Besim Hoti & Ralitza Malehounova
in 'Songs for Drella'
in 'Songs for Drella'
interview with dancer Ralitza Malehounova
Making a large production like ‘Songs for Drella’ is a complex, exciting process. For choreographers Ed Wubbe and Marco Goecke of course, and for the dancers. It’s not like theatre where you have a script you can take home to study. Everything happens here and now, in the studio. As a dancer, what’s it like to work in four studios at the same time? When you have no idea of the scene sequence? Ralitza Malehounova takes it all in her stride. She knows what goes into the magic of weaving together a dance production.
Ralitza Malehounova: “Warhol and the music of Lou Reed and John Cale are the inspiration, but ‘Songs for Drella’ isn’t a portrait. There’s no narrative, no characters. It’s abstract. But the inspiration defines what we do and how it’s going to look. The same applies to the designers. An entire team works on the light, sound, costumes and set. It’s really dynamic – that seeps from every pore. Because it’s so complex and Ed Wubbe and Marco Goecke are making the piece together, a dramatist, Nadja Kadel, is working with them. It’s fascinating to see them look at each other’s work at the rehearsal stage. It’s very special.”
The music of Lou Reed and John Cale is sometimes described as anti pop rock. On ‘Songs for Drella’ they sing to the accompaniment of keyboards, electric violin (both played by Cale) and guitar. How do you use the music?
“Reed and Cale wrote the material in the late ‘80s but it’s inspired by their life with Warhol in the ’60s. It has a very unique feel of its own it. Mostly, when you move, you follow the music. But some songs don’t have a clear rhythm so we’ve only got the lyrics to go on. Sometimes we interpret them literally, but just as often do the opposite.”
The choreographers aren’t just inspired by the music. Warhol’s life is also an inspiration, although you did just say the piece isn’t a portrait. Can you give an example of how Warhol’s influence shaped the piece?
“Warhol made a lot of collages. And that’s how ‘Songs for Drella’ is put together. There are many layers to Warhol’s work, which you can use in all kinds of ways in the production. You can distort reality. Warhol painted a lot in series, like his sequence of realistic portraits of Marilyn Monroe in various unrealistic colours. Which portrait came closest to reality? Ed Wubbe gives these elements his own interpretation. For instance, we’re making a series of duets that begin in the same way, but unfold with their own complexity and energy.”
Marco Goecke is the resident choreographer at Scapino and the Stuttgarter Ballet. Internationally respected, he is invited to choreograph pieces for companies around the world. You’ve worked with him before – do you think it’s different now than a few years ago?
“I think Marco’s dance vocabulary has clearly developed in the past couple of years. It’s more complex now, and even more demanding to learn. He likes to extend beyond what’s possible and because he knows us so well, he has a good idea of our boundaries and how far he can push them. What Marco makes is visual poetry. Melancholic. Humorous. He leaves the interpretation to the audience. I always find a story in his work, even though it is so abstract.”
Is it even more challenging to work on the current production, alternating between pieces by Wubbe and Goecke?
“I think there are certainly significant contrasts in the piece. We, the dancers, have to communicate two different aesthetics. And the switch is quite challenging. What makes Ed’s work so extraordinary is that he follows his intuition. He tries things out, considers different approaches and takes exactly what he needs. As a dancer you have to pay attention and be alert. It’s an intensive process. Ed divides some of the scenes we’re now making for ‘Songs for Drella’ and inserts them into the production at different points. That’s how dance is – it’s always a mystery.”