Features Q&A and Interviews Published 31 July 2014

Intimacy and Ritual

Internationally renowned choreographer Fleur Darkin's works have included residencies at Theatre Mono (Lebanon), P.A.R.T.S (Belgium) and Junges Hundes in Germany. She relocated from London to Dundee in 2012, becoming Artistic Director of Scottish Dance Theatre . Her latest production, Miann is being performed at Summerhall as part of the prestigious Made In Scotland showcase, bringing disparate talents of Scottish dance, theatre and performance to the Edinburgh Festival's international audience.
Lorna Irvine

Image: Brian Hartley

Lorna Irvine: Miann seems to be very much a collaboration, bringing together designers, musicians and dancers. Is it fair to say that?

Fleur Darkin: Miann comes to life in the collaboration between musicians playing and people dancing, in a space designed to hold people together…all the people in the room.

LI: Ritual features heavily in some of your work­ and it appears again in Miann. Why is it that it appeals so much to you as an underlying motif ?

I’m never quite sure what ritual means, and I have spent some time on this idea! Maybe that’s why the perpetual return to it. Rituals seem to change and only become apparent through time and then with more time they change again. A bride getting married feels differently about that ritual than the bride who is now the mother of the bride,etc. Obviously, the ritual of going to the theatre is to sink back into anonymity to experience something hopefully real and emotionally affecting. That is what I want anyway. And if not that then I love pattern and chorus lines and tight rhythm so that’s another version of this apparently; the same ritual.

So with dance as my form I am in that ritual of emotional territory and I respect it. We spent time before Miann researching rituals to do with the land etc. and as enchanting as they were, it felt to re­enact a ritual without its purpose was, well, purposeless. So I have come to understand that my chosen ritual is showbusiness. Which to me means surprise, mystery, wanting to see how it ends, being emotionally involved,cool players who I would like to be or relate to and music that makes me want to cry or kiss someone I love. Plus sexy clothes.

LI: You’re in good company with the Made In Scotland line­-up this year. Who else are you looking forward to seeing this year at the Festival?

FD: I hear Caroline Bowditch’s Falling In Love With Frida is very good, and when I talked to her when she was making it, she said she didn’t give a shit if what she was doing was palatable to anyone. Which sounds like a good start.

LI: The piece centres around intimacy. Summerhall is a distinctive space, a former ­veterinary school; does that mean you have had to be more creative in terms of how you choreograph for this space?

FD: Yes, but we don’t know how it will work out yet, as we designed it to be watched by audiences in the Traverse, but we can’t do it that way at Summerhall. We will be doing it with a reduced set and spatial sensibility. But isn’t that the whole point of the festival? Do away with your pre­meditated tricks and give us bare truth. I saw The One Ensemble (who will be playing during Miann) in the same room last year and they cast a spell on me, as did the room and its previous lives, so we are going to do it this way and Edinburgh audiences will get its true essence. The performers and the audience merge energies: so we hope for alchemy and magic.

LI: You have choreographed for the Glastonbury festival before too, and I just wondered where the strangest space you have ever rehearsed in or performed in?

FD: I had a wonderful time choreographing Roam for Grid Iron/ National Theatre of Scotland at Edinburgh Airport. Choreographing chorus lines in the departure lounge certainly beats the usual no-­place activities of drinking endless water and watching people take covert selfies. I’ve worked in castles and prisons and schools – prisons and schools are virtually the same, by the way, if the teachers aren’t free – and place is important.

You can do theatre anywhere, but the purpose of the place has to chime with the mission of letting people disappear into the imaginary. So as you can imagine, Glastonbury and festivals like that are easy…

Scottish Dance Theatre’s Miann is at the Dissecting Room in Summerhall from 8th-17th August as part of the Made in Scotland showcase.


Lorna Irvine is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine



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