‘We love Forsythe’s repertoire’ Aaron Watkin, Artistic Director of Dresden Semperoper Ballett affirms from the start. He speaks fondly of William Forsythe, and he also talks very personally and passionately of his time dancing in his works. Forsythe has changed the way Aaron Watkin dances; it has transformed his career moving him across from the ballet realm to the contemporary dance arena leading one of the top dance companies in the world. He refers to William Forsythe as Will, and I can’t shake off this intimacy and deep understanding that underscores our conversation on the phone from Sydney.
DSB houses a broad and eclectic range of choreography, in the latest season, the company performed very different works from Ohad Naharin and Balanchine asserting a global vision for dance. ‘We don’t have modern or classical works. We just have dance. My goal is to create a very diverse repertoire for the company, and the dancers.’ Watkin states with great pride.
Diversity and difference thread through the five-act performance of Impressing the Czar. ‘One of Will’s full-length productions that no one was doing in the world at the time I decided to stage it. I thought it was important that the work is seen. It’s entertainment, and it’s not a ballet piece, but it’s very theatrical – dancing, singing, acting, a huge spectacle.’ Watkin describes very swiftly. There is an evident attachment to this performance that speaks to audiences of all ages and backgrounds. He continues, ‘If you are not a dance expert, there is something for you. Impressing the Czar is also very distinct because each act is very different; we go from one extreme to another, hugely engaging, interesting all the way through, strange, unique and fabulous.’
Watkin confesses with great enthusiasm that he found freedom in Forsythe’s work, a sense of feeling at home. Partly due to the athleticism, aesthetics, and musicality of the works, he adds ‘Once you dance his work it changes you, your artistry, your dance technique, and it really opens a lot of doors for you to dance any style. Will is always searching for something else, and he is someone who is hugely influenced by the world around him.’
I always question what one would like to see more of in dance today? Watkin’s voice changes to a more serious note; he knows exactly what to say. ‘I would like to see more individuality and personality.’
Alas, that makes two of us. Watkin has concrete ideas for dance. I appreciate when contemporary dance isn’t vague, he replies, ‘Forsythe’s work is about the individual, the artist. I feel that today that is missing, it’s not a tridimensional experience, where you are going beyond the steps into the character, the artistry, the personality, the phrasing and the individuality of each person. In a nutshell, is about seeing someone dancing and not just a technique.’
It’s refreshing to have an open conversation about choreography, Watkin describes Impressing the Czar beautifully. ‘You really feel the personality of each character in its own unique special way. This diversity is important to me.’ And I can’t wait to see this multifariousness company take the stage.
Impressing the Czar, by Dresden Semperoper Ballett 15-16 March at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.
This post is sponsored by Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay.