Interview: Frank Bock

Monday 25 March 2013 by Carmel Smith

Frank Bock. Photo: Hugo Glendinning

The ‘What’ festival of new dance at Siobhan Davies Studios showcases the creativity, diversity and innovation of independent dance artists. This year’s fifth edition, what_now(2013), is curated by dance artist Frank Bock (Featherstonehaughs/Bock & Vincenzi) and runs from Friday 5 to Sunday 7 April. His theme is Dancing in Context – and the programme includes performances, installations and talks around the building – as well as via Skype from locations throughout Europe…

How did you arrive at the theme of Dancing in Context for what_now(2013) ?
When I received the invitation to curate the next festival I set out to see where dance artists and choreographers are applying themselves and sustaining their work. It became a wider concern than simply discovering where dance is being presented as I was also interested in the idea that the skills and competencies that dance artists have could be applied in many other ways. I was interested in knowing what took the many dancers and choreographers who trained in the UK elsewhere. Luke Pell (artist and producer) worked with me on this, speaking to artists inside and outside the UK and having many conversations. The inherent movement in taking your self away also became an idea I wanted to reflect .This sequenced into the wider idea of what moves us at present within the context we are living in.

Is there an over-riding theme/characteristic which connects all the work you’ve programmed?
What makes people move, and what kinds of movement are artists dealing with. For example Chloe Gayat’s piece A Clandestine Voice is a piece based on experiences of refugees; a performer’s backpack opens out into a huge tent with text written on the walls which the audience can enter inside (if they wish) to read the stories and descriptions.

Are you conscious of following in the footsteps of Gill Clarke, who started the annual festival five years ago and died in 2011?
Gill’s stamp on things is very strong. In her last year she became very active in an area of work she called Movement and Meaning in which she researched (with Pal Labs) fostering conversations with other disciplines. She understood the application of dance as an investigative and discursive art form that could contribute in many different ways.

You’ve drawn together artists from all over Europe (and beyond) – how did you go about finding them?
The artists I invited came from the many conversations during the initial research. One thing sparked another, an artist whose work and thinking I enjoyed often turned up under another name and so on. I also went to festivals, often more useful in seeing how a programme of many different events could take place.

And are any new to the UK?
I saw Jared Gradinger and Angela Schubot’s work Les Petites Morts – I Hope You Die Soon and was struck by the way they dance and merge into one body. It takes the relationship into a different extreme of togetherness. It’s a visceral piece; the body full of breath that implies it being their last. It’s powerful and affecting.

Tell us about how Sarah Wigglesworth, the architect of the RIBA award-winning building has become involved…
I invited artist Phil Coy to be part of the festival as much of his work deals with the body and buildings. He made a film, Façade, of a glass space where he played with human interaction and the cool form of a building. He proposed a piece that moves through the building, a choir singing a libretto based on Sarah Wigglesworth’s plans and designs. I was looking for work that delineates space differently, pieces of work which move through the building, and Material Choir does that in a distinctive way. It offers a different take on being in the Siobhan Davies Dance Studios through the architect’s words.

Anything else you’d like to highlight?
An installation of split-screen recorded conversations between dance artists from different parts of the world will I hope be something the audience will find interesting. They move and share something of where they are, whether Lapland, Berlin, Wales or Los Angeles. It’s illuminating and confessional, many things at once.

There are day tickets to the festival – what’s on offer between performances for anyone who comes for the day?
Yes, there are things happening through the day that are covered by the day ticket. The two evening performances at 8pm require an additional ticket. There is a floating programme in the afternoon of Friday and Saturday of one- to-one performances where the audience can sign up for individual solo pieces. Lizzy Le Quesne has an installation called A Year’s Rest where she moves on a bed of nails – it runs throughout the day.

Choreographer Michael Kliën is working in one of the studios and this will be open for the audience to sit in on during the day. I think it will be interesting to observe his choreographic process.

Has your thinking about dance been informed/changed by your recent training/practice as a psychotherapist?
That we live within a context of emergent change, that we have agency, that collaboratively we do better and are always in relationship: these are things that dance as an art form articulates very well and cross over into my other work.

Has it influenced your programming of this festival?
Yes, I would say it has, as some of the questions around how artists direct and apply their skills are implicit in the variety of events in the programme. For example how do you creatively deal with and articulate the conditions and situation you find yourself in?

What would you say is the most accessible part of the programme for any one who just wants to dip their toe in the water?
The festival offers many different ways of encountering dance – as a fly on the wall, a spectator, listening to a talk, signing up for a one-to-one or simply watching some screened work and having a coffee or lunch. Or if you want to simply come for an evening performance, Ivana Müller’s work is sharp and engaging and, at times, funny.

what_now(2013), Friday 5 – Sunday 7 April 2013
Tickets: £5 day pass; £15/£10 day pass plus entry to the evening events.

Photo: Hugo Glendinning

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