Monday, March 2, 2009

A Framing Reference

Below is an interview I conducted with William Yong, artistic director, dancer and choreographer for Zata Omm Dance Company, regarding his upcoming premiere as part of the DanceWorks Mainstage Series at Enwave Theatre.

What frameworks do you feel in your life? How have you applied them to your current creation?
My dance work Frames is an exploration and manipulation of perceptions through the idea of framing and frames of reference. It is a structure and vision-oriented piece playing imaginatively with the overt and the hidden, the expectations and the discovery. I wanted to create a piece inspired by the idea of framing because it is of such great interest and concern in our world saturated with manipulative media. In my own life I’ve noticed a series of childhood stories that altered in my memory through the passage of time. Some of the events I have begun to see very differently as I have grown older. Psychological perspective on our experiences constantly changes depending on the accumulation of life experience. I am at a stage where I am very comfortable with myself and not too self-conscious about my imperfection, but it wasn’t always this way. This piece, in a way, reveals the progression of my perceptions. I wanted to use those ideas and imagery and set the audiences into a certain frames of mind and provoke them to react and relate.

How are you translating frames into this choreography?
An interesting aspect of this process is that I tried to manipulate my collaborators' perceptions and expectations sometimes. When I work on an idea, my collaborators would relate to my ideas differently. I would use the results in a different way than I originally intend to use. For instance, I would tell my composer in the UK to compose for this specific idea for this section. He would finish the composition and I would deliberately use it for another section and it works perfectly.

The frames are also aspects of time, age, manipulation, body image and proportion, writing, language, media and nudity. I also paid close attention to the design in the aspects of form, overall appearance and proportion. Physical perspective as well as psychological.Has the 'frame' of the physical space at Enwave Theatre or your rehearsal space influenced your creation?
Enwave Theatre and the studio space where I am rehearsing have not been major factors when developing the ideas of Frames, although I am always aware of the theatre in which I will be performing. In a couple of sections, I created imaginary space outside the four walls of the theatre box. The spaces are not physical; they represent memory, dreams or self imagery.

What inspires you most in your creative work?
For me, curiosity towards the body and its inner motives serve as the starting point for creation. Translating an idea into dance is very important to me. I want to create movements that are as self-sufficient, able convey the message and capable of creating different time and space on their own. Dance is not used as a medium to decorate theatrical space here. I always like to find various and stimulating ways to create movement with the dancers which fit and relate to the ideas. In Frames, I started exploring movement with an image, an emotion, an intention, a story or even words that related to my vision.

Do you prefer to dance in your works?
In fact, I was not intending to perform in this work. I was having trouble finding a male dancer for a long while. I am very careful about casting. Eventually I ended up choosing a female dancer instead of a male and placed myself in it. When I studied choreography at London Contemporary Dance School, I learnt strategies for dealing with the difficulties of placing myself in a work. If you are organized and find the right approach, you can take care of both performing and choreographing and do both well provided that you have the time.

You must get asked about this a lot, but I am interested to know what frames of reference you might have gleaned from your experience of dancing in Matthew Bourne's work, the famous all-male Swan Lake?
Working with Matthew was a major experience in my dance career. There, I learnt that contemporary dance can have the potential to appeal to mainstream audiences. People praised and embraced the work everywhere we went. I also learned from Matthew how to masterfully choreograph a narrative-based work; I think it is very hard to choreograph narrative. It was truly inspiring to see how he worked in the studio everyday for five years. He was very organized, well-prepared and visionary.

Just to be whimsical: what is your favourite mode of transportation?
My favourite mode of transportation would be my dreams. They take me so far and to places I could never reach otherwise. I dream about my ideas in dance.

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