Adriano Cortese & Luke George talk Noorderzon festival

14 September 2012 Sophie Travers

Two Australian companies have recently returned from a successful season at Noorderzon festival in Groningen in the north of the Netherlands. This annual late summer festival is one Europe’s most dynamic, presenting international artists in a range of venues across the medium sized university town and running a buzzing park-based festival centre of spiegeltents and stages that attracts audiences from across Europe. The emphasis of the festival is upon discovery, with many artists making their international debuts or presenting world premieres. Noorderzon is a co-producing partner in numerous European networks and as such also attracts a strong contingent of professionals. It is therefore both a very enjoyable experience and a strong platform for Australian artists.

Sophie Travers, Director of the IETM-Australia Council Collaboration Project, travelled to Noorderzon to meet with presenters from France, Netherlands, Portugal, Ireland and the UK and to discuss future interest in Australian artists with festival Director Mark Yeoman. She talked to Adriano Cortese, Artistic Director of Ranters Theatre and Luke George, choreographer, about their experiences and future plans for working in Europe.

Sophie Travers: How did the invitation for Ranters to present at Noorderzon come about?

Adriano Cortese: We had presented successfully at Noorderzon in 2009 with a previous work, Holiday. Since then we had been in discussion with Mark Yeoman, and the 2012 edition of the festival seemed like a good platform.

ST: What was the response to the work?

AC: We had a very positive response from presenters and public. Most people seemed intrigued by the stripped back performance style. This was the third time we have presented Intimacy and each time we have made significant changes. The first presentation in Melbourne got lots of laughs, as did the Dublin version. For Noorderzon we changed the tone to give the piece more depth.

ST: Did you learn anything from the experience?

AC: This tour reinforced the importance of showing work in a suitable space. We have been programmed in unsuitable spaces on previous tours and were careful to make this a major part of our negotiations.

ST: Why do you work internationally?

AC: Working internationally is very important for a small, artistically driven company like Ranters. It exposes us to new ideas in performance and helps contextualise our work. Increasingly we are looking for international residencies to complement our touring. Making work outside the comforts of home gives the work a fresh perspective that is important for our artistic development. Being from Australia can feel a bit isolated, so working internationally connects us to a bigger picture.

ST: What projects are coming up for Ranters?

AC: We are working on a new project called SONG. It is an international collaboration with UK musician and performer, James Tyson, and Brazilian conceptual artist, Laura Lima. It is a kind of performance installation with songs and text. It will be an interesting departure for us as our work usually contains dialogue.

ST: Luke George, how did this, your first international presentation as an independent choreographer, come about?

Luke George: After the premiere of NOW NOW NOW in 2010, I consulted widely about how to get the work touring. Noorderzon came up a lot. I made contact with Mark Yeoman via email and sent him a DVD. He attended Dance Massive 2011 and liked the show. My producer Alison Halit met with Yeoman at ITEM Krakow and Copenhagen and in February 2012, he invited me to Noorderzon.

ST: How does this presentation relate to other international projects in the pipeline?

LG: Developing a relationship with Yeoman has enabled us to open a dialogue with other international presenters. He has spoken to several presenters about my work as has, Sven Birkeland from BIT Teatergarasjen who also attended Dance Massive. Birkeland has programmed the work in his Oktoberdans festival in Bergen, Norway this year. Halit and I have invited presenters to these European presentations and are also hoping to attract international presenters to Melbourne to see my new work, Not About Face in Dance Massive 2013. Through the IETM-Australia Council project I will work at BIT in residency with Norwegian artists Heine Avdal in 2013. This gives a third opportunity for European presenters to see my work.

ST: What was the response to the work at Noorderzon?

LG: Overall very positive from both presenters and public. I think we got better at the show and how to perform it for the Noorderzon audience as the season went on.

ST: What did you take from the experience?

LG: It is hard to tour from Australia and go straight into performing a show. I’d like to consider doing some or all of the remount rehearsals in the time zone of the first leg of the tour. I’d also like my touring budgets to include a production manager. I learned not to assume anything, to be incredibly specific in all communication, to develop a production schedule early on, to ask for what you need and to be flexible and adaptable. I realised that the show should be performed in a space that supports the original design. I appreciated that the Dutch are open, relaxed and hard working people.

ST: What other international projects are coming up?

LG: I am about to perform in the USA and European premieres of a new piece with Miguel Gutierrez and the Powerful People called And lose the name of action. I will tour NOW NOW NOW to Bergen and Sandnes in Norway in October.

Image: NOW NOW NOW Credit: Jeff Busby.