Extract from an interview with Maresa von Stockert and Dom Smith regarding SEASAW and its performances as part of the Brighton Festival 2012.
DM: How does it develop from other Tilted Productions work such as Masquerade and Grim(m) Desires, which I believe you made for Wapping Power Station? I watched the trailer and they looked pretty dark, and very ambitious?
MvS: Grim(m) Desires was a site-specific piece made for Wapping Power station in 2004. Masquerade is my latest stage piece that has toured nationally and internationally in 2011 and 2012. I have choreographed site-specific pieces in the past but Seasaw is the first site-specific work that I have created for the outdoors and also my first promenade piece. Seasaw invites the audience to a walk along the seafront where they encounter vignettes of contemporary dance, performance art and physical theatre.
DM: Why want to do work on Brighton Seafront?
MvS: Seasaw is a piece that looks at the relationship between humans and water. It was first created in Cromer at the Norfolk coast. It is always performed near water. Sometimes near a river, sometimes at the sea.
We were invited by Brighton Festival as part of the Without Walls Consortium to show Seasaw here. Wherever we show Seasaw I always go on a site-visit first. It is important to me to find the right location for each scene of the promenade performance. I walked up and down the Brighton seafront many a time to figure out the best location and route for the piece. This is quite a complex task as there are 9 -10 scenes that all need to find the right place and also make sense as a whole. There can be slight variations in the order of scenes to accommodate and play with the unique features of each new site allowing me to integrate the surrounding architecture and landscape. The Brighton seafront next to the Marina is a brilliant mixture of rough wasteland and beautiful pebble beach. I am looking forward to ‘moulding’ Seasaw to this special location.
DM: What are the biggest challenges doing work outdoors and on a beach?
MvS: The biggest challenge doing an outdoors piece is the weather… then council permissions, finding the right sites for each scene. Different surfaces bring challenges for the performance, for example dancing on sand is very different to moving on grass, pebbles or concrete. The dancers need to adjust movements and we explore and play with the different properties of surfaces. The architecture of a place is taken into consideration. For example in Bethune, France where we just performed several of the scenes were seen by the audience standing on one side of a pond and the dancers performing on the other shore. It is also very nerve wrecking to work with props outdoors where surfaces can get slippery in moist conditions, where the wind can change the movement of the prop unexpectedly, the sun is in your eye,…
Another challenge is time on site. Often one arrives at a festival with only 1-2 days of rehearsal on site in which the piece has to be ‘moulded’ to the new environment and changed appropriately. Each location requires a different approach and offers new possibilities for the piece.
Seasaw changes with each location – it’s never exactly the same piece. This is a constant challenge but also makes the beauty of the piece. It’s exciting to do and certainly gives the piece a life of its own.
DM: So the piece is inspired by the relationship between humans and water? I see you have tackled Glacier – oil drenched birds, Ice floe, before? Where does this inspiration come from?
MvS: I have always been fascinated by water. As a child I grew up near the lake of Constance, the biggest lake in Germany. I could sit for hours at the side of the lake listening to the waves hitting the lakeside and form weird fantasy creatures with algae washed ashore…
I am interested in our ambiguous relationship with water: we drink it, it is part of our bodies, we fill it in billions of plastic bottles that end up polluting our rivers and seas, we bathe in it, we use it for recreation, and we live with the thought that future generations may drown in it if water levels keep rising. Shortly: we love it, we need it, we fear it.
Seasaw plays with different imagery associated with water – for example it may evoke childhood memories of waterside holidays or provoke thoughts on current environmental issues such as water pollution and global warming. Some scenes in Seasaw have very specifically been made for an outdoors context and could not be done in a theatre, other scenes have been developed out of and evolved from past stage works and found a new life in this site-specific context.
DM: Is it important for artists to engage with social issues as well as entertain?
MvS: I value art for art’s sake as much as art that deals with social issues. I believe in art that touches people in whatever form that may be – abstract, theatrical, issue based, …
I personally feel inspired by social issues that surround me. I can’t help but be intrigued by human behaviour and its paradoxes. Seasaw aims to be a piece that is thought provoking as well as entertaining. It does not have a narrative thread but the scenes are tied together by the underlying topic of our relationship with water. Seasaw does not want to tell you what to think but it does want to provoke your thoughts and inspire your own imagination.
DM: Can you tell me about the music – what inspired it, what can we expect?
MvS: Seasaw is created to a wide range of different music genres. Some of the music has been especially written for the piece by composer Jeremy Cox. Other scenes are choreographed to existing music. Most of the music is in one form or another inspired by or linked to the water theme. For example several of the existing music tracks are written by Michel Redolfi, a French composer who makes and records sounds under water.
DM: The publicity picture shows a dancer in a tiny box filled with water? Can you tell me about those in particular and how important props are to your work?
MvS: In one of the scenes a dancer moves around and in and out of an aquarium filled with water. We see her movements through the water and glass as her body moulds itself to and around the aquarium. The water as well as the restrictive space of the aquarium walls inspired the movement material. I wanted to explore how the water and aquarium can distort, influence and reshape the dancer’s body. And how the dancer could make us focus on and experience the movement of the water.
Seasaw features many props: from deckchairs to ice-floes, from water bottles to lifebuoys. I like the challenge of working with objects. For each object one uses, one needs to invent a new movement language. Using props does not allow you to fall into habits. Each object means a new challenge and becomes a new movement catalyst. Rather than looking at how a dancer can make an object move I like to look at it the other way around: how can the object move the dancer. I am always aiming for a duet between the two where the object is as important and featured as the dancer. It requires a certain mind-set from the dancer and a lot of patience to ‘listen’ to the object and work with it in a truly integral way.
The objects are not just movement catalysts. They are important players within the theatrical context and are used for their symbolical meanings.
DM: How will the seven dancers interact and use the space? Will it be a mix of duets and trios or group pieces?
MvS: It is mainly a mixture of duets and trios due to the nature of the promenade piece: seven performers are not many if you consider that they need to move from scene to scene ahead of the audience (managing costume changes and sprints across long stretches of land unseen by spectators). There is however one large group scene where they all come together. The spaces we use change each time and include niches in walls, vast open stretches of beach, piers and walls.