An international team of top-class dancers are heading to the Fringe for a Duet with a difference
Hello guys, first things first, where are you all from & where are you at, geographically speaking?
Xavier: Hi there! So we’re all from different parts of Europe. Delicia is from Thessaloniki in Greece, Samuel is from Mallorca in Spain but has lived in the Midlands most of his life, and I am from Porto in Portugal. We all met when we were training in Bath, where we each graduated in either Dance or Acting and where the collaborations began in which AllouAqui was born. Since then we have stayed in Bath and Bristol, which is where we make our performance work.
Can you tell us how your company AllouAqui came together?
Delicia: Well, both Xavier and I graduated from the same contemporary dance course and were both interested in pursuing a career in performance and choreography. Having worked together during the course we knew our aesthetics, ideas and visions matched and complemented each other so I think it was inevitable that sometime we would start collaborating through the form of a company. AllouAqui’s story started with a book by Milan Kundera which sparked the idea of creating a duet inspired by one of its stories. We started playing in the studio and soon decided to make a duet to be toured around England and possibly Europe. Noticing how well we work together we decided to set up a dance theatre company and that is how AllouAqui was born. The duet gradually developed through sharing and performing at different platforms and through the involvement of theatre director Samuel De La Torre who soon became the third member of our company.
What is, would you say, the quintessence of the company’s creativity?
Samuel: Since the birth of the company, Delicia and Xavier have tirelessly worked to create work that merges movement with text. Dance-theatre is a world that has been so brilliantly explored and exposed, and a world that will never cease to amaze. AllouAqui’s creativity emerges from the simplest of life’s experiences. We use these to blend with our fantasies to create a world where all possibilities are available. We are driven by our experiences imagination and instincts and by a desire to play with the edges of our creativity; to explore the subtle and the extreme; and to disrupt the logical and the instinctual. Our creativity relates and retells the story of so many in our audiences, and exposes realities that are strangely easy to watch. The different cultural training and upbringing of each artist brings unique quirkiness through visual imagery that combines in such a way that delivers in our creativity. It is also important to consider our literary inspirations that opens our minds to so many more avenues and themes as well as the cinematic world that stimulates some of our visuals used whilst creating.
Delicia, you have performed all across Europe as a physical theatre performer and dance artist. Do you find the cultural styles of performance alter across the Continent as with its languages?
Delicia: I think in Europe every country and city has its own specific dance and theatre scene and I think it is natural for people who live in the same place and share the same sociopolitical concerns, the same language and the same cultural influences to also develop their own performance style. This is something I love about Europe’s performance scene. I remember watching a dance performance in Amsterdam thinking how much it didn’t fit the scene in England. I felt as though if it was performed in England, it wouldn’t have been received as brilliantly, but in Amsterdam it was a success. Having said that I also believe we have a lot in common, especially nowadays that each European country hosts so many different cultures. Our company is formed by a Portugese, a Greek and a Spanish artist living and working in England. So there you go, one company; four different cultures! There is definitely a common ground, but each country has to offer its own spices, and this is something we all love about creating work in Europe.
Where, why & when did you make the leap from Acting to Direction?
Samuel: Directing had always been a fear of mine; even before going into actor training. I felt it was always a little too out of my comfort zone, and never something I could achieve, having previously worked with some brilliant directors and witnessing their incredible skills. I guess self-doubt is the biggest enemy. It was in my first year of training that my tutor spoke to me about directing and if I had ever given it a try. I suppose it was at that moment that a seed was planted, and that my vision for directing began to develop. However, it was only after an invitation to assistant direct a production, that I really began to take the leap into directing. It was this experience that led me to join AllouAqui. The whole process with AllouAqui has definitely been a collaborative one, with choreography, text, sound and other elements all combining into one. I could not have done it all on my own, and the incredible creative vision of both Xavier and Delicia are unparalleled. However, I have definitely enjoyed taking a step back from performing on this one, and hope it is a vision for the future.
You’re performing at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe; what are you bringing to the table?
Delicia: We are bringing an exciting mixture of movement, theatre, text and improvisation. A blending of the real and the surreal and a game between the ordinary and the unexpected. We are bringing two characters that reflect the paradoxes and the peculiarities of romantic relationships. Two characters that love, hate, ignore, support and overpower each other as they transform themselves and the space around them. And we are bringing a lot of humour!
Xavier, you are doing the choreography for the show, can you tell us about your training & experience?
Xavier: My journey as a performer began when I was a little boy, living in Portugal and watching my mum boogying to her favourite music! It was this that led me to attend training at Balleteatro in Porto, a dance and theatre school in my hometown where I trained in contemporary, improvisation, physical theatre and ballet. From then on, I couldn’t stop moving and learned quite an array of different dance styles. I then moved to Bath in order to continue my training and focused more on contemporary dance. However, I have always been interested in merging theatre with dance, and so I always focused on this during my training here. It was here that I met Delicia, and so we started the company AllouAqui, and together we choreograph and create work, which is how Milan’s Game came about.
What is the biggest obstacle you overcame while putting your show together?
Xavier: Throughout our creative process, in no doubt has the classic problem of ‘artists with no money’ been an obstacle for us. That being said, we have been extremely fortunate to have a great relationship with our university and the space we have been able to use there for rehearsals. Our biggest obstacle however, will always be our continual alterations for sections we create. It has now become almost routine for us to create sections, then revisit that section some days or weeks later, and recreate the whole scene again. When time is of the essence, sometimes it is not the most efficient way to work, however, it definitely should be seen by us in a positive light, as it ensures that we are meticulous in everything we create.
Do you feel you are match-sharp for the Fringe & if so, why?
Samuel: This question is some-what difficult to answer for me or for us as a company as this is our first time visiting the Fringe, let alone performing at it. That being said, we have worked tremendously hard for this piece and have done so for a while. We have performed Milan’s Game at various festivals and testing grounds which has shaped, refined and driven our performance as a whole. We’ve received feedback in a variety of ways, through speaking to audiences, via Q&A’s, online comments and also through reviews, which we feel have all added some grounding to our making process. So in a humble yet empowering sense, yes I feel we are match-sharp for the Fringe.
What disciplines are we to expect from the show?
Xavier: We, AllouAqui, play with a range of disciplines that focus on visual and auditory story-telling. In Milan’s Game definitely expect a lot of contemporary dance, blended with spoken text, improvisation as well as other theatrical elements that we are keeping as a surprise.
What are the magic ingredients to a good duet?
Delicia: I don’t think I can give a successful recipe that will work for everyone but I can certainly tell you what works for us. I think the most important is the relationship between the artists and performers, in this case, Xavier and myself. We both have the role of choreographer and performer and this could be something tricky as we have to agree to make decisions. Luckily, we are very good friends and very honest to each other. There is nothing we hesitate to test or to experiment with and there are no restrictions. One of the rules of our collaboration is to always express when we do not like something and to never get offended when one of our ideas gets rejected. As a result we go on stage and we are performing something we both love and the audience can see that too. There are certainly many difficulties when, in a duet, the choreographers are also the performers, so we are really lucky to have Samuel with us. Being with him in the studio means that we are constantly testing what we make and receive his reactions as well as his suggestions, advice and direction. There are many other elements that contribute to the composition of a good duet, like the idea behind the piece, the space, the timing, the movement language, the relationship with the audience and the list goes on and on. But to me it seems that if the relationship of the performers does not work none of the rest matters. After every performance we hug each other and say how much we enjoyed performing together; there is this lovely feeling of sharing your energy and passion with someone else. I value this more than the applause.
You’ve got 20 seconds to sell the show to somebody in the street…
Samuel: At 10am every morning this week at Surgeon’s Hall, come and spend your breakfast time with Milan’s Game! It’s a 45-minute, thoroughly-entertaining absurd comedic reality that exposes a couple’s relationship as they try to keep their momentum spicy.