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Interview with Marc Brew

23 February 2016 | Lydia Cooper

Marc Brew is a choreographer and performer who specialises in contemporary dance. He is known for his thought-provoking dance creations and his work with AXIS, which aims to change the face of dance and disability. We chat about confronting physical obstacles, his composition process, and the symbolism in his work.

London Calling: You’ll be performing For Now, I am... at Sadler’s Wells this March. It’s the second part of your trilogy about your life-changing accident, and explores the process of re-acquainting yourself with your own body.  Can you tell us about the show?

Marc Brew: For Now, I am... follows on from my first notable solo Remember When – originally commissioned by East London Dance in 2008. The show is inspired by my time in hospital after being left paralysed by a car accident, and learning how to move and dance again. I grew up in New South Wales, Australia and trained as a ballet dancer.  In 1997, I moved to South Africa to take up my first professional job with PACT Ballet and I was involved in a car accident as a passenger, leaving me paralysed from the chest down. For Now, I am... takes the audience on the journey of my personal rediscovery; painting images of hospital beds, examinations, the realisation of what had happened to me and the evolution of my body and spirit as it learns to accept my form as it is now. The show has a fierce physicality and tender expression. It explores what it is to be broken, reborn, purified, and to reconcile being in the world in an entirely new way. I have created something that engages directly with my body as it is now, investigating and exposing its changed form: it builds a dialogue with my body and confronts my most essential aspects along the journey, in a distilled form. We are alone in the space with the human body. Just us, and him. And an expanse of white.   

LC: Your work explores religion and rituals, life and death, and the healing process. How did you come up with the idea to use the large white drape [which acts as a kind of symbolic shroud, cleansing device and protective cover, amongst other interpretations]?

MB: It just so happened I had the white fabric from a previous work, originally to be used as a kabuki drop. When I went into the studio to start this solo, I bought lots of objects, wheelchair parts and the white fabric. I began to explore the vocabulary of movement, from the starting point of ‘broken’, and suddenly everything was just stripped away and all I needed was my body and the white fabric.

It quickly became apparent to me that the fabric had many meanings and references. It was initially a sheet referencing my hospital bed: white, sterile and clinical. The piece begins with the sheet on top of me, which makes it feel like a shroud in a morgue, and references the many times I almost died and that fine line between life and death. The fabric became my security and safety.  The idea of cleansing also resonated with me, the idea of making oneself pure and whole again: water is referenced in the work through the visual projections, and it’s used in many rituals and beliefs. The fabric almost becomes my lifeline: it creates layers and sculptural patterns during my journey until I become more independent.

 

LC: Did you work closely with composer Claire McCue on the soundtrack for the show, or was it an independent thing created after she saw your work?

MB: I work very closely with all my collaborators, yes. Claire felt it was important to use the cello and piano as the main instruments as she felt they referenced the body. The music score was devised alongside the choreography, and initially I would be sent sound bites and tasters from Claire until the ideas became fully formed alongside the movement. We were very much influenced by each other, which is why the music and the dance blend together so well.

LC: What was it like working with Dame Evelyn Glennie on Fusional Fragments?

MB: It was a wonderful experience and definitely an honour to work with her. We collaboratively created a dance and music production that featured her playing live alongside the dancers. Watching her perform and play her instruments is so physical, and I really wanted to capitalise on that and its effect on my dancers. Evelyn did admit that at times she felt out of her comfort zone on stage moving around so much - she was used to performing behind her instruments and staying in one place. We are still very keen to work together again though!

LC: Do you have any plans to perform the third part of your trilogy at Sadler’s Wells, when it’s choreographed? What kind of themes will it explore? 

MB: Sadler’s Wells have presented Remember When and For Now, I am... so I definitely hope they will be interested! I’ve planted the seeds for the third part of the trilogy, so we will have to wait and see how it evolves over time.

 

LC: What else do you have planned for 2016? I read something about a new work called MayBe, a creative collaboration with Natalia Mallo and Gisele Calazans…?

MB: Yes, in June, I'll be heading to Brazil to finish MayBe and after that I’m in Oakland, California to facilitate the AXIS Summer Intensive. I’ll also go to the AXIS convention in New York, which seeks to advance the field of physically integrated dance. Meanwhile, in April I'll begin to make Brewband, my new music and dance collaboration. I’m also touring For Now, I am... after the Sadler’s Wells run, and I’ll be presenting the work in Australia, hopefully ending the year with some performances in South Africa. It’s a very busy international schedule! 

 

 

Marc’s show For Now, I am... will be at Sadler’s Wells on 10 - 11 March 2016.

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