by Neil Nisbet
Time Out magazine described his work as "Impressive, intelligent, thought-provoking choreography. Submerged in ambiguity, Charles Linehan’s subtle, atmospheric dances thrive on implication, on the elusive emotional undercurrents of human interaction." So we thought it was about time we had a word.
Article19: Tell us a little about your particular working process?
I have just been talking to Katey Mitchell who is directing at the National Theatre about the whole thing of “how do you create work?” She was intrigued about the process behind choreography and the shifting psychology of the relationship between the two performers.
Often I don’t know what to do on the first day. I need to generate movement and go through lots of different processes. Often I’m working with a composer at the same time. Ideally I like to get the music finished before I start but that rarely happens. So we both feed off each other a bit, the composer and myself.
I work a lot with improvisation and incorporate some of that into the performance to keep an element of spontaneity in the final, live performance and this also helps to keep the work fresh.
Article19: Is improvisation a part of the live performance?
Yes, part of it in any case. There is an element of freedom within the pieces to varying degrees depending on the approach that I’m taking for that particular piece of work. But any improvisation is very tightly structured so it’s difficult to tell what’s set and not set.
Article19: Is there a narrative to your work?
No, there is no narrative. I mean, for the sake of argument I’ve decided to call my work “Abstract” even though it’s not particularly that. The emotional content depends on the particular piece and is not stated directly. A lot of my decisions are intuitive. Whatever ideas I have at the beginning of a piece will often change depending on what happens in the studio. I’m quite responsive to the actions of the dancers and their individual qualities and to what comes out of improvisations.
Article19: Your biography talks about an “Absence of Clutter” in your work. What does this mean?
I suppose that’s really about the way the work looks. What I’m saying is that I don’t work with props. It’s really about an aesthetic clarity. I wouldn’t, for example, work with a sculptor who might make something out of a piece of metal and chuck it on stage.
Article19: You perform a great deal overseas. Do you find your choreography receives a different response than from the home grown audience?
This year we’ll be performing abroad more than in England. But no not really. I think there is more audience curiosity at International festivals. It’s also easier for the company to perform overseas than it is outside of London. We are going to quite a few different countries in Europe and America this year including the Bagnolet festival in a couple of months.
Article19: Is it more challenging for you personally to show your work overseas as opposed to the rest of the UK?
Well I would like to do both really. I mean touring abroad is much simpler from a financial perspective than touring the UK. Basically I don’t get to that many places in England.
Article19: How important is music and sound in your work?
I work a lot with the composer Julian Swales. It took me a long time to find a composer who was so good and accommodating. I also need to change, and I’m always looking out for new composers and music.
I’ve stopped using classical music altogether. The last time I did it was Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues for solo piano and I’ve used Purcell and Bach before that. But I am listening to quite a lot of Renaissance music at the moment. I haven’t come across the right kind of music yet; I’m just doing some research.
But I’m thinking of taking some of that music and, working with a composer, filtering it through some kind of sound system. To start off with, it would be very straight and normal but then it would gradually go off on a tangent. The idea is not to recompose it but just change the texture of it and the sound of it.
Article19: You recently created a piece on students from NSCD how does this differ from your normal working method?
It is very different. If I go and work with students, by the end of the time that I’m there I’ve got to know more about them. It’s at that point when I would really like to start working, but then I’m on the train home.
Obviously if you only have three weeks to make a piece for 22 dancers which is two casts of eleven it’s quite a difficult task. They were really good and they bought me a book on how to remember names.
Article19: Is there too much pressure on choreographers in the UK to continually create work to stay artistically viable?
There has been pressure on me to make new work. I think I’ve produced a lot of work over the years with individual pieces having quite a short life span. So I’m trying to slow down a bit. But there again I always feel I want to move on. I want to be in a position whereby I work longer and more thoroughly with the dancers, the lighting design and the music.
Article19: What does the immediate and long term future hold for you creatively speaking?
Six months from now I’ll be in the middle of a project with seven dancers in Bucharest and The Balanescu Quartet who are working with Romanian folk-song. I will also have started a new work with my company for an October premier. I also might do a short duet for George Piper Dances at Sadler’s Wells next autumn.
Somewhere in the middle of this my wife is going to have a baby. As for the long term I’d like longer periods of research and work with two more dancers. I don’t want a full time company or anything like that. I wouldn’t want to go to work every day at 10 o’clock for 10 months of the year; things get very institutionalised very quickly
The latest work was a duet for Adreja Rauch and Greig Cooke, commissioned by Dance Umbrella. It will be on at the new Laban Centre in February. I first worked with for Andreja about a year and half ago and I first worked with Greig in 1996. For the new work in October I’ll also be working with Rahel Vonmoos who I have worked with, on and off, from the year dot.