x Nicola Wills
For our first video of the #creativesunited series for the Infinity Collection we invited Nicola Wills. Born in Australia, Nicola is currently based in Antwerp, dancing as a Demi-soloist in the Ballet Vlaanderen where she has toured internationally and also choreographed three times in the Choreolab programme.
For this collaboration we asked Nicola to explore the concept of Infinity within a limited space and she created a choreography inspired by the Maxi Twigs Infinity earrings to show us how creativity can go beyond walls even when we find ourselves confined at home.
A CHOREOGRAPHY INSPIRED BY THE MAXI TWIGS INFINITY EARRINGS
DANCING AT HOME WITH NICOLA WILLS
How did your Ballet career begin and when did you decided to become a professional?
I started ballet lessons when I was 3 and decided to become a professional ballet dancer when I was around 15. Originally, I wanted to be a musical theater artist or back up dancer but after I saw the movie ‘Center Stage’ I thought ballet was much cooler and started working hard to improve in my ballet so I could become professional.
What are the RAD International Geneé awards and how was the process that took you to win a silver medal in 2019?
The RAD Geneé Awards is an international ballet competition held for dancers that follow the Royal Academy of Dance Vocation Syllabus. You can only compete if you have to have gotten over 90% in the last examination level (Advanced Two). The competition is always held in a different country and it runs over the course of two weeks, where there are judged masterclasses and performances that eventually dwindle down all the competitors to a selected semi-finals group and then eventually a smaller Finalists group. All competitors must come prepared with two solos to perform from a set repertoire list and during the first week there is also a choreographer that creates a solo that everyone must learn but only the finalist actually end up performing. The year that I competed it was held in Singapore, and the process was super challenging but very inspiring. Now that I look back on it, the process is not unlike processes that I still have to go through as a professional, so it was a super great experience. Winning the Silver medal was an achievement much more than I had expected, I had gone originally with just wanting to get experience, but once I was there I really went for it and the work paid off.
How was the process of moving to Belgium to become a member of The Royal Ballet of Flanders, what were the ups and downs during those first days?
At first it was super exciting, The Royal Ballet of Flanders was one of my dream companies based on repertoire, so to get a job there was literally a dream come true. I didn't know a lot about Belgium at the time, so it was definitely a culture shock. There were a lot of hard ups and downs, but being so young and living in a new place by yourself, it is to be expected.
What does it mean for you to be a member of The Royal Ballet of Flanders and why did you choose to be part of it?
It means a lot to me to be in a company where I am surrounded by so many hard working and creative dancers almost every day. The Royal Ballet of Flanders has changed a lot in repertoire style, direction and organization over the time I have been here, but there is a spirit, especially amongst the dancers that always stays the same. I feel being here has given me a lot of freedom and inspiration as an artist to keep growing.
Which one of your previous performances is your favorite and why?
I have so many! I would definitely say Faun by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, as
it has been a blessing that not many people have in their career to perform such an intimate work repeatedly for such a long time in their career and to grow with that. It has been magical to perform this beautiful piece in so many incredible theaters around the world.
Since you are a member of The Royal Ballet of Flanders you have also choreographed 3 times in the Choreolab programme, can you explain more about this and how was the process to develop these choreographies, what was the inspiration behind them?
Choreolab is a great opportunity that we have to be able to take a break from dancing someone else's style of movement on stage, and create something that is our own. I am always inspired by my colleagues around me, I always usually find a piece of music I love and then who I want to use and my concept in the piece comes naturally. I usually draw from a personally experience so that I can approach it authentically.
Do you see a pattern, a specific source of inspiration or influence that keeps repeating and showing up in different ways along the projects that you create?
I am a very emotional person and this comes into my dancing and choreography quite a bit. I like abstract work or watching something that is purely movement based, but I find it hard to connect to something choreographically without their being some kind of story or emotional resonance there. I feel like theater or dance needs to make you feel something or walk away thinking about something important.
Movement is such a beautiful way to amplify emotion and project feelings without having to use words...
Dancing in times of a pandemic and a social revolution, regarding all the events that have been shaking the world lately, what do you think is or should be the position and discourse of ballet?
Unfortunately in society, during times such as a pandemic or financial depression, the arts are always usually the first thing to suffer, lose out or get cancelled. But the arts will always have a responsibility to reflect the current state of the world back to society in a way that makes people forget about their day and also think about the more important things in life at the same time. Especially now It is important for dance, theater and film to keep that connection alive to their audience and to reflect the important matters in the world.
What drives your inspiration and creativity? Does it come from other artistic expressions, daily life moments, literature, music, shapes? What is it that inspires you the most and fuels the need to keep creating and dancing?
It’s really hard to explain, because my need to dance and create honestly feels like an unavoidable natural instinct, like hunger or thirst. I always need to move around or whenever I hear music that inspires me, I automatically start seeing the potential for what it could be as a dance piece or dance film. Music drives me a lot, because I feel that the synergy between a dancer expressing an emotion through movement to music that also expresses the same emotion is a very powerful tool for empathy. Movement is such a beautiful way to amplify emotion and project feelings without having to use words. I have found that dance and creating has always helped me to process the hardest times in life.
I previously asked what has been your favorite performance in your career, now it’s time to ask what would be your ideal performance in the future? Have you thought about it? If so, how have you visualized it?
I have a lot of people I would like to work with and experience their style. I don’t have any one piece in mind, but there are a lot of ways that I would still like to improve my experience and self as a dancer. Hopefully in the next couple of years this will happen for me.
For our collaboration, Dancing at home with Nicola Wills, you were asked to make a video of a choreographed dance inspired by the Infinity Collection, specifically related to the Maxi Twigs Infinity earrings that we see you wearing. What was the process for developing this choreography and how do you represent the concept of infinity in it?
I used three different ideas of ‘Infinity’ to layer the three dances. I used the concept of repetition, continuation and also the shape of the earrings as a guide to my movement. With these in mind I tried to create a steady flow of movement using similar shapes that replicate the earrings in different ways. Through the videos there is a consistency in shapes using different body parts and different plans and directions.
What does infinity mean to you, how does it resonate personally and how do you relate it to your work as a dancer?
I feel like life is one big, repeating cycle, the shape and continuity of the concept of infinity resonate with me in this way. Working as a dancer in particular it is always full of ups and downs, and especially in doing a profession that I began doing when I was a small child, the idea that it keeps moving forward in odd repeating cycles seems fairly normal to me.
In five words, how do you feel when you are wearing the Maxi Twigs Infinity earrings?
Special thanks to photographer Matt Foley for the beautiful images and artist Wasted Fates who collaborated with us for the music of the video Dancing at home with Nicola Wills.