The Leipzig Ballet's first premiere, "Marin / Schröder", is not only the first time that the Leipzig Ballet has shown works by the great French choreographer Maguy Marin, but also the first cooperation of the ensemble around ballet director and choreographer Mario Schröder with euro-scene Leipzig. For more than 30 years, euro-scene Leipzig has been presenting innovative dance and theatre productions from and about Europe. Its artistic director Christian Watty and his team took the cooperation as an opportunity to put some questions to the choreographer of the evening - in search of similarities, differences and the most beautiful bridges in Leipzig and Lyon.
Christan Watty and euroscene Leipzig ask ... Mario Schröder answers.
How do you start working on a new creation and how long does the process take?
I always need an impulse, which can be triggered in very different ways. Whether these are external factors, such as socio-political or interpersonal issues, or simply music that I hear. With that, I enter into an inner dialogue. The dialogue that takes place leads to translation into the vocabulary of the body. That is a great privilege.
The themes, the musics find me and lead me to the language of the body. This process often varies in length. In the preparation, themes often build on each other and yet I find it important to retain a certain spontaneity. This creates a cosmos in which these themes are always evolving. This process can be between two and ten years long, some ideas even lie in a holding pattern for 15 years. "Sacre", as an example, took me over twenty years. And that has nothing to do with maybe not feeling like it, but it needs the right time and also time to mature.
We make an art that is quickly ephemeral. Only a shadow remains.Mario Schröder | Ballettdirektor und Chefchoreograph
Does it make a difference whether you work with your own company or choreograph as a guest with "foreign" dancers?
Absolutely. That is a big difference. I think the family relationship that exists in one's own company creates a strong level of identification. It has something to do with a sense of home. When I'm preparing a piece, I already have the dancers in my mind's eye. Working with another company is therefore a big surprise. The field of tension is completely different. I don't mean that in a negative way, but see it as very positive for the engagement with the respective artists.
When you re-rehearse older works, does the choreography change over the years because its artistic, but also social and political context is different?
Of course. The pieces change with us, and by that I don't just mean thinking about steps again, but reflection. We make an art that is quickly ephemeral. Only a shadow remains. Maybe a piece of information that remains in our minds. But I think that older pieces always have a lot to do with how we are now. I often come to the concept of tradition. We can tell new stories and discover new spaces through the stories that existed before.
Here in Leipzig you work with live music and one of the best orchestras, how much does that influence your work and that of the dancers?
It is a crucial collaboration. The exciting relationship between live music and dance is always an interplay, a dialogue and an intense confrontation that also allows us to perceive dance and music differently. Music and dance always influence each other. A cosmic space is created that we cannot escape. I am someone who looks for very concrete inspiration in music and of course it makes a difference whether I am inspired by Johann Sebastian Bach or Pascal Dusapin. It is interesting for me when these two come together - as will happen in this evening.
A cosmic space is created that we cannot escape.Mario Schröder | Ballettdirektor und Chefchoreograph
What do you associate with this city and with euro-scene Leipzig?
The euro-scene belongs to Leipzig. Bringing dance and theatre to Leipzig in this continuity is great. It shows in the guests who can discover Leipzig and give the audience new formats and impulses. Leipzig itself is home for me. The art that is made in this city always works in me. That invigorates, that makes us richer. And I think it's wonderful that the Leipzig Ballet is now working with euro-scene for the first time. At last! I think something very exciting is emerging.
Do you have a favourite bridge in your home town and if so, which one and why?
The emotional, spiritual bridge to the people.
What bridges can we build as cultural workers in times of war and crisis?
Art can always be a place where one finds peace. At the same time, art creates a space to deal with the here and now, the past and also the future. That is what makes art so important for our humanity, for the humanistic idea. For me, art is home.
How did you get into dance?
That's actually just a little anecdote. As a nine-year-old, I played football and tried out other sports, which is what you do as a child. It was also out of a desire to find community. I had lost interest in football a little when my mother showed me an advertisement for the Palucca Academy. Would I like to study ballet? I didn't know what ballet was and asked my mother what it was and she replied, "It's what Chaplin does". I was a big silent film fan and at that moment it was clear to me: I want that too. That was the trigger for me to go in that direction.
When I think of my first days at school, it was a completely different world. In the first year, I didn't know what to expect. But this world fascinated me and did something to me. Fortunately, I had such a professional education with great teachers who always gave impulses that are very essential for me: What are the human values in dance? What does dance mean as such? What is dance capable of?
What does it mean for you to share the stage with another artist that evening?
It is great. When I was still a dancer in Leipzig, I had the great honour, together with my sister Silvana, to be invited to France and not only to perform there, but also to come into contact with the dance scene there. For us children of the GDR, that was something very big. That's where I met Maguy Marin for the first time. She talked about her art in a kind of interview. That was a very moving and stirring time for me. At that time, a kind of emancipation was taking place in French dance. A lot was abstract. We came from the Palucca School with the clear aim of telling stories. This confrontation enriched us a lot.
We reflected on ourselves in a new way. It is all the more special for me now to show pieces by Maguy Marin in Leipzig. The pieces we are showing are very timeless. It is a different form of dance and a completely new language for the dancers of the Leipzig Ballet. Maguy Marin has had a significant influence on the French dance scene. In combination with my piece, it is a new encounter that I find very enriching.
How do you define your dance art?
This is not easy. It is closely linked to people, but also to socio-political issues that we experience. It absorbs everything we experience, perceive. The combination of past, here and now and future is something essential to maintain authenticity. And I think that's what it takes to enter into communication. The public is also part of my work. I am not a choreographer who stands there with a raised finger. I ask questions that I work out together with the artists and the company. That has a lot to do with trust and freedom. I couldn't work without it. You have to fight for that.
My training was very versatile, I don't want to pigeonhole myself. But in the end, it's not difficult: dance is human. Dance is communication. Dance is community.
Christian Watty was born in 1968 in Düsseldorf and studied German and Romance languages and literature at the universities of Düsseldorf and Brussels, as well as cultural management in Cologne. He worked at the municipal theatres in Nuremberg and Neuss as an assistant director, dramaturge, theatre pedagogue and press officer. Since 2004 he has worked as a consultant for the internationale tanzmesse nrw in Düsseldorf as well as for numerous theatres and festivals in France and Germany. He has been a member of the artistic advisory board of euro-scene Leipzig since 2013, is also a member of the European network for theatre and dance professionals IETM and speaks five languages. He has been Festival Director and Artistic Director of euro-scene Leipzig since 2021.