There is so much spring grace in Belgrade that it opens your breathing and relaxes your walk. Belgrade Dance Festival embraced us warmly, and on the 4th of April 2017, my recent choreographic work DARK LANDSCAPES, created for and with Ballet of Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, was performed at Madlenianum Theatre. Staging this work is always electric; choreographic material reshapes constantly, finding its momentum in singular decisions that are then accumulating, gradually building a texture of the whole. Committed ensemble of Ballet of Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb found the way in to the depths of this work, performing it with serenity and flow: some new moments appeared, some dynamics in the music were rediscovered and interpreted anew. With that in mind, I talked with soloist Natalia Horsnell about the choreographic process for this work and its moments. Thank you Natalia for this great conversation and many thanks to everyone that are making this work possible.
Natalia, you are a dancer at Ballet of Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb since 2010 and promoted to soloist in 2013. How do you feel in the company at the moment?
At the moment I feel good, very busy – but good. Right now we are getting ready for a new premiere of the ballet The Glembays by choreographer Leo Mujić, as well as performing the last years’ work by Giorgio Madia Peter Pan and getting a ballet Anna Karenina ready to be performed on tour at Alexandrinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. I love being busy though, and when there is not a lot happening I find it harder then when its go go go.
During the rehearsals for Dark Landscapes I sensed your encompassing reflexivity and comprehension of the process. Is there something that was particularly interesting for you during our sessions?
I found that the process of creating Dark Landscapes was in a whole very interesting. It was the first time I was a part of making and creating a ballet like this. At first I honestly found it very hard to really let go from a fixed ballet structure, having to know what I am doing, when I am doing it and on what count with what partner, and letting a more outside of the box feeling take over. But also at the same time, still having another structure and creative base in what to grow and form our ideas. If I think from where we all started and then think about in which direction the piece grew, it was quite amazing. And also the fact that the process and transformation happened not only to the piece but also to all of us as dancers, that was the most interesting.
There was a challenge for all of us to translate the organic ever-evolving process of rehearsal sessions to the stage setting. This moment for me is always accompanied with some sort of flow-nostalgia and arrival in to the materiality of the set. What are your thoughts about it?
It is always an exciting thing to take whatever we have been working on onto the stage – as the stage is where it all happens. It can be scary at times, as the stage is completely open and you can see everything all of a sudden. Everything that was around and somehow in a control of the studio is gone. In the case of Dark Landscapes, I found it astonishing how I actually felt more creative and more free to explore once we were on stage. I can not really pinpoint the exact reason as to why; maybe being the extra space, the fact of intensified sound system or even that seats are in front of us giving the meaning that in the near future people will be sitting there watching what we have been working so hard on. That is where I felt that also the whole group grew and explored and changed to a next level of the piece.
Singular material of the choreography is floating within the whole structure. What do you feel changes the most from performance to performance?
The one thing that changes the most is the overall energy of the group. There are so many different complex parts to the piece, so many outside factors also end up playing a huge part in how the choreography feels, and how one feels in the piece. And then in the end, what the audience gets from us within the piece. We all give or take energy from one another all the time. I remember days where we all had more energy and having a more bouncy energetic flow and outwards perceptive. Other days, maybe when some fleeting tiredness sets in, it was transporting a different energy into the piece, which then had a ripple effect upon the group giving changes to the performance.
In every process there are some leftovers, traces, ghosts of some ideas… Is there some aspect of the work that you wished we have had digger deeper?
That is hard to tell from within… I feel we explored deep within ourselves to create it. There is always room to do more but I sense that every time we dance Dark Landscapes we are still exploring and creating and finding new and exciting things out about the work and were it takes us.
What is your most present takeaway from this process & work?
One of the things that stands out among many is the way I have learned and grown, that I should trust myself and be open to creating and exploring in ways that normally I wouldn’t. There were times where I would completely doubt everything and could not find anything, but slowly, with guidance and support of the whole group I think we all found something very special.
Natalia Horsnell, a soloist of Ballet of Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb in conversation with Marjana Krajač, about the choreographic process of a ballet DARK LANDSCAPES.