6 Questions to Izadora Weiss, Choreographer and Artistic Director of Baltic Dance Theatre, about her new Tristan and Isolde….
Izadora Weiss’ latest work premieres on the 26 May in Baltic Dance Theatre’s home opera house at Gdansk and we look forward to reviewing it. In the meantime we wanted to know more about Tristan and Isolde and how the choreographer approaches dance making.
Many choreographers shun narrative work. You don’t – what fascinates you about telling stories in dance?
Narrative is difficult in normal theatre and even harder in choreography. That is why it is avoided. I am fascinated with it because telling stories about human emotions and anxieties is the most artistic of tasks. It is accompanied by questions of aesthetics and the form used for telling that story. Difficulty of narration is a challenge but also a great impulse for working with dancers.
So what attracted you to do a dance telling of Tristan and Isolde and are you adapting or simplifying the story?
I would compare it to the work of a poetry translator. An inexpressible beauty hidden in literature of one language needs to be translated into the inexpressible beauty of a different language. In this case it is literature translated into a language of dance. Obviously some things will be simplified while other shall be enriched. The tale of Tristan and Isolde is a story of impossible and forbidden tragic love that still brings moments of incredible happiness into the lives of the lovers.
Tristan and Isolde is mainly known as an iconic Wagner score/opera but you are using the music of Franz Schubert and others. Why change?
Wagner composed a beautiful opera and if we tried to dance it, it would be like putting a big screen with a sign language translator next to it. I see no meaning in adding movement to this music. Most of my productions are prepared with the music I select and edit (it takes months) in order to match with the story precisely. The only times I’ve done things differently was with the Mahler music I used for The Tempest and Phaedra when I created a tale for entire pieces of music.
How do you create your pieces – do you go into the studio with a firm idea of the movement you want? Or does it all just happen on the spot?
It begins with music. After listening to it for months I have it in my head with various images usually connected with particular dancers in my company. Then I work on choreography in the studio with selected dancers bearing in mind their abilities and personal characteristics. A lot of new ideas and narrative solutions appear at this stage. I do bring my own choreographic script but I do not try to enforce and stick to it – the dancers inspire me immensely. Even though I do not let the dancers improvise and decide on every precise movement, the choreography is created while being in contact with them. The real people are the most important in theatre. These stories are not only about characters but also about the performers.
What other projects are you currently working on and what other classic stories are you interested in putting on stage?
I am always focused on one project at the time. I know that following the premiere of Tristan & Izolde I am beginning work on Darkness by Conrad for Polish National Ballet in Warsaw.
What is your greatest dance wish?
To show all the capabilities of my company to all admirers of dance theatre and especially to the London audience which gave us such a warm welcome for Phaedra, which we danced there at the end of last year.