Interview: Kate Flatt Q&A

Thursday 18 March 2010

Kate Flatt Kate Flatt is a leading theatre choreographer who has contributed to many landmark productions, on stage, in film and TV over the years with the National Theatre, Royal Opera House, ENO and the BBC, amongst many others. One of her earliest was the West End production Les Miserables. At the Royal Ballet School and London Contemporary Dance School she trained with Ninette De Valois, Leonide Massine, Robert Cohan and Nina Fonaroff.

Kate says “my work has always been rooted in a need to examine the place of dance at key moments in life.” Soul Play (coming to The Place on 30 March) an intimate production, with two performers does just that…

*_Soul Play_ is about death – and what happens afterwards. What inspired you to make it? * **I heard about this thing called a ‘soul play’ when on a research visit to Romania. In many cultures, there is moment after death when the body is at rest so that the ‘soul’ can leave. My version of this is an imagined moment – as if there were a possible encounter with a personified soul figure

It sounds like Soul Play is more than just a performance – it’s accompanied by outreach work with hospices, bereavement counsellors and post performance Q&A sessions. How is that working? **It’s an extraordinarily rich experience which has brought some heart stopping moments in terms of individual encounters, group experiences and personal stories in the outreach work and my secondment to the Peace Hospice.

You seem to be moving from large scale productions (at the National Theatre, Old Vic, ENO) to smaller work for one or two performers. Is this a new found interest in more intimate work? **I find it is valuable to return to making smaller scale work with higher emotional content. It is an opportunity to re-examine what it means to make dance as a theatre form.

Kate Flatt 'Soul Play' Your performers are dancer Joy Constantinides and actor Sam Curtis. Has it been a collaborative, cross art-form process?

  • I wanted to understand the difference between theatre languages and how the audience perceives and understands narrative in crossover material. The way that dancers and actors work is entirely different. It’s been a fascinating process developing the piece with them. Dance is an abstract language but the currency of the actor is emotion – and with both you are dealing with what the audience can absorb and feel from both media.

Of course you are used to working across art forms – in theatre, opera, film as well as dance. You are often credited as ‘movement director’. How does that differ from ‘choreographer’? **The roles are distinct. Choreographer to me implies working with dance skills usually with music, whilst as a movement director it can be about how an actor or any performer tells us something we can believe in through how the movement occurs. But I use both approaches.

How do you categorise your work now? Are you a Choreographer? Director? Devisor? **I am all three!! In every situation any one of these skills is a vital part of the tool box.

Will you return to work on large scale productions? **Probably – actually next is Marriage of Figaro – the Fandango for the wedding!

What first sparked your interest in dance/movement? **I was already going to dance classes and cavorting endlessly to Beethoven in our living room but what really go me hooked was seeing the magic of Fonteyn & Nureyev in *Giselle*.

You trained in ballet – and still teach. Does it remain the basis of your choreographic language? **I draw on a very wide range of material from my background in both contemporary dance and ballet. I have researched and studied many forms of dance – social and historic too. I often reconfigure material – for example there is a pavane (a Renaissance dance) embedded in Soul Play. I draw on a range of influences which are re-invented for the narrative.

What/who have been the greatest influences on your work? **I studied with Nina Fonaroff and Leonide Massine and was his assistant. Seeing Les Noces by Nijinska and early Pina Bausch were also very important influences.

You’ve recently has an RSA travel grant to study traditional dances in Eastern Europe. Are you using anything you’ve learned from those dance forms in your own work? **There are some of these subtly integrated into Soul Play and they also appear in the workshops – I have learned some wonderful dances for bringing people together- the simple ancient forms use touch and help to contain us – like a giant hug really.

You are working on a new production, which will be shown in London at the Linbury Studio, ROH2 in the autumn, as well as touring. Tell us about Songs from a Hotel Bedroom **It’s a love story across time and distance between a cabaret singer and a song writer. They meet in hotel rooms and a tango couple ghost their way through it as the shadow of their affair. There’s also an onstage seven piece band! The music is by Kurt Weill from his American repertoire – bitter-sweet, funny, raunchy and surprise, surprise – ultimately sad.

Soul Play is at The Place, 8pm Tue 30 March.
Booking: 0207 121 1100

Also at
Mercury Theatre (Studio), Colchester, Essex, Sat 27 March 2010, 2.45pm & 7.45pm
Booking: 01206 573948

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