tanja died tragically in a road accident in Sydney on 17 August 2007. Read more

She gave us this interview earlier this year. We’re leaving it online in tribute.

Tanja Liedtke Southbank Centre presents the world premiere of construct by Tanja Liedtke from 11 to 13 May – which then tours to Southampton, Bristol and Manchester.

UK audiences will know Tanja’s work as a performer in DV8’s Channel 4 film and 2003 European tour of The Cost of Living and the international tour of Just for Show (she was unforgettable as the extraordinarily flexible show hostess), as well
as with Australian Dance Theatre.

It has just been announced that she is about to become the new Artistic Director
of Australia’s largest contemporary dance company – Sydney Dance Company.

*You won the 2006 Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography.
Does this mean that you’ll be spending more time behind the scenes now – or will
you continue to perform?*

I will be spending more time behind the scenes developing my choreographic work.
It is something I have always wanted to put my energy into. Having said that,
I still feel a strong desire to perform the work of other choreographers/directors,
and creating the environment in which I am able to do that is also part of my

When did your interest in dance first start?

I grew up in Spain, and was surrounded by dance from a very young age – flamenco
in particular. I started dance classes when I was about 5. From then on I was

Did you train in dance – and where?

I trained the International Dance Centre in Madrid. My folks then moved to London and I attended Elmhurst Ballet School (now in Birmingham). I did my final year of training at the Rambert School.

Who or what are your main influences?

The people I work with are a huge inspiration and influence.

I have also been lucky enough to work with two of the world’s most rigorous and
renowned directors Lloyd Newson and Garry Stewart. They are very different from each other but each holds a firm place within
my practice.

There are artist’s work that I hugely admire: Pina Bausch, the work of Ballet C de la B, theatre director Romeo Castellucci.

I also love breakdance: the energy, the movement vocabulary, and the culture
that surrounds it: the music, the artwork. I think Banksy is a genius!

And other visual artists – Australian sculptor Ron Muick, and photographer Andreas Gursky – I connect with the detail in their work.

What’s your favourite book?

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

*CD? * **at mo I’m back to James Brown ..and a good dose of funky disco!

*- and Film? * **My favourite recent film is Danny Boyle’s Sunshine. I also love the work of Michel GondryAND that old classic Flashdance… ! yeah!

What is your usual starting point for a new work?

_’It is a process, which brings order out of nothing but ourselves; it cannot
be attained, but it will happen of its own accord, if we will only let it. ‘_ The Timeless Way of Building – Christopher Alexander

Usually the starting point for my work begins with a concept or universal subject
that is close to me personally.

*construct* revolves around the notion of ‘building’. There are two elements I concerned
myself with: – how we structure theatre: the process of building the set, the scenes, the

- and how we construct life: the process of building a home, a relationship,
a life

If your life’s work hadn’t become dance, what might it have been?

I think it might have been Law.

*Through the Undergrowth programme, lots of Australian work has been on our stages in the last couple
of years. Would you say Australia has a distinctive contemporary dance culture?*

Absolutely. The training across the board in Australia (which spans from local
ballet schools to tertiary institutions) is really amazing.

And the fact Australia is isolated geographically means contemporary dance artists
develop a very unique voice in world.

*You’ve done a lot of work with DV8 and Australian Dance Theatre. What traces
of those companies’ styles, if any, will audiences see in construct?*

While working with ADT I learned about pushing my body. That sense of speed, physicality and energy
firmly remains in my work. During my time at DV8 I connected with two other integral elements: the rigorous research that goes
into the creation process and the theatrical context in which the ideas are then
conveyed. I imagine audiences will experience traces of both approaches in construct.

*You had a very memorable role in DV8’s Just For Show which was at the National Theatre here in London. Did you need to draw on particularly
different skills, as an actor, for that role?*

I suppose I drew on the acting training I received at Elmhurst.

The role in Just for Show required a lot of mental preparation. About half way into the creative process
I realised if I put myself into the character’s shoes (quite literally!) she would
unfold. But ultimately I think the key was in Lloyd’s direction – he is so meticulous
and clear, and he inspires amazing things from his performers.

*Southbank Centre is an impressive launchpad for any choreographer premiering
a new work. Is it important to present work in London?*

Absolutely! It’s an incredibly prestigious opportunity. I spent my formative
years in London and I learned important things during that time, so it holds a
special place for me. London is also the cultural capital of the world and to
have the opportunity to present my work with the support by the Southbank Centre
is just amazing.

Following your Southbank dates and UK tour of construct, what’s next?

I created a work for David Hughes Dance Company in February, and I am going to go up to Scotland to see the season at the end
of the *construct* tour. The company is so fabulous and I can’t wait to see them perform!

Aside from that I have an idea for a dance film, which I am taking time to research.
I am creating a new work in Mannheim. I will then be back in Australia to develop
a new full-length work for next year. (NB – further details about where I develop
that work TBC!)

The news that Tanja will be the new Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company broke after she did this interview – so we gather her plans might be changing
slightly! Talking about the appointment yesterday, which she’ll take up in October,
she said: _“I am absolutely ecstatic to be appointed Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company.
I am thrilled at the opportunity to continue creating new dance works with Australian
artists. It is a privilege to be chosen to lead Sydney Dance Company into a new
era, and an honour to be the successor of Graeme Murphy: an icon of Australian

See construct at the Purcell Room, Southbank Centre 11 – 13 May, or on tour at

The Point, Eastleigh, 15 May 2007

The Arnolfini, Bristol, 18 May 2007

Contact Theatre, Manchester 31 May – 1 June 2007

construct is co-commissioned by Southbank Centre and Tanja Farman (through the National
Endowment of Science, Technology and the Arts) and is one of the ‘follow-up events’
for Undergrowth – Australian Arts UK 2005 & 2006.

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