What would you do for power, and how much is a life worth? These are the central questions in Kungliga Operan’s new dance performance PUUR. Put together by the choreographer Wim Vandekeybus and originally opened in Singapore in 2005, PUUR is a modern dance piece that examines the worst parts of the human spirit. We had a quick chat with Vandekeybus before the premiere.
How did you get the initial idea that eventually grew into PUUR?
In a museum in Florence I stopped in front of a painting that showed some soldiers killing little innocent children with their long, pointed spears. The children’s mothers were doing everything they could to protect them. I just couldn’t walk away from the subject matter. How could this be allowed to happen? But I soon discovered that the biblical story of King Herod and the killing of infants in Bethlehem is also a story that repeats itself today; even now, we are sending innocent children to be killed in wars.
PUUR deals with extremely dark emotions and events, war, genocide, the story of King Herod. What are the challenges of translating these things, capturing that darkness, into dance?
Plays from ancient times were also tragic. I think that dance is a good medium because it could change tragic things to something beautiful. PUUR has a harsh theme and it takes some responsibility, but it’s still a little funny.
PUUR blends dance with other artistic mediums like film and music from David Eugene Edwards. What are the secrets of getting these complementary artforms right in a dance performance, and how can they elevate a show?
David is a kind of troubadour and he is a strong believer, and a kind of Nick Cave. PUUR is based on a Biblical story although I don’t want to be moralistic.
PUUR debuted first in 2005. How do you think it has developed over the years, both the piece itself and its relationship with the world and political climate around it?
The world is getting harder. Maybe the piece was more visionary 2005 , for sure it is now more contemporary. Some political things is said in PUUR; the Leader is a bad guy. It is said that “without the bad guy you don’t have the movie”.
Finally, PUUR has been described as an immersion in extreme emotions. What do you think is the value of an experience like that?
I think that the dancers have grown up to be actors…
PUUR opens at Kungliga Operan on Feb 2 and runs until Mar 6
Photo: Carl Thorborg