The new work springs from a high-octane mix of two elements: Weather One, a restless, relentless score by Michael Gordon; and the theories of the French philosopher Georges Bataille, particularly as outlined in his essay The Accursed Share, written in the aftermath of World War II. In a complex examination of global economics and culture, Bataille argues that the excess energy in human systems “must be spent, willingly or not, gloriously or catastrophically.” This dissipation of energy, he argues, is a necessary and inevitable release, like a pressure valve. It can occur through such means as the building of monuments and spectacles, the creation of art, sex for the sake of sex – or, more ominously, through war and human sacrifice.
For Harbour, who often spends two hours of studio time to bank ten seconds of movement, the idea had resonance. “I’m preoccupied with energy. I see choreography as the organisation of energy.” He began to see echoes of the theory all around him: in the countless failures that precede an entrepreneur’s breakthrough; in the sun, which “gives without return”; in the elaborate behaviours and plumage of courting birds, which marvellously exceed the minimum necessary to secure a mate. And, of course, in dance, which like all evanescent art forms takes the labour of creation and spends it in one transcendent, profligate burst before vanishing forever. “I’m trying in this piece to make all these glorious moments of form that are then thrown away, wrapped into something else. And at the end, it’s all gone. Bang. Curtain calls.”
There was something about Bataille’s theories that chimed with Weather One. Harbour spent hours reading and listening. “They’re both rebellious, audacious. Weather One is just so much fun. When I first heard it, I thought of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons. But it’s like The Four Seasons played by Conan the Barbarian. It starts at a crescendo and sustains that for 20 minutes, without getting boring or tiring or obvious.”