Hi Shobana, is it right that you created Clorinda Agonistes – Clorinda The Warrior during the pandemic?
Well, I’d had the idea long before. My starting point was the beautiful baroque music of Claudio Monteverdi’s Il combattimento which I first heard almost twenty years ago. When the pandemic took hold – and especially when it turned out that 2021 was going to be a non-year – I decided it was time to really tackle the piece. That was what Clorinda would have done!
Tell us a bit more about the character of Clorinda and the story of the piece?
She’s incredible. She is a character from a story set in the first Crusades. A female Saracen warrior with plenty of attitude. I was fascinated by her. In Monteverdi’s piece she is fighting the European crusader who is actually in love with her but doesn’t realise it is his beloved he is fighting. And Clorinda refuses to tell him her name. I have always wondered why.
Can you say a little bit more about the music?
The first part of the work is set to Monteverdi and the second half is to a brand-new composition by the Syrian American composer, Kareem Roustom. I wanted to prolong Clorinda’s presence and thrust her into the 21st century to tell her own story. What would she be like? Would she be fighting in the streets of a Middle Eastern city? Four dancers play the role of the modern Clorinda. Kareem’s music evokes his own friends, families and colleagues who were forced to flee Syria or to stay and suffer in war-ravaged cities. I think it became quite personal for him.
You’re also working with the singer Ed Lyon who features not just as a singer but a dancer too.
Ed is a wonderful singer and a performer and I have really enjoyed working with him. He has been very generous, taking on my choreographic requests (which includes rolling on the floor) as well as continuing to sing brilliantly!
And what are you most looking forward to about performing the show at Snape Maltings where your company is making its debut visit?
It is in a lovely part of the country and is always a pleasure to visit. As a dance work where music plays such a pivotal role it seems very apt that we visit a place with such an amazing musical history.
Clorinda Agonistes – Clorinda The Warrior is at Snape Maltings on Saturday 8 October. Tickets can be booked through Britten Pears Arts website.