Caro Meets Dance & Physical Interview

Luca Silvestrini: Border Tales

By | Published on Thursday 21 May 2015


This week Luca Silvestrini’s Protein revives acclaimed piece ‘Border Tales’, an exploration of multi-cultural living, as the opening event for the annual Greenwich Dances festival. The company is known for its high quality, accessible and humorous work.

The piece was conceived and directed by artistic director Silvestrini himself. I put some questions to the renowned choreographer.

CM: Can you tell us something about ‘Border Tales’? What stories does the show tell?
LS: ‘Border Tales’ is based around the notions of identity and multi-cultural living. Each character in the show gives an insight into the story of their life and how it feels to live in the UK, both as someone born here and as someone who emigrated to the country. It looks at the perception of space between different cultures and how we perceive the ‘other’.

CM: What type or genre of dance can audiences expect?
LS: Protein is a dance theatre company, which means that there is a narrative or journey through each piece that is presented through text spoken by the performers. Although the dance genre can be described as contemporary, the nature of ‘Border Tales’ means that dance styles from around the world are also included.

CM: What made you decide to create a show focusing on the issues addressed in the show?
LS: During my travels across the world I’ve learned that there’s a common, complex and unresolved space between people; between ‘them’ and ‘us’. I see this space in between as a border, the outer part of all of us; a fragile partition that defines who we are, but that perpetuates a yearning to belong. I have nothing to teach or preach about, but I’ve been moved by the simple desire to share the many tales I’ve heard and experienced.

CM: What research did you do for this? You worked with London based refugees, didn’t you? How did the collaboration with them come about, and how did you involve them in the creative process?
LS: I met with different people and communities, including migrants and refugees, in Slovenia, Denmark, Spain, Germany, Palestine and India as well as in the UK. I was able to spend a whole day with service users from the Islington Refugee Centre at The Place in London, when they were invited to share their stories with me. One participant’s contribution was recorded and is used as a voice-over for one scene in the show.

CM: Protein is your own company, isn’t it? How did you come to set it up, and what are its aims?
LS: I formed Protein in 1997 with Bettina Strickler, having met as students while at Trinity Laban, although I have been sole Artistic Director since 2004. We wanted to create accessible shows that examine everyday life, and made work based on subjects such as confessional television, booze culture, body image and online communication. I also have a drive to communicate contemporary dance to the wider public and we often perform on the streets of the UK to thousands of passers-by. Of equal importance is our participation programme that works in education settings and hospitals as well as projects that bring together up to 100 people of all ages to perform.

CM: Your performances are known for their appeal to audiences not traditionally attracted to dance – why do you think this is?
LS: You should ask our audiences that question!

Protein’s work is based on the everyday and real life stories that everyone can relate to, which could be a big part of it. Also I like to use humour to highlight uncomfortable situations that we all experience in our daily lives, and I think this connection is what reaches people who wouldn’t consider themselves lovers of dance.

CM: This revival is part of the annual Greenwich Dances festival, isn’t it? How did you become involved with that? Can you tell us a bit more about it?
LS: Protein is a resident company of Greenwich Dance who run the festival. We have a long relationship with this organisation, and our partnership goes back many years. We were both keen to put on one of our successful productions in Greenwich to celebrate our growing relationship.

CM: What’s next for you, and Protein?
LS: Next month I go to Japan to lead an inter-generational project with the local residents of Kinosaki, and in July I am delighted to be working with service users from the Islington Refugee Centre again, where ‘Border Tales’ began. This time we will have three weeks together to create a show based on their stories in which they will perform. In the autumn we’re back in the studio to continue creating our new show that will tour next year, working with composer Orlando Gough on a piece that examines our relationship with food. It is set in a dining environment and may contain food…

Border Tales launches the Greenwich Dances festival at Borough Hall from 22-23 May. See this page here for more information. You can also view listings here for other Greenwich Dances events.

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