Sandra Harnisch-Lacey, this month's featured choreographer.
You have recently co-produced a new piece SPIN with the Riverfront in Newport. How did this come about?
The co-production of SPIN between Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre and The Riverfront, Newport is a product of the Dance Buddy Scheme, an initiative of the Dance Consortium of Welsh Theatres curated by Creu Cymru. The scheme aims to actively support and develop work by Welsh and Wales-based dance artists, and foster a dialogue between theatres and artists. Nic Young, Director of The Riverfront, has been instrumental in bringing this production into existence through practical support as well as mentoring me personally.
How did you find the process? How did it differ to how you’ve previously worked?
To have the support of a theatre behind you, with the wealth of technical, administrative and marketing experience as well as an arts professional who is happy to chat things through with you, has been a tremendous support. Creu Cymru and The Gate Arts Centre in Cardiff also supported Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre in-kind, with tour booking and discounted rehearsal space provision.
In past productions, my time was taken up much more by administration, marketing and tour booking as well as designing lights and set building. All this support freed up headspace to focus on my role as a choreographer and director.
What experience has this given you?
To choreograph and promote your own work can be a hard and lonely place. To have the support of the Dance Buddy Scheme and to work with a production team within a collaborative process with dancers, composer and designer is definitely my preferred way of working. I very much enjoyed the creative joint energy of everybody working together and the subsequent shaping of the work into a whole show.
What is the concept behind the piece?
SPIN is inspired by personal stories of overcoming adversity and bringing change in return. What does it take to break free and leave the familiar behind - turning difficulties into opportunities!
It's investigating the emotional versus the rational and how a different way of approaching reality can open the view of more ahead. SPIN takes you on a journey in and out of hope.
I was amazed by the dancer’s versatility, stamina and strength. The movement vocab was such a mix of contemporary dance, parkour and breakdancing. Have you always worked within these genres? What inspired you to work with them?
In my last production EXIT&OUT, I began to fuse contemporary dance with urban styles of dance. I’m a very physical dancer myself and have always liked working within a physical contemporary style, but was intrigued and impressed particularly by breakdance and parkour. As a child and teenager I trained intensively in gymnastics and loved flipping off walls, jumping over parking meters, and cart wheeling wherever I went – not knowing that a whole new urban form of parkour was developing. When I saw ‘Jump London’ I knew I would like to find a way to bring parkour onto the stage.
What do you hope for the piece? Are you looking to tour it further than Wales?
I would love for the work to tour into England and Scotland and even internationally if possible. The company has also got a strong education package and offers residencies and workshops for all abilities and ages.
You trained at LABAN but originally are from Germany. Tell us a bit about your background, career so far and aspirations for the future.
I trained at The Laban Centre for Movement and Dance graduating with a BA(Hons), as well as in Physical Theatre at The Desmond Jones School, London. My previous work has been performed in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, France, Luxembourg, and Canada. From 2003 until 2007 I served as artistic director for dance at The Gate Arts Centre, Cardiff, where the company is now resident.
EXIT &OUT toured throughout Wales and England in 2008/09, performing to and working with around 2000 people, teaching workshops in theatres, schools and prisons. I hope that the company will grow from strength to strength gaining a higher profile within the UK and abroad. I would really like to see SPIN tour across the UK and continue to have a life after this.
Last year, Dance UK in partnership with Dance Umbrella held a talk at Southbank Centre titled ‘Where are the women?’ where the focus was on the perception that there is a deficit of high profile female choreographers currently in the UK. As a female choreographer with two young children, what are your views on this topic?
I would definitely agree that there seems to be a shortage of high profile female choreographers in the UK – also, very few of the female choreographers around seem to have children. To combine life as a choreographer with family commitments is a tall order, particularly since the artist lifestyle involves evenings and weekend work with very intensive working periods. It is essential to have a strong support network around you and be very organised with your time.
What advice would you give to students wanting pursue a career in choreography?
To keep going, even though it will be tough – don’t allow the passion for dance to disappear despite it being difficult.
What’s next for Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre?
We have just completed our tour through Wales and Harnisch-Lacey Dance Theatre is about to join forces with Dirty Feet – a breakdance agency, run by Bboy Didge and Rebecca Williams, two of the company members. We are planning a series of performances and breakdance battles throughout Wales, accompanied by a strong outreach and workshop programme. Do find us on Facebook or via our website for further news! www.harnischlacey.com