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‘Dance should express something words can’t’: Young choreographer Robert Binet on why great art should challenge

The Canadian choreographer on working with Wayne McGregor and carving out a style of his own.

By Rose Slavin (Former Assistant Content Producer)

6 October 2016 at 4.54pm | 1 Comment

This Season, Canadian choreographer Robert Binet presents a work with The Royal Ballet to celebrate Wayne McGregor’s 10 years with the Company. Binet's work is featured alongside fellow rising choreographer Charlotte Edmonds; both recently mentored by McGregor.

With rehearsals underway for his as-yet-untitled new piece, Binet reflects on his journey so far, working with McGregor and the purpose of art:

You trained as a dancer at Canada’s National Ballet School until you were 19. What made you want to be a choreographer?

I always felt that I couldn’t say what I wanted to be able to say as an artist with just my own body. I wanted to create something bigger than myself. It was frustrating being limited to my four limbs!

From the age of 11, CNBS made opportunities for students to create their own work. I think they saw how much I loved it and that I had a talent for it – so they gave me more opportunities. By the time I graduated, I had made ten ballets.

How did your relationship with Wayne McGregor come about?

I applied for Dance Lines [a workshop giving young choreographers the opportunity to work with Wayne McGregor] in 2011, but didn't win a place as I was too young at the time. I was however, offered the opportunity to observe the process and I was memorized because I'd never seen movement like Wayne creates before.

He encouraged me to write a proposal to stay working with The Royal Ballet and the Company created the position of Royal Ballet Choreographic Apprentice for me in 2012. I knew there aren't that many opportunities to learn from one of the living greats so I didn’t want to let it go.

What’s it like working with The Royal Ballet?

The first thing you notice about Royal Ballet dancers is their musicality, their fluidity in the upper body and their ability to bend in counter-point or in coordination with the lower body. The fine details are very present from the very beginning. They dancers never give you a rough or unfinished movement, unless you ask for it. The attention to detail is really special here.

How do you get the most from the dancers you work with?

Painters get paint, sculptors get clay and musicians get instruments. I get people, with everything a person contains. A lot of my job is just trying to draw that out because I don’t think there’s anything more beautiful than seeing someone being themselves on stage.

What do you look for when choosing dancers for a work?

Everyone has different reasons for choosing their dancers. I look for a freedom in their movement but my decision is also based on gut instinct. It’s like when you meet someone for the first time – something hits you on the inside and it’s not usually wrong.

How would you describe your new piece with The Royal Ballet?

The music was the first thing that came into place. I found a piece by Missy Mazzoli – a composer based in New York. The music of the first movement feels like it’s taking you on this wild journey and then the second part feels like a desaturated version of the same idea. The notes are sparser and the rhythms are less logical in the way they build. She creates two different worlds.

Dance should express something words can’t – so if you understand everything the piece is trying to say straight away, it’s probably not rich enough to be done through dance.

Do you feel a pressure to carve out your own style?

No. If I worried about making a style then everything would become the same and I would be bored after two pieces. I try to make something that I think is expressive and has integrity and if that is within a style of my own, then I’d be thrilled!

What do you want your audience to come away with after seeing your work?

Art is supposed to be a bit of a storm. By that I don’t mean I want audiences to feel uncomfortable, but I want my work to challenge audiences. Otherwise why go?

When you watch the best work, you’re almost more aware of the performer than the choreography. I don’t want the audience to be aware of the steps or a cool lift, but to feel like they are being swallowed by a world that has a very clear emotional tone. I want that 15 minutes to feel like a really good 15 minutes.

This article has 1 comment

  1. Kenneth Mardenborough responded on 9 October 2016 at 6:22pm Reply

    Choreography is inspiring!

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