5 Questions to Paul White
Last year Australian Paul White danced at the Southbank Centre in Meryl Tankard’s ‘The Oracle’ and won a UK National Dance Award for Outstanding Performance. This week he dances in a new piece at the Southbank – another winner? We catch up with him…
We see you in London this week channelling Nijinsky and the Ballets Russes in Anatomy of an Afternoon. What should we expect?
Anatomy of an Afternoon is a challenging and slightly mysterious piece, that Martin del Amo and I made for the Sydney Festival of 2012. It’s a 50-minute solo inspired by the work Afternoon of a Faun, originally created by Nijinksy. It’s not a recreation of the original piece from 1912. Martin’s interest in directing the piece was more in exploring the qualities and atmospheres of an afternoon, rather than focusing our work around the Faun character. On a stripped-back stage, I navigate myself through imagined landscapes, complicated labyrinths and encounters with different textures. Hopefully people are at least moved by the piece and its meditative quality.
How did Anatomy of an Afternoon come together creatively and why dump Debussy?
“Dumping Debussy” was in one part a practical move, as the original score is very short. Again however, in the spirit of our creative process: unravelling and responding to the original piece, collaborator Mark Bradshaw wrote a hypnotic full-length sound score, taking some inspiration from the original music. The music is played live onstage by a 3-man band, who play a mix of singing bowls, a clarinet, a celeste and some electronically-generated sound. Mark was inspired by Debussy’s uses of harmony and how he transforms them seamlessly from one to another.
This last season you have been dancing with Tanztheater Wuppertal, Pina Bausch – a unique company: how have you found it and what have you learned?
I’ve been working since November 2012 in Wuppertal. It’s an incredible experience, often overwhelming. As one can imagine, times without Pina are a challenge, and every day the company is confronted by how to continue without their uber-talented leader. We span four decades in age, and this brings very interesting dynamics to rehearsals, our discussions about the future and the energy on and behind the stage. The pieces are so rich in textures, composition, movement vocabulary and character depth that there is an endless amount of information and inspiration to receive just by learning the repertoire. I particularly enjoy the older pieces, and often I’m performing in a piece which premiered before I was born and as the fourth or fifth generation of dancer in a particular role, so there’s a lot of information to take on. It’s the experience I signed up for, but it’s a daily challenge.
You seem to have it all as a dancer: award winning, known internationally, can pick your own projects and who you dance with… How did you make this happen?
I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by very supportive friends, producers and colleagues. Most of the work I’ve generated in the last few years has come from a connection with someone or from a shared interest amongst friends. I think the key to growth is following passion. I’m not driven by “success” or strive for accolades. I’m more into connecting with people, and sharing something with them through performance. Also, a program called the Landmark Forum contributed greatly to my understanding of why I do what I do and therefore clarity on which directions I was interested in taking.
What’s your greatest dance wish?
My greatest dance wish is that dance is an integrated part of cultures around the world and fully appreciated for its healing, moving and touching qualities, and for what it can contribute to well-being, imagination and joie de vivre.