Thursday, February 2, 2017

Dance meets Juggling - An interview with Sean Gandini from Gandini Juggling

Hailed as a company that delivers both clever and cool shows imbued with a sense of elegance and wit, Gandini Juggling’s reputation is as impressive as their performance history. Since juggler Sean Gandini and rhythmic gymnast Kati Ylä-Hokkala formed the company in 1992, the Gandinis have performed over 5,000 shows in 50 countries and are currently on tour with 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures, a piece that can be described as a dialogue between two contrasting mediums, classical ballet and juggling. 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures is a celebration of where these two forms collide and is the fruit of a collective effort on behalf of Sean Gandini as director, Royal Ballet dancer, Ludovic Ondiviela as choreographer, Nomrod Borenstein as composer, Guy Hoars as lighting designer and of course, the talented cast of jugglers and dancers.

Since the company’s inception their performances and collaborations have been incredibly varied ranging from long duration radical art/juggling fusions to short outdoor theatrical performances accessible to all. These shows have been exhibited in equally assorted venues including contemporary art museums in France, opera houses in Germany, theatres in Lebanon and tents in Argentina. In 2016 a never before seen collaboration took place between Gandini Juggling and the English National Opera in Philip Glass’ epic Akhnaten that gave an account of the pharaoh who reigned from 1351-1334 BC. The decision to feature juggling in this opera set in ancient Egypt was one of acute historical awareness as the earliest recorded images of juggling are indeed found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics.
I was lucky enough to find out who has inspired Sean Gandini’s work in an interview that took place in February of 2017. Read on to discover more about a company that imbues the act of throwing objects into the air with provoking creativity that draws upon influences as diverse as mathematics and dance.
  1. All of Gandini Juggling’s shows are very different from one another yet they still share a certain essence, is this something you have deliberately intended for?
I think we make the pieces we would like to see and I guess there is some sort of continuity in one's desire to see things?  
  1. Early in your career it’s said that you did street performance commencing with magic. Considering more recently you’ve worked with both ballet dancers in 4x4 Ephemeral Architectures and opera singers in Akhnaten, how do you perceive the divide between high and low art?
That divide is something which I find completely fascinating. I think it is totally cultural. I think one could imagine a culture where those who throw are associated with a given royalty and those with stilts on their feet (ballet dancers) work in the public squares. However these associations are very deeply ingrained and take a long time to change.  
  1. Are you still influenced by street performance?
Yes indubitably. For better of for worse I think that there is something about the willingness to win over the audience which has stayed with me!  
  1. Do you have a collaborative approach during the creation of each show? How do you balance your role as artistic director with your role as performer?
This varies tremendously from piece to piece. I am only now learning to be completely on the outside of pieces. Actually, the hardest is the double role of director and performer simultaneously. I love collaborating; I love our material being pushed to places we would not have gone to otherwise.
  1. For the juggling and mathematic novices among us, what is one-way Gandini Juggling combines mathematics with juggling in performances?
I think we like the systems approach in mathematics. I think of it as a choreographic tool. I think music is a form of aural Mathematics.
From a practical perspective we use a system called siteswaps to generate patterns and notate things. I feel like it is only a layer though and although in some situations it is interest on its own, it is also fascinating combined with other layers of information. 
  1. Who has inspired your craft most?
Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe... 
  1. What advice would you give emerging performance makers with new independent companies?
To think outside the box. To look at other artforms. To make material in the kitchen.  
4x4 Ephemeral Architectures is currently touring in venues throughout France, the Netherlands, Belgium and the UK and commencing in April, Smashed hits the road in venues throughout Europe. Click this link to see exact dates:

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