x Zoë Ashe Browne
For our last collaboration of the #CREATIVESUNITED series we invited Zoë Ashe Browne, a dance artist and choreographer from Dublin who since 2018 joined The Royal Ballet of Flanders as a full time member of the ensemble.
For this collaboration she created a choreography based on the concept of infinity and we asked her some questions about her work, what inspires her and how she came up with the choreography for the video "And then...".
A CHOREOGRAPHY INSPIRED BY OUR COLLECTION
& THEN (THE VIDEO)
ZOË ASHE BROWNE
Who is Zoë Ashe Browne?
I am a dance artist, choreographer and teacher. I’m from Ireland but I’ve lived in different cities around Europe since I was 16. I left home early to professionally train as a dancer and this experience in my formative years has shaped me as the person and artist I am today.
Why dancing and what’s in there that drives you to keep pushing your body even if it’s physically painful, what’s on your mind that fuels the endurance required to do it?
Dancing is a universal language. I only speak English, but I love that I can connect with anyone through the medium of dance without spoken word. Dance has the power to evoke clear narratives and emotions which makes it such a beautiful art form and one that given the chance is easy to connect with.
Without question, being a dancer is emotionally and physically challenging, but it’s provided me with a greater understanding of myself and the world around me. It’s also given me a tenacious drive to succeed in anything I focus my energy towards. I feel like dancing has also made me a more empathic, passionate and intuitive person because of the culturally rich circle of people you encounter throughout a performance career.
Do you remember a moment in your past when you realised that you wanted to do this for the rest of your life? Is it connected to an experience or an event that marked you profoundly?
I was part of a youth ballet group in Dublin (which my sister now directs, so it feels very full circle) and performing as a teenager with them gave me an immense high and reaffirmed to me again and again that I wanted to have a performance career. When I moved to London to train as a professional I was exposed to the best of Classical and Contemporary dance by watching different companies and performers at the Royal Opera House and Sadlers Wells theater which further inspired me.
Carmen, Juliet and Rebecca, what does it take to perform these roles and how do you prepare to embody each one of these characters with their own unique personalities?
I was always encouraged by the choreographers to read the books, watch the movie adaptations, the ballets, operas, anything that had already touched on these stories to get a sense of the characters and the narrative as a whole. Through this process I was able to find a root into these varied characters. For me the difficult part isn’t embodying different women, it’s maintaining a freshness of interpretation with each individual performance. I danced 37 shows of Romeo and Juliet in 8 weeks, which was the most exhausting part of the entire process.
What are the things that inspire you, does it come from other artistic expressions, daily life moments, literature, music, shapes, what is it that inspires you the most?
I have so many different inspirations. I’m very stimulated by the energy of people I like, so I talk a lot with friends about life, relationships, career ambitions, and listening to different people’s motivations is a great source of inspiration for me.
I recently watched ‘the last dance’ the extremely popular documentary about the Chicago bulls during the 90’s when they won 6 NBA championships. Listening to sports men talk about their blinkered ambition and profound respect they have for their own work and each other is something that is currently serving a lot of inspiration for me. I could talk about inspiration forever. It’s in choreographers, dancers, organisations, culture, art, film, it’s all around.
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?
Love and human connectivity finds me wherever I go. Sometimes I try to avoid being too sentimental with my work, but I can’t seem to avoid it, so I’m just going with the flow for now and allowing all the sentimentality to let loose for now.
As a dancer and creator, what are your non-negotiables?
Respect goes both ways. I work in an industry that has a horribly archaic power structure and so now, having worked in places where I didn’t feel supported, respected or nurtured, these feelings have become red flags for me. I constantly remind myself never to pass down these feelings to people I create with, teach, mentor or work with as colleagues. There is no space for it in this day and age.
For me-dance symbolises life itself.
What crosses your mind when you are dancing? How would you describe that feeling?
It varies. Sometimes I feel excitement, a great sense of control, fear, sadness. It’s the very extreme of every emotion you feel in daily life, it’s such a heightened sense of reality, it becomes addictive. Certain performances will stay with me forever.
Dancing as the language of the body, what’s the message/feeling that you want to pass on your spectators after performing?
If I’m dancing the work of someone else I want to embody their creative idea, the message they wish to convey. I want people to be able to connect with me too. I want them to think they might know me after watching me on stage. I like bringing humanity to the theatre as well as providing escapism to the public. It’s a shared experience.
Making jewellery for me is like having a second voice, these are objects where I can collect memories, visions and everything that inspires me, it is like telling a story and seeing it come to life by those who wear it. What is dancing for you and what do you put into it that makes it your own?
For me-dance symbolises life itself. It’s endurance, connectivity, hardship, success, growth, excitement, challenge, frustration, euphoria, conversation, debate, history, the future.. it is the driving force in my life and will continue to shape my view on the world, the essence of who I am and the way in which I connect and make sense of everything around me.
For our collaboration, “And then ...”, you were asked to make a choreography inspired by the Infinity Collection, specifically related to the Chained Hoop 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?
When generating material for this project, I looked at the jewellery and how Georgina was inspired to create circles that symbolise infinity for her. A lot of classical positions are based on the concept of circular shape and motion, so I took these poses as the base of the work and went from there.
What does infinity mean to you, how does it resonate personally and how do you relate it to your work?
It makes me think of life cycles and the universe and being a part of things that are greater than just you. I always have that feeling in a dance company because you are so often working as a group for the bigger picture.
In five words, how do you feel when you are wearing the Chained Hoop Infinity Earrings?