Ballet Rambert’s Mary Evelyn talks to Stephanie Billen about her first ballet, premiered at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal on 26 November.
Forget dying swans. Ballet Rambert‘s return to Glasgow is promising to be nothing short of ‘dynamic‘. ‘exciting‘. ‘exuberant‘ and ‘fresh’. Small wonder then that off stage. Company member. Mary Evelyn. allows herself to be undynamic. quiet and reﬂective. Recently she has created Dipping Wings — a ballet unusual for being Mary’s first public foray into choreography. and striking for being irresistibly meditative and exciting.
lts secret lies perhaps in its honest reﬂection of the bitter-sweet life of a dancer. Not that it started out quite that way.“A friend ofmine who lives in the country came to stay one spring. and said. out of the blue. ‘The swallows are back.’ And I thought that means absolutely nothing to us in the city. yet it obviously means a great deal to him. Then I started thinking about exactly what it did mean."
An endless process of reading poetry about swallows. from Tennyson to Ted Hughes. to old Japanese haikus. began to convince Mary that after all it did mean something to her. As the work took shape. dance phrases and movements emerging quite literally out of the rhythms and phrases of the poetry she was reading. a wider theme emerged. “The swallows represented the cyclical nature of things — that the swallows would always come back. just as every September they would go." Mary pauses. “The Company was going through a particular phase at that time when quite a few people were leaving. and being replaced. inevitably. The piece has become about relationships as well. about those with people you part from. and those you meet."
Mirroring the liberal and the abstract. the work has two titles: Dipping Wings (quoted from Tennyson). and the subtitle Continual Departing. “It is dedicated to two of the people I was very close to in the company who had left." One of these may be among the audience at the world premiere of the work in Glasgow.
Part of the audience‘s exhilaration will come from the fact that both the dancers and the musicians will be working with a score which can change speeds at every performance. Witold Lutoslawski‘s score was chosen by Mary without prior knowledge of its protean nature. Now the constantly changing music is integral to the strength of the piece. if also to the difficulty and excitement of performance. “Until yesterday we were dancing to one tape," sighs Mary. “With the live string quartet. we are going to have to be adaptable By the time we perform we should have dealt with most of the possible problems. but it is never going to be the kind of piece we can get ‘under our belts‘.”
Mary Evelyn is dancer as well as choreographer in Dipping Wings. At 30. the public performance of her choreography could be a vital break. Probably less than ten years of dancing as a career lies ahead of her. Within the company. Choreographic Workshops are held every year.
“Everyone who wants to has a go." says Mary. “There is a feeling of people supporting each other and being willing to try things.“ The Company‘s three principal choreographers — Richard Alston. Christopher Bruce and Artistic Director. Robert North. support. watch and advise. The supreme accolade is to have your work chosen for the Company‘s repertoire. “It is important that Company members should have exposure in the Company rep. Those who want to choreograph can. That is how I started.“ states Robert North simply.
Mary speaks highly of the ‘incredible perception‘ of Robert North and her advisors. After initial encouragement to expand a first movement she went on to create the second. twice as long and expanding themes introduced in the first. "All their comments I listened to and thought about a lot — but I didn‘t always do what they suggested.“ Mary counts as most important their mutual beliefthat the choreographer should be “honest — true to what she is trying to say“. Working with advisors who understood what she was trying to say. meant that almost every change they made affected a part Mary knew herself was wrong. “It is tremendously valuable to have their opinion. because they have seen so much as well as made so much. Their eyes are trained to be able to see what the most remarkable things are about a ballet." As Mary‘s own work comes nearer to fruition. she reﬂects that the atmosphere of the workshops extended into her work choreographing members of the company with whom she has previously danced. About halfofthe eight have choreographed before; all remain corporater supportive.
Mary is looking forward to Glasgow‘s fearlessly ‘alive’ response to the work. “In some places the audience is sleepy. just coming to be entertained. ln Glasgow you can feel everyone's whole concentration. even if they don't like it." Each of Ballet Rambert's contemporary dance programmes receive audiences from all over the world. Newly enthused by a good response in Rome. Mary finds Poland still one of the most interesting of the tours. “The founder of Ballet Rambert was Polish. Marie Rambert and we really did notice a great feeling for us in every sense."
On tour or at Ballet Rambert in
Chiswick High Road. Mary Evelyn‘s 3
training is strenuous — two thirds of it classical ballet. despite the contemporary repertoire. “Class from 1() till 11.30. 15 minutes coffee. Class. Lunch three quarters of an hour. Rehearse till six. Monday to Friday." This is one question Mary can answer with the automatic rhythm of a school girl saying her tables. It is a routine of hard work and keeping in peak condition that won’t change until it stops. Thereafter could lie choreography as a career. “I certainly want to do more." says Mary. Amusing. gentle. bird-like even. as she is to meet. one suspects there must be Amazo
n strength behind the swallow. _
The List 15—28 November 9