Desirelines: Music You Can See, Dance You Can Feel

'Desirelines' by Collusion Music

Dance, music and animation collide in Desirelines, the electric new chamber ballet by Collusion set to premiere at the Judith Wright Centre during Brisbane Festival this September.

Striking a new balance between dance and live music, four dancers and three musicians take to the stage in this powerful integration of contemporary ballet, new chamber music and graphic animation. A team of incredible artists will bring Desirelines to life, including Gareth Belling (Choreography), Susan Hawkins (Composition), Pete Foley (Animation), Leigh Buchanan (Costume Design), and Ben Hughes and Cameron Goerg (Lighting Design). They will be joined by Collusion musicians Benjamin Greaves (Violin), Diana Tolmie (Clarinet), Danielle Bentley (Cello) and four dancers; Nathan Scicluna, Melissa Tattam, Amelia Stokes and Michael Smith.

Here Dance Informa spoke to some of the talented team:

Gareth Belling – Choreographer

What is “chamber ballet”?

“Chamber ballet is an equal fusion of music and dance, dancers and musicians. Collusion and I have been working for some time to bring musicians out of the orchestra pit and make them as much of a visual and dramatic focus of the performance as the dancers. In Desirelines, it’s the three musician’s characters that we follow, through their experiences of either sticking to the path, or stepping off to create their own way. This chamber ballet also includes projected animation by Pete Foley, which lays down a digital landscape that the performers exist in, and that the musicians read from.”

How is choreographing for Collusion different to other ensembles and companies?

“Unlike a dance company, the core of Collusion are the incredible musicians. The dancers are guest artists, which give me the freedom to choose the perfect dancers for each new work. It allows for a more bespoke creative process, tailored to what the individual chamber ballet needs to come to life. For Desirelines, I’ve two classical dancers and two contemporary dancers, to explore the movements in-between the familiar ballet positions and movements. We’ve used ballet like the established pathways, while the new ways of moving between and through ballet positions become the dancer’s desire lines.”

What are the challenges and rewards involved in working with live musicians and incorporating them into the performance?

“It’s exciting to work in different ways with different people. Collusion are always keen to try new things, and push the limits in their performances. We’ve been doing movement workshops all together as a complete cast, and doing choreographic tasks to create movement for the musicians to perform – with and without their instruments. Having had no formal dance training, the three musicians are responding in interesting and unexpected ways. Their innate musicality is shining through though, and rubbing off onto the dancers as well, so what they are creating incorporates into Desirelines in a totally natural way. When they are performing on their instruments though, it’s really hard to take your eyes off them, so half the challenge as a choreographer will be to balance where people are looking, so that they don’t miss too much of the the dancing!”

Collusion Music's 'Desirelines

Nathan Scicluna and Benjamin Greaves collaborate in Collusion Music’s ‘Desirelines’. Photo by FenLan Phototography.

Melissa Tattam – Dancer

Is working with Collusion more collaborative than other companies you have previously worked with? 

“Definitely. The dancers are very much involved in the creative process. We create movement through ‘tasking’ and learn from each others style. There is a definite sense of ‘dance freedom’, which basically means, allowing dance through your own natural movement as opposed to dancing like someone else, or for someone else. When a dancer is allowed this freedom, it really carries through to the audience. We also contribute to ideas for stage direction and the vision of where we see the ballet going. Its a fantastic team approach.”

As a dancer, what are the challenges and rewards of rehearsing and performing with an ensemble of musicians and artists? 

“I love dancing with the musicians on stage. A dancer doesn’t always have an opportunity to dance with live music, this is the ultimate reward. The only challenge would be, the music is at times a slightly different pace, but that is the art of live theatre and the professionalism of both musician and dancer to be able to adapt. Generally as the piece becomes more familiar, both musician and dancer tend to go faster unintentionally. The marriage of dance and music on stage is just beautiful. I feel very honoured to be sharing the stage with Collusion.”

Michael Smith – Dancer

Is working with Collusion more collaborative than other companies you have previously worked with?

“Most of the projects I have been involved with are collaborative, each with their own benefits and outcomes. Working collaboratively with Collusion is proving to be just as successful and rewarding in its own right. The exciting thing about Desirelines is the many layers of collaborative exploration- even amongst the dancers there is collaboration in the exchange of information between those with ballet backgrounds and those with contemporary dance backgrounds. Some of the most exciting collaborative movements have occurred when the musicians have joined us dancers for movement workshops, where we work together on an equal platform to create movement.”

As a dancer, what are the challenges and rewards of rehearsing and performing with an ensemble of musicians and artists?

“As a dancer, I get so much out of having creatives from different art forms all in one room, feeding through and developing ideas together. All information that is brought forward, whether its the deconstructed analysis of the musicians characters to the metaphorical, visual projections that Pete uses to heighten the dimensions of the space, can come back to the body and the movement. The richness of the information and how it is informed by the artist’s craft is what makes the entire process so interesting and fulfilling. We all have desires and we are all explorers to some degree. What is really interesting is how all these expressive forms mesh together to create a highly sensitive and emotive work.”

Nathan Scicluna – Dancer

Is working with Collusion more collaborative than other companies you have previously worked with?

“Yes. In other companies I have worked with the dancers don’t always get the opportunity to collaborate with the choreographer and musicians.  We generally only communicate with the conductor of the orchestra briefly to discuss tempos etc, but with Desirelines we are working closely with the musicians as they are tied into the piece. Gareth has created a bond between the musicians and the dancers by getting them involved in movement workshops so we can relate to each other and the end result is smooth and harmonious.”

As a dancer, what are the challenges and rewards of rehearsing and performing with an ensemble of musicians and artists?

“I find the initial challenge of working with the musicians is that their dance vocabulary is not necessarily expansive, however, at the same time this excites the piece as you open your mind more to their interpretation of how the music speaks to them.”

Desirelines runs from September 2nd to 5th at Performance Space, Judith Wright Centre of Contemporary Arts, Fortitude Valley. For more information and tickets visit www.judithwrightcentre.com.

By Rebecca Martin of Dance Informa.

Photo (top): Nathan Scicluna, Gareth Belling & Benjamin Greaves in ‘Desirelines’ by Collusion Music. Photo by FenLan Photography.

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