New dance company Umanoove are touring their second production The Knot, an immersive piece of dance that explores the idea of weddings and marriage. A cast of seven dancers play the roles of the bride, groom, best man and bridesmaids, and the audience members are invited to become the weddings guests as the celebrations unfold.
Dutch-born choreographer Didy Veldman, a former dancer with Rambert, started the company to create new and exciting work. After the success of her first production The Happiness Project, she is tackling a bigger challenge with her new piece The Knot.
“Weddings and marriages have changed enormously over the decades and I was interested to find out what impact this has had on our society. The big day has become all important and stressful. I was curious to research our current values relating to marriage compared to a century ago. That was the starting point,” Didy says.
Over the last 18 years Didy has become a highly sought-after choreographer both nationally and internationally and has created works for Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Cedarlake (New York) and more. However, now it was time for her to create her own company and have more control over her work.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do and I’ve always been curious about it. I’ve been a freelance choreographer for many years and I’ve been travelling around the world and have two children, so it has always been a juggling act to try and manage that,” she says. “When my children became teenagers and my husband got a more demanding job, I thought I should set something up myself and work from home more.”
“Also, it meant I could work with people that I connect with and respect as artists. When I work with established dance companies, I work with dancers that are part of that specific company. Now I have more freedom to work with dancers of my choice and am more in charge of developing everything. That was something I was keen on, to construct, nourish and work from within, to build something that would last.”
Despite the company’s success, it can be a challenge for a small company as they rely on a range of support. “It’s a lot of work to keep pushing and securing the funds from people. The only way you’re going to make a small company like this work is by getting support, touching on all your networks and trying to get those doors to open,” she says.
Excited about being able to use her new company to explore new ideas, Didy likes to try things out that she couldn’t necessarily do with other dance companies. These new opportunities, and having the creative freedom to express her imagination, are something she really relishes about running her own company.
Didy draws on the real meaning of a wedding and how it feels in The Knot, she looks at how the role of ritual, doubt, religion and gender is examined and how the romanticised ideas of Walt Disney challenge our perceptions of marriage.
“The piece is still a challenge as it’s still growing and developing,” Didy explains. “The main challenge is getting it on the road because I’m not used to being able to travel from each venue and be with the company. I constantly see things I’d like to change or improve, so the piece is always alive and it’s always evolving.”
“I hope the audience will enjoy themselves, watching the fabulous company of dancers perform,” Didy says. “I really want them to leave reflecting on what marriage means to them, what ritual might mean to them and where they think ritual has gone in this day and age.”
The Knot is currently touring across the UK, tickets and information can be found online here.