Magazine #8: “Like a reunion with old friends”
Richard Siegal about DANCE and the little difference changing everything
Interview: Yvonne von Duehren
Richard, you have been a guest at the DANCE Festival Munich with your works for many years, starting 2010 with the production CoPirates followed by your work Black Swan in 2012. Your roots are also in Munich, this is where the Ballet of Difference (BoD) was founded. What else do you remember about DANCE? How do you experience performances in Munich?
I consider Munich to be one of my most important artistic “homes”. The enduring relationship I have had with DANCE Festival Munich plays a huge role in that. I also remember performing as a dancer and co-author together with Frank Edmond Yao for a young audience in the small format Logobi 5 by Gintersdorfer/Klaßen. In 2015 I showed Portrait (in collaboration with Bayerisches Staatsballett) and gave a lecture performance in Katja Schneider’s symposium. The world premiere of Ballet of Difference came in 2017 with an evening called My Generation, Roughhouse (in collaboration with Schauspiel Köln) in 2019, then two digital formats All For One and One For The Money as well as the film of New Ocean Sea Cycle at Pinakothek der Moderne in 2021. I feel so much history with the city and the public, its personalities and venues. Performing there is like a reunion with old friends.
In this festival edition we see two of your productions – TRIPLE and XERROX Vol. 2.
What makes the two evenings special – what makes them different?
TRIPLE in some way epitomizes the artistic and social mission of BoD. It challenges conventions of classical ballet, without abandoning the beauty and thrill of it. It blends together our 400-year-old cultural tradition with thoroughly contemporary notions of diversity, queerness, subcultures, fashion, technology; in effect, the politics of difference. And it manages to advocate for progress, moral expansion, not from a defensive posture, but through joyful, athletic, ironic affirmation of the power of innovation married to patrimony.
XERROX VOL. 2 builds upon my longstanding admiration for Alva Noto’s music and our continuing artistic collaboration. The evening was the occasion for us as a company to scrutinize the “Ballet” part of Ballet of Difference. We asked ourselves hard questions about how cultural values are encoded in its form and if they can (or should) be teased apart from the technique. The result is a sumptuous and at times playful blending of classical ballet and contemporary aesthetics.
Contemporary dance has so many facets – with you we see highly virtuosic dance, in other performances there is rather little movement – where do you see the core of (contemporary) dance?
It’s an interesting question. It would seem that contemporary dance resists definition by definition. It is exactly that restive, reactionary aspect of it that makes it so vital, diverse, and difficult to pin down. One thing that can be said, I suppose, is that if there is something that unifies all contemporary dance then it would have to be the body; the body in all its variation, diversity of experience, in idiosyncratic contact with a vast world of ideas.
Classical ballet training is characterized by norms, rules, corrections – is there a right or wrong for you on stage?
I am very much a proponent of the performance being an extension of the creative process. In this way, the only “wrong” that I can really imagine is not to care, to take for granted, to not use the performance as the means to understand better what is being performed.
What is at the beginning of your choreographies? A topic that interests you, a music that inspires you? A costume, a stage set in which you would like to present dance?
The place of departure is most commonly the piece I have most recently choreographed. I have been using this as an oppositional strategy for my whole career. So far so good.
What does the future of classical ballet look like, where do you see the ballet of the 22nd century?
Exactly the same, just a little bit different. And that difference changes everything.