As I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I am quietly obsessed with dance, dancing, dancers and that whole world, so being invited to compose for a new piece by the SITI Company Conservatory had me spinning around the flat like Hugh Grant in 10 Downing Street. Our starting points were an extremely intimate text by Melissa Flower, my yang q’in dulcimer, six performers and no director.
Directors, in my experience, are useful. They’re bold helmsman, inspiring visionaries, ultimate arbitrators in any creative disputes. A project without a director could easily become completely chaotic, a big mess of hurt feelings and one emerging despot or a muddled up, directionless, toothless compromise. So I was nervous.
Luckily, devising like this is what SITI conservatory do, and they are very, very good at it. The trick seems to be total honesty and a thick skin; taking ‘that sounds completely wrong’ to mean ‘I’m excited to hear your next idea’ sort of thing. Peter Brook, and English dramaturge, coined the phrase ‘hold on tightly, let go lightly’, which these dancers practiced with inspiring grace: when you are fighting your corner on an artistic decision you fight tooth and nail, conviction, passion and even a little aggression are encouraged. Then, once a decision is made, whether it’s gone your way or not, you let all that conflict float away, and throw yourself into doing what’s being done. Crazy confidence, crazy humility, crazy fun to watch being done well.
Unfortunately, we weren’t able to film the performance itself, but here’s an extract from the score on yang q’in dulcimer