Interview: HeadSpaceDance -Christopher Akrill

Wednesday 5 September 2012 by Carmel Smith

“an opening programme that is about as good as it gets” our review

Charlotte Broom and Christopher Akrill met when they were both dancing with Northern Ballet in the 1990s. Having worked with an extensive range of companies and choreographers in the UK and abroad, their adventurous next step has been to form their own company. HeadSpaceDance’s first show includes three new commissions by Javier De Frutos, Luca Silvestrini and Didy Veldman and a reworking of a duet by Mats Ek from 1991.
It opens on Friday – but Christopher managed to find time to answer a few questions for us …

Tell us about your new company…
Well the reason we set up HeadSpaceDance is that after all these years working in the UK and internationally with such inspiring and creative choreographers and artists, we felt that we reached a point in our careers that it would be a natural and fantastic time to step into the roll of producers/performers and form our own company. Our view for the company is to invite in guests, dancers and choreographers – as in established choreographer we have worked with over the years – and also young and emerging choreographers. We find this a very exciting new start.

Where did you meet?
At Northern Ballet Theatre. I was 21, I think, if my fading memory serves me right, I had already been in the company for a couple of years and remember from the minute Charley joined the company we just hit it off and have basically been inseparable since. It’s quite unique how we have followed each others careers unintentionally, from Northern Ballet days to Cullberg Ballet, back to London, working on several ROH2 projects and in Cabaret and the story goes on…

Your first show is a collection of ‘dancer led collaborations’ – three of which you have commissioned. How did you choose the choreographers you are working with?
Well all the choreographers we’ve chosen we’ve worked with before (apart from Luca Silvestrini in my case). They are choreographers that have greatly influenced my career. They share similarities in that they are all very earthy, grounded, and have great humanity in their choreography/works – and also as people. I just love their approach to work, its quite complex, layered and meaningful, the kind of stuff that gets your grey matter working.

Mats Ek has had a huge influence on me, I remember it was my mother who introduced me to the Cullberg Ballet, she sat me in front of the TV popped in the VHS, and it was Giselle. It was a moment that changed my view on dance/theatre and I knew from that minute it was the kind of work I wanted and needed to do.

I first worked with Didy Veldman in Cullberg Ballet and because of her humanity and intellect and huge talent, we decided we would like to use her in the evening. We had a lot of fun creating the solos in Holland; a very memorable personal and touching time.

You both worked with Javier De Frutos on The Most Incredible Thing – was that an influential experience for you?
Yes we both worked on The most Incredible Thing – and before that I worked with Javier on Cabaret back in 2006.
I love Javier for who he is and for his mind, he’s got so much going on in that head of his, brilliant ideas and incredibly creative and I find that very influential.

Luca Silvestrini seems the most surprising choice for dancers with a background in ballet – what attracted you to his quirky style of contemporary dance?
We chose Luca for his theatricality, wit and yes, quirkiness, I love a bit of quirkiness, he’s quite brilliant, we had a fantastic time in the studio with him, he used a lot of improvisation in the creation and really knows how to provoke and I mean that in the nicest sense of the word, pulling out a lot of truths and honesty and rawness.
And yes we both have a background in ballet but we have both worked both as classical dancers and as contemporary dancers for many years now and his works speak volumes to us so it was a natural choice.

How have you set HeadSpace up and found funds to commission choreographers?
Well we mainly have the Royal Opera House to thank for this fantastic opportunity; we have been commissioned by ROH2 and along this journey had their huge support. They really nurtured us, without them we probably wouldn’t have had the courage to see it through and if we did we would have struggled somewhat. We pitched an idea and they helped us see it through.
We also owe a huge thank you to Dance East, for their generous support and use of studios and theatre.

Are you collaborating with other dancers?
Yes we are working with one other dancer – Clemmie Sveaas. We met around seven years ago whilst creating Ghosts by Cathy Marston at ROH2 – and she was also in The Most Incredible Thing. Clemmie is a wonderful and versatile talented artist and we are all on the same wavelength and thought her the perfect choice for this project. We’re very grateful to her for coming onboard with us on this one.

What are your plans – will you both continue to dance for other companies as well as HeadSpace?
Well for the immediate future, we hope to put a UK and international tour together of this programme. For the future, we would like to create more productions and invite more dancers in and use other choreographers, both established and emerging. It’s a very exciting prospect. We will continue dancing in our own company I think and of course take other projects that may arise on the freelance scene that don’t coincide.

Who else is on your choreographer Wish List?
Well we have already put feelers out with several other choreographers and all so far have expressed an interest and said they would like to create for us in the future. But no names to announce yet!

Three & Four Quarters
ROH2, Linbury Theatre
7 , 8, 10, 11 Sept; 7.45pm
Tickets: £20, £17, £14, standing £8.50, Student £11.50
Box Office 0207 304 4000

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