Arthur Pita conjures up dark stories of evil stepmothers for DanceEast’s Halloween spectacular
- Credit: Archant
For many people dance is the ultimate expressive, abstract art form. It captures mood and emotion through a complex series of shapes and movements which, when combined together, create a lyrical magic.
However, for choreographer Arthur Pita, dance is also a wonderful medium for telling stories because they allow room for the audience to add their imagination into the mix. Arthur believes that dance audiences are active participants in his performances, their own life experiences shape their reactions to the narrative as it unfolds.
Arthur is no stranger to Suffolk having staged sell-out performances of The Little Match Girl and God’s Garden at DanceEast over the last five years. His work is all about storytelling and this time he wanted to create something suitably atmospheric for Halloween.
“The evening is split up into two pieces. One is called Stepmother and other Stepfather. Stepmother is a compilation of all the nasty bits from classic fairytales – mostly Grimm’s fairytales. Basically we go through all the murders that the stepmothers perform on characters like Snow White or Rapunzel. It looks at what drives these evil characters to do what they do. We have characters like Hansel and Gretel being pursued by a force of monstrous and abusive stepmothers. It’s almost like a seance bringing all these wicked women together.
“We discover what these wicked stepmothers want from their victims – whether it’s beauty from Snow White or eternal youth. It looks at what drives these older women. It’s going to be quite an avant garde piece. The look of it is going to be quite extreme but there will definitely be some beautiful dancing. I am setting it to Faure’s Requiem so the performance will be quite a concentrated experience and the imagery and the music will provide a stark contrast.”
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The second piece, Stepfather, provides audiences with a straightforward narrative. Stepfather tells the grisly tale of twisted family situations inspired by the folk punk ‘County Death Song’ from cult American band Violent Femmes. Spiralling into a hellish world of incest and murder, the search for redemption is played out beyond the grave.
“There is a lovely sub-story where he meets a woman in a bar and he eventually becomes a stepfather to these three daughters. Audiences will have seen these three daughters before in the first piece, so they provide a link between the two pieces. Essentially, it tells the story of a father who throws his stepdaughter down the well and hangs himself at the end.
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“After the stepfather dies, we go to the land of the dead and The Dripping Girl, as I call the drowned daughter, sees the father hanging and the pair then dance a beautiful duet – a dance of forgiveness. It is as if their spirits are meant for one another. There is a feeling of redemption at the end.”
Arthur says that festivals and significant dates on the calendar continue to inspire his work. “Having created The Little Match Girl for Christmas, I wanted to do another seasonal piece and I realised that there wasn’t much created for Halloween. I thought this was a shame because this is my favourite time of year.
“I love the dark nights, the coloured leaves, the chill in the air and those dark stories. I would be thrilled if the audience came dressed up and watched these new pieces in the spirit of Halloween. I would love it to be rather like the way that the Mexicans celebrate The Day of the Dead. They go to the graveyard, have a drink and celebrate the people who have passed on.”
He says that over the years fairytales have been hijacked as morality tales for children whereas originally they were very dark folk stories. “If you look at the original stories they have been softened a lot over the years. In some versions of them, some very extreme things happen to the characters. In Snow White, the Queen wants her lungs, her liver and her heart and in Cinderella, the step-sisters willingly cut off their heels and their toes in order to get their foot in the prince’s slipper. It is absolutely not a show for children, it’s for ages 14-plus and it links in with a lot of teenage angst, so hopefully it will speak to a lot of people at different stages in their life.”
He says he hopes he has created a show which parents, teenage children and grandparents can all see together, enjoy and take away something different from the evening. “I know what I enjoyed from my teenage years and it was mostly the darker material, and I hope that the youngsters will tap into the dark humour of it and then enjoy the images and music. I think it will be quite a profound evening.”
He is also delighted to have a cast of dancers representing a wide range of ages, backgrounds and physical abilities. “It won’t be your average young, twentysomething company. I am thrilled to be working with such a fantastic and eclectic cast of such high quality. We have a cast of seven: HeadSpaceDance performers Christopher Akril, Jonathan Goddard and Clemmie Sveaas, are joined by Corey Annan, who played the title role in The Little Match Girl at Ipswich and Grete in The Metamorphosis, along with Valentina Golfieri (The Little Match Girl), Nathan Goodman (Richard Alston Company) and Nadia Adame who performed in CandocCo’s original production of The Stepfather.
“Nadia uses a stick and there’s something rather wonderful in creating work for such a distinctive, varied and highly talented company.”
Audience members who dig out the fake blood and come up with the scariest Halloween costume will be in the running to win a family ticket to see Arthur’s production of The Little Match Girl at Sadler’s Wells in London this Christmas.
Stepmother/Stepfather by Arthur Pita and Headspace Dance company will be staged at Jerwood DanceHouse on Ipswich Waterfront on Friday and Saturday, October 28-29. Tickets and more information available at www.danceeast.co.uk