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Meet the artists behind Prud'hon: The Moving Body

Tom Rowland And Dane Hurst

Tom Ryley, Marketing Intern, catches up with the creators behind our hotly anticipated Prud’hon event.

On 16 and 17 October, award winning dancer and choreographer Dane Hurst and composer Tom Rowland will team up to stage two spectacular evenings of dance, music and life drawing at Dulwich Picture Gallery, inspired by the stunning work of Pierre-Paul Prud’hon.

Slow-moving “dance sculptures” will gradually come to life in specially choreographed dance sequences, culminating in an explosive solo performance of Hurst’s critically acclaimed O'Dabo and duet, Finding Freedom, with Romany Pajdak from the Royal Ballet. Viewers will be encouraged to step into Prud’hon’s shoes and sketch the dancers as they perform. With just a few weeks until the event, we caught up with Dane Hurst and Tom Rowland.

You have been collaborating for the event - what is your creative process like?

TR: Dane and I have been working together on various projects for a couple of years now. I photograph him a lot and I composed the music for his original dance piece Finding Freedom last year. He also played the lead role in a film which I directed in 2014 called Primitive, which was shown in London and in the Lincoln Center, NY. Over the course of these projects, we have become great friends and discuss our work and lives a lot. Ultimately, I think this creates an understanding which feeds into our collaborations as new ideas and energy.

What drew you to the Prud’hon’s work?

DH: When I first saw Prud’Hon’s sketches, I was struck by the performance quality of the figures - they capture the essence of movement in a simple, direct way. As a dancer I regularly focus on the moving body in space, and I found parallels between my work and Prud’Hon’s drawings.

TR: Prud’hon’s sketches carry a certain timeless elegance – but also a human immediacy. I found this contrast appealing and my music will feel both epic and intimate – especially in the classical yet contemporary space of the Gallery.

How will the event reflect Prud’hon’s drawings and the Gallery space?

DH: Both the drawings and the dancing express emotion through movement and position in space. Though they are two-dimensional and static, Prud’hon’s drawings still allow you to experience a snapshot of movement.

TR: At rehearsal it was amazing seeing the dancers moving to the music against the lavish backdrop of the paintings. It is a very interesting place for dance - the staging is dramatic and the audience will be able to get up close to the dancers and musicians.

Tom, you heard your music in the space for the first time last week - what was this like?

TR: The sound was great in the Gallery! I think the Gallery has a fantastic atmosphere - it is classically refined, but it has an almost contemporary feel. Maybe this is something to do with it being the first purpose-built gallery. In my music, I like to combine classical and electronic elements, which I hope will mirror this - and make a change to the normal context in which people experience art in a gallery.

During the evening you are going to capture images of the dancers and project them in the gallery. What sort of images will you be looking for?

TR: Like Prud’hon’s sketches, a blend of ephemeral human detail and neo-classical elegance. For me, photography is an exploration of a subject rather than documentation - I think of a shoot as working towards a final image and try to discover things I didn’t expect along the way. Maybe some image will appear from the dancers which will surprise everyone.

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Image: Dancers in rehearsals for Prud’hon: The Moving Body © Stephen Wright