Friendly Fire – an interview with Hubert Essakow
To open its Spring 2014 dance season, Notting Hill’s The Print Room has turned to Associate Artist Hubert Essakow. Ignis is the second part of Essakow’s trilogy exploring the essential elements – the first watery part, Flow, received tremendous critical acclaim (“The ultimate in immersive theatre” according to The Independent on Sunday), something the choreographer is hoping to repeat with this new work which looks into the properties of fire.
He’s gathered together a strong-looking bunch of collaborators. Alongside dancers Noora Kela, Lukasz Przytarski, and Jordi Calpe Serrats he’s employed Olivier Award-winning actress Sara Kestelman (who’s performed at the National Theatre, the RSC, Donmar, Barbican, the Old Vic, the Gielgud, Theatre Royal Haymarket, Wyndham’s and also in plenty of movies and TV dramas). Furthermore he’s commissioned an original score from Jon Opstad (Black Mirror, Silent Witness) and brought in Lee Newby (Bring Up The Bodies, Privates on Parade) for the set and costume designs.
In an exclusive interview for Dancing Review, Essakow reveals the motivations and joys in creating Ignis.
Dancing Review (DR): What inspired you to explore the essential elements across three separate dance pieces?
Hubert Essakow (HE): The idea to have the elements as a starting point for these dance seasons at The Print Room came from the suggestion of the theatre’s artistic director, Anda Winters. Anda has a background in theatre design and has a very strong visual sense – she was adamant that we incorporate the elements in the pieces . With Flow, for example, her only demand was that we have real water in the production.
DR: How has working with actress Sara Kestelman helped shape the choreography for Ignis?
HE: Sara’s involvement in Ignis has influenced the structure and idea in a fundamental way. We’ve used her poems and songs in a number of sections as a backbone so she has a central presence in the piece. She’s a very powerful and articulate actor and the way she approaches ideas has been very different to the dancers – what she can do with intention and her voice, they can do with their bodies. That’s not to say she’s not physical, she absolutely is, but in a different way to the three contemporary dancers. And their age difference has been a very interesting dynamic to work with. They’ve totally inspired one another and pushed each other to try different things. We’ve also laughed a lot!
DR: What qualities are you looking for from your dancers?
HE: It’s difficult to pinpoint a particular quality. I’m not sure why I choose my dancers; it might be about a way they move or a connection I feel with them that’s difficult to explain. There’s always something about the individual that connects with me. A good relationship between a choreographer and dancer is, I think, one of trust and appreciation; I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. The Print Room is a very intimate space and Ignis is quite an emotional piece, so the qualities that are most important I would say are subtlety, trust and abandoned control.
DR: What are the advantages of presenting work at The Print Room?
HE: Through the Print Room I’ve been connected to a very good team of co-creators including my dramaturg Laura Farnworth, designer Lee Newby and Sara Kestleman. Working at this very unusual space has introduced me to a different world of theatre and art – it feels like a very different form of dance compared to what you’ll see at Sadler’s Wells or other theatres. For me the intimacy and minimalism of the space is a huge advantage and the support, enthusiasm and passion from everyone who works here – it’s like a little family. I’m a very lucky guy!!
Ignis runs at The Print Room from 11 February – 1 March 2014. For tickets and lots more info The Print Room’s website is the best place to go.