This past month, Irish Choregrapher Róisín Whelan has been working with the dancers on a new piece for the company. As the choreographic process is different for each choreographer, we chatted with Róisín to give you an insight into her and her work.
I am really inspired by the world around me, things I hear on the radio, news, television. I often have a theme or a broader topic I am interested in and then love to do a week of research with a few bodies to help ideas flow before going back to the drawing board and setting out what has worked and doesn’t work. The ideas can then go from a larger theme or concept to more specific characters, moments and movement patterns.
On Beginning the Creation of a New Work
I start by researching as much as I can about the broader topic, books, poetry, newspaper articles, documentaries, tv series, movies … anything you can think of. I then bring all of these ideas into the studio for one week and we play around with loads of task based material, improvisations, learning some movement language which I have created for the show, character developments and ideas. It involves a lot of talking as a group and input from the dancers and creative team so that once I go away I can be really clear on what has worked from the early creative process. A huge part of my creation is also set design, I enjoy working with modular sets that can be used, moved around the space, and can create almost another dancer in the space. For this reason I always start with a set designer at the beginning of the process so we can have a version of the set in the studio when we’re rehearsing. When you’re using such big pieces its extremely important to have them in the room with you because they can have a life of their own.
How Past Ideas Inform Commissions
It depends on the commission, often if I have a creative idea that’s really interesting me I will immediately look for funding to research it so a lot of the time I love working with new ideas if I am presented with a commission or creative brief. There’s no better time than the beginning of a process, those first days and ideas just flowing out. If I go back to an idea it’s often that I take just one element of the idea rather than going back and taking the exact same concept that interested me last time.
On Previous Work and the Present
It’s a huge learning curve, I think I am definitely informed by the work I have been in such as Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures. Matthews work is very narrative which is something I have always loved to perform in and enjoy it as a method of creation as I feel audiences can really relate to it, especially audiences who wouldn’t always come to see dance. It brings me to think that what really informs my work is things I see. I am a huge fan of theatre, musicals, dance, live music and cinema just to name a few. Figuring out what it is about different productions that works and doesn’t work has become an incredible asset for my own choreographic work.
On Working with Dancers
Openness. The beginning of a creative process can be so varied and often there will be things that work and don’t work. I need the dancers to really be up for trying anything, to exploring movement and characters and to be willing to change ideas at any moment. In general I enjoy working with counts and musicality along with text so this can be really challenging as a dancer to incorporate all of these into the work so dancers who are versatile and have a very strong physicality really draw my eye.