by Neil Nisbet
Lisa Torun is a Swedish dancer, choreographer with an array of musical and vocal abilities. Currently living and working in London she is in Newcastle to work with the newly formed Making Statements company as part of the Dance Connect programme run by DanceCity.
Article19: Your are a singer, composer, dancer and choreographer which of your skills is the most important when you are developing your work?
Well I would not really say that I am the composer I think that would be ranking it slightly too high. The sort of choreographic media that I produce is mainly contemporary dance works but within that I focus a lot on the emphasis within the music and collaborations with composer's and musicians. Not just as a way of forwarding the idea of collaborating but also as a means of choreographic expression.
I look at the choreographic aspects whilst involving music with the idea that it is really a form of choreographic expression.
I come from a music background. I am a trained singer and have played the violin and piano for quite a few years. So that is a part of me as much as dance is really. If I look back on my training it was more towards being a dancer and choreographer. It's a flexible idea, what I certainly enjoy is being able to be a musical person whilst making dance works.
Article19: Do you always incorporate all of the elements yourself for are you happy to collaborate?
Well if I collaborate with a composer I would work really closely with him or her it's not a matter of giving a brief for a piece and then asking them to compose something to it. It's really a joint process.
I have musical ideas about it so ideally we communicate from the very beginning of making something together. Hopefully it works the other way around as well. The composer may have visual ideas about their music and the way that it's presented and weighted so it is either matched or juxtaposed with the movement. So I think it is important for me to have a period of exploring the initial idea in both choreographic and musical terms.
It's not to say that I don't spend time just thinking about and exploring the movement. Where my movement comes from a lot is the fact that I explore my body and I think through my body. Lately I have been doing lots of partner work where I am sort of investigating a communication between different bodies and a sense of musicality or dynamic with that type of work and there the emphasis is purely on movement research. But there is still a sense of musical dynamism about it.
So even though I might spend quite a lot of time on investigating pure movement, the body and the mind there is scope for a musical dynamic within that. There is not a necessity for that to be matched or be geared towards a musical score but there can be some sort of inherent dynamic quality about the movement itself but coming from a physical point of view.
I work for the idea of the rhythm and the weight of the skeleton creating structures for the body to move around the space.
Article19: Can you tell us a little about your new work Triptych?
Triptych is a trilogy off duets. I did some movement research at Choreodrome at The Place last summer where I was working in duet forms exploring partner work and an initial idea of some sort of intimacy and being able to communicate something in an intimate way. We did a lot of manipulation, we were exploring the other persons body and at the same time being very receptive of our own bodies. It started as quite an abstract simple movement research idea. But at the same time I knew I wanted to explore a format that had three faces to it.
In this case the duet forms are in three variations. I created three duets the first is with two women; myself and another woman, the second is for two men and the third between a man and a woman. So we are exploring different themes around this idea of different duets.
I was working with three composer's; a composer that made a piece for each duet. But there was scope actually for the three composer's to collaborate between themselves. So they had quite a lot process of just them investigating their differences and what they could possibly do to move towards making a whole piece. Whilst at the same time distinguishing three different moods or textures. So then we explored the idea of different geographical contexts.
The first duet was based on this intimacy idea really around my relationship with the other dancer, a Finnish dancer, so we had sort of a Scandinavian theme to it. I guess I sort of got the idea from Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue” “White” “Red” trilogy but only metaphorically, the fact that the different colours represent different types of moods or geographical areas.
The second duet between the two men had a Middle Eastern theme, kind of East Europe sense to it which was mainly explored on a musical level using musical structures and Middle Eastern forms, almost thinking visually in terms off shapes in loops and turns and graphical imagery.
The third duet takes its inspiration from outer-space as somewhere that represents a kind of alternative or the ‘other’, something that is outside where we are, where we communicate with alien bodies somewhere. So that [duet] has those kind of references. It is one idea that is investigated into three different duets or three different faces.
Article19: How does this creative experience compare with the work you recently did with the dancers from the Royal Ballet?
I think maybe in the working methods! In that you don't have such a personal way of working. You have a very different timeframe from a practical point of view. I work very closely with the dancers or the musicians or whomever I work with in joint explorations of an idea so that's quite a different world to how most ballet dancers are trained. They learn repertory, they are not necessarily co-creators in terms of the kind of dramatic explorations of a role in part of a ballet.
But I did explore similar movement ideas like the articulation of the skeleton and constructing all of the body in the space. There were elements of musical research as well at the same time I was researching Triptych and I also did some sound recordings like voice and sound engineering. We sort of created a score that I then used for the ballet. I was focusing on the larynx as an isolated body part and how that isolated body part relates to the whole of the body or the whole of the work or the whole of the visual idea.
Article19: So with that in mind how do you then approach working with the Making Statements dancer?
You always find out after a while that there is definitely a connection to the greater scope of your work. The more I get to know this group the more I realize this is how I work and I am just inviting them in on it rather than just teaching them something. I also like to think that they [the dancers] are inviting me into their thinking as well. So it has been very much about continuing this creative process with them involved.
I was thinking first about whether it would be more like a mentoring education system but I found out over this week that it is more part of my artistic exploration. So it's not that different being with new people. You can put yourself into different contexts and if you really go to the core of what you are exploring it all seems connected.
Article19: would your creative methods and the final work you produce be the same if you still lived and worked in Sweden?
I was only 18 when I moved to London, and set myself up to become a dancer which was my main goal. Whether I was going to stay on and work here I didn't know, I didn't have a particular plan.
I suppose being a foreigner there is always something of the other about you, you’re always something slightly different but then again London is so cultured and mixed up and so diverse you are in a very mixed bag because everyone else is also a foreigner.
That's also formed my identity both personally and as an artist so it's really difficult to answer that question. When I go to Sweden it has been so long now my experience of it is almost of, not alienation, but it is now something quite different to what I know it London.
Article19: What is contemporary dance like in Sweden compared to the UK?
Will it is much smaller than in this country, there are much fewer independent artists around. They are mostly focused around the capital [Stockholm] and Malmo the second-biggest city. It was important to go somewhere it was important to look at myself in different contexts. I don't think that the idea was particularly formed but I knew I needed to go somewhere and train but I think it's there at the back of your mind anyway. But you always learn a lot by traveling.
I traveled a lot when I was little. But also there is the necessity of having to go somewhere because they're really wasn't that much dance training going on to the time certainly not anything with a combination of music training as well. So for me it was very much about necessity. I wanted to go somewhere where I could continue training in music, singing and playing and getting my dance training at the same time in which just didn't exist in Sweden.
Article19: Can you explain a little about Klein Technique
Again it is very much to do with a skeletal approach to moving the body working very much from the inside and the articulation of different connections. Klein technique talks a great deal about different structural relationships within the body for instance; pelvis to heal, sit bone to heal, tail to head connection, different structural alignments in the body. How those connections relate to each other brings a greater understanding of how to move your body. There is a deep awareness of how you move yourself in space.
It was something that I spent sometime researching. I did some courses in London when the teachers came over from New York and then I went to New York to do some further studies at the Klein Studios. It was just a way for me to arrive in my body in a really honest way that worked for me physically.
It was a way of really getting to know my structure and how I can move my structure having come out of very traditional dance training. So it started as a way of finding physical articulation and that then inspired a particular type of movement quality, the type of research which was very structural and concerned with the architecture of the body.