Choreographer Christopher Bruce on creating dance for the Cultural Olympiad

Wednesday 12 September 2012, 16:26

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National Dance Company Wales is about to launch a new programme for autumn.

One of the highlights of a tour currently visiting China before returning to Wales on 2 October will be Dream by Christopher Bruce CBE, created for the company as part of the Cultural Olympiad performance Dance GB.

This collective saw English National Ballet, Scottish Ballet and NDCWales each starring in a show in celebration of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Christopher Bruce with dancers Josef Perou and Matteo Marfoglia. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore Christopher Bruce with dancers Josef Perou and Matteo Marfoglia. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

For acclaimed choreographer Christopher Bruce, the opportunity to create such a piece on a national stage in both a home Olympic and jubilee year was too thrilling to miss.

He told me: "When I was asked to create the piece, even though it didn't have to be about the Olympics, I couldn't resist drawing inspiration from the athletes and past Olympic Games.

"I also found myself harking back to the street parties everybody held around the coronation in 1953 and thought I would try to recreate that sense and celebrate the jubilee as well.

"I had this idea in my mind for some reason about dancers and the way they have to study their training schedules.

"I find it interesting to look at mannerisms and the odd things dancers or athletes do in preparation for a dance class or before they are performing or about to compete."

Cast members of NDCWales' Dream by Christopher Bruce. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore Cast members of NDCWales' Dream by Christopher Bruce. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Having alighted on a germ of an idea, Chris found the music he wanted to choreograph to: the last movement of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales by Ravel as well as Ravel's complete Bolero, and the last movement of a piece of music from Welsh composer Grace Williams.

Dream is littered with references to various Olympic sports such as volleyball, running, discus, shot put, javelin and archery, but also borrows from the worship of the sheer physical beauty of athletes common among Greek classical times.

Chris explains the inspiration behind the title, Dream, as "the dream or vision every dancer or athlete has at the very beginning".

"When I was training to be a dancer, I had that vision and it stays with you for your whole career. If it dies, you give up.

"With all those wonderful athletes, as with dancers, it starts with a dream of wanting to become that athlete or dancer and follows that dream to fruition, so from the daydream and through the training and hard work, the disappointments and successes."

Lee Johnston, Neus Gil Cortés, Annabeth Berkeley and Eleesha Drennan. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore Lee Johnston, Neus Gil Cortés, Annabeth Berkeley and Eleesha Drennan. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

The piece also makes reference to how short-lived the careers of professional dancers and athletes are, often "a life within a life", as Chris refers to it.

"Ending that career is then a kind of death and they have to adjust to it and find a second life to lead."

Fans of NDCWales were given a sneak preview of Dream while it was still developing at open rehearsals at the Dance House in Cardiff Bay in June.

Chris believes inviting the audience in at such an early part of the process helps build intimacy.

"It makes it that much more personal so it belongs to the audience as much as to the dancers."

He says he has been impressed by both the physicality and humour of the dancers at NDCWales and says that because they are trained in contemporary dance it helped hugely in how they responded to his ideas.

The piece premièred at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow before moving to the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff and then the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich earlier in the summer.

Bruce with dancers Lee Johnston, Annabeth Berkeley, Eleesha Drennan and Neus Gil Cortés at the Dance House. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore Bruce with dancers Lee Johnston, Annabeth Berkeley, Eleesha Drennan and Neus Gil Cortés at the Dance House. Photo: Roy Campbell-Moore

Chris says he has been stunned by the positive reaction to the piece and hopes audiences at the various venues in Wales enjoy it as much.

"It's lovely when it works but this piece has developed a life of its own and really grabbed people's imagination. It has moved people and if I can get that kind of quality into a piece that pleases me greatly."

Dream features alongside Itzik Galili's third new production for the company, The Grammar of Silence. The piece explores "the intimate poetry of words left unsaid".

NDC Wales' signature piece By Singing Light by US choreographer Stephen Petronio, which is based on the poetry of Dylan Thomas' In My Craft Or Sullen Art and an extract from his poem Lament, and influenced by the songs of Mansel Thomas, will also feature in the autumn tour.

NDCWales choreographer and dancer Eleesha Drennan will also present her latest award-winning work Whiskers.

All the dances have been made at NDCWales' Dance House in Cardiff Bay.

The tour has already visited Germany and is currently in China as part of the UK NOW festival, finishing in Shanghai on 21 September.

"I'm delighted that we are representing Wales on our international tour," said NDCWales artistic director Ann Sholem.

"I know that audiences will be swept away by the quality of our performances."

NDCWales' autumn tour launches in Llandudno at Venue Cymru on 2 October and visits venues in Wales and England. See the NDCwales website for details. Plus watch a clip of Dream and listen to Christopher Bruce talk about Dream.

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