Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

David Murley: Objects Of My Affection

By | Published on Thursday 24 April 2014


MurleyDance, a London ballet and contemporary dance company, begin a tour of their latest show with a date at the capital’s Shaw Theatre this week. ‘Object Of My Affection’ is a triple bill of three pieces, all addressing a related theme, the emotional attachment we form with material objects.

The three pieces have been created by three different choreographers, Anthony Kurt-Gabel, Richard Chappell, and company founder David Murley. I sent Mr Murley some questions, to find out more about the show.

CM: Object of My Affection is three separate pieces, thematically linked. Can you explain the relationship between them?
DM: Though very different in their narratives the three pieces (‘Seated’, ‘A Une Passante’ and ‘Into Decay’) do share a thematic link. In different ways each piece explores the attachments we form, be it with people, places or possessions. In ‘Object of My Affection’ we want to reveal how these attachments can not only define our lives, but on occasion how they evolve into affection and ultimately an obsession that we cannot live without.

‘Seated’ is a study of status and sentiment, ‘A Une Passante’ explores the imaginary, intense and emotional journey of two people who may never meet, whilst ‘Into Decay’ looks at how the objects that rule our lives not only take over but can cause us to rot from within as we abandon more meaningful attachments.

CM: What would you say separates each piece? What characteristics set them apart?
DM: Though there is a central thematic link each piece is also very individual. Against a soundtrack of Baroque classics, ‘Seated’ features the entire company and considers the power of a monarch’s throne and an American matriarch’s armchair, how an American diner’s bar stool brings people together and whether there’s any romance in a flat pack from Ikea. Using passion, humour and the technical discipline which MurleyDance specialises in this piece is much more classical in its styling and presentation.

‘A Une Passante’ is inspired by Baudelaire’s poem of the same name and is the imaginary, intense and emotional journey of two people who catch sight of each other but realise they will never meet. Highly atmospheric interspersing a recitation of the poem in French and English to music by Vask the piece still has classical technique at its core but presented in a more lyrical and evocative style.

‘Into Decay’ is incredibly physical and demanding dance-wise.  The soundtrack to the piece combines original electronic and classical piano music and textual sources to create a piece that will cause the audience to reappraise their relationship with the gadgets and gizmos we believe we can’t do without. Ultimately questioning whether we rely on technology at the expense of longer lasting and more satisfying human attachments.

CM: How did they come together? Were the pieces commissioned with this triple bill in mind?
RM: I’m constantly on the look out for collaborators who share my passion for creating new work that is rooted in the technical discipline of classical dance but that are narrative-based or have a strong motif.

The Double Bill we presented in Edinburgh last year and the Triple Bill that made up our Autumn 2013 tour featured pieces that individually were strong but there was no thematic link. For 2014, I was keen to have the company put together an evening of dance that would allow us to explore a thematic concept, but to present it through three very distinct pieces that showcase the abilities of our amazingly talented company of dancers and collaborators.

A former on-stage colleague of mine, Anthony Kurt-Gabel, brings maturity and beauty in his movement, while 19 year-old Richard Chappell brings youth and excitement as one of the country’s up and coming choreographers.  They both share my passion for classical dance. Kurt-Gabel and Chappell had very clear ideas about how they could create pieces of choreography that explored different aspects of the attachments that we form with people, places and possessions.

Throughout the creative development and rehearsal process I have been delighted as to how the pieces have come together to create an evening that will engage and entertain audiences whilst also challenging convention.

CM: Can you tell us something about the choreographer behind each one?
DM: Anthony Kurt-Gabel is the choreographer of ‘A Une Passante’. Anthony and I have worked together in the past and I have always been an admirer of him as a dancer and now as a choreographer. He trained at Conservatoire Nationale de Musique et de Danse d’Avignon and performed as a soloist at Badisches Staatsballet in Karlsruhe and has also danced with English National Ballet, Victor Ullate Company in Spain, The Royal Opera and English National Opera. His choreographic credits include ‘Abusing Love’ and ‘Ellipsis’ at The Place. His most recent piece, ‘Frame’, was performed by his company, fiftyfifty, as part of Resolution 2014! where he was mentioned as one of the ones to watch.

Richard Chappell is an amazing, up and coming young talent. At just 19 years old, he has already gained choreographic and artistic direction experience with National Youth Ballet, The Linbury Studio Theatre, mentoring from Wayne MacGregor, and for his own company, Richard Chappell Dance.

I graduated from London Studio Centre and my career has seen me perform with The Royal Opera, English National Opera, Glyndebourne Festival and Touring Operas and Grange Park Opera. I have toured Japan, India, Europe and the UK but I have always wanted to set up my own company so I retired from the stage in July 2013 to concentrate fully on the company.

CM: How would you describe the dance performances you create? Do they fall into a specific style/genre?
RM: There are plenty of companies out there doing the classical repertoire of ‘Swan Lake’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’, but I believe there’s an opportunity for a new company rooted in the classical technique, which presents narrative-based works that explore contemporary themes.

Although technically we are a classical company we don’t want to be known for a specific style or genre within the domain. There are two principles on which I won’t compromise. The first is that all of our productions are rooted in the classical technique. The second is that our company dancers must possess strong classical technique with the obligatory pointe work for the female dancers of the company. Ballet dancers spend years training and honing their technique and are some of the most highly trained and disciplined performers in the arts. I want to showcase not only their extraordinary talents, but give audiences an insight into the incredible dedication and determination required to become a classical performer.

CM: How was the company formed, and what are your aims?
RM: I’ve always dreamed of starting my own company since I began my training as a young boy. As the end of my career as a dancer approached, I began to work on turning this dream into a reality. MurleyDance was formed in September 2011 and we made our professional debut on 15th February 2012 as part of Resolution! at The Robin Howard Theatre in London.

Our aim is to be a dance company that fuses classical technique and theatrical overtones to create works that are inspiring and thought-provoking through exploring aspects of the human condition in colourful, passionate and often comedic ways.

I avoid having the company driven by my ego. Unlike many other choreographer-led companies that rely on a big “name” to define what they stand for and their reputation in the marketplace, I see our role as providing a showcase for the best and brightest dance, choreographic, design and creative talent.

Our mission is to inspire and entertain by nurturing the best creative talent to present thought-provoking work to attract established and new audiences to classically inspired dance.

CM: What can we expect next from MurleyDance?
DM: Following the Spring 2014 Tour of ‘Object of My Affection’ we will be returning to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Last year we presented a double bill at Greenside. This year we will be at the Greenside Annex in Nicholson Square for 21 performances of ‘Object of My Affection’.

Following our return to London, we will go straight into rehearsals in September 2014 for our autumn production ‘Hail Britannia’. The programme will consist of four newly commissioned works. The centrepiece of which will be ‘Highgrove Suite’ inspired by HRH The Prince of Wales’s gardens at his Gloucestershire home, Highgrove. Composed by leading British composer Patrick Hawes, Hawes was commissioned by the Prince to compose the suite and it received its premiere at Highgrove. Patrick and I are collaborating to stage the suite as a ballet and Patrick will conduct a full orchestra at a gala premiere in October 2014.

For next year, I am working on MurleyDance’s first full length ballet – so watch out for further details later in the year!

CM: What is your own most treasured possession?
DM: Personally, I do not have a ‘most treasured’ possession.  Although, I currently have lots of things I adore and remind me of days gone by.  Throughout my life so far, I have been in a plethora of situations where I was left to make do without my most treasured possession of that moment, whether it be my favourite T-shirt, teddy bear, phone or laptop.  In hindsight, these situations taught me to stop and look at life.  I often regained my focus and stride after these incidents.  They made me grateful.  Most often, those treasured possessions were stolen, thrown away by someone else or taken away and never given back.  I still get a little upset by losing something I treasure, but ultimately it is still just an item – replaceable or not.  It’s the people, experiences and what I can give back in life that matters to me most.

Objects Of My Affection is on at The Shaw Theatre on 27 Apr. See this page here for more info and to book.


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