Breaking down walls
AS a dancer and choreographer, Filip Van Huffel thinks about the space he inhabits more than most.
"Dancers in general are quite conscious of our environment," he said. "It's incredible how much architecture influences our daily movements."
Corporalis, the new work by Nottingham and Belgium-based dance company Retina, attempts to explore those issues. Filip, the choreographer and Retina's artistic director, has created three acts meant to bring to life distinctly different relationships with the surrounding architecture.
"It feels like when you are walking out of St Pancras Station, for example. You (go outside into) this extremely busy city, and then you go into a house or a café and it's quiet."
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There's the old saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture. It's meant to put down music writing by comparing it to something nonsensical – but Filip's happy to dance about architecture.
Corporalis is the third part in a trilogy of Retina works with other disciplines. They've already worked with writers and painters – for this, they actually got in architects to create a moving set that becomes part of the show.
"We did an architectural competition to create an architectural environment," Filip said. "Ten different British and Belgian architects applied to the competition."
They whittled it down to five, then selected Belgian architectural collective Ruimtevaarders.
"They create a world that is creating different environments on stage," Filip said.
"They came up with the concept of one wall that was moving forward as the piece went on."
Architects and dancers then began to collaborate. For a 70-minute show, one moving wall wouldn't be enough.
"It became too much stuck in one idea," Filip said. So they met again, and the idea of three separate interactions was mooted.
First the dancers are paired with that wall that moves slowly and that is beyond their control. The second part is a solo and environment is static, with walls like magnets. In the third, the wall's movements are controlled by the dancers.
Present throughout are ideas and questions about our environment's hold over us, and ours over it.
The work had its Belgian premiere a week and a half ago, and Filip's looking forward to taking it to its other home.
"We are kind of a dual nationality company," he said.
Retina receives funding from the Arts Council and the Belgian government – and it has an good relationship with an important local partner.
"The Playhouse has been instrumental in what we're doing," Filip said.
With a handful of quality theatres and events like the annual Nottdance festival, this is a city that welcomes interesting, challenging dance.
"I think Nottingham has a clear arts feel about it," Filip said. "It's very much a vibrant arts scene."
Corporalis is at Nottingham Playhouse on Tuesday at 8pm. Tickets are priced £8.50 to £12 and can be booked on 0115 941 9419, nottinghamplayhouse.co.uk/whats-on/dance/corporalis or in person at the Playhouse box office.
Retina is an Anglo-Belgian dance company with headquarters in Antwerp and College Street. Retina also offers children's and young people's dance classes, as well as classes for adult beginners and dance professionals. Classes for children aged 8 to 11 are on Monday evenings for £4 a week, with early-booking discounts available.
Classes for children and teenagers aged 11 to 19 are on Thursdays and cost £5, with discounts for early bookers. The Retina Youth Dance Company is available to those aged 14 to 19 looking to learn a high standard of dance.