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A Curious Calling: Adam Rae

This choreographer is more than a dancer, so much more

Written by . Published on November 21st 2011.


A Curious Calling: Adam Rae

EVERY second of the day our muscles flex and stretch and we move (some more than others) with little thought whatsoever. And then you end up in a strobe-lit basement somewhere – or Seven Dials on a Saturday afternoon – and body movement is transformed from banal to hypnotic, from pragmatic to consciously self-expressive. Adam Rae is a modern master of the form, trained for two years in China with Shaolin monks, followed by stints in LA training with stunt men and dancers. Aside from being a choreographer, he also works as a healer and a music manager. Perhaps two years of waking up before dawn is enough to permanently undo any need for sleep. I went to ask him about this ancient and ubiquitous passion.

 

What kind of dances do you choreograph?
I’m influenced by a lot of martial arts and acrobatics. I started with martial arts and then trained in contemporary, ballet, street dance and hip-hop later. I originally trained in music composition so my choreography is interwoven with that. I do a lot of compositions for my pieces as well. My choreography lies in looking at the leading edge of innovation, blending different body languages and vocabulary.


At the moment there is this evolution of movement and dance, largely due to the internet.


Where is this leading edge?

At the moment there is this evolution of movement and dance, largely due to the internet. You’ll see young boys doing capoeira on the beach in Brazil and they’ll upload a video and seconds later someone in the Royal Ballet in London will see it and they’ll have their own interpretation of it. They upload their video and seconds later some Shaolin students in China – where I spent a lot of time – will see it and try it. I’ve seen eight-year-old kids who can do a hundred head spins just from watching break dancing videos.

Stuck To The Ceiling

Do you work with other people?
I have a diverse group of artists and we find ways to create a synergy of movement, exploring new ideas. The thing that ties it all together is we start with a particular intention – what is the intention behind the movement? What is the mood? What are we painting?

What kind of moods and ideas are you expressing?
I’m a complete hippy and I love ideas of consciousness, oneness, separation. I try and express the unseen energies. It’s about pulling that which is not physical into physical form. Like conflict or chemistry between people. You can read it in people’s body language.

Do you experience your own feelings as dance moves?
Absolutely. I think subconsciously a lot of choreographers and dancers do that. You’re waiting for an impulse. I like the idea that the movement is something you’re calling through you, into physical form. There’s definitely some kind of inherent memory or field that we’re tuning into.

Jump For Joy! Who do you choreograph for?
I do a lot of work for big brands. It pays the bills. They have no way of accessing street level innovation yet they want to show that they’re the most cutting edge. I work with LED designers, integrating movement and technology. It’s a move towards synesthesia – a kind of blend or crosstalk of the senses. I’ve done a lot of research and development on how to blend sound and visuals and movement – can a movement look heavy? What note on the scale would that be?

What projects have you worked on recently?
The last big project I did was for Don Perignon – they had this limited edition bottle that had light up labels. It’s looks like paper but you can turn it on and off. We had LED swords that were programmed to write Don Perignon in the air when they were waved. We did this all-girls, post-apocalypse, Charlie’s Angels kind of piece, with light-up costumes ad projections on the stained glass.

You learnt martial arts in a Shaolin temple?
I finished the Brit School and wasn’t interested in the music industry at that time. I wanted to run away and live on a mountain. I saved every penny and eventually got enough support to move to this Shoalin academy in the mountains of China. I was training ten hours a day, six days a week, as well as doing healing practice, Tai chi and meditation. I was studying Mandarin and Chinese medicine on my own at night.

Artshoot Kung Fu

And you stayed there for two years?
After a year I moved to a sports university. I wanted to be exceptional at moving, to understand it at a deeper level. In any movie or Shaolin performance that you see, people don’t tend to come from Shaolin school, they come from sports universities. You methodically learn different patterns and systems that suit your body type. I was training with some of the national team. I was the worst by so far.

When did you start choreographing?
I came back from China and realised I was happy with the standard I was at with martial arts and acrobatics and parkour. I saved up and moved to LA to train with stunt men and dancers. I studied there for a couple of months and went for my first proper dance audition, It was the West End show Thriller. I booked it and went on the tour with that for four months. I learnt enough there to see I had enough musical and technical knowledge to create my own pieces. There’s not a great deal of people that are martial artists that also have quite good musicality in terms of live performances and live shows.

Who’s your favourite dancer or dance troupe?
My biggest inspiration is definitely Cirque du Soleil. I went to Vegas to watch loads of them – the martial art ones are phenomenal. There’s a water show at the Bellagio – O – that is visually the most stunning piece I’ve ever seen. Each show is different. They have contortionists, tumblers, acrobats, martial artists, skaters, dancers, and also a Beatles tribute show called Love. The scale they think on is amazing.

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Trinny DeckNovember 21st 2011.

What an inspiration! Thank god we have people like this. This kind of energy and positive thinking could spark a change in the world, which is exactly what we need right now.

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