As part of Resolution 2017, The Place’s annual festival for emerging artists, Simone Mousset and Elisabeth Schilling performed ‘Impressing the Grand Duke’, a piece about everything to do with the process of “emerging”. Since Kaleidoscopic Arts’ mission includes supporting emerging artists, we wanted to know more about Elisabeth’s and Simone’s ideas.
What motivated you to create ‘Impressing the Grand Duke’?
Elisabeth: Our motivation for ‘IGD’ were our observations on how people talk about emerging artists and what, in consequence, is expected of them. We found these observations quite amusing and thought: ‘Let’s do a take on that!’.
Do you relate with the characters portrayed? How?
E: This is a great question! I feel the characters emerged from our relationship with each other. In some ways I can really empathize with Nympha. However I know that there is a very strong Dora living in me, too 🙂 .
S: Yes. Beyond that, Dora gives me an enjoyable opportunity to release a tension that, for me, is inherent in the whole situation of being an (emerging) choreographer. In the end, I really feel (and it is my favourite moment in the piece) that Dora is completely on the edge of going out of her mind in this production machinery she’s caught in and in her craze for something that’s so ungraspable. In that sense, she’s also a warning to me.
Who is the ‘Grand Duke’?
E: Who do you think is the Grand Duke? Who is he for you?
S: We like to leave this open and there is definitely space for a lot of interpretations.
For us, he could be seen as the all-powerful leader who commissions us to make an original work and it will be him deciding whether it’s original or not in the end. At the same time, he is the character who engages in the questionable discourse about “young, up-and-coming talent, promising young artists, artist prestige” – which is pervading the dance world and our careers, and which Dora has obviously already adopted. What I find most sad of all, he is the (male) character that the exaggeratedly gullible Nympha is infatuated with (and metaphorically dependent on), and the hope of being noticed by him leads her to do things she would not otherwise do, artistically and personally.
Lastly, the piece leaves it open whether this authority we are hoping to please actually exists in the real world, or only in our minds… Or whether we are our own Grand Dukes?
Do you have an answer to the last question in the work? What do you wish to happen ‘now’?
E: No, I don’t have an answer at all. To be honest, for me it is not about having answers. I feel we live in a certain time with certain circumstances and all you can do is making it work for you, living and fighting for your dreams in the way you need to. You will find answers that work for you on this journey I think.
S: If anything, an answer to myself would be: And now, stop being tied to unuseful discourses, clichés, or assumptions of what will happen to you if you do “the right things” career-wise. The way a career will unfold all depends on so many factors in the end that will be unique in each one’s life. It might also help to trust life more.
Thank you Elisabeth and Simone for your time and insights. We wish you all the best for what’s coming next!
Reviews of ‘Impressing the Grand Duke’:
Nicholas Minns, Writing about dance http://writingaboutdance.com/tag/impressing-the-grand-duke/
Rachel Elderkin, The Stage https://www.thestage.co.uk/reviews/2017/resolution-review-place-london/
Maria Hardcastle, The Place http://www.theplace.org.uk/blog/resolution-review-2017/fri-13-janhelen-coxjohn-ross-dancesimone-and-elisabeth
Sanjoy Roy, Writing on Dance http://sanjoyroy.net/2017/01/helen-cox-john-ross-dance-simone-elisabeth/