We had the chance to interview Benjamin Perchet ahead of the opening of the Dublin Dance Festival. This is Benjamin’s first year in charge of the Festival having previously worked as Deputy Programme Manager and Artistic Advisor for two major French institutions in Lyon: Maison de la Danse (since 2004) and Biennale de la Danse (since 2008).
You can read his thoughts on the upcoming festival below. Also, check out the programme for the festival, which starts on May 17th and runs through to the 28th.
“Enjoy diversity, leave all certainty behind and expect question marks in place of answers. Dare to be curious and open-minded. Our 2016 Festival is full of great dance that’s as diverse as anyone’s interests.” – Benjamin Perchet
As this is the first DDF you have programmed, it must have been an exciting time. How did you approach it?
It has been exciting and hectic, indeed! But extremely interesting too, because I had to learn a lot about the cultural, political, economic, social contexts and ecosystem in Dublin within a very short period. But I have to say I’ve been very lucky: the festival is in terrific shape and I knew I could count on the very solid, talented and supportive team and board of directors. Last but not least, from April 2015, we’ve been all diving into our ambitious project Embodied – a trail of six dance performances in the GPO Witness History Exhibition Centre. And we succeeded! Through this open call, An Post gave dance the opportunity to respond to the 1916 Proclamation. Embodied was presented from 20-22 of April and it was a moving a wonderful launch to the rest of DDF.
Are there any companies you’re particularly happy to be bringing to Dublin?
I’d love to have the space here to name all of them! In total, we’re presenting fifteen companies this year, both Irish and international.
Concentrating first on the international ones, I would mention Patricia Apergi, Cristiana Morganti, Alonzo King, and Kidd Pivot & Electric Company Theatre.
The festival will open with Planites from Greek choreographer Patricia Apergi, a dynamic urban-fusion piece for five male performers. Cristiana Morganti, long time Pina Bausch soloist, will present her new piece for the first time outside her native Italy and in English. Jessica and Me is a brilliant kind of one-woman-show. And what a woman!
On a first visit from San Francisco to Ireland, with the support of BNP Paribas Foundation, DDF presents Alonzo King LINES Company at Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. The twelve technically brilliant dancers will doubtless appeal to ballet and contemporary dance audiences and re-establishes DDF’s relationship with this venue. Shostakovich and Raza by choreographer Alonzo King are two exquisite and sensual choreographies. Betroffenheit by Kidd Pivot (choreographer Crystal Pite) & Electric Company Theatre (actor-playwright Jonathon Young) will be like the epicentre of the festival. Presented at O’Reilly Theatre, Betroffenheit (German for ‘Bewilderment’) presented in Dublin as an European premiere, is a rare boundary-stretching hybrid of theatre and dance – told through comedy and drama, poetry and movement. Gripping and unforgettable.
There is a strong line up of Irish companies this year also. Do you think it’s important that we keep a home grown flavour to the festival?
DDF looks forward to continuing in its mission to strengthen the influence of Irish contemporary dance on the European and international scene. We conceived a different frame this year, ORIGINATE: a platform for new or recent choreographic work by Irish and Ireland-based dance artists – an initiative of Culture Ireland, Dance Ireland and DDF. It recognises the need to offer a larger showcase for complete Irish dance works with high production values, in addition to studio-based ‘work in progress’ within DDF, in recognition of the changing landscape and opportunities for dance in Ireland. These Irish works are fully integrated into and interspersed throughout the overall Festival programme. This gives equal prominence to the Irish and international work presented within the festival – which so far more than twenty-five European and international presenters have confirmed they will be attending!
There are themes of Migration and Transformation through the festival. Do you think it’s important to have an overall theme to unite the various works?
A festival shall never consist of the so-called ‘Director’s choices’. It doesn’t make sense to me. A festival shall reflect and share the artists’ personal vision of the world with spectators ready to question and to widen their field of perspectives. This upcoming edition of DDF is subtitled ‘The Time is Now!’ There’s an urgent need to talk about freedom of expression, tone and form. There’s an urgent need to talk about the principle of secularism and sustainability in art: education and culture are the only alternative to resist routine, bigotry, tension and barbarism. Culture helps us to breathe and stand upright in an otherwise stifling and complex environment. Each of these great artists are looking forward to showing their work within this festival. The price of their freedom and their integrity is our common responsibility. The 2016 programme presents artists exploring common themes of migration, mobility, transformation and integration. Some of them explore these notions with seriousness, others with great irony. However, they all blur, fuse and modify the lines between the arts, by inventing new forms of sharing with the audience. I hope DDF programme will contribute this year to a better reading and understanding of the artists’ works and allow audiences to make their own journeys.
As director of the festival, will you be busy during the festival, or is your work mainly done?
I can’t wait to meet the public and warmly welcome and support the artists here in Dublin. I’ll be busy working with the team and our amazing volunteers, doing my best to maintain the DDF’s remarkable and singular human values and skills: high professionalism, conviviality and genuineness. I’ll be busy working on DDF 2017 too. It’ll be grand ! – one of my (new) favourite Irish mottoes.
And if you had one message for people thinking of going or getting involved/ experiencing their first performance, what would it be?
Enjoy diversity, leave all certainty behind and expect question marks in place of answers. Dare to be curious and open-minded. Our 2016 Festival is full of great dance that’s as diverse as anyone’s interests.