Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard: h2dance’s Staging Ages

By | Published on Thursday 15 October 2015

I was really attracted to the idea of this physical piece as soon as I read about it, as it’s the work of acclaimed pairing h2dance, aka Hanna Gillgren and Heidi Rustgaard, and interestingly, features performers with a wide age range, the youngest being just nine years old.


To find out more about ‘Staging Ages’, and how it came together, I put some questions to Hanna and Heidi, ahead of their London dates.

CM: This show seems hard to categorise, a mix, perhaps, of dance and theatre…? Can you tell us a bit about what kind of performance to expect?
HG&HR: Our work has always had a provocative edge, aiming to challenge how we express ourselves as individuals and collectively. In Staging Ages we delved into the dancers’ personal stories alongside general attitudes of what it is like being a certain age. The aesthetics of the work mixes movement text and sound in a thought provoking and humorous way.

CM: Tell us about the show’s themes. What are you aiming to explore?
HG&HR: ‘Staging Ages’ has a cast of five performers aged 9 to 65. The work explores meetings between generations and how we feel about our public and private selves at different stages of our life. Moving between the playful and furtive, childish innocence and adult desire, the work investigates the generation gap; norms and taboos, dignity, expectations and prejudices.

CM: Is the piece focused particularly on the ageing of dancers, or the ageing of people in general?
HG&HR: Both. We have gathered information about what it is like being a certain age through discussions and practical sessions with our dancers as well as community groups of different ages and nationalities.

CM: Is the world of performance a specially bleak place for an ageing dancer, do you think?
HG&HR: It is difficult to sustain momentum as an older performer and maker, and for the work to have an outlet and support to develop, when the scene is often looking for the next new young thing. We find it crucial to have older artists still performing and making work, to deal with the questions that arise from their perspective.

CM: As you’ve said, your performers come from a wide age range. Can you tell us about them, and how you found them?
HG&HR: We wanted to work with a broad age range and a mix of gender. The nine year old is Hanna’s son Sandro, and his best friend Sean. They took part in the research phase of ‘Staging Ages’ and seemed right for the kind of work we wanted to make. The two teen age girls, Honey and Ella, came via a training scheme at The Place. The thirty year old performers, Darren and Laura, we have worked with for several projects prior and know very well. Emilyn Claid is a pioneer on the British contemporary dance scene and we met up with her to talk about the project. She was excited about the questions we were exploring, and keen to come back to performing after 20 years off stage.

CM: Can you explain a little about how you go about creating a show like this? What’s the working process? Are the cast an integral part of it?
HG&HR: We work very intimately with the performers and ask them to respond to questions around the themes of the work. It is crucial that they are willing to open up and this cast really was. We chose to present real life memories, experiences of being an adult, having children and getting older as well as projecting ahead, imagining what the future might be. We worked different times with the different age groups to work around school hours and other commitments. So it was a lot of puzzling.

CM: What’s next for the show, and for the company?
HG&HR: We’re hoping to continue touring ‘Staging Ages’, and we have dates in Oslo, Norway in May 2016. We’re also planning to develop a new community project related to the show. We are still touring our Place Prize finalist piece ‘DUET’ and will perform it in Finland in early next year.

‘Staging Ages’ is on at The Place from 16-17 Oct. See the venue website here for more info and tickets.

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