As a highly accomplished artist, Bradley can do just about anything and everything. He is currently the Artistic Director for the Steps Repertory Ensemble where he is asking the ensemble to do much more than dance. Challenging them to find the rawness in life and experience the movement rather than just do it, Bradley Shelver leads his dancers through rehearsals with sincerity and legitimacy. It’s not about a cohesive group of dancers, but an ensemble of complex, intricate humans, each with their own background and stories coming together to create life onstage through movement. The steps are not the challenge, but rather letting them go that Shelver wants from his dancers. “If you can’t inspire yourself, you will never inspire the audience.” Shelver’s desire to look past the technique and surface is evident as he demands his dancers to see rather than look, listen rather than hear and feel rather than touch.
I was honored to watch a rehearsal where the company was rehearsing LE MONDE EST FINI, PAS DE PANIQUE (the world is finished, do not panic). This work challenges the brain as well as the body; requiring the dancers to reconnect to personal moments of fear, panic and anxiety. “It is about the moments when your drowning in your own life; when panic consumes you and you can’t function.” Although a immense amount of athleticism and physicality is required, the hardest part is creating the emotional connection. “Forget what you look like and just have the experience.”
Bradley agreed to answer some questions about the work and the collaboration process that was required of this piece.
What does collaboration mean to you?
Collaboration is for me an extension of inspiration- to collaborate with another mind I think is to be inspired by that mind and to create and connect to it. As a choreographer, I am inspired by my dancers and the music and the costumes, and therefore I believe I am also in collaboration with them, even though the steps are mine, the inspiration they bring helps to facilitate the process.
How was collaboration used in the Panic piece?
The work was inspired by the constant fear and panic we live in, mostly created by mass media, past experiences which we carry forward and which influence and mold our current state of being. I collaborated with a musician, not on the score itself, but in the soundtrack of the work, much like a film soundtrack that is built upon to create tension or release depending on the mood of the scene. I also collaborated with a set builder on the concept of a door onstage which for many signifies either an escape or a sense of being trapped, in this case the door never opens. As far as costume collaboration, we worked on having a design that was simple at its base, but with added elements from baroque and circus accessories to give it a slightly humerus feel.
How do you continue to be inspired so that what you create is an inspiration to others?
I believe as artists and creators and even as teachers and performers of dance we get inspired by our surroundings, a film you see, a conversation you have or a book title- it can come from anywhere, and therefore can lead to anything. I think collaboration and inspiration go very much hand in hand. The most important collaborations happen within ourselves first, being able to put the ideas together cohesively within us first, then being able to let go of the idea of what we think it looks like and allow it to be influenced and inspired by the ideas of others to the point of it being an inspiration for an audience.