An interview with Alexander Whitley

October 31, 2019

 

We asked Alexander Whitley some questions about his company’s new work, Overflow, which premieres here at DanceEast Friday 8th November, with and additional performance Saturday 9th November.

 

  1. Can you tell us a bit about Overflow and what the audience can expect from the performance?

In making Overflow, I’ve drawn inspiration from a wealth of fascinating writing exposing the social, political and psychological transformations we are experiencing in the era of big data. I’ve been delving into understanding what it means to be human in this time, when data on human behaviour has become the most valuable commodity of our economy and our every click and ‘like’ is recorded in order to be able to predict and modify our behaviour. How does that impact on our ability to act freely as an individual and as a society and how does it fundamentally change our relationship to the future? As digital technology develops we are able to generate more data about ourselves than ever before but all of that ‘self-knowledge’ does nothing to help us answer the most basic human question – ‘Who am I?’

Audiences can expect to see six extraordinary dancers embodying a range of ideas in relation to this theme, with the piece exploring the contrast between the individual and the networks of communication they form a part of.  A kinetic light sculpture created using thousands of tiny LED lights creates many different environments and moods for the choreography to exist within and brings a strong technological presence to the stage. The original score created by Rival Consoles echoes the themes mentioned above and created a powerful drive to the work. The costume design also reflects the subject matter and has employed innovative techniques such as photogrammetry  and 3D printing.

 

  1. How did the collaboration between the company and Rival Consoles (Ryan Lee West) come about?

This is the second collaboration I’ve had with Ryan. I’ve been a big fan of his music and in 2107 I approached him to create music for a duet called Between Two Fires, which premiered at DanceEast. To my great delight, he was up for it!

I really enjoyed that collaboration and thought Ryan would be an ideal collaborator on Overflow as his music style is strongly built on technology, both modern and traditional. Also, the rhythmic and atmospheric features in his work and his use of analog instruments to give character and a unique sonic environment to his music felt like a good fit for this work.

 

  1. Who, or what, is your greatest influence as a choreographer?

Choreographers, William Forsythe and Merce Cunningham have probably had the greatest influence on my work.  Not necessarily in their stylistic approach but more in the way they think, the ideas they introduced to the process of dance making and the way they transformed the way choreographers can think about movement and the body. I take a lot of inspiration and draw ideas for my choreography from the books I read and from the work of other artists across a range of disciplines.

 

    4. Overflow, like many of your works, is based upon elements of the modern world, especially regarding technology – has it always been important for you to reflect the world you live in?

Yes, very much so. I think artists are always reflecting the world they live in, even if it’s not the explicit subject of the work. I’m really interested in how dance can reflect contemporary experience, especially in relation to how technology is transforming the world, the way we understand ourselves and the way we relate to each other.

 

5.Why should people come and see Overflow?

Because the wonderful team of artists and performers who have collaborated on Overflow have all brought really strong elements to the work, which together make for a compelling experience. I also hope that people might connect the work with their everyday experiences and feelings they have about their own relationships to technology.

 

 

Buy your tickets for Overflow here. The company are also running a workshop for dancers aged between 10 and 16, in which they will learn some of the movement material from the company’s new production. The workshop costs £12, or £8 when booked with a show ticket, and is available to book here.

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