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Quang Kien Van's new work premieres at Greenwich Dance

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Quang Kien Van's new full-length work, Lunar Shadows, premiered at Greenwich Dance on Friday 11 November 2016.

It's a dark, psychological thriller, set against a mythological backdrop, based on the combining of two of Quang Kien Van's earlier works - Patient 319 & Lunar Orbits.

As Quang prepared for the world premiere of Lunar Shadows, we spoke to him about the themes in his latest work.

Greenwich Dance: Lunar Shadows is the “unruly union” of two earlier dance works – Patient 319 & Lunar Orbits. What made you decide to combine the two into one work, and how have you threaded the stories together in the piece?

Quang Kien Van: Yes, it is an “unruly union”! There is a huge tonal shift from one piece to another. Patient 319 is set in a Las Vegas psychiatric hospital and features the fabulous Dr Ruby Fontana, dance therapist superstar, and Lunar Orbits is space, abstraction and cosmic gravitational waves! But it’s actually just looking at the same thing from two different scales. One macro and cosmic, the other micro and earth bound - but both are about being human.

GD: The piece explores themes of migration and displacement, and notions of identity and belonging - what was your idea behind the piece and why did you choose these themes to work with?

QKV: I think I make theatrical performances as a way to better understand myself and the world around me. The themes that are present in Lunar Shadows, I wouldn’t say that I chose them in any specific way, but more that they’re persistent themes in my life that can’t be ignored and I have to address somehow.

GD: How do you want the audience to feel about the work, and how would you like them to respond to it?

QKV: I would love for the audience to come in with an open mind. And I want them to leave with stardust in their eyes and ever so slightly dazzled. If people come away thinking it’s a banging show, I wouldn’t object to that either!

GD: You’re working with a creative team including composer Philip Feeney, dramaturg Debbie Hannan and designer Ruta Irbite – how important was it for you to integrate these elements into the piece, and how have you enjoyed working with the team?

QKV: Philip and I have known each other since before time itself began…as in, when I was a student at Central School of Ballet. He was a massive inspiration then and he is a massive inspiration now. I met Ruta when we both were working on projects with Scottish Dance Theatre. Lunar Shadows will be the third production Ruta has designed for my choreography. Debbie and I met whilst working on “teh internet is serious business” at the Royal Court Theatre. She and I have made some dance films together and we have some other stuff in development. I feel very lucky to have these people going to bat for me, it’s been an excellent innings so far.

GD: We get to see you perform yourself in this work, as you’ll be performing with the company – what part will you be playing in the piece, and how does this affect your choreography process?

QKV: I don't want to give away any spoilers! But I will say this: the whole thing is a great test of discipline. Ask the dancers, they’ve been immeasurably tolerant, and fantastic of course.

We are now into our final weeks of rehearsals for Lunar Shadows and it’s fair to say it’s a big task to execute. Lunar Orbits was originally a Chinese Arts Space commission - it's a sustained 18mins of “pure dance”, inspired by ancient Chinese mythology and modern Cosmology, and I’ve expanded it. Then we roll into Patient 319 which has a completely different set of demands - narrative, character work, dialogue, jokes, visual gags and wigs… so it’s full-on for the dancers. And I make a jaunty cameo.

GD: Why did you want to present this work at Greenwich Dance?

QKV: I presented Patient 319 at Greenwich Dance way back in 2009, when I applied to be part of Step Out Arts’ “British East Asian Choreographers Development Scheme.” So in a way, Lunar Shadows started at Greenwich Dance.

That showing of Patient 319, I consider to be my professional choreographic debut. When does one become a fully-fledged choreographer? I don’t know. After the world premiere of Lunar Shadows at Greenwich Dance? Perhaps…