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Conversations about pieces
Stephan Herwig: Les Préludes
Stephan, "Les Préludes" is the first time you've worked with given music. Seven Preludes by Debussy and the Prélude Opus 45 by Chopin are played live on the grand piano by pianist Zoran Imširović. How did this choice come about and what are your experiences?
Debussy was my suggestion, his music touches me in a special way. His music is placed between the Romantic and Impressionist periods. My work is rather far away from both. Perhaps this contrast particularly appealed to me. I can't really justify this choice. It was, like much of my work, an emotional decision. Zoran found the idea very exciting and then suggested Chopin's Prélude as an addition.
Starting with music as the basis for a choreography is a completely new process for me. From the beginning, the music provides a clear framework, a kind of skeleton for the piece, which I could use to navigate my way forward.
How do you integrate the pianist and grand piano into the stage situation?
There is no classical stage situation for this piece. Everyone shares the same space. Dancers, pianist and audience. Thus there are no spatial boundaries. But the distribution of roles remains clear. Zoran does not start dancing and the dancers do not start playing music. However, Zoran naturally moves his fingers over the keys of the piano and in the quiet moments one can very well hear the movements of the dance.
What have you found out about the relationship between dance and music, or how do you implement this encounter beyond interpretation?
Music is often used in dance (as in film, for example) to enhance moods. Dance in music (e.g. in opera) to "spice up" musically lengthy passages. Neither of these interests me. I believe that music and dance only have something to say to each other if they could also exist separately from each other. If they are equal partners.
I understand the dance in "Les Préludes" like a journey, a trip with its own flow. The pieces of music are like stations on this journey; in some we linger longer, some we only touch upon, but perhaps remember them again later in the piece.
After a long break, you can now be seen dancing on stage again yourself. What is it like to be responsible for the entire thing and to play a part in it at the same time?
I have a really great team around me in front of and behind the stage who make this simultaneity possible. Trust is the key.
Is there anything that surprised you in the rehearsal process?
Actually, something surprising happens in every rehearsal. Since we don't work with a set movement vocabulary, new and different ways of encountering things always emerge. We try to keep all areas of the piece exciting for ourselves and to act completely in the moment. This demands a high level of attention from all participants and spontaneous action, which always leads to surprises.
"Les Préludes" will take place at the schwere reiter from December 1 to 4, 2022: INFO
More about Stephan Herwig: Stephan Herwig
A portrait in interview form by Sabine Leucht about Stephan Herwig, can be found here in TTmag: A virtuoso of silence and community
The interview was conducted by Beate Zeller, November 2022
Tanztendenz Munich e.V. is sponsored
by the Munich Department of Arts and Culture