Get to Know a Creative: Choreographer Olivier Wevers

The Seattle choreography ingenue talks with Crosscut about insecurity, sex appeal and the power of brevity.

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I don’t know, except that I always want the audience to leave wanting to see more. Personally, I hate leaving the theater with the feeling that I could have skipped those extra 20 minutes, so that’s why I usually make shorter pieces. 

What do you feel you still have to learn as a choreographer?

Everything. I’m learning all the time — when I create a piece, when I restage a work, when I see the audience react, when I see other people’s work, which is really important because it gives you perspective. And you can always make your work better, which is why whenever I restage a work there is always something that I change.

Like what?

It could be anything, the spacing, the use of one particular production element. I love trying new things, switching patterns and seeing how that works. I love contrast because you have to keep the audience surprised and that means constantly changing things.

Why are you so interested in contrast?

As human beings, we live in contrast. We — or at least I — get emotional really quickly. I can get upset very fast and then it’s over, or I eat something sweet and then I want something salty. This happens in so much of life, so I love rapid transitions that break a particular mood. Maybe someday I’ll do a piece that doesn’t have contrast [laughs] and then that will be a contrast to my other work.

The hardest thing is to justify what I do — to the dancers, to the audience. I often don’t know. I’m just emotionally attached to making something particular happen and so I do it.

How would you describe your own aesthetic in dance? What do you aim to achieve with your works?

I love rounded movement and even ugly shapes, like turned in legs with sickle feet, which are so not ballet. I also love articulation of the feet. A foot should have a million ways of using the floor and move just like a hand.

I also like sex appeal and an animalistic quality in my dancers. I refuse to see dancers as instruments and want to find what works for them, the way they partner, the way they use the floor. I want them to be emotional and do their steps with intention, so I work with dancers who can find emotion within themselves.

I also love partnering. Give me two dancers and I’ll try anything with them. And I regard a male-female pas de deux as 50-50.

What do you mean?

The interaction between them should be equal, which is why I call my women “Ninja bitches.” I want them to be able to lift the men as well as have the men lift them and not just wait to be presented. The interactions between dancers are very important to me and I want the movement to be connected to that.

Your work is highly theatrical and always has a strong dramatic quality. Do you think that comes from growing up in Europe where there is such a focus on drama in dance?

I don’t know. I grew up with Béjart’s work [Belgium’s Maurice Béjart] and I love his imagery. I’m very visual, so when I structure a piece I pinpoint where I want the audience to look. I try to create a richness so that there are many things going on, but there’s always a particular focus for the audience’s eye.

I’m also very oriented to how the dancers trace their bodies in space, so that you can almost see the patterns of their bodies, as if they are sculpting the space around them.

I know that music is very important in your work. Is that where you start when you create a new ballet?


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Comments:

Posted Wed, Jan 16, 11:02 a.m. Inappropriate

Fantastic interview!

Posted Wed, Jan 16, 4:01 p.m. Inappropriate

"Ninja bitches:" Not nice and not clever.

Posted Mon, Jan 21, 9:42 p.m. Inappropriate

It is a real art and a gift to be able to translate something you are so personally are attached to, into something that an audience can also relate to. Maybe you have to be split-brained or something! It is a delicate balance and Olivier manages to pull it off time after time. I always leave his shows wondering if I managed to get all the nuances and subtle messages. Always fascinating and leave you wanting more. Congratulazioni!

elasentia

Posted Sat, Jan 26, 1:46 p.m. Inappropriate

Swiftly - original name.

You quibble w/ moniker "ninja bitches". Have you seen his work - do you see the ferociousness and artistry of the female dancers in WhimW'Him? With the lines forming to the left of audiences and dancers (of both genders) wanting to see and to dance for this world class talent, your criticism is misplaced and sophomoric.

LeslieH

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