Jack Webb presents THE END at Greenwich Dance
"Beautiful, unsettling, fast and sexy"
Sarah Munro, Director of BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art
In September 2016, Jack Webb brought his new explosive dance performance THE END to Greenwich Dance on Saturday 24 September - the London premiere, fresh from a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.
"Greenwich Dance is a welcoming space. I love the atmosphere and ethos of the work there."
Before the performance, we asked Jack Webb about the work and why he brought it to Greenwich Dance:
Greenwich Dance: THE END explores mortality and excess, and the dramatic notion of “end points” – what was your idea behind the piece and why did you choose these themes?
Jack Webb: THE END started life at a time when I had reoccurring thoughts about how life might be if I were to stop dancing and making work, and do something else with my life. Rather than ignoring it, I wanted to face it and see what could come of such a dramatic idea. Facing the dramatic idea of ending something in fact provided me with more motivation to keep going, opening up a whole new box of ideas and experiences to draw from on a personal level but also that can extend out on a universal level.
For me, excess and mortality are closely linked in this piece. I am asking the question 'what do we leave behind?' A lot of humans live so excessively, aggressively and without much thought to our world and how what we all do has an impact, so it felt right to confront this idea of taking things too far and seeing what we're left with as a result.
GD: The set and lighting is quite dark – you’ve described it previously as “a sleazy, dead-of-night set” – how does this backdrop fit into your theme?
JW: I see THE END as not only an event where things end and begin again, but it's also a place. For me, this place is some sort imaginary nightclub in which the dancers exist. I wanted it to feel like a place where people gather and exist together whilst simultaneously having individual experiences and group experiences, just like a nightclub. There is something mysterious and secretive about the whole setting, and there is a darkness in terms of the design that I think reflects the concepts of the piece. The dead of the night sleaziness is connected to this idea of excess and is reflective of how I perceive what humans are capable of, good or bad. I want the audience to feel like they are observing and yet are simultaneously part of the situation that unfolds.
GD: You’ve mentioned that THE END is “an invitation to consider what we leave behind” – how do you think we can best prepare for our own individual legacies, and how does your work fit into this?
JW: I think it's really about having the confidence and bravery to be as true to yourself and your work as possible. There is only one life to live, so why compromise? In saying that, there is something so important about not rushing, spending time to think, practice and develop our own voices in the world, everyday life and in art. For me I think of this in terms of our relationships and connections to each other but also our connection the planet, nature and the universe. Go forward and be individual but also consider the responsibility we have for taking care of each other and the world we live in. My work fits in to this through its interest and commitment to having its own voice, but I want as many people to experience it as possible. It is for everyone, in their own way.
GD: How would you want the audience to respond to the work?
JW: The biggest thing I am asking from the audience is to slow down and allow the work to wash over them. The piece is made, through a combination of sound and choreography, to deliberately distort our sense of time in a way where it feels almost impossible to predict when the end point will come. There is space for individual reflection whilst being carried along relentlessly. It can make the viewer see something in themselves and the world which is uncomfortable. Or not.
GD: You’ve recently taken THE END to the Edinburgh Fringe – what was the response like in Edinburgh? What was it like to perform as part of such a huge festival?
JW: Edinburgh was a wonderful experience. I've taken my work there many times, and it was also wonderful to show work where I live. We were at Dance Base which is the go to venue for the best dance at the Fringe. We sold out, or almost sold out, every single one of our fifteen performances - which is incredible! Something important definitely happened there. I think the work had quite an impact on audiences, something that made people talk about it, sending some sort of shockwave through the festival. Despite that excitement, I felt like it was our job to just do what we do and do it as honestly as possible. In such a huge festival it's important to keep that sense of calm and focus regardless of what happens. The dancers Rachael, Keren and Martyn were extraordinary, 15 shows in a row is a lot!
GD: Why did you want to present this work at Greenwich Dance?
JW: Greenwich Dance is a welcoming space. I love the atmosphere and ethos of the work there. It's important that the work can go places where a real range of people can access it, and I think Greenwich Dance is a place in London that does just that.
GD: As part of this performance at Greenwich Dance, you’ve invited an extended cast of volunteer participants to join you. How does the extended cast fit into the piece, and why was it important for you to work with an extended cast?
JW: I wanted to find a way in which to keep making the work that I make but to also find a way in which the work can engage with more people in a practical, fun and open way. The extended cast are incorporated in to the work in a simple way in which they represent a big group of people in this nightclub space. They are there for some time and they melt away leaving the three dancers in THE END to carry the rest of the piece through to the end. The extended cast are important because for me, they represent the universal element of the piece and the three dancers are the individual. I also like the sense of reality with the incorporation of guest performers. It makes the piece feel as though it is a real situation by real people. It is a way in which the work can hopefully communicate to the audience in a different way. Working together with an extended cast is also a lot of fun for me. We get to meet new people and I love this, getting to know each other is important. The piece is partly interested in the Idea that we can be so closed off from each other, so the extended cast are a real way for us and the piece to keep reaching outwards.