David Dawson about Legacy Variations
Photo header: David Dawson | © Altin Kaftira
After acclaimed ballets such as A Million Kisses to my Skin, The Grey Area, Overture and Citizen Nowhere, David Dawson now presents the world premiere of his 18th work for Dutch National Ballet: Legacy Variations. In choreographing this ballet for three male dancers, he has written a love letter to the company that has been his home for 27 years.
You created Legacy Variations as a homage to Dutch National Ballet. What does the company mean to you?
“All my years and experiences with Dutch National Ballet have made me who I am today, and it’s the company that has shaped me – my mind and heart – the most. It’s also the company where I took my first steps towards becoming a choreographer; the place where I learnt about dance and the dance world, how to work and grow, how to persevere, and how to create my own vision. In turn, I’m very proud to be part of the story and develop- ment of Dutch National Ballet. Through Legacy Variations, I wanted to create a moment to celebrate our shared legacy, beneath the majestic Dutch skies that connect us all.”
You created Legacy Variations for three male dancers from Dutch National Ballet. Who are these dancers and why did you choose them?
“I’ve made this new work for three very special Dutch National Ballet dancers: James Stout, Edo Wijnen and Joey (Joseph – ed.) Massarelli. I’ve been so lucky to get to know these dancers. I’ve worked with them since the day each of them joined the company, and since then we’ve discovered a way of working together that’s unique. In this new ballet, we reflect on our journey together, on what we’ve learnt and where we’ve arrived.”
What are the specific qualities or characteristics that make these dancers so special?
“James, Edo and Joey are all unique dancers. James is very elegant and stoic, yet sensitive in his dancing. He embodies a purity and can be both strong and vulnerable at the same time. I see him very much as a heroic artist; a poet, a romantic. Edo has the quicksilver qualities of mercury. He shines so brightly and moves in the most profoundly coordinated and musical way. He’s a comet, a star, and he was born to dance. And Joey has an abundant energy that appears endless. His dancing is incredibly organic, earthy in tone, with a deeply felt understanding of his own strength. He radiates kindness and generosity whenever he moves. I hope to be able to show all these qualities within Legacy Variations and to give these extraordinary dancers a platform through which they can surpass themselves.”
For this new piece, you’re working with composer Alex Baranowski, who’s created a brand-new composition for Legacy Variations. How did this process go?
“I got to know Alex during the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic, when I approached him to ask him if he wanted to make a dance film together. We connected immediately and he was wonderful to work with. He has a very distinctive and special musical identity and his music is emotional, universal, vast and intimate at the same time; it’s music that speaks from the heart. After this initial experience, I wanted to create a larger work together. Everything came together very naturally, and Legacy Variations was born. The music tells a story of the heart, of a universal human love, of a certain longing and nostalgia. It tells of the past and the future, of tears and hope. The score Alex has created for Legacy Variations takes you on a journey full of such expansive melodies they make you feel as if you could fly.”
The stage design is in the hands of two designers you’ve worked with many times before: set designer John Otto and costume designer Yumiko Takeshima. What kind of stage design can the audience expect?
“The stage is designed as a world of transparency that unfolds, revealing itself to us piece by piece, moment by moment. John Otto has created a very opaque and romantic space that is stark and open, almost empty. I very much wanted to try to connect this work to the nature of the Netherlands - most importantly the famous Dutch skies. Our trinity of dancers, in dark costumes designed by Yumiko Takeshima, resembles a trinity of sentinels; waiting, and watching over us. In addition, Altin Kaftira has created a film that plays an important role in the performance, acting almost like a fourth character.”
In the programme Dawson, your new work is presented alongside The Four Seasons. How do these two works relate to one another?
“For the most part, Legacy Variations and The Four Seasons are in direct contrast to one another and everything’s in opposition. Whereas one work is about the intimacy of a performance, the other is much bolder. I think my new ballet helps us see and discover the essence of the individual(s), whereas The Four Seasons shows us the power of the many. However, both works are characterised by my dance idiom: how I choose to connect the steps and how they’re presented, and how the movement is approached - both spatially and emotionally.
Legacy Variations was originally intended as a work to be dedicated to Dutch National Ballet, in honour of its 60th anniversary, and to our director Ted Brandsen, who has supported me so much over the years. But now I believe the programme Dawson as a whole celebrates my relationship with the company, and all that we’ve been able to achieve together. It’s a huge honour to be able to create this evening together with everyone at Dutch National Ballet, and to be part of this very special company.”
- Dawson will run from 8 to 16 December 2022 at Dutch National Ballet.