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Mark Baldwin On ... Rambert Dance Company's Seven for a Secret

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Mark Baldwin is Artistic Director of Rambert Dance Company. This innovative dance company attract loyal audiences at the Lowry and their new show Seven for a Secret opens its tour there later this month. We caught up with Mark to find out more about the show and Rambert.

Can you tell us a bit about Seven for a Secret, never to be told. What can audiences expect?

Seven for a secret, never to be told is a collaboration between composer Stephen McNeff, designer Michael Howells and myself. The music is adapted from Ravel’s opera, L'enfant et les sortilèges (The Child and the Spells), and features gorgeous and refreshing melodies. The piece is in 15 movements - some boldly mimic the original score in a fresh and vibrant way, others expand on its beauty and playfulness. The choreography features many jumps and swift transitions, creating brilliantly childlike dancing. The whole cast launch themselves into the world of a tot with awe and wonder, and the dancers’ movements capture the super agility and lithe suppleness of kids at play within their own fantasy worlds. I believe that how we play in childhood influences who we will be later in life, which makes it such a fascinating and expressive place to explore, instantly recognisable to anyone and everyone.

How did you get started in the world of dance?

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be a dancer.

What kind of things inspire your choreography?

I’m inspired by anything that moves - swallows diving for insects in the dry grasses of Portugal; a drunk man staggering for the bus; children and adults alike at play. Music makes me move in ways I had never imagined.

Which choreographers/dancers did you admire when you were growing up and why?

Merce Cunningham, because his endless capacity for reinvention was just marvellous, and he worked with amazing artists such as Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns; Richard Alston; Jonathan Burrows; ballets that capture music and mystery like Ashton's Symphonic Variations; the dancing of Christopher Bruce, Lucy Berge and Margot Fonteyn (who I watched on television as a child); street performers; Comedia Dell’Arte. I was born in Fiji, so have always admired the tribal earthiness of Polynesian dancing.

What have you seen on stage recently that has blown you away?

Top of the ‘wow’ dance I have seen recently is Marianela Nunez in Balanchine's Ballo della regina at the Royal Opera House. Forsythe’s duet, Rearray, for Sylvie Guillem and Nicolas Le Riche. Also the Kirov Ballet’s La Bayadere –corps de ballet all 32 dancers diving into the movement together, breathing and extending as one. James Corden in One Man, Two Guv’nors; Katie Mitchell; and I love contemporary artists like Kader Attia and Marina Abramović.

Do you think the audience for dance/ballet is changing thanks to the likes of Rambert and Matthew Bourne? It seems more accessible - is it?

Introducing audiences to powerful expressive works and dancers is our job, and I like to think that the lollipops go hand in hand with more gritty pure dance pieces. In these the human body takes on its own poetic power through movement, and with fine music and design for accompaniment, such dance can take us on an emotional journey that no other art form can. That’s why, for me, dance is so totally engaging and life-affirming. The new rock and roll.

What do you think is Rambert's overall aim in terms of a mission statement - what are you trying to achieve through dance?

Our mission, generally speaking, is to make new work and develop audiences for that work; to engage, teach and perform, and importantly to collaborate with dancers, musicians, composers, designers, artists, and especially choreographers. We want to develop dance for the future by nurturing young choreographers and giving opportunities to dancers through an ever-evolving and distinct repertoire, which is both entertaining and engaging.

What can this show offer Rambert fans and newcomers, alike?

In all Rambert’s shows I endeavour to have something that newcomers can enjoy and appreciate, whilst showing pieces for seasoned dance lovers which engage and intrigue them. Watching Rambert Dance Company is for everyone’s pleasure and enjoyment, and I like there also to be a little something to think about. Live dance with live music at this level is a splendid experience, and our forthcoming programme is especially beautiful - full of memorable tunes, witty divertissements fleshed out with excellent dancing, and choreographic skills the Company has made its name on. For me, Seven for a secret, never to be told is dance that speaks straight to the senses and is a delight.

Mark Baldwin was speaking to Glenn Meads

Rambert Dance Company’s Seven for a Secret… Tour begins at The Lowry, Salford, on Wednesday 21 September 2011. For more details visit their website.


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