Theatre in Wales

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Diversions Dance spring season CAPTIVATING performer and choreographer Nigel Charnock has grown used to audiences thinking there is something mad about his work.

So the man who shook the world of contemporary dance theatre with DV8 has decided to go the whole way and create a new piece called Lunatic.

Nigel’s new works has its world premiere at the Dance House at Wales Millennium Centre as part of the spring programme by Diversions, the National Dance Company of Wales. It is the first time this giant of modern dance has worked the dance company.

For Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama trained Nigel the title for his first work created with the company is also a play on words.

“The name is Lunatic because it is to do with dreams and nightmares and the moon. I was in Prague making a piece and I was having quite a lot of sleepless nights. Where I was staying had a balcony and I kept seeing the moon. I just got this thing about the moon and I became sensitised to it: Moon, Luna, Lunatic.

“I was also crossing the Atlantic and changing time zones and waking up in the middle of the night and in the hours of darkness I was existing when others were asleep.

“Yes, it is a kind of madness. All my work to the public looks not chaotic but mad, a little bit lunatic. People say, ‘I didn’t know what was going to happen next, what you were going to do next’. Then there is madness itself as well. Well who are the mad? Who decides whether you are mad or not?

“The title is vague and specific at the same time: when people look at the word Lunatic they think of madness so they are prepared for anything that can happen on stage, it is not predictable.”

Nigel was also inspired a documentary about sleep walking and insomniacs and the things people do in their sleep plus an episode of one of his favourite TV shows CSI about how they thought someone had murdered someone while asleep.

Raised in Abergele, North Wales, where his family moved when he was a child, Nigel attended local school and technical college, initially aiming towards a job in the caring professions, such as nursing. But he then auditioned and was accepted at drama college in Cardiff where his tutors suggested he trained in dance. By then he was 21, older than most dancers start training. But he was accepted at the London Contemporary Dance School and completed a one year special course.

He co-founded DV8 in 1986 with Lloyd Newson but left in 1992 after seven years when the company was at taking off. “I left because the shows were getting too bigger. DV8 was really getting successful with massive sets. But I kept feeling smaller and smaller and part of a huge organisation and I also like funny things and DV8 is a bit too serious, too worthy for me. I wanted to do solo work, wanted to be on my own so I left.”

The result has been a run of highly acclaimed shows. It was after such a show that Ann Sholem, the national dance company’s artistic director asked Nigel to create a work in Wales. “Ann watched my solo show Frank and came to see Stupid Men in Nottingham and I came to do a workshop with the dancers in Cardiff for a day and during that time Ann asked me to make a piece.”

Nigel arrived not only enthused by the moon but the 1950s. “The 50s fascinate me. It was just after the war and especially in Britain people thought things would be better, we would be more prosperous, but it was not how people expected. I love the music and style and designs of the 1950s so the music is from that era with some from the end of the 1940s so we have Glenn Miller’s Moonlight Serenade.”

Charnock’s work is also immediate and engaging. “People’s attention spans are quite short. So the scenes in Lunatic are quite short, this happens, and this happens, and this happens. It is a bit like for the You Tube generation, clicking on things. If it is more than four to five minutes long people don’t watch, I know I don’t.

“It is not abstract movement; there is some text in it, but hopefully movement that mean something. I like to think you can get anybody and put them in front of a piece of mine and they would get some feeling, some understanding from it.

“Even now, when I go to see dance I still get confused and need to know what is going on, what is happening. I try to make dance that immediately communicates with the audience, that connects. “

Lunatic is one of three dances in Bitter Suite, the spring season from the National Dance Company of Wales, Diversions, opening at the Dance House at Wales Millennium Centre on Thursday and Friday, January 22 and 23 and touring. For tickets: 08700 40 2000. Completing the programme is Hinterland by Roy Campbell-Moore set to music by the late Alun Hoddinott and Stijn Celis bold work FORM.

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Monday, January 5, 2009back



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