Isadora Duncan is known as a pioneer of modern dance, but many theatre-goers haven’t seen her work. Viviana Durante’s Company is giving Londoners the chance to view her Dance of the Furies (1911), alongside two more contemporary pieces. In this interview, we catch up with choreographer Joy Alpuerto Ritter, who created new work specifically for Isadora Now: Triple Bill. Read on to gain insight into UNDA and how it relates to the famous historical choreographer.  

Dancer & Choreographer, Joy Alpuerto Ritter

Although Joy Alpuerto Ritter was born in Los Angeles, she began dancing in Germany at Ballettstudio Krain. She studied ballet and jazz and participated in the Philippine and Polynesian cultural dance group that her mother led. After graduating from the Palucca School in Dresden, Alpuerto Ritter began working as a contemporary freelance dancer and learned a few hip hop dance styles before joining a tour as a dancer and aerial performer with Cirque du Soleil.

We glimpsed a little bit of Alpuerto-Ritter’s background in role as Shikhandi in Akram Khan Company’s Until the Lions show, which earned her a nomination as “Outstanding Female Dancer (contemporary)” after its 2016 premiere. And she has kept busy dancing in Florence and the Machine’s music video, Big God, as well as working as an associate Choreographer of Akram Khan for the show Dragon Spring Phoenix Rise in New York City.

Dancers: Viviana Durante Company
Photo credit: David Scheinmann

Alpuerto Ritter on UNDA for Viviana Durante Company’s Isadora Now

Hello Joy. Thanks very much for taking the time to tell us about your upcoming collaboration with Viviana Durante Company. How did this partnership come to fruition?

Farooq Chaudry, who I know from Akram Khan Company and who has supported my choreographic solo work BABAE, introduced me to Viviana Durante. He offered me this collaboration, working with the theme of Isadora Duncan. I was very excited about this project.

Can you tell us a little bit about your new piece, UNDA – and the title, specifically? 

UNDA means ‘waves’ in Latin – ‘undulation’. The element of water was always an influence on Isadora’s life. And her life had an impact on the further generations of dance, like the ripples in the water. Some movements in the piece are inspired by the waves and the continuity of Isadora’s movement.

Dancers: Viviana Durante Company
Photo credit: David Scheinmann

That’s really fascinating.

What type of qualities were you looking for when you cast the female dancers to participate in your new piece for Viviana Durante Company’s Isadora Now: Triple Bill?

Viviana and I chose the dancers, and they are all quite different. Some have more a contemporary background and some are very classical trained.

Then what kinds of movement and performances qualities did you try to elicit from the performers?

My work is very versatile in terms of movement techniques. I have a background of classical, Philippine folk, urban dance and contemporary dance, which somehow merges together when I create material. I also gave the dancers specific movement concepts where they were able to create their own material within the frame. I want the audience to acknowledge the [individual dancers also function as a unit].

Dancers: Viviana Durante Company
Photo credit: David Scheinmann

How did Isadora Duncan inspire UNDA?

The piece is a reflection of Isadora’s life in women nowadays who are loving, fighting, losing, embracing, influencing and dancing. Her confidence as a woman, her free spirit, her dramatic losses and commitment to move on has inspired me to create UNDA.

Did you specifically try to channel her movement signature or free spirit? Or does your piece sit more in the present as a conversation with Duncan’s repertory or ideologies? 

I never wanted to copy her movements but her spirit should always be present in our physicality. The emotional approach to find movement coming from within was part of our research.

As a choreographer I always had a conversation in my head of: “How would I move and how would Isadora move?” So it was often quite a challenge to find my own voice within the philosophy of a modern dance pioneer from 100 years ago and to find an agreement within differences we may have had. But then I tried to trust my intuition and to focus on what and who is NOW- because it’s about Isadora NOW.

Dancers: Viviana Durante Company
Photo credit: David Scheinmann

During the piece, audiences will be treated to specially composed live music by Lih Qun Wong. How did you two work together?

Lih and I have been working together for the first time. We both live in Berlin, that’s where we know each other. Her sensibility and creativity to this topic matches perfectly the movements that I have imagined in my head and what feeling it supposed to activate.

The musicality and the connection to the body is very important to me in the piece. The cello is such a feminine and emotional instrument. Lih’s music is the bridge of classical music and modern electronic soundscapes that creates its own world between light and darkness.

What most excites you (about choreographing or performing) in 2020? 

I’m very excited to present my piece created in London at the Barbican and to perform in this beautiful theatre for the first time.

Thank you, again, for this interview. We are excited to see you and your work at the Barbican, too!

Viviana Durante Company’s Isadora Now: Triple Bill runs every evening from 21 – 29 February at the Barbican.

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