30 oktober 2023 | Nieuws
Sophie Whittome, one of this year’s nominees in the Dance category, recently joined NDT 1 after two years with NDT 2. “So far, it feels familiar, in some ways. There are unique qualities to each of the two companies, but what remains is that there are many people in each who are dear to me. It is the people, always, who pique and maintain my interest in a place. The brilliance of a company of this size is that it can act as an anchor that draws all these wonderful people together.”
NDT 2 developed from the Springplank (Springboard), an NDT experiment from the late 1970’s aimed at preparing young dancers for professional life at top level. Sophie feels that something of that educational aim remains. “Everyone understands that, while being a professional, you are still there to learn. In turn, teachers and makers are very generous with you and I had the sense that the dancers around me were keenly interested in figuring something out for themselves. It’s a very special environment.” Although at the age of five Sophie followed her elder sister to ballet school, she knew at an early stage that classical dance was not for her. “My sister ended up in ballet, but she introduced me to videos of contemporary dance theatre companies. I felt immediately and almost desperately the draw to do that sort of work some day. This came as a relief to me, because until then I had struggled to put my finger on what sort of dance it was that I wanted to do. I felt deeply that it was somewhere but I that hadn’t seen it yet.” In 2018 Sophie joined Ballet BC, a contemporary dance company based in Vancouver in her native Canada; in 2020 she successfully auditioned with NDT.
In May of this year Sophie took part in Open Space, a two-week platform for talent development and research organised by NDT and Korzo. She created a live performance installation titled Still Life. “There was a setting I wanted to create, and a character. Making it was an interesting challenge and to present it was also challenging. It was really personal. Not personal, though, in the sense that it was about me, about my identity, but in that it was me asking an audience to look at what felt like a rather private part of my brain. I think considering what an audience ought to see is an important – and interesting, and contested, and subjective – question. It’s a question I want to ask and I also want it to be asked of me, so in that way it was the perfect challenge.” Sophie saw her project as a kind of physical painting. “Drawing with objects in space. I’ve been interested in this idea for a long while, so I was glad to have proper time and space to try it.”
As for her professional future, Sophie not immediately sees herself as a choreographer. She’s more of a collaborator, part of the vision of others. “I like being inside other people’s theses,” she says. “For the long term, I see a role for myself that is both supportive and creative. I’ve always dreamt of having a kind of organization or place by which I could gather people whom I would like to give a platform, people I believe in. I’d like to give them some amenities, a room, invite them to make and experiment, to eat together … I would like to create an environment where they could be without inhibitions. I liken the role I am interested in to that of a curator— a scavenger, hoarder, collector of people making within the performing arts. I’ve always been interested in the curator’s position in the world, it is both quiet and powerful. It comes with responsibility. Perhaps it’s a subtle kind of leadership, one with ample opportunity for subversion … But for now, I’m really happy to be in the company. It keeps providing waves of artistic challenges to ride and pursue. And I love to perform. I find it endless.” What would Sophie do if she won the Piket Art Prize? “Art making has become so much institutionalized over the past couple of decades, all over the world. I feel there is a need for spontaneity and independence. So if I won the Piket prize, I would use it to fund this eventual vision of an ad hoc creation house, the theatre publishing house whereby we make things happen. Working from the ground up …”
Read here the Dutch version of the article.
Text: Anna Beerens
Photo: Hessel Waalewijn