Micha Bergese has a thing about spaghetti. As we spoke a large pot of the stuff was gently simmering in the kitchen of his London ﬂat. A coincidence indeed - the last time Micha danced solo in Scotland spaghetti bolognaise was on stage as often as he was. The preparation and cooking was timed meticulously to the music of Glen Branca and his own choreography. A daunting task - chopping herbs mid-pirouette and making sure you’ve sautéd your onions before taking the next step. The grande ﬁnale was a delicious
g mound of spaghetti bolognaise done to a turn.
Bergese is probably better known for his part as the huntsman in Neil Jordan’s film Company ofWoIves. A dancer/choreographer for the past 20 years, acting was a new departure for him. Immersed in the whole studio atmosphere, he set about making a dance about making a ﬁlm to preserve his ﬁlming experiences and to explore the realms of the subooncious he discovered in his role. The result was Stage 7 a dance which he describes as in and out of focus. The audience are given the opportunity to see through the lens of the camera by the use of a spotlight which follows the dancers/actors round the set. At the same time the peripheral group are making cups of coffee, practising steps, in semi-darkness but still in view. ‘When you are working on a ﬁlm set there are a lot of things around you which are nothing to do with acting and yet they are all connected. People are always working on the set, making continuity notes or measuring distances between the actor and the lens. All these seem strange when you are a wolf in a forest.’
Within a few months, Bergese
; began a new project with Derek
J arman which grew from his fascination with the world of fairytales. J arman, whose ﬁlms Jubilee and The Tempest were interpretations of decadence, was an inspirational choice as designer for the dreamlike realms of Mouth of the Night, where Bergese symbolises a society in decay.
But he does not see himself as a ‘Gothic’ person, clad in black and craving intensity and as if proof of this he commissioned a new work for the company’s autumn tour.
Breakneck Hotel, along with the more mysterious Studio 7 will be performed during Tron Dance Week in Glasgow (12-17 November). Breakneck, a work specially commissioned for Mantis, is a zany piece by American choreographer Timothy Buckley. Bergese feels that its freshness and innocence is particularly suited to his company, all in their early 20’s. Set to ‘Blue’ Gene Tyranny’s music, a unique combinatin of rock n’ roll, jazz and blues, Breakneck Hotel is dance in the fast lane.
German-born, Micha (now 40) was fascinated by dance at an early age. It was in his blood. His mother, who still teaches Tai Chi, had been a dancer and his father a professor of music. During Micha’s youth only one woman taught modern dance in
A HUNGER FOR IANGE
Micha Bergese of Mantis talks to Alice Bain about his work as dancer, choreographer and
Berlin and having little interest in jazz or mime, the more popular alternatives, he moved to London in 1969, where he became soloist and choreographer with London Contemporary Dance.
After 9 years there , he felt mature enough to assume responsibility for his own artistic output. ‘Dancing
’4’ , -/ w.
,r 1,; A I. , , under someone else’s direction means you always have to listen to that person. Your profession demands it. I had a strong desire to start a company to perform my own work and that of choreographers I liked,’
Now in its ﬁfth year, Mantis has provided a platform for original,
promising young dancers , musicians, choreographers and designers, many of whom have since become internationally known for their work. Laurie Anderson, Michael Clark, Blancmange and Leigh Bowery have all been spotted by Bergese. But the steady ﬂow of talent has been almost accidental. Until now there has been no money for regular salaries.
This year has marked a turning point. For the first time the same line-up returns for a second season with a guaranteed job, the direct result of the company’s new status as an Arts Council revenue funded company. Bergese has mixed feelings about the grant, awarded earlier this year. On the one hand he needs the ﬁnancial security that a grant offers to keep the company together and maintain continuity in performance and administration, on the other he is wary of losing his independence. The Arts Council does not believe in giving something for nothing. ‘You must ask permission to do a piece, to go abroad, for absolutely everything’ he explains, in a tone that suggests the word compromise is not in his vocabulary.
Bergese is full ofsurprises. Earlier this year, he appeared on stage at the I.C.A.’s Performing Clothes extravaganza wearing a cheeky little number of Y-fronts and wild pink jewellery by Judy Blame. The effect was called ‘Baby Doll‘. On a more serious note, he has just completed work on Ken McMullen‘s new film Zina which will be premiered in this country at the London Film Festival. In it he plays a character far removed from the seductive werewolf. As a Russian diplomat he keeps his feet on the ground and speaks at great length, something a dancer might ﬁnd difﬁcult but Bergese takes in his stride. He starts shooting his next project, a programme with Pookiesnackenburger and Bill Nelson (ex Red Noise and Be Bop de Luxe) smack in the middle of his autumn tour with Mantis. Looking further ahead, he has already begun work on a new full-length piece based on ‘Faust’ which promises to be a rather unusual colourful version set in the 50’s.
I asked him how he managed to fit everything in, dance alone being such a time-consuming occupation. ‘I just seem to make time,’ he said conﬁdently. ‘It’s a bit of a Napoleon attitude. It’s all possible if one is able to shut one thing off from another.’
Apart from his love of cooking (which he inherited from his father) Micha also ﬁnds time to work with his wife in their garden at home. ‘Rebecca and I have a garden together. I’m the labourer and she is
, the planner. It’s a London garden
with 4 walls, half-wild and half-cultivated with herbs for the kitchen’ he says with more than a
’ hint of pride in his voice. ‘As a
dancer it’s so easy’ he says ‘to get bogged down in your own 4 walls and affairs’. Sometimes though, 4 walls can be your haven.
Mantis are appearing as part of the Tron Dance week. 12—18 November.
The List 1—14 November 11