With the Project Y 2017 Tour opening this week, we talk to Alan Greig, one of our four choreographers about his career and approach to working on a project like Project Y.
Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in the dance world?
I left school aged 16 (1978) and worked in a factory. Kate Bush burst on to the music scene and this triggered an interest in me for dance, acting and movement. I found classes and really good teachers in Paisley and Glasgow. Dance provided an escape route from a very dull job and opened up a world of hard, physical, rewarding work and a chance to express myself creatively. Within a year and a half of starting evening dance classes I had auditioned for a full time dance course in London and dance has been a part of my life now since 1982. Dance has given me a very satisfying career and has taken me all over the World.
What was the transition from performer/dancer to choreographer like?
I never had one. For me, I was always more interested in choreography. I realised I needed to have more technical ability to express the choreography and that I could perform my own choreography. They have always been intrinsically linked for me. Rather than dancing for a company and evolving in to a choreographer, they were all linked for me, right from the start.
What interested you in working with Project Y?
I have worked with YDance many times before in the past – from the very first festival in Stirling in 1998 when they were named Scottish Youth Dance Festival. I have always had a very positive and enjoyable experience and really enjoy the energy and dedication that young people bring to the studio. It is hard work, but also so much fun and gratifying.
How do you approach working on a project like Project Y? What’s your process?
It depends on the given project really. For this one I have been asked to make a work up to twenty minutes long. I therefore find a subject, music and choreographic ideas before I arrive to work with the dancers. A lot of preparation is needed, as it simply would not come together in such a short time without the research. I think about the structure of the day, from the warm up class onwards and what, ideally, I will be looking to create on a given day.
I write, draw and block out ideas for music, text and think of how to develop material quickly from a solo to duets, trios and whole group ensemble. I never create every step, I like to pull ideas from the dancers through improvisation and written ‘scores.’ I find this makes for a much richer and more interesting final dance. The dancers and I have never met and do not know each other, so a rapport has to be developed really quickly, for me to see how I can stretch them, as performers and what works best, in terms of style and choreography on them. I was the first choreographer they worked with on a three-week long process, so I needed to quickly establish a group dynamic, a team, that worked hard, focused and was creative to make a performance piece.
The Project Y 2017 Company will perform The Dearly Departed, choreographed by Alan Greig and the dancers, on the Project Y 2017 Tour. Get your tickets today!