an interview with dancer & choreographer Stephen Quildan
During the summer we had the opportunity to spend time with and photograph Stephen Quildan, a contemporary dancer & choreographer from London. Below he shares with us some thoughts on his practice alongside photographs taken by Alberto Balázs.
As a dancer, your body is in many ways your tool, can you describe how this shapes your relationship with your body?
Yes, my body is certainly precious to me! I wouldn't say it was a tool but rather a companion. I have to be careful in the world because it is so precious to me, but it doesn't mean I don't take risks.
I trust my body to look after me and therefore try to return the favour. Sometimes we do disagree though and that becomes about building resilience.
Do the clothes you wear affect how you feel when you dance?
I think every state does. You feel it the most, at first; tight clothes become armour, light clothes become comfort, tailored clothes become formal.
Bare-skin is also interesting to think about in a performance as you can feel the subtleties of the flesh much more. If you stretch or squeeze the body not only do you feel it more but you know that someone else can see it too. This makes me feel vulnerable but also empowering because it intrigues people.
There is a directness to it - if you shake something will shake, if you tighten something will tighten. With clothes this is not alway visible. With baggier clothes you can hide, which can benefit performance shyness. Ultimately though, well-made clothes can also make me feel the best. Good quality materials and thoughtful design can make you feel invincible. Sometimes you need that to step out into the world, both as an artist and a person.
We spoke about the universality of dance, could you elaborate on your experience of this?
Dance is amazing because the body is a universal language. The fact that I have turned up in ballet classes halfway across the world and can still communicate is astounding. Musicality, rhythm, expression, dynamics all contribute to this. Dance also allows us to display a deeper personality we want to portray, even if it is not who we seem at first to be. Dancing in Taiwan, Japan, Germany, Holland, the UK, Italy and Poland has all been crazy for me. At the moment I only really speak English but I can certainly say 5,6,7,8 in at least 5 languages. What else do I need?! However I am learning Japanese because I will be living there this year. みなさんこんにちは。
With your work taking you around the world, what helps you to feel grounded?
I travel most of the year and often not being in one place, or with the same people all the time, can be challenging. Food and music certainly keep me connected. Sharing food and culture with others in different places is always amazing! There are a few things that I particularly love to cook when I am abroad - fudge, plantain and Caribbean dumplings are all in the top 3 but I also love to improvise with local ingredients.
Music, for me is also full of memories as it allows me to have an incredibly personal experience when I am abroad. It inspires me to move and so re-energises me when I feel de-stabilised or simply lost.
What aspect of yourself do you think comes through in your dancing?
My thoughts on the cosmos...? Joking aside, honestly I don't know. I hope to give a sense of bravery through both power and vulnerability. The world today can be scary and I think anything that can promote courage is important. I do release a lot of light and darkness when I move but I am not sure that can really be seen, that part of dance I kind of reserve for myself.
Stephen Quildan is a Dancer/Choreographer born and raised in London. He is the co-founder of P/IN The Bucket Collective and works both in the UK and internationally. He trained at The BRIT School and Rambert School, later joining Rambert Company. He has also worked with English National Ballet, Alexander Whitley Dance Company, Dance Company Nanine Linning and others. He has also produced for Fi.eld (East London Dance) and Mark Baldwin Studios. Stephen is currently a dancer of Noism in Niigata, Japan.