Douglas Wright (2011)

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[00:00:00] first guest of the week as a New Zealand choreographer and dancer Douglas right. Next Wednesday, the Auckland festival will host a premiere of his latest work around. And Douglas joins us now. Welcome tonight's Douglas. [00:00:13] Thanks, Brian. [00:00:15] You've got the same hometown as Sir Edmund Hillary to occur. [00:00:19] Oh, yes, that's right. [00:00:21] Which I only just realized, um, did you know that? [00:00:24] Um, no, it's a kind of thing in the back of my head that I remember when you tell me it, but I think I knew it primary school. Yeah. And had forgotten. [00:00:39] I can't imagine that would be quite important to primary school at some new zealand hero. [00:00:43] Yeah, [00:00:44] yeah. Well, you already interested in dance when you were a primary school kid? [00:00:48] Yes, I was. dancing. When whenever I could. [00:00:53] Yeah. And what say it off dance for you? Was it music? [00:00:57] Well, [00:00:59] no, I don't know. Really no I, I do have a very early memory of looking out through our front window and seeing a woman on a veranda opposite dancing back and forth and some sort of long white dress. It's like a dream that I i that sort of hovered there in my hovers in my mind like as a sort of a white butterfly there. She probably laid her eggs and me at the time. [00:01:33] Wrapped reps a great, I think a great title for a dance work. Can you tell us a bit about it? [00:01:41] Well, [00:01:43] one of the reasons for calling it Raptors because of the Rapture. You know the feeling of rapture ecstasy, and also because we have a half dude half human finger and the work and he is part repertory, which actually means comes from the word meaning to write. So the word has a lot of many different meanings and the work, I think reflects all of them, but as mainly concerned with the ecstasy of dance itself. Yeah. [00:02:31] I saw some photos for rat. And I immediately thought of Bill Hammond, a New Zealand artist, or least of his work. Was that in your mind as well, when you were putting it together? [00:02:43] Well, you see, I mean that that's immediate reference for us in New Zealand. Yeah, of course, the idea of a brood heated figure is ancient and goes back further than the Egyptians. I mean, they had the Egyptian god Horace, which is a whole catered man, and the surrealist max Ernst did a whole series of collages based on dude hit a gentleman. So it's not directly from Bill Hammond but of course, he is the most natural source of it here. [00:03:24] My guess he was tapping into the same stream. So and [00:03:28] I do love his work. Yeah. [00:03:31] What What is it about the bird, human figure? What does that represent? [00:03:38] Well, [00:03:41] I don't really know it. The bird here figure there's a scene where he comes. And I have thought of him as Zeus coming down to rape the young and beautiful Ganymede, which is an ancient myth. Ganymede being a young male. [00:04:04] So that happens. [00:04:07] I couldn't really say you see, dance is made or I make dance because I can't put those things necessarily into words. Even though I'm also a writer. Yeah. So I'm, I'm making to dance what I can't put into words. So I can't really explain you to you what the food symbolizes. I think it's an ancient strain running through human consciousness. [00:04:37] The music you've used for ramped This is quite a contrast between David long and you've used David you've worked with Tiger long before years from the guitarist from from the mountain birds, but also as a sending Cindy 17th century composer I hadn't heard of Heinrich Biber. [00:04:55] Yes. [00:04:58] I have a great friend Rick's Hello De who is a music expert or maniac he's wonderful with music and he often plays me things. And when he first played me Bieber, Heinrich Bieber, I was just blown away. It's solo violin with organ or harpsichord, and it's pre back. But some of that sounds incredibly modern. It's very, very beautiful and strange, slightly strange. [00:05:35] Doesn't does music set off a dance idea, or do you often find or feel an idea in your body and then find the music to fit it? [00:05:45] Well, it's quite strange these days because I don't even know. I was introduced as a dancer. I retired as a dancer in the year 2000. Because I'm 54 now so these days haven't quite an interesting phenomenon occurs to me, where I actually see a movement. Sometimes while listening to the music and other times just when I'm sitting there thinking or, you know, thinking of nothing, I'll just suddenly see someone doing something in my head. And yeah, and I also asked the dancers to improvise and I choose movement and develop it from the improvisations. [00:06:33] A musician has manuscript paper will mainly do, and a poet has paper to write down words, but what does a choreographer have? Blood? [00:06:44] Well, actually there there is a system of notation, Lubben notation that you can use to copy and record dance, but we mainly use video To record rehearsals and to refer to Yeah, [00:07:07] I remember the that manuscript being used I there was a dance documentary by Margot Fonteyn, I think it was back in the 80s on the teller on TV, and she explained how by wrote down dance moves, but does video makes it a lot easier to choreograph these days. [00:07:27] Oh, yes, I think so because you can capture [00:07:31] improvisations and capture if it's in good light. The most my new gesture which notation it's very difficult to notate some of the contemporary movement. I mean, ballet is thermo coated. [00:07:51] You said you retired from an I was going to ask you when I saw it was 2008. [00:07:58] But no, no, no. I retired as a a dancer in 2000. But I actually said that I retired as a choreographer in 2007. But nobody took any notice. So sort of changed my mind. Yes. Well, they kept on asking for more work. No, no, I put out a press release, saying that I'd retired and to all the TV, radio newspaper, things and one newspaper ran a little column and nobody else was interested in the fact that I retired after 25 years, I thought, well, they don't care. So I'll just do what I want. [00:08:36] Which was to do but more geography. [00:08:38] Yeah. Where did the rat was that? Was that a commission from from the festival? The festival? Yes, it is. But I really was trying to stay retired and I had a couple of meetings with one accidental and one planned with two people who think swayed me gently. Back into work. Yeah, the debt and the commission from the festival followed dead. [00:09:12] How did they persuade you? [00:09:15] They just told me that they wanted me to make work I didn't think anybody wanted me to so they told me that people did want me to and I suppose that again seated something in me, because dance ideas were already coming to me but I was pushing them away because I said, I said to myself, well, you don't do that anymore. Please go away. I don't want to to the ideas. [00:09:43] Why did you retire and or make right out of press release a media release and say you retired in 2007? [00:09:50] Because I felt that I was exhausted. And I was kind of angry that my last work didn't go beyond Sydney and I thought why should I expect the taxpayer to continually pay huge amounts of money for making work that has 11 performances? Was that Black Milk? [00:10:15] Milk? Yeah. [00:10:17] And that was with working with David long in terms of music, wasn't it? [00:10:21] Yes. And Ligety. Really? Yeah. I always seem to have a combination of composers. Oh, [00:10:33] yeah. In contrast, and that goes back to the 80s. Because I was you did a dance to pin Turetsky the 3d the victims of Hiroshima. And I was thinking as I read that well, there I don't think there's a single sort of solid beat. In that whole piece. There's scrapes and sorts of cracks, but not a bait. Know what I love this cord. And then the next thing you did was Tom Jones. [00:10:59] Are there It was years. [00:11:00] I know it was years ago but I thought this is a history that goes back. The combination of music [00:11:06] I'm blushing now I'm glad you can hear. [00:11:10] I think you should be proud. I was delighted to see this mixture of music paint directly followed by Tom Jones. Would you [00:11:18] like to see music? [00:11:20] Yes Why? Why can I guess I do in a way but that's another story. Yeah, I'm you so you you thought about because it didn't Black Milk didn't get around beyond Sydney. What you found that asking for money to make new work was not was not worthwhile. [00:11:37] Well, I felt like I'd had my chance and blown at really so. Why let somebody else try you know, [00:11:49] is doubt something that you have to deal with as, as an artist, as many creative [00:11:54] artists have to do well, obviously. [00:11:57] Yes, well, I'm glad they changed your mind. Thank you. With how much time have you spent on on realizing the ideas and wrapped the images and wrapped [00:12:10] Well, probably two years. But in terms of studio time, only 10 weeks working with the dancers, and [00:12:22] David. [00:12:24] So 10 weeks all together working but for two years I've been working on the ideas. [00:12:32] And what does that mean for for a choreographer? Does that mean? You said you don't dance anymore? Does that mean everything is in your head? Or do occasionally do you still experiment a bit in your own home? [00:12:46] Oh, yeah, I'm I made up one movement that made it into Rhett but mainly it's I read an enormous amount. I watch a lot of films but not so much Hollywood films. I watch a lot of Tarkovsky films that are more poetic. I look for images I, I find things in literature that spark something inside me and I've got a quite a good memory for those things. Although I do keep notes. I probably read a book a day So, and I don't read trash. Isn't it, isn't it? I mean, I'm a snob. I'm a cultural snob. I don't watch TV. I think it's a load of crap. [00:13:41] One not even the ads channel. [00:13:43] What up? [00:13:45] Okay, we won't go there. [00:13:47] Douglas [00:13:48] Tarkovsky, the Russian it's a Russian filmmaker. Now he has his wallet. What we're going to have is, is very slow and spacious. takes a long time to move. Yeah, [00:14:01] I love it. I mean, I love different phones of his better, you know more than others. But I was watching the mirror the other night and it's incredible haunting. It's a whole direction that cinema hasn't taken the path not taken, you know, we've, it's just, to me, it's magical and it's spiritual art. And that's the kind of art that I'm interested in art that moves the human spirit, as well as you know, it's all very well to have violence and sex and nudity. But if it doesn't move the spirit, I'm not really interested in it. [00:14:43] I used to writing as well as reading a book a day. [00:14:47] Well, I've just finished a new book of poems that should be coming out later on, in the year, [00:14:54] of a in any way influenced by raps or the other way around. [00:15:00] Well, strangely, one of the poem starts of a herd of cows does not need a choreographer. It's the first line so it's sort of not really inspired by [00:15:15] red mother. I'm intrigued. Can you remember the next line? That's a great start [00:15:20] live to themselves. They always fall into Tableau of the most ineluctable grand jury. Michelangelo might weep. [00:15:29] There. That's the next line. That's a great line. [00:15:34] Are there plenty of talented young dancers coming through? [00:15:39] Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. There's the churning out the schools which are getting better and better tuning out. A lot of wonderful dances and not so many choreographers. I'm sad to say, but there's so little room for the art Here in New Zealand anyway, it's you know, I would advise any young person wanting to do that. Not to, really. And then if they have to then well and good, but if they don't have to, I wouldn't. I wouldn't. I wouldn't recommend you had to, didn't you? Yeah, it was something that was in in my blood Stiller's. And it won't go away even though I've tried to send it away. [00:16:30] Yes, you have. And we didn't listen. And I'm kind of glad that Douglas right as our guest on nights wrapped as his new work, it's premiering next week as part of the Auckland festival. I know you've already mentioned you're not a big fan of pop TV but I was going to ask you about the Did you see the TV three series on on apprentices in terms of the Royal Ballet New Zealand ballet, not while they know and ask any further because I would have been interest on that in terms of, of young people coming through. It's not any easier you think, for somebody to choose to be a dancer, New Zealand now than it was when you made that choice. [00:17:13] I think it's easier in terms of finding small projects to do. There's a lot of sort of underground work going on, which is very interesting. But when I started out there was slums, which was full time and I had a wonderful two years with loans before I went to America. And I don't think many dancers have that opportunity here. Now, I mean, most, most fantastic dancers that come out of here. Do go and live in Europe or at least Australia. Yeah, yeah. [00:18:02] And you went to New York, and how important was that, and developing you as a dancer and later as a car? [00:18:09] Well, it was immensely important because I, I worked for one of, well, supposedly one of the world's greatest choreographers Paul Taylor, for four and a half years, and got to see firsthand, you know, the front line of dance from Europe and around America. So it was of immense worth to me in terms of being a dancer and choreographer, because I had already began making my own work and showing it while I was in Manhattan, yeah. [00:18:48] Was that a frightening thing to do initially, to show your work in Manhattan? [00:18:54] Yeah, but everything is so high pitched. The The air is like, it's like Bruce. Eating diamonds are something that's so jewel like and sparkling with energy, everything everything sizzles. So you just find yourself swept along or dumped at the side. [00:19:16] You mentioned that in New Zealand the and clarify this if I didn't hear you, Ryan that really it's not a not a good place to be a dancer in New Zealand. Is that? Yes, sorry. Is that is that because we because New York is obviously a fantastic place for so many hours. But then New York is such a big city. Is it just that we're a small country? [00:19:39] Yeah, that's and and our distance from the rest of the world makes touring anywhere else? Almost impossible. [00:19:51] Why did you come home? [00:19:53] Well, initially I came home really to have a year's break from Paul and to see if I wanted to go back. And then I became ill and was diagnosed with HIV in February in 1990. I was given 18 months to live. So I didn't think it was worth going back to New York at that point. Also, I couldn't walk more than about 50 yards at the time. So [00:20:24] this remarkable now in terms of the treatment for HIV, how that's changed me what was a death sentence for many people. I know people who were diagnosed in the mid 80s. And they just fine now and you'll just find by the sound of it. [00:20:39] Well, I wouldn't, I wouldn't. I think there are people have got a slight misconception. There are people like me who've had the virus for so long that I mean, I have about a quarter of the energy that I used to have and I know some of that is due to growing older but mostly due to the virus. So I'm not. I don't feel particularly healthy. I'm very easily tired. I can only work for three hours tops a day. So it's not really as much fun as it could be. [00:21:20] Now, it still has an impact on your life. [00:21:22] Oh, from Indus. Yeah. [00:21:24] In fact, we just I think, Justin, our news it was it was a little bulletin story about the rate of infection rising a little bit. [00:21:32] Yeah. And they can we hardly that's because young guys, and young women seem to think that it is so easily controllable now. And it's still a life sentence to taking, you know, whatever, 510 pills a day. And sometimes they don't agree with you, you know, [00:21:56] if you hadn't have got HIV, do you think he might still be on [00:22:00] Yes, I would definitely be overseas, I wouldn't have stayed here. [00:22:06] But once you're here, what are the advantages apart from it being perhaps been a better place to live? If you're a little bit ill been closer to where you grew up? What are the other advantages? Are there advantages creatively? [00:22:19] Yeah, they are because I think that this country does turn out a kind of dance that doesn't come from anywhere else. I think the dances the good dances here are enormously physical and fearless. And they take up, they, when they move, they take up a lot of space. They know how to move through space, a lot of they don't play it safe. So I'm very grateful for the whatever that is, wherever that comes from. You know, I feel as if I'm working with the best dancers. I could get anywhere. Really? And also I'm very attached to the land here. I you know, it's part of me. [00:23:13] Where's home now? [00:23:15] But I live in Mount albertan Oakland in a housing New Zealand health. I the little hill there [00:23:25] actually by a stream was [00:23:27] it Oakley Creek? [00:23:29] No, but it's I think it feeds into there. Yeah, [00:23:32] yeah. It's just a part of West Auckland diner. Yeah. Yeah. And the white hacker is not too far away. [00:23:38] Yeah, I have a beautiful garden. I've lived in the same place for living years. So I've planted many trees even though I don't own the place. I decided to make a garden anyway. So if I get kicked out, I'll be very angry. [00:23:56] But everything is sailing along now. [00:24:00] You've directed other things as well as dance. You've had to go and Opera, haven't you? [00:24:04] Well, I've choreographed to operas for the Australian opera. [00:24:09] Yeah. Not directed them. Okay, so you haven't directed the singers themselves in terms of singing directed them in terms of movement. [00:24:17] Yeah. And I have also directed a play, which my company did in 1998, I think forbidden memories, which was a very interesting experience, [00:24:34] directing opera singers now they have to think about using their bodies to produce this this amazing sound, and sometimes moving is not necessarily compatible with their and I often watch opera and think, well, this is really rather static and the music's just moving so much, and I often find myself wishing that the singers moved a bit more themselves. [00:24:55] Well, often when I mean when I've worked with the Australian opera. I had a group of dancers working with me who provided that kind of rush of movement, the dance the singers themselves. I just, you know, it was more like, take four steps. That's what you know, it wasn't. I mean, they weren't dancers. They were singers. Yeah. But they were dance dancers and between the [00:25:26] arias. [00:25:29] Was it successful? [00:25:31] Yeah, it was great. We did. [00:25:35] Aida and a yen and shake [00:25:39] coming up over some years. [00:25:40] His music moves. I love Janacek It was a wonderful experience. Actually, I enjoyed it immensely. [00:25:49] Do you think [00:25:51] news now this is an outside of performing dance? Do you think New Zealanders are getting better at dancing? What do you mean in terms of being more comfortable dancing? I don't know if it's possible for you to answer that question, but just an observations of the way that people move whether they dance that that image of that woman and white that you remember as a child, Were there many other images, many other examples of New Zealanders dancing that inspired you then? [00:26:23] No, no, I mean, if you think about it, if we, if you see someone dancing on the street by themselves, you think they're either drunk or mad? Usually, if they're saying over 30 [00:26:43] whereas in a place like New York or London, [00:26:47] well, you don't think anything that's natural. [00:26:53] They are made [00:26:55] possible possibly, possibly not, [00:26:57] but it doesn't matter [00:26:58] when I have been in the situation It was Turkey, I think where I was one of the most amazing dancing mean. All that it was I always kept awake. And I was in some some cheap motel out east hotel actually, nobody drove anywhere and was woken up by this this party downstairs and was no point in trying to sleep. So I went down all these blokes just dancing. Wow, I've never seen blokes move like this. Yeah, it was quite amazing. sounds beautiful. It was quite beautiful. I but I think Well, I mean, the image a week, perhaps tell ourselves is that we don't we're not a dancing culture and New Zealand. [00:27:41] And it sounds to me that you would concur with that. [00:27:44] Well, I don't really have that much interest in New Zealand culture. I just, I'm interested in world culture. I don't really think in a nationalistic way. I don't feel I feel like I'm part of the world. And I want to be part of the world's culture I think obsessing constantly about what New Zealand bizarre and and is pointless and probably part of our problem [00:28:19] if you always felt that way as an artist [00:28:22] yeah yeah [00:28:26] who were the dancers if there were any that inspired you to dance [00:28:33] kilda North Scott who's actually is still dancing with me and she was my hero hero in when I joined lemons he was dancing with me then and is still going strong 56 sorry colder, revealing your age over the radio shack of you and there was A couple of dances in New York, a woman called Kate Johnson, Ruth Andrea, and they're not names people would know here. But yeah. [00:29:13] If wrapped does well, do you think there's more new? [00:29:18] More dance? If it does well? Yes, possibly [00:29:24] your company now is that still going, or that stop to when you retired and to [00:29:30] know what my company was always because I didn't have the energy to make works constantly. I didn't have a full time company. It was more, pick up every 18 months and tour for a while. But we really need to get on a circuit where we can make work and tour it for a year. And then I make another work. So this company there and most of the people who were in blackmail Khurana again, but I haven't worked with some sense, which was in 2006. So that's four years later. [00:30:05] And your hope is that wrapped will have a life beyond the festival thing. [00:30:10] Well, actually, I don't really hope that because I've discovered that it's space, not time for things. Because when they don't arise your list, [00:30:20] tortured, yeah. Oh, hopefully that would be it would be a good thing. And to that end, it's on next premiering next Wednesday. Yes, and the venue and the time. [00:30:34] It's at the Civic Theatre, and Oakland, which I'm really humbled and proud to be able to present a work in that wonderful, beautiful picture theater. Yeah, it's a fantastic theater. So we go from Wednesday, through two Saturdays at 730. And I think there's a matinee yes on Saturday. 19th at two o'clock as well. [00:31:03] dockless Thanks very much for joining us. [00:31:05] You're welcome Brian.

This page features computer generated text of the source audio - it is not a transcript. The Artificial Intelligence Text is provided to help users when searching for keywords or phrases. The text has not been manually checked for accuracy against the original audio and will contain many errors.