Dance has returned to the Dundee Rep stage in a big way, with the world premiere of Scottish Dance Theatre’s latest work.
The Life and Times was live streamed to audiences last night, with a second chance tonight to see the full ensemble’s return to the Tay Square venue for the first time in more than a year.
A visual meditation on human fragility that explores how our relationship with time has changed during the Covid era, the piece is a vivid and sometimes outlandish dance flight that takes the form of a series of short vignettes set to a soundtrack of music from the 18th Century’s Baroque period.
According to its author, SDT’s artistic director and choreographer Joan Clevillé, the innovative work sees the camera effectively become one of the participants in the performance, which is being broadcast live tonight in one single continuous shot.
“The Life and Times is a cinematic and surreal dance journey specially choreographed for the camera, performed and streamed live from our stage at Dundee Rep,” he explains.
“The piece is a visual meditation on our relationship with time and human fragility, but also a new way to experience cinema and dance.
“In a way it’s like a hybrid between a music video and a silent movie, so you don’t really need to be a dance fan to enjoy it.”
Featuring Scottish Dance Theatre’s international performers Bonni Bogya, Kieran Brown, João Castro, Glenda Gheller, Luigi Nardone, Nicole Nevitt, Jessie Roberts-Smith, Pauline Torzuoli, Solène Weinachter and Johanna Wernmo, The Life and Times offers Clevillé’s global following a unique immersive experience.
Joan’s production team includes digital artist Tao-Anas Le Thanh, costume and set designer Matthias Strahm and lighting designer Emma Jones, and the director says everyone in the company has relished the challenge of adapting their methods for an armchair audience.
“For me, it’s important that this new work doesn’t feel like the lesser version of a live performance but a new, exciting way of experiencing dance,” he declares.
“During the performance the dancers conjure up an entire universe on stage — a universe where magic can arise from their bodies or from the most mundane and everyday objects at any point.
“Watching the performance is like looking at an old painting full of interesting and enigmatic characters and objects.
A new way of seeing
“Making dance for the screen has been a lot of fun because it opens up new possibilities to play with how we perceive space and time. It also gives us a chance to get really close to the action, to almost feel the clothes of the dancers, their breath, their sweat.
“So working with the camera makes it a much more visceral experience than what you might imagine. I think that by marrying the excitement of live performance and the visual possibilities of the digital medium, The Life and Times offers a truly immersive experience and the opportunity to try something else.”
Barcelona-born Clevillé had only been 12 months into his role as artistic director when live performances were put on hold in March 2020.
He says reflections on the reset caused by the first lockdown pointed the way ahead for his choice of music for the new production.
A Baroque era inspiration
“The subject of time and the theatricality in the work brought us to the Baroque era, and throughout the creative process we were inspired by paintings and sculptures from the 16th and 17th centuries in Europe and also, of course, by Baroque music,” the Catalan explains.
“This makes up the entire soundtrack of the piece, with pieces by Bach, Handel, Vivaldi and other lesser-known Baroque composers. I love the contrast between this old music and the aesthetic and themes of the piece, which feel much more contemporary and of our time.”
The Life and Times is being presented as part of Rep Studios, a new digital platform created by Dundee Rep and SDT to showcase a programme of theatre, dance and music celebrating Dundee’s distinctive cultural voice within a wider world adapting to the changes caused by the pandemic.
Providing employment for 84 freelancers over five months, the initiative is designed to build on the success of the Rep’s inaugural digital season last year.
- Tonight’s live stream starts at 7.30pm, with tickets at dundeerep.co.uk