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Clyde Emmanuel Archer is dancing between worlds

The L-E-V Dance Company artist on redefining race in dance, and the ‘gaga technique’

Sophie Garrett, Justin Tam

Clyde Emmanuel Archer has always danced between worlds—in 2015, he was the face of a poster for the Swedish Royal Opera’s production of Swan Lake which struck controversy and accusations of racism against the company. For Archer, this has followed him through his career, maneuvering through the elite classical ballet world of Juilliard, the Alvin Ailey school, which itself fought for African-American participation in modern dance, and his work with Nacho Duato in Spain.

It was as a teenager that he saw the black dancers of his time leave for Europe to dance with companies like William Forsythe and the Nederlands Dans Theater. In L-E-V Dance Company’s Love Cycle, beginning on January 31, Archer makes a statement of his own in a work about the obsessive, addictive and overwhelming power of love.

Life between Barbados and New York City

I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Barbados, and then I returned to NYC. Shortly after I started ballet classes with Eliot Feld’s New Ballet School, now known as Ballet Tech. It’s a program that gives students from the five boroughs of NYC opportunities to learn ballet tuition-free. I started when I was about eight and I began professionally at twenty-one years old with a company in Spain. I am thirty-eight now’s been a while.

On the physical art of movement, and the ‘gaga technique’

The gaga technique is a method created by Ohad Naharin. It’s a movement research and language created by him, and his dancers must’ve been a big influence as to how he develops it. Sharon [Eyal] worked in this method while she was a dancer and continues to work in that way as she choreographs. Meeting Sharon has inspired me to start a journey of wanting to redevelop the way I work and perform; she has a very unique way of approaching movement.

Discovering his own body and physicality through gaga

I am in the beginning of discovery. Gaga is making me question past experience as a dancer and performer. I have noticed my approach might be too academic and not individual enough. Learning new things are always a challenge. It is also a very vulnerable process, doing it at the same time I am performing, but you only learn on stage. The other performers who are more experienced with gaga and L-E-V have been very generous sharing choreographic information and research that will help my interpretation along the way.

Meeting Sharon has inspired me to start a journey of wanting to redevelop the way I work and perform.

Representation of black artists and people of colour in dance

We are talking about it. Articles are being written. Discussion and educational outreach are happening to address the lack of diversity and the need for representation. It is an ongoing process but it is slowly moving forward. Female dancers of colour still have less opportunity, especially in classical dance, but some companies are pushing some brilliant female dancers of colour. The conversation for representation as choreographers and directors is also important to address.

I am not sure if I have done anything specific to move along the processes. Simply existing might allow others to realize they don’t have to be subjected to opinion of where you belong. A person should be able to define and redefine who they want to become.

Keeping your body moving

As a freelance dancer training can sometimes be inconsistent. The regularity of routine and quality are often hard to maintain. My routine consists of ballet class, going to the gym, or yoga.

A person should be able to define and redefine who they want to become.

Meeting Sharon, L-E-V, and the music of Ori Lichtik

I started with L-E-V this past Fall. Sharon and Gai [Behar] invited me to join the Dior fashion show in September of 2018 when they collaborated with Maria Grazia Chiuri. It was an amazing experience. This tour beings my first performances with L-E-V. I worked twice with Sharon while I performed with the Royal Swedish Ballet in Stockholm. The last work was a creation called Half Life; Ori [Lichtik] was present during the creation period with Sharon. He is very involved in the process and it seems to be super important. The dance and the music went together from the first day. They compliment, strengthen, challenge and inspire each other. Sharon, Gai and Ori seem to have a real understanding of what they are exploring during their process of creation. Performing to Ori’s music is infectious.

Experiencing theatres as a performer

I’ve performed in Sydney but this will be the first time at the Opera House. I look forward to feeling the atmosphere of the stage and the public during the performances. I have never identified specific theaters or places as favorite places to perform or work before. I appreciate experiences where the staff and public are enthusiastic to experience dance performances and the performer.

Love Cycle debuts at the Opera House from 31 January in two parts: OCD Love and Love Chapter 2.

Find more about Dance at the Opera House