by Neil Nisbet
Emma Torrington is a 25 year old professional dancer currently based in Newcastle upon Tyne. A graduate of the Northern School of Contemporary Dance she is currently appearing in From Scratch at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Article19: How do you describe success?
Success to me means completing something that has been fulfilling, spiritually, creatively, financially even, and I don’t’ know, I think it is really hard to define what success is.
Article19: Which element of success is most important to you! The finacial side or something else?
No not at all, I mean obviously the financial side is important; you need money so you can eat. But the most important part of success……… I don’t really like the word success to be quite honest with you, I think the feeling of fulfilment that you are producing something, to be part of something that is bigger than just you and that you get taken up in creating work that means something and has a life of it own that’s what success means to me.
Article19: If you painted a picture and only one person ever saw it would you consider that to be a success?
Yes! Because if you are doing stuff like that all the time, say for instance painting or drawing, if one person sees that picture and they get something out of it then yes it is successful and also it’s the process of making that picture and what it embodies after it is finished. A painting is like a dance piece, it can always be developed, it can always be worked on and you can always come back to it and it can look different or it can take on some other characteristic or meaning. Just to create something and actually do it and make it become real instead of just in your mind is part of the challenge and that is a success, to bring something into being.
Article19: In dance do you think a big part of achieving success is what you are capable of or who you know?
It should be nothing to do with who you know. I think that is quite disturbing, it is part of a personal process of trying to create work that really has meaning. It shouldn’t be about who you know or anything else really. I don’t think there’s a lot of openness to really new things or interesting ways of thinking. It is pretty much sewn up for certain individuals who continually get the support of quite powerful bodies within the dance profession in the [northern] region.
Article19: How do you see dance just now in the UK, what’s your perception of it?
It is hard for me to comment on that because I haven’t really been all around the UK and seen much dance from around the UK. From what I have seen I am not greatly impressed. I think dance needs to have a much bigger creative input. Dance colleges and dance organisations should really try to encourage developing people as artists to create things from their own vision, from their own experience and from themselves.
Article19: Do you think there is a lack of contrast in the work that is made?
I think there are many clichés and I think they we as a dance society are a bit stuck in them. Maybe it is fashion and current trends but I would like to see individuals making pieces from an individual perspective and speaking from themselves, honestly. I don’t think I see much of that personally.
Article19: Are your relationships with dance bodies good bad or indifferent?
I don’t really feel like I do have a relationship with these organisations. I have been in Newcastle for a long time now, ever since I graduated from Northern, I don’t really feel like I have ever been accepted into Dance City [the National Dance Agency for the North of England]. I found it to begin with extremely clique, quite a hard group to break into. Even now I still feel I have never been accepted as an individual or maybe what I had to offer was never looked at. Maybe that is not their job. I just kind of got the impression that it would be a creative environment for creative people and it would be a more open environment and I don’t find it to be that way at all.
Article19: How do think you are perceived by the dance profession in the north?
I don’t know, I have no idea but I obviously don’t fit into whatever criteria it is that would consider me to be a viable commodity for them. Obviously I have done work for Dance City but I don’t feel that they have ever really used my resources and I feel I have a lot to offer.
Article19: Do you feel undervalued?
You could say that, but I don’t feel undervalued that’s not my problem; personally I value myself a great deal. I think it is a shame that there is this body of people there but I don’t really feel that I have gotten anything out of it and I don’t think they have gotten anything out of me and I think that’s a shame.
Article19: What is it like to be a woman in dance today and do you think that men hold so many of the top jobs in dance?
I’m really not sure about that because personally the majority of the work that I do is with females. It’s just sexual politics and the history of the way things work and it’s quite old fashioned. But I do think that things are changing. I think if people really feel passionate about something then they can make changes but personally I don’t think there is a lot to be passionate about and I think that I am an extremely passionate person [from a work perspective].
But I think things will change and are changing. After all, dance is for men and women but like you say men have these positions of power within dance. The thing that worries me more than gender is old fashioned views, outdated views and that goes for both genders, male and female, and that’s what I find more worrying than the gender issue.
Article19: How do you see the way forward from this point for your own career?
To leave this region and possibly even leave the country. Get a new perspective and hopefully go somewhere people have an experimental attitude and a sense of freedom to create something that really means something to them and to the audience they are trying to put their work across to.
Article19: If there was more for you would you stay?
If there was more of creative vibe then yes I would. If I felt there was a general consensus within the people in dance to be pushing toward something with real spiritual and creative value then yes I would but I don’t think that is on the creative agenda in the north east.
Article19: If you could do anything what would you do?
I would like to work in a professional company where people are making ongoing, creative work. Working really hard, that is what I would like to do.
Article19: What do you cherish the most about being a dancer?
Learning, development and the physical and mental challenges. Just an absolute love of movement. Everything that dance offers I feel is incredibly positive on a spiritual, physical and emotional level. It just offers so much for the people learning it, the people doing it and the people watching it. Dance is such a natural thing for human beings to do.
I like to be in an environment where I can work with other people move together with other people, with the same timing, or working with other people’s bodies, their weight the way they move the way they think. It is a really social medium.
Article19: Why do you dance?
It’s who I am. I could never imagine not doing it. For as long as I can remember it was a conscious choice. It’s funny because when you have wanted to do something all your life you kind of lose momentum. You feel that you go through waves of losing the excitement or conviction you have [for dance]. I think it is an ongoing process all the way through my life.
Article19: Do you prefer dancing alone or with others?
Both things have their place. It’s all relative the where you are, what your doing. I love dancing by myself and I love dancing with other people. They both exist in there own right.