Interview with a choreographing ballerina: Eve Mutso

Thoughts on her work for SFIAF 2017, “Unknown”

Written by:
Joanna G. Harris
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Eve Mutso defines her work “Unknown” is the following words:

“It is said that creativity requires the courage to let go of certainties.
I sometimes see life itself as a performance full of uncertainties. The roles we play and the risks we take amidst the uncertainties result in the experiences that make us what we are.”

The morning after Eve Mutso appeared as “Blanche” in the Scottish Ballet’s Zellerbach performance of “A Streetcar Named Desire,” we met to discuss her work “Unknown” which will be premiered at the San Francisco International Arts Festival on May 27 at Fort Mason’s Cowell Theater. Eve was pleased to talk about this piece and her work.

JGH: How did the SFIAF performance of “Unknown” come about?

EM: I was one of four women who were commissioned by a group called “Tramway” to perform works at the Edinburgh Festival in 2016. Andrew Wood, director of SFIAF, saw it there and invited me to join the Festival this year. It’s worked out well since the Scottish Ballet toured here and in LA and I can stay in San Francisco for the event.

JGH: Tell us some more about your work?

EM: I danced first with the Estonian Ballet. I was born in Tallin and moved to the Scottish Ballet since my husband was studying and then working in UK. For many years I’ve been dancing other choreographers work. I felt that it is time to do my own work.
I realized that at this point in my dance career, I wanted to do something different, to explore my skills and ideas. The work is, in a way, unknown, as the title suggests since I’m discovering just what those skills and ideas are. The solo is 15 minutes. The first three minutes build the frustration that is expressed later.

JGH: Are to dancing to music? with a particular set?

EM: My musician is Merlin Bonning. He is a freelance Scottish composer. He composes using electronic methods and field recording. He has recorded by heartbeat and my feet in the rosin box. I wanted to hear the cracking of the spine, my heartbeat, and the inside of my body!
I have a very talented set and lighting designer, Matt Strachan, who has built an equilateral triangle, as a set piece that moves during the performances. I dance in bare feet and wear a long dark skirt and hardly use my legs. I want my heart and soul to move in my piece. The energy pours out of my back. These restrictions build the expressive aspects of this work.

JGH: What is the motivation of your dance?

EM: I will always be grateful to the Scottish Ballet. The company and corps have always been dedicated and responsive to me. But now I have new directions. I am a free lancer, so I want to find my voice, apply for residences and support so I can get funding for my new projects in Scotland. I live in Glasgow and my family and I are very happy there. But it is important to go further, to spend time with other artists who help you learn and grow.

JGH: Who are the choreographers who inspired you?

EM: I’ve worked with San Francisco’s Val Caniparoli. He, Forsythe and Balanchine gave me the ‘core’ of my work. I call them the ‘ghosts’ of my work. All these come out of my body as a medley, so I can address these feelings in my new work. I want to touch the audience and give them something to relate to… what I’m trying to say. I am so interested in the human condition.

JGH: Tell me more about your set designer?

EM: Matthew Stachan does a lot of freelance stuff. I was thinking about a ‘frame of mind.’ We built these two equilateral triangles, which lift, above my head. He’s incredible: he thinks like me. He is very present, having seen me dance for fourteen years, so he joins me in collaboration.

JGH: I look forward to seeing you in SFIAF on May 27 and 28.

There will be a panel discussion at 6:30 PM before the May 27 performance. Eve Mutso shares the performance evening with Levy Dance (Garance Maneur, choreographer) and Alyce Finwell.

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