Following on from last year’s successful “Flow”, Hubert Essakow’s “Ignis” is the second part of a trilogy inspired by the Greek definition of the core elements. After looking at water, the former Royal Ballet dancer and now Print Room Associate Artist has now turned his attention to fire.
“Ignis” is very much a collaborative work that features dancers Noora Kela, Lukasz Przytarski and Jordi Calpe Serrats, alongside Cecchetti-trained actor Sara Kestelman. The latter’s involvement came about while performing in Amy Herzog’s “4000 Miles” at the Print Room last year and an encounter with images from the first work in the trilogy in the venue’s art gallery. Those images led her to express a long-held desire to work in a dance piece to Print Room Director Anda Winters, who in turn introduced her to Essakow. The couple first met over coffee at the Tate Britain, with subsequent informal discussions ranging across fine art, music, poetry and text.
Apart from the potent qualities of fire itself, Essakow was also inspired by art works at the Venice Biennale, especially, the clear, simple forms that he wanted to express as dance. Kestleman brings not only a dance-trained actor’s input to the work but her own poetry and song.
Essakow and Kestelman explained how initial explorations in rehearsal had a documentary basis and looked at the technical definitions of fire including the ‘fire triangle’ and ‘fire tetrahedron’ which illustrate the relationships between oxygen, heat and fuel and the subsequent chain reaction that propagates the fire itself. This was then used as a basis for creating the relationships in the work, including the stages of fire that echo waxing and waning of relationships and the suggestions for form that this geometry presents. If that all sounds a bit academic, don’t worry. They reminded me that fire also equates to passion so this promises to be dynamic experience for performers and audience alike.
Although actors and musicians are more used to seeing the whites of the audience members’ eyes, it is unusual for audiences to be in such close proximity to dancers as the intimate Print Room affords; a rare treat for those watching. It is also a stimulating experience for the dancers, as is working with an actor. Essakow explained that ‘Ignis’ has enabled them to explore the opportunities that the difference in ages affords too. Dancers, especially contemporary dancers, work mainly with their peers whereas, Essakow recalled, when he danced with the Royal Ballet, he had the opportunity to gain insight from the maturity and experience of the older dancers who were by then playing character roles.
Nerves abounded initially in rehearsal as the small space is very exposed and exposing. Kestelman trained seriously in classical ballet until she was sixteen but still needed to learn to work with the “Ignis” dancers and to discover a symbiotic relationship within different working processes.
Essakow said that the dancers were also at first shy of using their voices as they were required to speak text. This threw up interesting technical challenges as dancers and actors breathe very differently and each had to find a way of working that was unfamiliar.
Our conversation was punctuated by banging and hammering as Lee Newby’s set took shape next door, but in the gaps Essakow outlined his collaboration with film and TV composer John Opstad (Black Mirror, Silent Witness) who has used a mix of acoustic and electronic sounds to develop and accompanying score that is simultaneously live and recorded.
This close to previews, the atmosphere at the Print Room was one of suppressed excitement as the different disciplines have combined to enable the performers to feed off each other’s skills and experience, all knitted together by dramaturg Laura Farnworth who has used mind mapping techniques amongst other things to assist in making “Ignis” what should be a cohesive and exciting piece.
February 8th – March 1st, 2014, including Saturday matinees
The Print Room, Hereford Road, London W2 5AJ
Tickets: £23 / £17 concessions
Box office: www.the-print-room.org or 020 7221 6036