The first week of rehearsals for Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood is over. In this candid interview, Artistic Director, choreographer, and dancer Caroline Lamb reflects upon this unusual combination of older dancers working with younger choreographers, and the challenges this has posed.
It’s the end of the first week of rehearsals for Once Upon A Time In The Dark, Dark Wood. How have you and the older professionals found working with the younger choreographers and their approach to choreographing?
It is very interesting, seeing the younger choreographer’s different approach to working. They work a lot with improvisation, and with ways in which we naturally move. Jessie [Brett] did an exercise about ‘muscles, skin, and bones’, encouraging us to look at how each of these individual components contribute to the way in which we move. They are working in a very ‘organic’ way, where we as the dancers come up with our own responses.
It is different to the way I work. When I choreograph, it’s much more about bringing things to the dancer. I say ‘here are some moves, this is the situation’…
As an older dancer, how have you responded to this different approach?
It’s re-awakening. These young choreographers are re-awakening awareness in us. We’re going back and discovering things in new ways. In some ways it’s actually quite exposing…
In what respect?
You’ve learnt over the years to cover up the things you think you don’t do very well as a dancer. Now you’re having to find ways of doing them again. You’re exposing yourself, not just your strengths, but your flaws too. Jo [Young] has given us some very interesting tasks to do creating detailed movement from pictures. I’ve loved doing it but I am aware that my muscle memory is a bit rusty!
Are there any particular elements that you’ve struggled with?
The younger choreographers use laptops and cameras, which of course is different to how I work. They record us dancing and then watch the material of the dancers improvising. When they see something they like, they show us, and we attempt to re-create it. For me, that is a tough thing to do – trying to work it out bit by bit is very hard. I feel more comfortable improvising and then setting the piece.
The younger choreographers approach involves the dancers opening up and giving a lot. It’s been quite emotional. I’ve found I’ve been holding a lot of tension in my chest. Initially, I was resisting ideas, I was struggling. As we went on, I let go more. It was very re-assuring. You are releasing and letting go. A lot of the time my work is about ‘holding on’, about how tough life is and the choice of either collapsing and giving up, or holding in there. You learn that as you get older, you need to somehow deal with things, despite painful or tough situations.
Have you found the work physically challenging?
Yes, we are all complaining of lower back pain! We’re all older and our bodies are not as strong. It can leave you feeling a bit vulnerable.
It is challenging, physically and emotionally, but this is what the production is about. We’re all pushing ourselves, and it is exciting. It’s been joyous seeing how much everyone can still do despite their age, and how vibrant the mature dancers still look.