Michael Hennessy: the Encounters Interview

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Michael Hennessy: Interview with Robyn Brady (Sprung!! President and Encounters Producer)

RB: What is this latest dance work about?

MH: Well, the idea of [actual] Encounters is a constant- and diverse encounters. And there is a sense of journeying- that idea of not knowing what lays ahead- none of us do- … and working towards independent living and [finding a place where you belong] – we draw from our dancers and their experiences.

RB: As Artistic Director, how do you choreograph with Sprung!! dancers?

MH: I think the thing that’s helped is I’ve been able to have time with the dancers. That opportunity to have further experience and contact [with twice weekly sessions over several years] has been crucial to this creative development. We tend to grow together in that creative process, and the dancers contribute with their personalities, and how they move- the way they like to move- those things are critical to developing a strong work.

RB: What happens exactly- do you do a little thing and they do the little thing back?

MH: With this work there has been a lot more set choreography – I’ve been able to go in and create whole phrases. The duet is strictly choreographed. I demonstrate to Max- that promenade for example is quite difficult. For Max and Tara to partner in a duet, that was a new experience, even though they are real life partners, and I was interested in their relationship and how that was developing – a beautiful relationship too and its really lovely seeing them as young people interacting- the love that they have for one another and the respect. They go through , like any couple, ups and downs- they have this dynamic, that’s part of it as well- you build those elements in.

RB: What about training? How does training with the Sprung!! company differ from, say, the training you offered students at the Conservatorium?

MH: Its important to say that I have not approached the training differently with these dancers, these serious dancers. Modified, yes, but not the core structure.

RB: Which is your favourite piece in Encounters?

MH: It’s a tough one. The duo is, but then Signatures comes on and its just so moving. I put myself in it this time- so it’s a shame I’m going to miss [seeing] it, but I’ve seen it, and I can feel it.

RB: [You know I always cry at Signatures] …Which is your favourite point or points in Signatures?

MH: Oh, Watching them come in, the first part- but then at the end, when everyone comes in and they are writing their signatures and you just see these wonderful people- its just lovely- you know, its incredible movement.

We also have a really striking score- we’ve been very fortunate to get Fred Cole’s music, and John Rado’s backdrops are just outstanding, they support the work that we are doing, as does the lighting- all those components that we put together, and we have two amazing contemporary dancers in Asher (Bowen-Saunders) and Annie (Tinning) – to watch them move- and yet its still an integrated group! Here we are having dancers who have perceived disability, working with two professional dancers, who are outstanding, and yet it works!- and [this has been part of our mission] too: we kept saying that these people must not be defined by disability. Look at the calibre of work that our dancers are doing now! Its not just a disability show, these guys are serious dancers.”