I took the overground from south of the river to Whitechapel and as I stepped out of the station, I was swept up into the bustle of the East End as I made my way to Queen Mary University to attend a talk by Artist-in-Residence Lloyd Newson.
He was there as resident artist on a grant from the Leverhulme foundation – each time the word emotion or feeling was mentioned, a sly look or at one point a thumbs up was given to the head (I believe) of the Centre for the History of Emotions at QMUL. (Perhaps I’m cynical but these actions led to creating a story in my head… I pictured the board of the awarding funding body pointing their fingers at the two men: “Make sure you’re using this money as agreed on page 23,477 of your contract upon disbursement”. Cynical? Sure.
That being said, I shouldn’t let my telling of those few moments lead you astray, as the 45 minute talk was thoroughly engaging.
Lloyd started from the very beginning (“my parents did such-and-such for a living”, “I went to this school”) which was not as indulgent as it sounds when it becomes apparent that his upbringing in the class divided suburbs of Melbourne coloured his psychologist/social worker trained self turned prolific choreographer.
The words that stuck with me from the talk are:
You only have to look at a few of DV8s piece to realise they have something to say. Politically and socially. They have a strong point of view.
What I really appreciated about Lloyd’s candidly delivered talk, was his frankness about the struggles he has in making work.
For example, his years of dance training has led to an appreciation of technical ability. He wants to work with articulate dancers and knows that turn out and an impressive arabesque are hallmarks of a certain facility and skill level. Yet you won’t find an arabesque in his work. As he said joyously:
What does an arabesque really say? Really. To me, it says ‘Look at me!! I’m great!!’
Oh, how delightful to hear those words said out loud by such an established choreographer! My own personal feelings on the topic of technical facility is similar, and so those words fell on sympathetic ears.
Another favourite moment of the evening was when, I assume, a student, asked about his relationship to authenticity and the site of a dance work. I could hear the student’s plea in her voice as she tried to rephrase it to get across her query (I felt the hours of research in her words and could hear the passion in her question) and as Lloyd did his best to answer, which was to say that he felt a dancer could be authentic anywhere, I could feel the schism between artist and academic.
Where is the meeting between the two, and to what purpose? My cynical brain yet again says funding (artists need to find the money, institutions appear to have systematic ways of accessing funds), but I’d like to think that there’s more to it than that. I hope to attend the next lecture Lloyd delivers later on in his year as Artist-in-Residence and I have a feeling he might have a strong point of view on the subject!