Surrey-based choreographer Didy Veldman is a big deal in the world of dance. Here we chat about her new show The Knot.
I’m no dance aficionado. But I do know that Surrey-based choreographer Didy Veldman – a former dancer with the highly acclaimed Rambert company – is a Big Deal. That’s Big with a capital B and Deal with a capital D.
And she’s bringing her latest work – The Knot – to G Live in Guildford next month. In fact, it’s coming for one night on Valentine’s Day, which seems rather apt as the dance is based around a wedding. (Tying the knot – geddit!)
For those with a more high-brow approach to dance performances, you’ll be interested to know that The Knot explores the significance of marriage in contemporary Western society. And I can guarantee you’ll be spellbound.
Didy has been variously described as “a rare bird, an artist who excels as both dancer and choreographer” and “a genius of choreographic movement”. High praise in deed. And I can concur.
My introduction to Didy’s work came about 18 months ago when Rambert brought one of her pieces The 3 Dancers to the New Victoria Theatre in Woking. It was utterly mesmerising. I took my then 10-year-old along, and while she was one of the few kids in the audience, she loved it too. (Read my full review here.)
Getting back to The Knot, though, the piece will create the feel of a big wedding party in which the performers are the bride, groom, best man and bridesmaids, and the audience are the guests. It promises to be theatrical and physical (and my money’s on brilliant as well).
The dancers form an impressive line up too, with Dane Hurst, Mathieu Geffré, Oihana Vesga Bujan, Oliver Chapman, Sara Harton, Angela Venturini and Jacob Lang. Between them they’ve danced with Rambert, Richard Alston Dance Company and the National Dance Company of Wales among others.
Muddy caught up with the talented Didy Veldman to talk weddings, moments of brilliants and Strictly.
As a former dancer, was the move to choreographer a natural progression – or is this something you’ve always had in you?
I’ve always been interested in choreography since I was a little girl I invented dances for fun. But winning a choreographic prize at the age of 19 stimulated me to continue pursuing choreography alongside my dance career. Getting opportunities to choreograph has been crucial and creating three works for Rambert whilst being a dancer, helped kick start my career in the UK.
You’ve choreographed dances that have been seen all over the world – that must feel pretty special?
I feel very fortunate to have travelled the world with what I love doing.
Better than the high of performing?
Both are great and very different. I loved performing but keeping the fitness and high standard going of a professional dancer demands a huge investment. I’m thrilled I was getting opportunities to choreograph and getting my first commission was certainly a high!
And you’re influences and inspiration – where do these come from? Do you have sudden moments of brilliance and have to scurry away to make notes for a dance?
Sometimes I do indeed have to suddenly write ideas or words down. I collect pictures, phrases and music on a constant basis. What inspires me is watching performances and exhibitions, I recently saw a Marina Abramovic exhibition in the Louisiana museum in Denmark which was fantastic and very inspiring.
Becoming a mum, twice!
Tell us about The Knot? What prompted the theme about marriage – you’re not planning a wedding are you?
After creating a Les Noces for Geneva Ballet in 2015 I felt I couldn’t talk about everything I wanted to say within the musical structure of 25 minutes and the idea started brewing of creating a full evening work one day. I became intrigued about how much our idea of marriage and wedding has changed over the last century and now that I have my own company Umanoove, I was able to delve into all this once more while extending the music with a new score by Ben Foskett so that the wedding party last a bit more then an hour.
How long does it take to get a piece like The Knot from the first imaginings of movement to the opening show?
This production has taken about two years. Writing the Arts Council England funding application, searching for donors, auditioning dancers, organising rehearsal space, booking performances and finding creative time for myself is all very time consuming. The real discovery of the work starts in the studio together with the dancers which is when all my ideas need to come to fruition during a rehearsal period of seven weeks.
I imagine the dance world is fairly competitive – am I right? And how do you manage that?
Competition has always been a part of my life, when I was a kid I always competed in several sports and had to be the best. Since you can’t always win I learned some important life lessons. I still like being the best but have transformed it to ‘the best I can be at this moment in time’, which helps.
Do you be perform in any of your pieces?
I’ve performed in my own pieces occasionally. The most fun and last time was dancing my own Carmen in 2000 with Northern Ballet at Sadler’s Wells in London. I really had a great time on stage but 18 years later I am very happy to sit and watch what I’ve created.
You’re Richmond based, do you spend much time here or are you touring a lot?
I am away from home maybe three to four months a year, either touring or creating work for international companies. The rest of the time I like to spend in London either with my family, teaching or researching my next project. I love the buzz of the city but am very grateful to be living in a quiet and green part of London.
What’s next for Didy Veldman?
After The Knot I’ll be working with Leipzig Ballet in Germany and Introdans in Holland. Both companies will perform older works I’ve created for other companies. Together with composer Gabriel Prokofiev new ideas are brewing for a creation with Birmingham Royal Ballet which is very exciting and will have its premiere in 2019 and of course I am already busy with thoughts for my next production for my own Company Umanoove.
And finally, are you a fan of Strictly Come Dancing?
I don’t get to watch a lot of TV as I spend a lot of evenings and weekends at the theatre or socialising with family and friends. But I know it’s a huge success and it’s another platform that has helped put dance on the map.