Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Miann and Innocence - Southbank Centre

THE rugged and beautiful Scottish landscape and the works of poet William Blake have provided inspiration for two dance shows which will be performed at the Southbank Centre this week.
Miann - the Gaelic word for craving and desire - and Innocence have been choreographed by Scottish Dance Theatre artistic director Fleur Darkin.
And while there are similarities within the pieces on a basic level, Fleur tells me they are aimed at two very different audiences.
"Miann is very much for adults whereas Innocence has been choreographed especially for children," she says as we chat in a break from rehearsals.
"Innocence is essentially a playroom performance for little ones and features music, song and even some animal noises! It's very playful."
Fleur, who moved to Dundee from her native Peckham just over two years ago, says it was the poetry of William Blake and his vision of angels which inspired the piece.
"I'm from South London and it was an area where Blake lived and where he had his visions of angels," she says.
"I had been thinking about doing a show for children for a while and his poetry had a real resonance with me and the more I thought about it the more it appealed."
As well as choreographing the piece Fleur has included some of his poems which have been set to music by musician Paul Bradley who plays live during the show.
"There is a real variety of musical styles which makes the piece come alive," she says.
"Through the music, the dancers invite the children to explore Blake's poetry and imagination and enter a realm full of mystery, fun and adventure.
"The children share the stage with the performers and they lead a merry dance. It’s not like in the theatre where they have to sit still.
"It’s amazing to see the children take the piece in different ways," she adds. "They have no inhibitions and as soon as the music starts and the dancers start moving, so do the children.
"It's almost like watching grass grow - they just spring up as if they are heading to towards the sun. It's beautiful to watch."
And she says not only do the children get a lot out of the piece, so do their adult companions.
"It's as much for the parents as it is for their young charges," she says warmly. "What is lovely is that when we've performed it before, parents have come in a bit stressed but have let themselves go during the show - it's liberating to watch!"
In contrast Miann is sensual, tactile and intimate and Fleur's choreography creates an intimate ritual about grief and loss.
"It is about craving, longing, abandonment and a desire to almost be at one with nature," she explains. "It's also quite a dark show with 12 performers and a lot of blood, sweat and tears."
Like Innocence it features live music but this time by Glasgow band The One Ensemble.
"The music is incredible - it's part punk and part chamber music," she says.
"There’s no real story as such but it's about living and dying, opening up to the land in a most sensual way and connecting with it on a visceral level. It's very emotional too and the audiences go on a journey with it.
"I wanted it to be engulfing and to create something that conveyed the relationship we have with the land and the fact it is anyone's.
"It's almost like the opposite of Innocence.
"Miann is very much inspired by where I now live in Dundee where the rugged landscape, the sea and the environment are so beautiful," she adds.
"When I moved to Scotland two years ago to take on this job, it was a wrench to leave London but when I got here I was really struck by the landscape and the fact there was no noise - it is very inspiring.
"In London there is a brutality to the place with lots of energy, noise and people living so close together.
"But wherever you are, nature will stop you in your tracks and we should get lost in it. So this piece is about the way grass falls under your feet, how the rain falls and sound falls - there is even real mud on the stage!"
And she says she can't wait to bring it to the Southbank Centre.
"I was born and brought up in South London and had my kids here so it still feels like home in many ways," she says.
"The Southbank Centre is a brilliant space to perform in and does so many great things to bring people closer to the arts - it's wonderful and very much part of London culture so it's fantastic for us to be part of that.
"It's really exciting to come home and show it to a London audience," she says. "I can't wait!"

Miann is on at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, on Thursday, April 9. Tickets cost £15. Innocence is on at the Spirit Level, Royal Festival Hall on Wednesday, April 8 and Friday, April 10. Tickets cost £12 for adults and £6 for children. Visit or call the box office on 0844 875 0073.

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