Tim Rushton once rejected an offer to work with the Royal Danish Ballet because he loved dance too much. The British-born dancer had grown bored with the classical ballet repertoire, and told the Copenhagen Post after three or four Swan Lakes he just could not see where this was going.
Rushton’s company New Danish Dance Theatre is heading to the Opera House this month as part of the Far Flung season of international dance -“ and he’s not alone among artists who shiver at the thought of cygnine reservoirs. The Australian Dance Theatre is also performing -“ a group which previously deconstructed Swan Lake in 2001’s Birdbrain -“ and if there is a common thread between the companies it is a search for something new.
What is so important for dance is -¦ that it has to keep moving, Rushton said, by phone from Denmark. And I think the problem is, in many big institutions, it just stops moving and it becomes a little museum -¦ It just comes to be there because we put in on a pedestal. That for me is when it just becomes a joke.
Rushton found a spiritual home with NDDT in 2000, and became artistic director in 2001. Since then he’s subverted his own sacred cow -“ the Bournonville ballet Napoli -“ and committed a few cardinal choreographic sins, such as asking his dancers to speak.
For Far Flung, Rushton is bringing Graffiti and Shadowland, works danced to the tune of poetry by the Beat Generation writers. But despite a passion for poetry and a certain empathy for their philosophies, Rushton wasn’t interested in the words.
I’m very much a music choreographer, he said. So it was not so much the Beat Generation and what they stood for, that I fell for, but it was actually the way that they were delivering the poetry. The musicality.
The resulting works are dark, serious and heavy, according to Rushton. In Graffiti, the dancers attempt to realise in movement the cut-up and fold-in techniques of the poets, with themes of drug use and alienation drawn from William Burroughs’s words. Shadowland is even more abstract.
When asked whether the pieces have any gay content -“ a fair question given the source material -“ the answer is surprising.
Nearly every journalist asks me that, he said affably. I didn’t want to particularly make anything about gender or sex one way or another -¦ I mean I’m a gay person -“ but there’s lots of little sex things in the text which are really fun, if you grab them -¦ But the Danes never get them, they just get the main bits.
Then we signed off, having gone through the entire interview without mention of Australia and Denmark’s most obvious cultural link.
Almost. Tim Rushton explained he’s looking forward to visiting Australia because he’s heard it’s beautiful -“ and then stopped himself and started laughing.
Actually, I heard Mary Donaldson say that, he confessed. I felt like it was an Australian friend that told me that. But it wasn’t, it was Mary on the television.
Graffiti and Shadowland are showing at the Opera House Drama Theatre from 24 to 28 August. Phone 9250 7777 for bookings.