Interview: 'Meeting Mr Boom!'

Monday 24 February 2014 by Carmel Smith

Darren Ellis

Choreographer Darren Ellis has danced with New Adventures, Wayne McGregor | Random Dance, Mark Bruce Company, Richard Alston Dance Company, amongst many others. A trained percussionist as well as a dancer, Darren teaches at the Rambert School, is an Associate Artist at DanceEast and makes work with his own company. His latest show, which premieres at Greenwich Dance this weekend, started as a collaboration with composer Ronen Kozokaro – and a bouncy castle. We wanted to find out more…

Tell us about Meeting Mr Boom! … where did the idea come from?
It has been developing gradually for a year and a half since the composer Ronen Kozokaro came to me with the idea of creating a music and dance show on a bouncy castle. We knew we wanted to make something fun for both ourselves and the audience. The show has really developed from a concept to see how dancers and musicians cope on an unstable surface and from the R & D process a year ago to now, where it has grown into an original children’s story of finding courage, imagination and adapting to new environments.

Once Ronen and I discussed the idea in depth, we had two weeks of trying out different types of bouncy castle surfaces – one was a Spiderman theme and one a fairytale castle. We knew we wanted to have one specially made that was more of a new world environment so we got the designer Richardo Pardo on board and ideas started to develop for the set. It’s the first time Ricardo has worked with an inflatable structure and it has been a challenging but fruitful endeavour for us all.

How did you get in to making work for young audiences?
The first experience I had in making work for young audiences was choreographing The Selfish Giant for Springs Dance Company a couple of years ago, I really enjoyed thinking about how a young person would relate to the show and also finding my own inner child! My solo work has been performed to audiences of all ages, although it wasn’t necessarily created for a specific age group I think that a lot of my work is quite playful and that all ages can relate to this.

Is it now one of your main interests in making work – or just one angle?
I am interested in working this way again and I feel like I have learned a lot from creating this show. Creatively for me it just depends on the next idea I have and how and who that creation works best for, it’s nice when you can create something for a wide variety of people but sometimes the focus is aimed more towards a certain audience. I do have some new ideas for younger audiences but I also have some projects of a different nature coming up too. I like to have many angles to work from sometimes it may be film; I am working with a visual artist at the moment or it may be a pure dance piece for stage, I enjoy mixing it up a little.

In the course of your career, you’ve danced with many of the most successful companies in the UK. Do you miss performing – or do you think of yourself as primarily a choreographer now?
I think I will always think of myself as a performer in some senses as I did it for so long and I have been recently performing some of my solo work. But I’m not really looking for performing work; at the moment I want to concentrate on choreography and learning more from each project. I teach a lot which I really enjoy, although saying that there is a sense of freedom, of being in the moment that comes when you are performing that I miss.

What do you look for in your performers – specifically for a production for children?
Performers who have a control and knowledge of their instrument whether that be their bodies, voice or musical instrument and who have a desire to be playful and creative. People that want to engage with the work and the audience; it’s the same as with any production for me.
I’m really lucky to have such a fantastic group of performers (Nicole Guarino, Zachary Gvirtzman, Hannah Kidd, Ronan Kozokaro, Yair Schleider, Joe Walkling )working on this production they have all been a huge part of bringing the world of Mr Boom to life.

Meeting Mr Boom! is at Greenwich Dance, 1 March; Stratford Circus, 8 March and The Place on 19 July – as part of a UK tour.
Dates & venues:

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