We Indulge in a Deadly Sin with Elise May
Caroline Vang | On 24, Jun 2015
â€œAt times I’ve found that sustaining a career in dance is the most challenging thing that I have been confronted with in my life…â€
The Creative Issue: In 2005 you represented Australia in the Asian Young Choreographerâ€™s Project in Taiwan. Had you ever been to Taiwan before this and how was your overall experience?
Elise May: I had not traveled to Asia prior to participating in the Asian Young Choreographer’s project in Taiwan. The whole experience opened my eyes to the world of dance, and what dance means to other cultures.
I had a one-month residency in Taiwan to create a choreographic work for a group of young dancers. This is always a challenging task but this was made even more interesting because very few of them spoke English, and my Mandarin was equally poor. What I discovered though is that our bodies inherently have very powerful mechanisms for communication beyond words, and dance in particular is a universal language. This experience very early in my career, shaped the way I work in many ways, both as a performer and as a choreographer. Images have become important for me in my work and the way our bodies are in a constant state of non-verbal communication continues to inspire me.
I have since traveled to Asia many times on various dance collaborative projects, and I feel that the profound intensity of that first experience in Taiwan gave me a strong sense of who I am as an artist and has equipped me for these subsequent experiences.
TCI: In August this year you will be performing with a few others in the 7 Deadly Sins. I am very excited to see this, how much training do you generally have to do to prepare for a performance like this? Which sin may I ask are you performing?
Elise May: Â 7 Deadly Sins is EDC’s (Expressions Dance Company’s) signature work for 2015 and I am really excited to be a part of the really talented team of artists who are working on this project. We have spent a month earlier this year, in between other projects,Â in creative development of some of the ideas and concepts for the work and each of the dancers had an opportunity to workshop eachÂ of the sevenÂ sins.
After a week of researchÂ and movement investigation and getting acquainted with these aspects of our personality, each of the sins was decided for each of the dancers. I will be playing the sin ‘lust’. In early explorations I was inspired by the many images of women throughout history, depicted in paintings, literature and even today in popular culture. The dichotomy of the feminine image, one of ‘perfection’, yet tainted again and again by the suspicion of desire and lust.
In the 1800s, women were frequently treated for ‘hysteria’ which was believed to be woman’s physiological illness related to sexual dysfunction. So there is certainly a lot of content to use to generate really interesting movement for the show. We will now enter our phase two of rehearsal and production for SevenÂ Deadly Sins, which will include 6 weeks of further creation in the studio and 2 to 3 weeks of preparation and production in the theatre. It is a big process for our companyÂ from conception through to the final production, but it will be a really exciting journey with a group of really greatÂ artists.
TCI: To all the aspiring dancers out there what would your advice be for them?
Elise May: At times I’ve found that sustaining a career in dance is the most challenging thing that I have been confronted with in my life, so entering a career in dance is not a decision to be made lightly. On the other hand I think about all of the wonderful connections that I have made with the people that I’ve worked with, and the immense pleasure that dancing has given me and I think it has been worth every part of the investment that I have made in making this happen. I certainly think (like many other people I’m sure who are passionate about what they do), that if you want to do something and have a burning desire, commitment and appetite for that pursuit, then chances are you will find a way to make it a part of your life.
TCI: What was the best experience you have had?
Elise May: I love that as a dancer I have been able to travel. We certainly don’t choose a career in dance for any kind of financial gain, however I do feel that travel is one of the ‘perks’ of the job. I think of the experiences that I’ve had both in Australia and overseas, and I just feel so blessed
TCI: Besides studying and dancing what can we find Elise doing in her spare time?
Elise May: I like to do things that are grounding and relaxing. I love cooking, watching films, photography and going to the beach, and I’ve recently developed an interest in gardening, although I’m very much a novice!
Natalie Weir’s 7 Deadly Sins plays 21 – 29 August at Playhouse QPAC. For more details go here.
Image credits:Â Elise May Website