5 Questions to Northern Ballet’s Hannah Bateman on dancing in something very different from normal – Hans van Manen’s Concertante…
Dancing in van Manen’s ‘Concertante‘ – tell us about it and your role?
In Concertante there are four couples and two of those couples perform pas de deux. I performed the second pas de deux. The piece is about men and women and the relationship between them. There is a lot of emphasis on testing each other’s boundaries. Mea (Venema, van Manen’s assistant) kept telling us that you have to dance it as if you don’t quite trust the man next to you, you never know what he might do next but equally he is unsure of your next move. The piece is full of aggression and the pull and push between the couples as they try to attract and outdo each other. The man is always instigating the chase and the woman sometimes plays along with him. Hans made it very clear that we always had to be connected with our partner even if it was just with a sideways glance, we had to always be aware of the man’s presence.
I get the best of both worlds in Concertante because there are some fantastic ensemble sections where all 8 dancers move together and then I also got to dance the pas de deux which is one of those pas de deux that you wait a whole career to perform; it is hands down one of the best pieces I have ever performed. It has simple but incredibly effective movement and it is one of those pieces of work that you will always be able to find something new in to explore. I just loved the high energy and accuracy the piece demanded. It’s very organic and complements the music beautifully. I wanted to dance it every day.
How is it different in the studio with van Manen and the teacher of the piece, Mea Venema?
Mea Venema is a wonderful woman. She knows the piece inside out and back to front, the women’s sections, the men’s sections, the pas de deux and the solos, everything and if she doesn’t know a bit or is unsure she refers to her iPad and trusty notebook. We learned the piece in a couple of days because she was so great at her job which was fantastic because we then had a lot of time to just rehearse and really get into the work. She also has such a vast knowledge of Hans’s work and all that he is as a choreographer that we had a really great background to draw on when making choices on how to approach things like the intention of the work. She prepared us really well so that when we first showed Hans the piece we felt confident and really comfortable with all the aspects of the piece.
Video interview with Mea Venema.
Hans is quite simply brilliant. We met him two days before we opened. We were introduced to him and he sat down and said, “We will run it with the first cast. Please go for it, I like dancers who take risks; don’t worry just take risks”. Concertante is just the sort of piece that as a dancer you want the go ahead to take risks! After we had run it he said, “I am totally pleased”. He was inspiring and I felt like he wanted us to achieve all we could with his work. He was very generous with his knowledge and experience. Mea and Hans are a great team and you can tell they have been doing this for a long time; they have their system and it works!
Video interview with Hans van Manen.
On a first night do you have any rituals? And how did it go?!
The first night was actually fantastic. I felt focused, comfortable and prepared. I really wanted to be on stage and deliver and that rarely happens for me. I am normally terrified! It really was a case of right place, right time, right moment. I don’t have rituals as such but by opening night I have everything sorted, shoes, make-up, costumes etc, i know exactly what’s going to happen. I tend to always eat the same pre-performance snacks and I get ready very early! I try and stay in a consistent state of calm and focus and not get distracted by the unnecessary!
In a fairytale world whose work would you most like to dance?
I would love to dance more Hans van Manen! I really enjoy the work of David Dawson so the chance to dance that would be great; anything by Kylian! I have loved creating with Kenneth Tindall so more of that would be brilliant and also Christopher Hampson’s work; I enjoyed performing his piece (Perpetuum Mobile) in Northern Ballet’s mixed programme last year.
We hear you are about to do some choreography for Northern Ballet – do tell…
I am co-choreographing the new ballet for children that Northern Ballet is producing. I wanted the opportunity to really understand how to put a production together from initial idea through to the first performance.
I am choreographing The Three Little Pigs with a fellow dancer and friend, Victoria Sibson. We started choreographing this week and it’s going well: it’s a great challenge and it’s allowing us to use our imaginations and creativity. It feels good to be driving the project and hopefully at the end we have a piece that children will enjoy and will serve as a great introduction to ballet. We are not trying to be clever or create a huge artistic statement, we just want to keep it charming and entertaining and stay true to the narrative. I wouldn’t for one minute consider myself a choreographer; I just needed a new challenge and this opportunity came along so I went for it. It’s teaching me an incredible amount about the creating process, dancers and all the different ways you can work. It’s also teaching me a lot about myself and hopefully this will really benefit me as a dancer and artist.