Interview: Édouard Lock world premiere set for 2013 Edinburgh International Festival

This article is from 2013

Interview: Édouard Lock world premiere set for 2013 Edinburgh International Festival

The influential choreographer who is aiming to build some bridges

UPDATE: This event has now been cancelled.

There’s nothing like having the words ‘David Bowie’ and ‘Frank Zappa’ on your CV to add kudos to your career. Not that Édouard Lock needs it. His credentials as a choreographer and artistic director are pretty cast iron as it is. Since he founded La La La Human Steps in 1980, the Canadian choreographer has produced a raft of exciting, cutting edge work, only compounded by his art director role on Bowie’s 1990 Sound + Vision tour, and performing on stage while Zappa recorded his live album, The Yellow Shark.

Which is why, although there’s lots to look forward to in Scottish Ballet’s weekend-long Dance Odysseys programme, there’s something just that extra bit special about having an Édouard Lock world premiere in there. Lock choreographed his first dance work in 1974, at the age of 20. Almost 40 years later, he has amassed an enormous wealth of experience. Yet the desire to explore new territory remains undiminished. As Lock says: ‘creation, as opposed to recreation, is the aim; to try new ideas and new partnerships in order to achieve those ideas.’

Over the years, those partnerships have taken him into the rehearsal studios of Europe’s finest dance companies. Commissions for new works have come from, amongst others, Paris Opera Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. What does Lock look for in a host company?

‘I think goodwill and a desire to share ideas,’ he says. ‘And all of those organisations are comprised of talented individuals, who contribute their expertise to the shifting requirements each visiting choreographer brings to their company. That said, the main partners in the process are the dancers: they are the ones I have the closest contact to. Again, each of those organisations offers creative vistas to their dancers by having them interact with a wide range of choreographic points of view, which in turn leads to an openness and a responsive working relationship.’ 

Having only spent a brief period of time with them earlier this year, Lock already feels Scottish Ballet has the same to offer. A couple of days in the studio, auditioning dancers for his as-yet untitled world premiere in August, left him keen on returning to the company’s base in Glasgow to make the work this summer.

‘My impressions were very positive,’ says Lock. ‘The dancers are responsive, have great training, a neutral technique, and easy smiles.’ That final point may not seem as important as the other three but, as Lock says, ‘the work process should be disciplined but also pleasant.’

Lock’s choreography is known for its speed, athleticism and interesting use of pointe work. But running alongside that is a powerful emotional intent which, according to Lock, has much to do with the way a dancer connects with the audience.

‘A performer makes a choice between presenting charismatic theatre or empathic theatre,’ he explains. ‘The former relies on the admiration of the audience, but in the same breath it actually excludes the audience. Empathic theatre, on the other hand, creates a bridge between the audience and the dancer by emphasising the vulnerability inherent in both groups.’

For Lock, the process of making a new work is inextricably linked with the people who will be performing it. ‘The choreographer writes the text and the dancer humanises it,’ he says. ‘The point is to arrive at something greater than the sum of the participants, and that takes trust and effort.’

Lock’s world premiere is one of eight live shows in the Dance Odysseys line-up, complemented by two films and eight discussions. Curated by Scottish Ballet’s artistic director, Christopher Hampson, much of the weekend explores and celebrates movement that blurs the boundaries between classical ballet and contemporary dance.

For Lock, who has used fiercely strong ballet technique in the most modern of ways throughout his career, it’s a venture worth joining. ‘I think Chris has undertaken an outstanding initiative,’ says Lock. ‘It reflects well on him and on Scottish Ballet. Any arts organisation should have, as part of its mandate, the development of the art form they represent, and this project presents a variety of work in a visible and inclusive manner. I’m very happy to be part of it.’

Édouard Lock's World Premiere was originally intended to be peformed at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 16 Aug. This event has now been cancelled.