Antoine Vereecken is a longtime member of Wayne McGregor’s Random Dance and travels the world staging McGregor’s ballets. I spoke to him by phone about the process of staging “PreSentient” for its American premiere this weekend at Tulsa Ballet.
I staged this piece using a video, so that as little as possible of my own “filter” came off on the dancers. They’ll get to work with Wayne directly this week. Nothing has been written down. It’s about visceral energy.
I know that the title, “PreSentient,” means having the feeling that something’s about to happen. Wayne’s way of working was to start with this idea, then moving into a dendritic way of working in the studio. This led into a book and a whole load of information with which he can form tasks with choreographic problems to solve, which is the way he often works. He worked like this for quite a while, then made phrases himself, then started structuring it.
Because it’s a group piece, it’s a lot of information. The work is very detailed, and we have to focus on making it work on their bodies and making it make sense on them. The choreography has to be right but there is a deep freedom of interpretation. Sometimes in ballet, interpretation is more about character. This is about delving deep into the dancers as performers and their journey exploring the movement material. It’s something you can see they’re enjoying and being sucked into. It’s lovely to see the progress. It’s so alien somehow, it’s very challenging for them. They were very sore by the third day!
The work is about challenging perceptions on every level — for the audience; for the dancers, challenging them to put themselves into points where they never thought they could go; and also for Wayne. The journey is what’s really the interesting part for the dancers.
For me the real joy of working with these dancers is making it work on them, having this personal relationship with every one of them. Within the piece you can dive into each one of them. There are dancers who maybe others didn’t perceive as being able to do it, but they did find it in themselves. It’s about not pigeonholing people in certain styles. It’s great to see something you don’t expect from someone.
What we’ve worked on in the studio will really inform what they do in contemporary work, every bit as much as their classical vocabulary will. There’s something they can take from this process into their classical work as well. Their bodies can do more. It bridges both styles.
This company is reflective of the rep they do. There’s no preconception of “this is this” and “that is that.” That’s really nice because in staging a work like this you don’t have to start from scratch.