You choreograph to contemporary music. Which composers inspire you, and spark your creativity? What is it about their music that makes it fit for, and fit with, your stage works?

© Daniel Jaems
© Daniel Jaems
I work with a range of musical genres to set my choreography against and enjoy the different opportunities and challenges that this provokes in my choreography. I’ve collaborated with young composers from the Royal Academy of Music, worked to Bach, Arvo Pärt and Karen Khachaturian as well a range of electronic composers. More recently I’ve been drawn to the music of Icelandic composer Daniel Bjarnason, which I used for a piece I made for the Royal Ballet earlier this year and will be collaborating with on a piece for Rambert next year. I’ve also tended to gravitate towards more ambient sound environments against which to set my work because of the freedom it affords me to dictate the dynamics and rhythm of the choreography, but I also very much enjoy the challenge of getting to know a piece of music well and drawing out its character in movement. Daniel’s incorporation of classical and electronic elements appeals to these two sensibilities.

 The world premiere of the Grit in the Oyster is coming up at Sadler’s Wells, as part of the Thomas Adès : See the music, Hear the Dance’ Program. Why did you chose Adès’ Piano Quintet ? What does it highlight, sublime in your work?

I chose the Piano Quintet from a shortlist of pieces that were the appropriate length for the slot in the programme I was offered. Of these, it had the most interesting range of textures and dynamics, which I felt would provide me with a breadth of possibilities in the type of choreography I could set to it. There was also something about the combination of the classical sonata form structure and Adès’ modern ideas that appealed to my experience of having trained classically but moving into contemporary dance to explore my choreography.

You're a New Wave Associate Artist (Sadler's Wells),and working via your own company Alexander Whitley Dance Company (based at Rambert’s new Southbank home) and well as on commissions (for Birmingham RB, Random Dance - McGregor and Balletboyz). How would you define (or describe) your style? How has it evolved over time? 

As you mention, I’m making work on a range of companies which have different technical and stylistic strengths. I enjoy how this range affords me the opportunity to explore different ways of creating a dance piece and develop different lines of enquiry in the choreographic process. My training in ballet inevitably has some influence over the way I think about form and technique in movement as opposed to an explicit theatricality. In this respect, my work tends to be abstract and attempts to explore ideas in movement rather tell stories through it. I think the more I am making, the more I am uncovering particular areas of choreography that are interesting to me as well as refining the way I approach the choreographic process and the kind of ideas I take as starting points.