Joshua Beamish on Premier of Edgar Allan Poe Work at the Joyce

Above photo courtesy of MOVETHECOMPANY. MOVETHECOMPANY, led by Joshua Beamish, will perform at the Joyce Theater Thursday and Friday. The company will premier his full-length work The Masque of the Red Death, inspired by the Edgar Allan Poe short story. “The work explores the different color palettes, moods, and social context presented in Poe’s gothic tale, and features recorded narration by soprano Jessye Norman, winner of the 2006 Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award,” according to the company.

A week before the world premiere of his new work, Jocelyn Delifer chatted with Joshua Beamish and tried to look deeper into the source of his inspiration.

An early start
It didn’t take long for Josh to grasp his career aspirations. At age 17, the young Vancouver native started choreographing; the rapid success of Josh’s work led him to create his own company, MOVETHECOMPANY, in 2005. Since then, MOVETHECOMPANY has performed throughout the world. Aware of this impressive track record, Josh shares the challenges that any director has to face; funding is probably the most tangible one.

“While Canada offers government support, the U.S. values talent”
As a non-profit organization registered both in Canada and the US, the company benefits from two divergent funding systems. Josh acknowledges that Canada’s government provides a solid support to art organizations, as long as they are able to go through a lengthy administrative process. However as his ambition exceeded the financial support that he was receiving, Josh believed the U.S. would offer more opportunities. “In New York City, the public values you much more as an artist: Canadian artists are valued by the Canadian system, but New York audiences value dance and choreographers more,” Josh notes. He added that his unique work encompasses ballet and modern dance alike.

“My vocabulary is the same no matter the gender”
With the exception of pointe work, Josh realized that creating roles not specifically attributed to men or women result in a performance particularly exciting to watch. In Burrow, created for the Royal Ballet, a male duet breaks the traditional codes and showcases rarely seen interactions between two male dancers. This liberty opens doors to a broader range of stories and partnering styles.

“Ballet training helped me communicate with my dancers”
Unlike most choreographers, Josh didn’t have a traditional dance career. When Wendy Whelan, Principal Dancer with New York City Ballet, asked him to perform with her, Josh turned to Willy Burmann to receive intensive ballet training. “This totally changed my perception of ballet technique” Josh explains; “for example, through classical ballet training I understood the efficiency of weight transfer applicable to dance movements from all genres.” While his choreographic vision remained the same, substantial ballet training allowed him to communicate more fluently with the dancers.

“I received three signs; The Masque of the Red Death had to be my next ballet”
Josh first ignored the suggestion from a New York City dance producer to adapt Edgar Allan Poe’s novel to ballet. Later on, while on tour with Wendy Whelan, someone conveyed the same idea. But it’s only after randomly uncovering a copy of The Masque of the Red Death belonging to his flatmate that Josh decided to read it. “I found the theme to be topical as it addresses issues such as a broken healthcare system and social inequality.”

Finally, The Masque of the Red Death has every ingredient to spark interest:
The music: Josh challenged himself by dismissing classical music in this work; instead, atmospheric electronic music by Sakamoto will accompany the dancers.
The costumes: Josh described them as “angular, colorful, and a bit exaggerated”.
The story: This novel by Edgar Allan Poe is profoundly dark and intriguing.

Stay tuned for a review of the performance this weekend.