David Bintley on his new Olympics-inspired ballet: Faster
For David Bintley's new ballet Faster, inspired by the Olympic motto 'Faster, Higher, Stronger', the choreographer has been focussing on many of the parallels between sport and dance.
'I'm interested in the psychological aspect of sport', he says. 'The focus and discipline. That continued repetition of small details resulting in the perfect throw or run or jump on the day. Like a performance.'
David's work will be 'roughly in three movements', with the finale a crescendo-like marathon, running for the finishing line. Before that, however, will come sections representing training, and the physical setbacks that both athletes and dancers face.
'The second movement actually reflects two ideas', explains David. 'One is of injury and setback and failure, and the second is the fight to come back from that.' This battle to overcome physical adversity will be played out as a duet on the stage.
'The fight will be interesting', David says. 'It's a man and a woman so it's physically unbalanced. But I like that, because it is about the woman being injured and having the odds stacked against her. She's fighting back against a seemingly insurmountable foe.'
Above: Faster costume design by Becs Andrews
Beyond the themes, David is avoiding making explicit sporting references in the choreography.
'I'm avoiding being too literal', he confirms. 'Each character will move in ways inspired by a number of sports, rather than specifically basing each one on a particular event. So the movements of fencers and tennis players get combined in one instance, and elsewhere divers and jumpers get mixed up into shapes in the air.'
Some sports more readily lend themselves to balletic language then others. And they're not necessarily the ones you'd first imagine.
'It goes without saying that fighting styles like wrestling are very physical' says David. 'It's a mess of limbs. There are no swords or weapons or other paraphernalia, and it's not about weight or brute force. It's about feints and grips and balance, and that's very much what a pas de deux is about. Those duets on stage are not always about love, or romance, or sentimentality. But they're always physically about balance and weight and two people being aware of how they counterbalance the other.'
David has also looked at how items move through the air. 'The circular wind up of a discus or hammer thrower is interesting', he says. 'Javelin even more so, because it's a bit like a ballet movement anyway. On stage we're regularly seeking to make these beautiful aerodynamic shapes. It's sleek and smooth where, for example, a shot put is not! That's just a big round lump that gets hefted along, whereas a javelin has an aesthetic to begin with.'
'There's another team which I call "Synchro" which is about synchronisation and elegance of movement. It recalls all those sports which are about patterns and aesthetics, like synchronised swimming and gymnastics. Even diving – apart from entering the water cleanly, as far as I'm aware it's principally concerned with aesthetics as well.'
All of this leads up to the finale. 'The third movement is the “Event”', says David. 'I've subtitled that “Marathon” as it's all based on running, although there are moments which are much faster than a marathon. It will be a celebration, I hope with moments of humour, and should be a lot of fun.'
David highlights one final parallel between balletic and athletic performance. 'Everybody gets these short, fast, high-impact moments, that build towards a whole, like a team. Like sport, the new work will be explosive, obviously fast, and certainly virtuosic!'