CULTURE

A sensational choreographer

I don’t feel I’m a dancer or a choreographer – I’m a theater man, the kind of theater that incorporates dance. I feel like a stranger when I work with dancers,» says Nigel Charnock with a smile. A guest of the State Theater of Northern Greece’s Dance Theater and the British Council, the British artist was in Greece recently in order to work with Greek choreographer Constantinos Rigos. Together, the two men developed «Megla,» a dance diptych in which each of them presents his own take on relationships. Performances are scheduled for tomorrow, Friday and Saturday this week at the Halandri Arts Center – the avant premiere took place yesterday at the second Mediterranean Contemporary Dance Platform in Volos. Despite his objections, Charnock is considered one of the most sensational and contradictory choreographers of his generation. A founding member of DV8 (one of Britain’s most prominent contemporary dance troupes), he is also behind Nigel Charnock & Company, established in 1995. Since 2002, he is also the artistic director of the Helsinki Dance Company. During a recent short, two-day stay in Athens, Charnock spoke to Kathimerini. Could you tell us about «Midnight Minus Three,» your part in «Megla»? What is the first thing I should say? That it’s not a dance piece. There is dancing, of course, but I’m not a dancer; I’m not a choreographer; I’m a director. I was trained as an actor and got involved in dance later on. This is a dance theater piece focusing on a recurring subject in my work: human relationships, how we treat each other. Love, hatred, sex, death, God, life and what it means to be human. This specific work is a celebration of life. When I got to Thessaloniki, it was really cold, raining non-stop, people were not very friendly; the dancers were depressed and I wanted to do something to cheer them up. As an artist, how do you go about working? Before actually creating something, I read a lot, novels, newspapers. I watch television, films, I talk to my friends. I don’t choose a subject. I think what I do is recreate the same piece over and over again; I try to make it better, to get to the heart of the matter. In your opinion, what defines the British contemporary dance scene today? To tell you the truth, I’m not really sure. I travel a lot (I spend most of my time in Helsinki) and the last thing I want to do when I’m back in London is go to the theater or catch a dance performance. I would rather stay home, stroke my cats and take care of my garden. The British dance scene is very lively – constantly developing. Compared to other countries, there is proper funding. The bigger companies, on the one hand, receive money no matter what happens, while the smaller troupes and the independent artists, on the other, are always trying to get some. It’s the audience following dance, however, that is not very large. ”Megla» means «Made in England»… It has to do with the language, because English is global and has somehow imposed itself on the world. I don’t feel patriotic about it. It just happened that I was born in England. «Made in England» means that you’re into lots of different things, being rich with ideas and influences, especially if you’re living in London. When I’m in Helsinki, I miss London’s energy, all the different colors and cultures coming together. Made in England… It’s about the land, the hills, the trees, different dialects and different people. It’s about being quiet and an introvert, while possessing a special kind of sense of humor with a touch of irony. It’s about a sense of guilt for all that Blair is doing right now and for all the ugly things the British have done in the past. What would be your wildest dream as a choreographer? I have realized quite a few; I’m not sure there’s anything left. I’m now going back to more «closed» works, taking place in smaller venues with fewer people, anti-dramatic works, with not a lot of action. I’m rather extreme. There’s one side of me which is loud and dramatic and there’s another one which is very quiet. I would like to stage a performance in a soccer field or on a tennis court, sometime in the evening, with all the projectors on and the dancers roaming around, lying down on the grass; something you can see from high above. Just for one, single night, without an audience. How is dance developing today? It’s all about cycles. I believe that right now there is a tendency toward absolute dance, while others are going even deeper into the use of technology. I’m not very fond of technology. It’s very stressful when an entire performance depends on whether or not a computer will function. I don’t believe that theater has to compete with technology. That’s where its beauty lies. Everything that happens here and now, even if repeated, will never be exactly the same. «Megla,» a two-part dance theater production created by Nigel Charnock and Constantinos Rigos, is on at the Halandri Arts Center, 53 Garyttou, Halandri, tel 210.639.3341. Performances tomorrow, Thursday and Friday. The interview was translated from the Greek text.