Dance Writer speaks to choreographer and performer Ashley Dougan about Seeing Red, an exploration of the presence and manifestation of anger in the youth of today. Intertwined with a creative score by composers Rachel Lewindon and Samuel Kreusler, Dougan’s new work effectively derives its movement vocabulary from scores created around the psychology of anger, placed in a radial arrangement.
Tell me about this new work, Seeing Red. What inspired you to create this piece that surrounds the theme of anger?
I’ve been inspired by my own anger but, in particular, I’ve noticed that most young people are angry. Angry at the government, the system, the people in charge. None of them seem to care about anything other than lining their own pockets. Our people and our planet are dying, and all they care about it getting rich.
Describe your choreographic process. How have you brought about the radical side, the anger and passion to the surface? How did your process relate to the soundscape?
My choreographic process often starts with looking at patterns – so for example with this work I started looking at chemical bonds for epinephrine and how that moves in the brain and in the body. I started mapping out movement pathways and embellishing from there. ‘Anger’ as a theme was the springboard, and the material has developed from that using our past experiences and how it makes us feel. My work often does not correlate with sound, so it’s more like a layer. For Seeing Red I’ve been working with Rachel Lewindon and Sam Kreusler (both incredible classical and electronic composers) to create a soundscape that sits on top and embraces the dance.
Can you shed some light on your dance background. Where did you grow up and learn to dance? Where did you train to become a professional dancer?
I grew up between the UK and Germany. I was going to become a biologist but found a passion for dance, after starting very late (at 16) in Darwin. I moved down to Melbourne and begun my training at The Space, soon followed by a Bachelor of Fine Arts at the Victorian College of the Arts
As a dancer and choreographer, how hard or easy is it to be a creative in the arts? Why is it important that the arts get more funding?
It is extremely difficult to work independently in Australia. There is so much work that cannot be staged due to funding constraints, and so a lot of artists simply give up. I know I almost did on this project, and it’s going to take a long time to reconcile it. It’s important that the arts gets more funding because it enriches every day culture. It’s not enough to just see the big ballet and opera companies, we need the independent work too.
What do you want audiences to walk away with after seeing your show? What is your message?
I want them to think about the power of the many vs the power of the few. We need to understand that we can change things for the better, but it will be hard.
Seeing Red was performed over four nights as part of the Melbourne Fringe festival 2019.