Dancer Paul White has danced for many leading contemporary dance companies including Australian Dance Theatre & DV8 physical theatre. He is the 2008 recipient of the Best Male Dancer at the Helpmann & Australian Dance Awards and the current NSW Elite Champion for FISAF Sports Aerobics.
Paul White has teamed up with choreographer Meryl Tankard and visual artist Regis Lansac to create a new Australian work, The Oracle - a modern incantation of ancient rites and classical male beauty. Paul Andrew gets two minutes with dancer Paul White during rehearsal.
How did you come to work with Choreographer Meryl Tankard?
Meryl had seen me perform in an ADT project called Honour Bound, for which I received an Australian Dance Award. She asked me to participate in a three week research period without any specific result in mind. We worked a lot with the images and paintings of Odd Nerdrum and created hours and hours of great images and movement. Wonderful video imagery!
Meryl kept seeing a 'Nijinsky-esque' type quality to my body and movement and came up with the idea of The Rite of Spring. An improvised solo about earthquakes fitted perfectly to music from the Rite: including Magnificat by Joao Rodrigues Esteves in Act One and in Act Two, The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky. It was this music from Nijinsky's work that inspired her more to develop the idea further. His solo is still in the piece today, almost unedited.
This is your first solo work?
True. I had never before performed a solo piece so there were many aspects of the process that were foreign to me, for example the physical strain of rehearsing all day without a colleague to share the workload. However working with Meryl and Regis was a treat. Meryl is relentless in getting what she wants in the studio, which I respect and see as one of the keys to creating something special. It was very much a choreographic collaboration, which pulled for a close relatedness between us and therefore a lot of freedom and fun in the studio. The movement is challenging and at times even frustrating to execute, but I'm always left with that we have created something special.
Your role as “The Oracle” sounds like a demanding and mercurial role?
The piece is full of opposing forces. It's masculine and feminine, it's violent and nurturing, there is strength and vulnerability. The 'chosen one' in the tale of the Rite of Spring is honoured to be selected as the sacrifice but fearful and wary simultaneously.
I think there are very few oracles of our time. As a majority we are all so consumed by our own lives. I've loved delving into a piece with a deep mysticism and richness.
And the score?
The music score had much to do with how we created the choreography. It's incredibly intricate and articulate music that when one hears it played, worlds are created. As a result of working with the many characters of the story in mind, there are many varied physical aspects represented in the performance. Many of the movements in the piece appear as if there are alternate forces at play. I cower in fear, move cautiously, explode through the air, fight invisible forces, and caress the earth.
Personally, this sounds like a very satisfying project?
I am honoured that someone would wish to create a solo work with me, and very proud of what we've created. I see the Rite of Spring as sacred and the opportunity to dance it moves me every time. The choreography is visceral and earthy and often evokes anger, fear and sensuality in me. By the end of the piece having danced the 'sacrifice' I'm exhausted which, as an athlete, is very satisfying.
The Oracle opens December 3 at the Malthouse Theatre, Melbourne. Further details»
Top Right & Cover - Paul White. Photos - Peter Whyte