Five choreographers discuss their contribution to Scottish Ballet's Dance Odysseys

The EIF performance features new works from James Cousins, Martin Lawrance and Kristen McNally

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This article is from 2013.

Dance Odysseys

Scottish Ballet’s Dance Odysseys features groundbreaking works from the past and present, including five world premieres in its New Voices programme. Kelly Apter talks to the choreographers representing the new wave of dance

James Cousins

Which companies did you dance with before moving into choreography?
Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures, then as a freelance performer with choreographers such as Marc Brew and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.

When did you know that you wanted to choreograph movement, rather than just dance it?
From before I could dance. As a kid I used to direct my sister and cousins in little performances for our parents. I’ve always choreographed alongside my dancing.

Which choreographers have inspired and influenced you?
Rafael Bonachela was my first introduction to contemporary dance, aged 15. I remember sitting there, speechless, and deciding that was what I wanted to do.

What was the starting point for your work in New Voices?
Scottish Ballet wanted a work that showcased the women in the company, so I created something that shows a side to them that we don’t normally see.

How does it feel to be at the Edinburgh International Festival?
It’s such an honour, and extra special for me as I’m also presenting There We Have Been at the Fringe. Not many people get to do both in the same year.

Martin Lawrance

Which companies did you dance with before moving into choreography?
Richard Alston Dance Company (RADC) then projects with Ashley Page, Henri Oguike and Charles Linehan.

When did you know that you wanted to choreograph movement, rather than just dance it?
While studying at London Contemporary Dance School. My first piece for RADC was in 2003 when I was still a dancer with the company, so I had the best of both worlds.

Which choreographers have inspired and influenced you?
Richard Alston has truly inspired and influenced me, but also Dan Wagoner, Siobhan Davies and David Parsons.

What was the starting point for your work in New Voices?
I was asked to make a 10–15 minute piece with a maximum of four dancers, which is very different to how I normally work – I usually choose the music and everything comes from that. My piece has no narrative – it’s about energy and drive, with very interesting music by Julia Wolfe.

How does it feel to be at the Edinburgh International Festival?
I’m very honoured and excited. I remember being here in 1988 as a young dancer, and the energy of the festival is electric.

Kristen McNally

Which companies did you dance with before moving into choreography?
I’ve been with the Royal Ballet Company for ten years and I’m still dancing there as a soloist.

When did you know that you wanted to choreograph movement, rather than just dance it?
Choreography is something that’s encouraged at the Royal Ballet, and each year we have informal evenings that provide a space to try things out. I like the fact that as a choreographer you think about movement in a different way.

Which choreographers have inspired and influenced you?
Kenneth Macmillan for being so ahead of his time. After spending a summer at Nederlands Dans Theater, I was bursting with inspiration from Jirˇí Kylián and Lightfoot León. I love Pina Bausch and really admire Mats Ek and Hofesh Shechter.

How does it feel to be at the Edinburgh International Festival?
It’s very exciting to be a part of this huge hub of creativity alongside so many amazing artists.

Henri Oguike

Which companies did you dance with before moving into choreography?
Richard Alston Dance Company, then I set up my own company.

When did you know that you wanted to choreograph movement, rather than just dance it?
Choreography came hand in hand with dancing. When I was younger I did a lot of breakdancing, and I would take Michael Jackson’s movement and make it my own.

Which choreographers have inspired and influenced you?
Christopher Bruce, Siobhan Davis and, of course, Richard Alston. I also embrace what is going on around me – there is always a clue.

What was the starting point for your work in New Voices?
This emerged from thoughts, feelings and emotions related to the music … hold me, neighbor, in this storm … by Aleksandra Vrebalov. But it’s not until I step into the studio that the real beginnings take place.

How does it feel to be at the Edinburgh International Festival?
It’s fantastic to be part of it. I’m enjoying the anticipation and am looking forward to seeing the work on stage.

Helen Pickett

Which companies did you dance with before moving into choreography?
I was a student with San Francisco Ballet, and then I worked with Frankfurt Ballet and the Wooster Group as an actor and dancer.

When did you know that you wanted to choreograph movement, rather than just dance it?
Throughout my career I banked ideas and music. When I retired from Frankfurt Ballet, I moved to New York to pursue acting, but the need to create movement and share the dance studio was stronger than any other pursuit.

Which choreographers have inspired and influenced you?
So many – inspiration is everywhere.

What was the starting point for your work in New Voices?
Any starting point comes with music, and / or a play, a book, an exhibition, nature, architecture.

How does it feel to be at the Edinburgh International Festival?
It’s my second experience at the Festival, but my first time as a choreographer, and I’m thrilled to be here.

Dance Odysseys: New Voices, Festival Theatre, 473 2000, 16 Aug, noon; 18 & 19 Aug, 5pm, £12.

This article is from 2013.

Dance Odysseys

  • 4 stars

This festival within a festival celebrates the breadth of ballet from classic to contemporary. Featuring a diverse mixture of world premières, including work from Scottish Ballet, Scottish Dance Theatre and Gelabert Azzopardi Companyia de Dansa.

New Voices

World premieres: California’s Helen Pickett – a former dancer for William Forsythe and now Resident Choreographer at Atlanta Ballet – is renowned for energetic yet poetic creations. James Cousins’s contemplative and gripping style has won him the inaugural New Adventures Choreographer Award. Martin Lawrance shares the…

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