Interviews

Francesco Ventriglia on the new Sydney Choreographic Centre and superstar Sylvie Guillem

Francesco Ventriglia. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Francesco Ventriglia. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

The Sydney Choreographic Centre is an exciting new establishment which has been designed to elevate the next generation of choreographers. 

Co-founded by artistic director Francesco Ventriglia and managing director Neil Christopher, Sydney Choreographic Centre opened this past April. The mission is “to establish an internationally recognised and respected choreographic centre in Sydney, to train the next generation of choreographers in every aspect of dance creation, instructed and mentored by a faculty comprising working artists who are leaders in their field.”

Sydney Choreographic Centre offers an inclusive, supportive, stimulating place in which to experiment and learn, with different levels of involvement possible. A special feature of the Centre is its resident performing group, Sydney Choreographic Ensemble. Program participants will have access to the ensemble, whether by taking daily class with its members or working with it on choreographic development.

Last month, the Centre also announced that the role of its International Patron would be none other than superstar Sylvie Guillem, who said that with Ventriglia as the Centre’s director, “the choreographers and dancers in Australia will be in good hands.” 

Here, Dance Informa was fortunate enough to catch up with the internationally renowned Ventriglia for an incredibly insightful Q&A.

Congratulations on the establishment of the Sydney Choreographic Centre, and Sydney Choreographic Ensemble! What does this mean for Australia on a global scale?

Francesco Ventriglia. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
Francesco Ventriglia.
Photo by Stephen A’Court.

“Our hope is to use art to shorten the distance between Australia and the rest of the world. In creating this Centre, we hope to give a rigor and framework for dance artists to nurture their ability to communicate through the creative act.  This will allow them to build creative relationships that bridge cultures and, indeed, different working methods. In the end, we want to nurture a generation of Australian choreographers, dancers and artists who are recognised globally, and that become a groundswell of passionate and honest creativity.”

Sylvie Guillem CBE has been announced as International Patron. Known as ‘the world’s most exciting dancer’, what do you hope for Sylvie to instil in the next generation of choreographers from Australia and around the world?

“Sylvie is an artist I respect immensely, not only for her talents on stage but also as an artist who made her brave artistic choices with a deep respect for her art form and an honesty in its intention. This bravery is already a big inspiration for future generations, and I hope that this will instil in a new generation an appetite and hunger that is evident in the experimentation and innovation we want to thrive in the Centre. If we do this well, their artistic voices will be loud and clear, and we will inspire them to exhibit the same bravery that Sylvie has had throughout her career.”

You have a wonderful history together. How did this initial connection form?

“As a young dancer, I was lucky to work with Sylvie in many roles, and we came to know each other very well after she cast me as Hilarion in her groundbreaking version of Giselle. We instantly had a strong rapport as we saw in each other a passion for creating beauty.

After I became director in Florence, our working relationship continued when I invited her to dance Step Text by William Forsyth. I think it was during this period that our connection changed again. We both approached dance, ballet and choreography with a generosity and openness that allowed us to work in a way that cut through to the deep honesty that we need as artists. This continues today, and I cherish her counsel and advice, and we both appreciate the fact we work in a way where hard work, commitment and discipline need to go hand in hand with humility, kindness and passion.”

How would you describe Sylvie as a dancer and dance partner during the creative development process?

Sylvie Guillem. Photo by Tristram Kenton.
Sylvie Guillem. Photo by Tristram Kenton.

“I have enormous respect and admiration for Sylvie as a versatile artist. Sylvie is the most generous and hard-working creator I have worked with. Her ability to dance classical and contemporary repertoire is inspirational, and it is exciting to watch her work and develop a piece that takes what we thought we knew and re-creates it in a way that interprets the world in a new way. This is evident in the work she created and in the work that was created for her. She is an artist who inspires genius.”

As a creative and visionary, what are the key elements in your creative process?

“Generosity, honesty, meaning, music, collaboration, cooperation, commitment and discipline all form the foundations of my creative process. For the Centre, these have become the principles upon which we will continue our artistic future, and they now form our values.”

From an international perspective, how does your work communicate cross-culturally?

“I am inspired by the world around me and translate this into my vision. I have travelled the world working, and I see in each country and each culture universal truths. These truths are evident wherever I go, and these, when woven into my storytelling, into my choreographic language, speak to everyone. I feel like people can relate because they see in my work a common struggle, or a common love or a beauty that is as visceral as it is ephemeral.”

Creativity evolves from experimentation and innovation. How has this played a part in your own career?

“I truly believe that the best way to build the future is to make it. And to do this, I strongly believe in using knowledge of the past to inform the future. Innovation must have a strong foundation in history, and it is in the understanding and contextualisation of this past that allows us to frame the future – how can we know what hasn’t been done or what pathways haven’t been travelled if we don’t look back to understand what has been done and understand the explorations of others. It is only then that we are free to project our choreographic voice into places unknown.”

The Sydney Choreographic Centre’s approach of ‘learning by doing’ is critical for the future of dance. What are your plans to further the vision?

Sylvie Guillem. Photo by Kiyonori Hasegawa.
Sylvie Guillem.
Photo by Kiyonori Hasegawa.

“The mission of Sydney Choreographic Centre is to train, mentor and inspire a new generation of choreographers. It is based on the venerated Italian Bottega system, in which a young artist studied with and worked alongside a master to learn their craft. In this time-honoured spirit of ‘learning by doing’, Sydney Choreographic Centre will offer tuition in every aspect of dance creation, delivered by a faculty comprising working artists who are leaders in their field.

Participating artists will receive training and mentorship from practising dance artists of international standing and from leading professionals who are active in associated fields. The goal is to develop choreographers with strong, individual artistic voices who can take their place anywhere in the world, armed with the knowledge gained and connections made at Sydney Choreographic Centre.”

What does choreography mean to you? 

“I have an urgency to express what I think, or what I feel and what I observe, and I need to do this with my own voice. Dance and choreography is the way I do this, and I am interested in the human emotion, and the choreography is a way to investigate this.”

Define the power of the artistic voice.

“Every artist strives to be unique, and to be able to develop a very individual artistic voice is what lies beneath the opportunity to express what it is to exist. This is, for me, critical in understanding what the power of the artistic voice is. It is achingly personal and essentially generous in that we humbly give it away to inspire or to comfort or to understand the world.”

For more information on the Sydney Choreographic Centre, visit www.sydneychoreographiccentre.com 

By Renata Ogayar of Dance Informa.

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