Humanhood is the result of a light incident and happy coincidence. The expression to be in the right place at the right time accurately defines the point that Humanhood started. Back in 2014 at an audition in Barcelona, Paul Estrem (director of Danseu Festival) asked Rudi Cole and Júlia Robert if they had a duet to present for the festival. The instant answer was a yes, even though the company to be, had nothing to show at the time.
Humanhood, a partnership of young choreographers based in the U.K Júlia and Rudi, experienced dancers who relish the intense work with companies such as Thor, Akram Khan and Jasmin Vardimon. In this interview, we understand the dedication and differences in working for dance companies helmed by one choreographer.
Key researchers of Eastern mysticism and the latest developments in Physics and Astrophysics, these two choreographers look for specific research in a collaborative context supported by magnificent movement and winning performances. We have a chance to discuss the creative process, the transition from a large-scale dance company to founding and funding a new dance company in the U.K. arts landscape as well as the performance of ZERO at M1 Contact Contemporary Dance Festival in Singapore.
Can you please talk us through your transition from a repertoire company dancer to become a choreographer and dancer of Humanhood?
The experience of working with companies that were artistically lead by one choreographer/artistic director, in our case working with companies such as Thor, Akram Khan and Jasmin Vardimon, allowed us to dive into an individual’s world fully and deeply embody what they wanted to create and transmit to audiences. In the companies where we previously worked we were continuously collaborating with one choreographer; with his/her unique artistic vision, his/her way of expressing, his/her way of working, as a whole ongoing development process running for two years or more. We believe this was our foundation to understand the importance of nurturing and gathering the best team to pursue our artistic vision with a clear intention and dedicated time for each production.
What is the main idea or concept behind Humanhood?
Since the beginning of the company, we followed our intuition and interests to guide our work. We are both intensely curious in Eastern mysticism and practices as well as the latest discoveries in Physics and Astrophysics. Through Humanhood practice and productions, we wish to bring these two apparently apart perceptions of life together under the artistic and creative processes.
Collaboration seems to be a key area of interest for both of you; can you expand on this subject?
We have named the group of artists that have been collaborating closely with us ‘Humanhood CoreCollaborators’, these are sound designer Iain Armstrong, light designer Horne Horneman and costume designer Mark Howard. Our collaborations start with conversations and sharing of ideas. We look for ways to stimulate our collaborators through images, music, talks, travels, science. Each element informs the other, sometimes we create a specific movement for a light idea or sound idea and vice-versa. There is a constant feedback during the process, especially with the sound designer, working at his studio on the specific connection and subtle complexities between movement and sound. The aim behind is to generate a unique world.
I have worked in the U.K. as a full-time dancer for different companies from 2007 to 2012, and I would like to know what the situation is at the moment for smaller dance companies?
We believe that if artists and companies do work with integrity and high quality, there will always be institutions and organisations that want to support it and push it forwards. There is also a sense of focusing your mind to ‘where there is’ instead of ‘where there is not’. Of course, this requires a commitment and full intention in your work, which sometimes due to what the situation seems like it can be scary. But at the end of the day, if this is what you’re meant to be doing, you just have to go for it! We have received Arts Council England funding for the research and creation of ‘ZERO’ and have now applied for further funding to support our first group piece ‘Torus’. One of the great things about Arts Council England is that they are interested in the development of artists and assisting them in becoming sustainable.
Is it still the case where dancers are employed mainly on short-term contracts with different companies on a project basis?
Until the end of last year we were still accepting freelance projects from other companies, but for 2017 we took the decision to commit our energy and focus to Humanhood entirely. It has been one of the best decisions we made, as we can now dedicate our full attention and time to our projects. Our calendar is projecting until 2019 with Humanhood projects, and we are looking into extending the company with group projects.
Please talk us through ZERO, the performance you are bringing to Singapore.
‘ZERO’ is very special to us, we developed it over a period of one year and a half, and it is the first full-length piece we created. The research behind our work is based on our curiosity for physics and human consciousness. For ‘ZERO’ we explored what is it to be at the very beginning of processes: the start of the Universe. Part of the process was developed in India, where we spent three months travelling and learning ‘Moving Breath’ method; we also did a residency in a beautiful man-planted young forest, Shawbrook (Ireland) with two of the six musicians that played in the scored of ‘ZERO’. In our process we give importance to where and when we are developing part of the creation, inviting the collaborators to these places, sensitive to our surrounds and how it affects the creative process itself. Since we premiered the work, we are still working on the details, which we love to do.
What are the choreographic devices or creative processes involved in your practice? What inspires you to make dance these days?
In our work we trust our intuition, we use a lot of improvisation at the beginning of the creative process which then becomes set choreographic movement. We work a lot with images, and we often have an overall ‘feeling’ of the piece, and that’s how we start our journeys. In the studio, we follow what feels good, and we tend to commit to simple ideas and to explore – deeply. One of the most important parts of our creative process is the refinement towards the end, we are both perfectionists and spend long periods of the project shifting and adding the final details and complexities of the choreography and the production itself.
Lastly, what can our audiences expect from your performance?
We do not wish to predetermine an audience’s personal experience to our work. Instead, we invite people to experience ‘ZERO’ with all senses awake and an open mind.