Formed in 2002, Company Chordelia make multi-genre dance performances around deeply human themes. In latest piece The Chosen, the theme is dying – how we think about it, how we choose to live with it – with references to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. It’s premiering at Dance Base this Fringe and is part of the Death on the Fringe series promoted by our editor Robert Peacock. He spoke to artistic director Kally Lloyd-Jones to find out more.
Why a piece about mortality?
In recent years, I have lost some of the most important people in my life, most significantly two of my closest friends. I also lost my Godson which was devastating, and several other friends. All of these people were my age or younger. Some of their deaths were from long term illness and some were sudden and brutal. These experiences inevitably made me think about death, but also about dying and the choices we make about how we die, which of course means thinking about how we live. So the piece for me is really an exploration about what happens when people have knowledge that they will die and what that means for them and for their loved ones.
Can you elaborate on the Rite of Spring reference for us?
The Rite of Spring is about a ritual pagan sacrifice in which a young girl is chosen to be a sacrificial victim, and dances herself to death. There are many parallels which could be drawn from the story of the Rites and also from the nature of Stravinsky and Nijinsky’s creations. The significance for me is that Chosen One is considered honoured and special, and I wanted to look at the potential for the person knowing they were dying to embrace life, take risks, say everything they wanted to say, make peace. We all know we will die, but we don’t know when or how – so having that knowledge may offer us something which may ultimately be life affirming.
How have you managed to reconcile death – which, by definition, is the end of movement – with dance, which is so vital and alive?
I suppose in this piece because I am talking about dying, rather than death, movement is vital in conveying the life that is left, right until the end. There is a recurring theme of the ocean, which represents the vastness and cyclical nature of the world, and our return to nature. So I suppose I am thinking about the cycle of life and death, continuous movement.
What has it been like for you immersing yourself in this subject?
Because this has come about from such a personal place, but is also an absolutely universal subject, I found it very cathartic, as well as emotional, and humbling. Everyone has their own losses and my beautiful cast were generous with themselves and each other. We all talked quite a bit, and there was crying, but we also celebrated our loved ones, and life, and took time to shake ourselves back into the present. When I was grieving, I felt that after an amount of time it was unacceptable to talk about it anymore. I imagine many people feel like this. It was quite a relief for it to be acceptable to think and talk about it, release it in a creative way. I feel very lucky to be able to do that.
How does it compare with your previous work?
Well, it’s always quite hard for me to tell. I am often very fascinated by what other people have to say. But I feel that while it is recognisably my work, it is also a departure. It is more abstract, less theatrical in an obvious way, but is still very driven by a sense of humanity, character, a sort of narrative and an emotional core.
What are your hopes and fears for The Chosen?
I hope very much that it might make people think about their own stories, feel able to talk about it. I want it to open doors for people to share, and for the subject of dying and death to be a more acceptable part of our culture. Fear is probably an unavoidable part of making work and and putting it out there for people to see. I will try not to think about that part just now!