Black Sheep Productions will premiere Everything Anyone Ever Wanted at Q Theatre this week. I caught up with choreographer/producer Natalie Maria Clark about her latest work, "depicting a restless generation of insatiable Millennials".
How did you decide that contemporary dance/choreography was the career for you?
The only way I can describe finding contemporary dance, this weird and wonderful art form that I didn’t even know existed until I began my degree in it, is like “arriving home.” Dance is like a skin, or like skin on skin, a hug. And my inherent desire to express and communicate my thoughts and feelings leads to creating choreography. It’s definitely something that will be forever a part of my life, however I have numerous other interests and careers I’d love to pursue! This work actually stems from and addresses that feeling - having so many options you feel confused, overwhelmed and stagnant.
What led to the founding of Black Sheep Productions?
A desire to create independent dance performance under a name that encompasses more than just myself as a director and facilitator, and can encompass the many people whose creative efforts and inputs that go into the projects I initiate.
What do you like most about your profession?
The ability to communicate ideas through the innate language of the body, and the wonderfully diverse and intelligent creative people that I collaborate and work alongside with.
What’s the most challenging thing about being the choreographer and producer of your own work?
Switching between two brains! Even though I am adept at both skills, they still feel tricky to action simultaneously. It reminds me of my bilingual father saying that even after twenty-five years of speaking English, he still finds translating between German and English difficult! My first full-length show I created, produced and performed in! Photos from the time reveal how little I was sleeping..
What’s one secret the public doesn’t know about contemporary dancers?
We have revolting feet. Covered in bruises and scabs and blisters and broken toenails.
Who are your heroes?
Anyone who pursues something they believe in fiercely, anyone who acts with integrity, and anyone who has a desire to instigate change in order to better the world.
What is the work you are most proud of and why?
I am proud of all of my major works for different reasons. My first show, How To Make Friends and Still Appear Normal, because I was young and acted as if I was invincible and had no rules, to create an incredibly intimate cross-disciplinary show. Apt Y Idos because I made it whilst injured. Revilery, the short work I made on Footnote Dance NZ last year, because I surprised myself with how intuitively and quickly I worked, and because it felt like an achievement to be offered my first professional commission.
What’s your advice for an audience member seeing contemporary dance for the first time?
Take a risk. Go and see something unfamiliar. Unfamiliar is good, it’s growth. Don’t try to over-analyse what you see. Let it wash over you and feel what is being spoken. If it were telling you something able to be articulated in words, it would be written in a play or song lyrics or a story. Dance is a body language and speaks to that which transcends words.
How did Everything Anyone Ever Wanted evolve conceptually? What was your choreographic process?
It began after noticing a recurring discussion with other 20-something-year-olds about feeling stuck, confused, overwhelmed and restless. About being loaded with expectation that can only lead to a sense of failing. About wanting more and, despite having huge global reach and so much knowledge at our fingertips, feeling unable to find fulfilment.
After much planning and research and thinking on my part, we had three week-long workshops last year and generated a heap of choreographic material. We let it sit for a few months and brew before digging it back up and shaping it into something cohesive and refined for stage that feels like it speaks about my experience of the world.
What is your (personal) favourite moment in Everything?
It will be the moments that the audience tell me afterwards, “That felt like something I know or have experienced.” My aim is to find connection, by normalizing an acknowledging these not-so-nice feelings.
How did working with your dancers contribute to and develop Everything?
The dancers I am working with - Rosa Strati, Sofia McIntyre, Manu Reynaud and Benjamin Mitchell - are incredible people and contribute a huge amount of creative material to the work. Generally I give them tasks from which they create movement that I then work with them to abstract, re-shape, refine and edit, so that it can best speak to the ideas we’re trying to communicate. We have a very open line of communication about what’s working and what’s not and I trust them implicitly. Quite frankly the show would be crappy without them, and all the other amazing collaborators - Sean Kelly (a.k.a. Seth Frightening) as composer, Ruby Reihana-Wilson designing lighting, and Christopher Stratton designing set and costume.
What’s next for the Black Sheep Productions?
I would love to resurrect Apt Y Idos and tour that work and Everything Anyone Ever Wanted. It’d be great to take them to Wellington and Dunedin especially, to where our earlier works travelled, and re-connect with audiences there.
What’s your professional opinion on NZ’s best;
- Place to grab a coffee? Kokako Fairtrade and Organic Cold Brew with hazelnut milk at Little Bird! (I’m a real Aucklander now…) Especially in Summer, over ice, such a treat.
- Brilliant activity that costs nothing? No better way to feel exhilarated, present and alive than going for a run or hike in a park, bush or forest, followed by immersing yourself in the ocean or a lake. Even in the city there are places to do this! My local is Cox’s Bay Park followed by a swim at Herne Bay.
- Place to indulge yourself? Splore festival annually in Tapapakanga - the most indulgent weekend of self-nourishing fun, frivolity, music, art and humans!
NATALIE MARIA CLARK, choreographer of Everything Anyone Ever Wanted, Tue 21st – Sat 25th June at Q Theatre Loft.
Tickets found here.
cred: Blair McTaggart