By Deborah Searle
Enjoying an exciting year, the Queensland Ballet have commissioned Dutch choreographer Nils Christe to create a piece for the company’s 50th Anniversary Gala in August. Christe, who has successfully worked with the company twice before, brings a wealth of knowledge, experience and creativity to Australia, having choreographed for Europe and America’s leading ballet companies in a career spanning over 35 years.
Tell us about your work for the Queensland Ballet International Gala. What can audiences expect?
I am remounting my work Fearful Symmetries on Queensland Ballet for their 50th Anniversary International Gala in August. It’s the third piece I have done with the Company and this work is the youngest, being only a few years old. It is actually the first time it has been remounted since I created it on Ballet Mainz (Germany).
Fearful Symmetries is choreographed to fabulous music of the same name by John Adams, my favourite composer at the moment. It has incredible drive and is high voltage, and has an element of “travelling”, or going somewhere.
Audiences can expect a piece which is “now” – current and contemporary. There are some surprising elements, which I don’t want to reveal now. I don’t want to ruin it for them! In this ballet, I play with primary colours – a reflection of the famous Dutch painter, Piet Mondriaan’s traditional way of painting with black, white and primary colours. Fearful Symmetries is nice in that it goes to an incredibly high climax and then ends peacefully.
How does your choreography challenge the Queensland Ballet dancers?
This piece is probably more challenging than Purcell Pieces and SYNC (the previous two works with QB) as it uses everything – pointe work, classical virtuosity, and contemporary elements. It is a great piece for them to get their teeth into. The dancers are absorbing it well, and I have been able to teach it to them very quickly. Indeed, the QB dancers who have danced in my other two works are picking it up very quickly.
Do you enjoy working with Australian dancers? Why?
I am often asked this question for whatever country I am working in. I find that working with dancers is really the same wherever it is in the world – all dancers are hungry to learn new material, they are like sponges.
Tell us about your years at Nederlands Dans Theater. How did they shape your choreographic voice?
NDT certainly influenced me as a young choreographer, but that was 30 years ago and many things have influenced me since then. Many of the people that influenced me at 20 years of age are no longer alive. It was definitely a special time, but so much has happened since in my career, and I have really found my way as a choreographer.
You have created so many ballets on the world’s most prestigious companies. How do you keep so inspired and creative?
Firstly, I am inspired every day by my wife and partner Annegian Sneep. Wonderful dancers also inspire me. People with their own Company, like Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director and Chief Choreographer François Klaus, have an advantage as they are always tuned in with their dancers. However, as a freelance choreographer, there is the advantage of being challenged and inspired by dancers who you haven’t worked with before. I usually work with a Company prior to actually creating a ballet on them, which is different to creating on dancers who are used to being created on by me. Music is really the most important inspiration for me. I would now dare to choreograph to music I wouldn’t have choreographed to earlier in my career.
What are your career highlights?
There are so many highlights – I was so lucky to be at NDT with that fantastic opportunity to choreograph at such a young age. Before Nightfall with the Paris Opera Ballet was another highlight, working with dancers such as Sylvie Guillem – one of twelve of the most fantastic POB dancers ever. That whole cast became the POB étoile – at just 19/20 years old, an indication of how good they were.
Where will we see you next?
Paris Opera Ballet will be performing one of my pas de deux at the Varna Competition in Bulgaria, and then we will be working with the Swedish Ballet later in the year. We will be returning to Australia at the end of July to complete Fearful Symmetries in readiness for Queensland Ballet’s 50th Anniversary International Gala.
What advice would you give to young choreographers?
Don’t try and re-invent the wheel.
Start with a smaller cast.
Don’t start with complicated music.
Don’t choreograph steps on yourself and then onto the dancers, go straight to the dancers.
To see Nils’ work with the Queensland Ballet make sure you get your tickets to the 50th Anniversary International Gala. Click here for more information www.queenslandballet.com.au