News: Company Chameleon's Anthony Missen on 'The Beauty of the Beast'

Wednesday 15 October 2014

Anthony Missen (second from right) with Company Chameleon. Photo: Brian Slater

Anthony Missen, Artistic Director and co-founder of Company Chameleon, as well as a founding member of New Movement Collective, trained at Northern School of Contemporary Dance and worked with Scottish Dance Theatre, Rui Horta, Rambert, Phoenix Dance Theatre and Henri Oguike Dance Company, Austrian artist Willi Dorner, choreographers Rui Horta, Liv Lorent, among others, before co-founding Company Chameleon with Kevin Edward Turner in 2007. Beauty of the Beast, the company’s new work premieres next week at The Lowry where the company are Resident Artists, before touring the UK – touching down in London for a performance at The Place on Tuesday 18 November….

Where does the name Company Chameleon come from?
Chameleon is a word we ( Kevin Edward Turner and I) came across 20 years ago when we were still young people and deciding we would one day take over the world with our own dance company! It refers to a lot of things – working with movement, language, sound – anything that best represents an idea and the notion of transformation and adapting to suit our environment. It could be ballet, martial arts, the voice, speaking, singing, a prop…anything that works within the content of the show. It’s our aim to be innovative in generating movement material that specifically communicates an idea.

Where did you train?
I was very keen on sports when I was at school in Manchester. Phil Tune was a visiting teacher who was brought in to do one-off dance lessons which we were forced to do instead of a PE lesson…Phil suggested I should try Trafford Youth Dance Theatre which I thought was ridiculous because it wasn’t what you did as a young lad growing up in Manchester! But I went along when I was 14 – and immediately loved it…and kept it secret for five years! I then went to Liverpool John Moores University to train to be a PE teacher and while I was there a good friend was auditioning for Northern School of Contemporary Dance. She was a bit nervous and asked me to go with her so I auditioned as well without really thinking about it and we both got in. That was where I met Kevin Edward Turner – we bounced fantasies back and forth thinking how amazing it would be if we toured the world with different companies and then came back home and set up our own company – which is what we did.

A lot of your work is inspired by male behaviour, male dynamics and father/son relationships – is this something of particular interest to you as a choreographer and/or was it something you felt was missing from the dance world?
My choreography is driven by things that interest me, things that arise locally and globally: men start wars, statistics of male depression and suicide are staggering, issues with violence and male behaviour in different cultures – it all interests me. Everyone has problems of course but I think a lot of men don’t know where to put themselves in society; things have changed so much, male roles, female roles and I think a lot of men are lost.
And it’s missing in dance world communication – there’s lots about aesthetics and beauty but not about specifics – audiences sometimes think they don’t ‘get’ what they’re watching but it’s to do with us communicating ideas to the audience in a way that anyone who’s not from the arts world can understand and question.

How did you become associated with The Lowry in Salford?
In 2008 we got a small research and development grant from the Arts Council to research a piece about what it means to be a man. We walked into The Lowry and said can we use some of your space to show what we’ve made and invite some people and they said yes! Well, if you don’t ask you don’t get…we then told The Lowry team we want to get our own company going and we’d love it if you could give us some support with residency – they offered us two weeks, we asked for a year and six years later we’re still there! It’s absolutely fantastic being Resident Artists at The Lowry – it gives us a bit of profile and prestige and it rubber stamps what we do. It automatically means our work goes into the main house which means our work has to be good. We’ve helped The Lowry develop their dance programme, their education provision and youth work.

Tell us a bit about Beauty Of The Beast ..
It’s all about male behaviour and how men interact. It looks at the different faces of masculinity or maleness – the beauty, the beast, the idiot, camaraderie, the strength, the vulnerability and sensitivity. We look at friendship, strength, hostility, and beauty. And we’ve got a brilliant cast of six ( Eryck Brahmania, Lee Clayden, Thomasin Gülgeç) along with two apprentices from the NSCD programme (Theo Fapohunda and Daniel Phung), as well as me! Most of the cast are people I’ve had in my head for a while – I feel very lucky they’ve all been available. I’m very excited about Beauty Of The Beast partly because this is the first opportunity I’ve had to work with a group – research has come from all over the place – going to work in a young offenders’ institute in South Africa, with young men in violent communities in Trinidad, Morocco and other places. I’m always observing social behaviour, reading, researching and learning.

And your music…
We’ve got a massively eclectic score for the show – we’ve got classical, dirty beats, two composers on board – Kevin Lennon and Miguel Marin – so it’s a mix of pre-recorded and original music. Sometimes I listen to a piece of music and it fires my imagination with something in particular but often when I’m making a piece I can have a sense of what it should sound like. Then it’s about finding the music or creating it.

What do you think audiences will gain/enjoy/take home from Beauty?
I hope they’ll feel something and come away with questions or thoughts; I suspect they’ll laugh and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were moved. I think they’ll go on a roller coaster of different emotions and feelings – some of the piece is very hard, some of it is ridiculous and we go to a lot of different places. I think people will also relate their own experience to what they’re watching so in a sense they bring themselves to the performance – they’re bound to recognise in the characters things about themselves or men they know. Everybody has a male figure who has an influence on their lives.

Are you looking forward to the tour?
I am! It’s going to be busy and I’m looking forward to going to venues with a bigger cast than usual – they’re a really nice bunch of guys and we’ve got lots of different characters within the cast. We’re going to places we’ve visited a lot which will be nice and new places which is brilliant so we can introduce our work to new people.

The Place, Tuesday 18 November
UK tour dates:

Photo: Anthony Missen (second from right) with Company Chameleon, by Brian Slater