ED2019 Caro Meets ED2019 Dance & Physical Theatre ED2019 Interviews

Joan Clevillé: Ritualia and Looping

By | Published on Wednesday 21 August 2019

Fans of dance frequenting the Fringe (and especially those based in Scotland) will be – I’m sure – more than aware of the Dundee-based Scottish Dance Theatre, the high quality work it produces and its long history, at the Festival and elsewhere.

This year the company has brought two shows to the Festival, ‘Ritualia’ and ‘Looping: Scotland Overdub’, which are both being performed at Zoo Southside for this last week. They both sound brilliant and benefit from very different approaches and themes.

To find out more about both shows, the company, and its current leadership, I spoke to Joan Clevillé, who took over as artistic director earlier this year.

CM: Scottish Dance Theatre has two shows on at the Festival this year. Can we talk about them both separately? Let’s start with ‘Ritualia’. How would you describe the piece in terms of its style and genre?
JC: Colette Sadler’s ‘Ritualia’ creates a surreal world inhabited by androgynous creatures, exploring a decidedly contemporary aesthetic rooted in tradition through its references to Igor Stravinsky and Bronislava Nijinska’s modernist ballet ‘Les Noces’. Full of references to visual art and fashion, the work is a feast for both the senses and the mind.

CM: What themes does it explore?
JC: By re-imagining the proto-feminist themes of ‘Les Noces’ through a contemporary lens, the work raises questions about the iconic power of the body, gender politics and the capacity of fashion to empower or constrain us.

CM: Can you tell us about the choreographer behind ‘Ritualia’? How did you come to be working with her?
JC: Born in Glasgow, Colette Sadler is a Scottish choreographer based in Berlin. I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time but I can’t take the credit for commissioning her! It was actually my predecessor Fleur Darkin who invited her to create a work for the company. For me, it’s been so enriching to be able to work with her on the re-staging of the piece for the Edinburgh Fringe.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about other creatives involved in the show?
JC: You can’t talk about ‘Ritualia’ without talking about its costume design. German designer Rike Zöllner created a visually striking design where the dancers become androgynous creatures inhabiting a particular universe. Taking inspiration from the motif of braiding and hair, which is very much present in the original piece, she created some stunning, sculptural wigs, which are wearable artworks in themselves.

CM: Let’s talk about ‘Looping’ now. What kind of show is this? What kind of performance can we expect to see?
JC: ‘Looping: Scotland Overdub’ is an immersive performance created in collaboration with Brazilian performance collective 7OITO. Inspired by the cultural heritage of Scotland and Brazil, Looping is a political dance party featuring dance, spoken word and a fresh soundtrack mixed live!

CM: What themes can we expect to see addressed in it?
JC: The work offers an inclusive and open environment where difference is celebrated and audience and performers can come together to re-imagine the world. More specifically, it looks at Scotland’s dual identity both as an oppressed nation but also as an oppressor and coloniser. The piece explores the possibility of rebuilding that identity, and relates it to global struggles for individual and collective freedom and equality.

CM: Can you tell us about those collaborating on this project and how the project came about?
JC: The first incarnation of the project happened in the city of Bahia in Brazil, where the performance collective 7Oito develop their work. Former AD Fleur Darkin invited them to respond to the Scottish cultural, social and political landscape and create a new version of the work together with playwright Kieran Hurley and music producer Torben Lars Sylvest. The idea of ceilidh, in its traditional sense of community gathering, emerged as the perfect framework to explore the notion of celebration as a political space where we can meet others and otherness.

CM: What makes you want to bring shows to the Fringe? What’s the appeal of appearing at the festival?
JC: The Edinburgh Festival Fringe offer us an invaluable platform to forge new connections with audiences and promoters from across the globe, build bridges for cultural exchange and create opportunities for learning and collaboration. Today, this invitation to look and reach beyond our borders feels more relevant than ever, and every year we look forward to welcoming the world in Edinburgh

CM: What will happen with these shows after the festival? Will they go on to tour elsewhere?
JC: After the Fringe, ‘Looping’ will be on tour across rural locations in Scotland including Galashiels, Argyll, Banchory and Forres, as well as being part of Dance International Glasgow at Tramway on 25 and 26 Oct. We will also continue to tour ‘Ritualia’ nationally and internationally as part of our Double Bill programmes in 2020.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about Scottish Dance Theatre, its creation and its aims?
JC: Scottish Dance Theatre is Scotland’s leading contemporary dance company based at Dundee Rep Theatre. With more than 30 years of history, the company creates high quality dance that is engaging and engaged. Our artistic vision is driven by a desire to meet the unknown, create learning opportunities and connect with the world around us.

CM: How long have you been artistic director, and what have been the high points of your tenure thus far?
JC: I joined Scottish Dance Theatre as a dancer ten years ago. In 2013 I left to focus on my choreographic practice as an in dependent maker. It’s been a total joy to come back to the company last April as Artistic Director. So far the highlight has been a four-week tour to South America visiting Colombia, Chile and Peru, including a programme of engagement and learning activities.

CM: What ambitions do you have for the future?
JC: Developing work that is engaging and engaged, that speaks to a wide range of people and is relevant to our contemporary reality. Whether on the stage of national theatre in Asia or in a village hall in the Highlands, I am driven by the power of dance to connect us with others and ignite change. That’s what excites me about dance.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after the Fringe?
JC: As well as touring ‘Looping’ and our Double Bill programme this autumn, the dancers will embark on a research period where they will create their own work and showcase it at our home at Dundee Rep on 5 and 6 Dec in ‘Sputnik’, a programme for new dance and new voices.

‘Ritualia’ and ‘Looping: Scotland Overdub’ were both performed at Zoo Southside at Edinburgh Festival 2019.

Photo: Alan Richardson