Interview: Tara D'Arquian on 'Quests' - the second instalment of her 'In Situ' trilogy

Monday 1 February 2016 by Carmel Smith

Tara D'Arquian

Twenty five year old Belgian choreographer and actress Tara D’Arquian came to the UK to study at Trinity Laban, fell in love with London “a city where anything is possible” – and stayed. This month the second part of her site sensitive trilogy premieres at the Borough Hall – home of Greenwich Dance. We asked her to tell us about it…

Quests is the second part in your In Situ trilogy (whose first instalment In Situ was a Greenwich Dance & Trinity Laban Partnership Compass Commission). Tell us about the themes of the trilogy – and Quests in particular…
The trilogy gathers a cluster of themes which all relate to the human longing to define ourselves. It looks at the multiple and indefinable character of the self and the refusal sometimes to be oneself. I use the medium of performance as a tool to try to understand our human condition. The works are all site-sensitive where the identity of the site itself is used as a metaphor for our human identity.

The concept of the trilogy is that each piece looks at the themes through different lenses, these lenses being inspired by the process of spiritual transformation described in Nietzsche’s Three Metamorphoses.

Quests evolves from the second state of consciousness of this process, the state of the lion who must deconstruct all truths before being able to create new truths for himself. It is a beautifully chaotic state which we’ll portray halfway between despair and madness.

Did you have the trilogy planned as a whole from the start – or is it developing in response to the settings you are working in?
In Situ, the first piece of the trilogy wasn’t initially conceived as part of a trilogy. The piece was conceived in relation to the first state of consciousness that Nietzsche described in Three Metamorphoses. It was commissioned by The Greenwich Dance & Trinity Laban Partnership as one of the first Compass Commissions. Following the completion of In Situ, it became apparent to me that it had to be part of a triptych where each piece would relate to one of the three states of consciousness.

A deserted church (as in the first part of the trilogy) by its nature is likely to be atmospheric; but what are the challenges/inspirations of Greenwich’s 1930s Borough Hall to create work in/for?
The Borough Hall, home of Greenwich Dance, is a labyrinth. It took me a few walks around to understand its connections. What really inspired me however is the timeless feel of the building. The site gives you a sensation of being outside both time and space. It is a privileged experience in a city like London.

Is Quests your largest production to date? And what does working with 20 volunteers bring to the project?
It is my largest production to date indeed, both in terms of the scale of the building and the number of people involved. And I’m working with around 40 volunteers actually, as we have two extended casts of 20 people.

First and foremost, working with an extended cast of volunteers who are not professional performers brings an immense human-ness to the project. It is such a pleasure meeting them weekly and sharing the process and my practice with them. I am hoping for this human-ness to breathe through the piece and support the overall tone of the work.

In terms of artistry, working with such large groups is a brilliant opportunity for me to expand my choreographic skills and discover a whole new range of possibilities of composition.

You are from Belgium – with its rich contemporary dance scene – but after studying at Trinity Laban have stayed on in London. What is it about London/the UK which has kept you here?
I discovered London when I was 16. From the first day I felt that I was in a city where anything was possible. Two years later, I moved to London to become a dancer. My intuition stayed with me throughout. I am attached to London because it allowed me to believe that my aspirations could materialize. Here I have invested in relationships within my artistic environment which I really value and wish to develop.

You teach Choreology at Trinity Laban. How does ‘the study of human motion for dance’ feed in to your own work?
I think it would be more appropriate to say that Choreology is at the heart of my work, rather than feeding it. For me Choreolgogy is a way of thinking, perceiving and understanding the world in motion. I have an analytical mind and I enjoy recognising patterns and mechanisms. I bring the awareness that the study of Choreology has brought me to my work and use it in a conscious manner on every aspect of the creation.

You ran a kickstarter campaign for a small amount of additional funding for Quests. Do you think this sort of public ownership affects the work – in that people have chosen to invest in it?
I wouldn’t say that it affects my artistic choices directly but what it does is that it empowers me in the sense that I feel that people support and have faith in my practice. This coupled with the continued support of Greenwich Dance, Trinity Laban and DanceEast helps me to be a braver artist and trust my instinct.

Who/what have been most influential in your development as a dance artist?
The discovery of Choreology during my BA at Trinity Laban has allowed me to shape my artistic vision. I was very lucky to be taught by the wonderful Rosemary Brandt who enlightened me on the complexity and wonders of human motion.

When – and where – will you be presenting the final part of the In Situ trilogy?
Well, I do not have an answer to this yet. The answer will come after the completion of Quests. I am curious to see the reception it gets then I’ll take it from there. At this stage, all suggestions and propositions are welcome!

Quests is at Greenwich Dance, The Borough Hall, Royal Hill, London SE10 8RE
Wed 17 – Sat 20 February at 7.30pm (and at 2pm on Saturday)
Tickets £12 / £9 concessions
Box office: 020 8293 9741

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