Interview: choreographer Damien Jalet on Japan-inspired piece Yama

Interview: choreographer Damien Jalet on Japan-inspired piece Yama

The piece will feature alongside Jorge Crecis's Kingdom in a Scottish Dance Theatre double bill

Over a year since she came into post, Scottish Dance Theatre’s artistic director Fleur Darkin is nailing her colours firmly to the mast with her first commissions. Darkin’s choice of two European choreographers, both known for their exciting approach to staging, should lead to some dynamic action on the company’s spring tour.

So complex is the set design, a 45-minute interval is needed between pieces. Equally fascinating is the inspiration behind each work. Spanish choreographer Jorge Crecis has brought his experience of the Occupy Madrid movement to the creation of Kingdom, while French / Belgian choreographer Damien Jalet’s piece Yama is rooted in Japan.

Yama means mountain in Japanese and it’s also the god of death in Tibetan Buddhism,’ explains Jalet. ‘I decided to call the piece that after a trip I took to the mountains of Tōhoku, the region of Japan deeply affected by the 2011 tsunami and Fukushima disaster.’

During his travels, Jalet encountered hermits known as yamabushis, who worship mountains and see them as a place of magical empowerment. It was this sharp contrast between those respecting the environment, and those contaminating it, that inspired the work.

But it wasn’t just Jalet that helped shape Yama. ‘The dancers participated strongly in the creative process,’ he says. ‘I don't like them to just show movements, I want to see how they invest in a task, how they feel. I need them to put a bit of themselves into the piece, otherwise I'm bored.’

Dundee Rep, Thu 20–Sat 22 Feb; Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Fri 28 Feb & Sat 1 Mar.


Two compelling world premieres from international choreographers performed by Scottish Dance Theatre's exceptional dancers. Expect passion, energy and boundary-pushing dance.

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