Interview: Corinne Bailey Rae & Sharon Watson on 'Seeds, Dreams & Constellations'


Thursday 18th May 2023, 1:44pm Interview: Corinne Bailey Rae & Sharon Watson on ‘Seeds, Dreams & Constellations’


Created for LEEDS 2023 Year of Culture, this new work co-created by critically acclaimed Singer-Songwriter, Corinne Bailey Rae and Choreographer Sharon Watson MBE premieres at Riley Theatre in Leeds on 25 May.

Seeds, Dreams and Constellations celebrates the infinite potential of the human spirit and weaves together tales of migration, new beginnings and endless possibilities.

Merging music and movement, this new production brings together an extraordinary creative team of musicians, choreographers and dancers, some of whom are working together for the first time.

A cast of over 30 international dancers drawn from Leeds-based companies: Mobius Dance, Watson Dance Project and VERVE will perform choreography by Sharon Watson. Joining them on stage will be Corinne Bailey Rae, a live band, and an ensemble of singers from Leeds Conservatoire.

We hear from Corinne and Sharon about how the ideas and stories encapsulated in Seeds, Dreams and Constellations have blossomed over time and how the piece combines an element of spontaneity with choreographed movement.

Tickets for Seeds, Dreams and Constellations 25 – 27 May are available to book.

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Please could you tell us a bit more about you and what inspires you as an artist?

Corinne Bailey Rae: I’m a musician. I write and record, produce and tour to perform my music. I love music. I’ve loved music since I was a child. I find it to be the most natural way for me to express myself in a way that doesn’t have any barriers and boundaries.

Sharon Watson: I am the CEO and principal at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. However, I am also a choreographer, mentor and lecturer. In the context of Seeds, Dreams of Constellations, I’m a choreographer. Having the freedom to explore themes through dance and performance is often what inspires me to create new choreography.

Can you tell us more about the ideas and inspirations behind Seeds, Dreams and Constellations?

S: The production captures the real spirit of understanding, newness, beginnings, and the aspiration to dream and be free of boundaries and restriction through dance. We live in a society where a lot of oppression comes into play, and this production is an opportunity to allow those boundaries to disappear, absorbing ourselves in future thinking. And who better to do it with than Corinne Bailey Rae? In a nutshell, this work is about growth and real aspiration – Corinne and I both grew up in Leeds, and Leeds is a real place of inspiration, a place that gave us both a platform, helped us form connections, and achieve our dreams. Now, we’re able to come together and give back – really this is the moment to say: ‘you can dream too and we can dream collectively’.

You mentioned dreams as one of the themes just now. We’re curious, how did you decide on a title for the work?

C: The seeds are metaphorical because they represent how the tiniest thing – an idea, a concept, a person – can grow into something huge. I really like that. The constellations are symbolic of the link between the sort of microcosmic and the macro, being in awe of the stars and being made to feel small in relation to everything else around us. The constellations show us how our moment is very small and yet of deep significance to ourselves. Dreams are in one sense symbolic of growth, potential and achieving our aspiration, but in the other sense, they bring into question the blurred line between reality and dreams – how much do we have a say in what happens in our dreams? Are our dreams foretold? How much of what happens in dreams has already happened?

We’ve spoken about what inspired the themes, but can you tell us a bit more about what inspired you both to work together?

C: I came to a few pieces created by Sharon when she was working with Phoenix Dance Theatre and I also saw some performances here at Northern School of Contemporary Dance; I really had my mind opened to contemporary dance and its possibilities. I was also inspired by Sharon as a choreographer, seeing the way that she threaded her own inspiration into the dance, and the way that she informed movement through her various pieces of research. I remember thinking it was almost like watching a sculptor – what starts off as a sort of solid mass moves, takes shape, and unfolds before your eyes. I like to approach making music in the same way by going into the studio with little to no expectations of what the music is going to sound like, then enjoying the process of it taking shape.

S: Corinne and I have been on a bit of a journey for a while, and we’ve been trying to find a way of coming together. Our stars have finally aligned which has given us the opportunity to work together for this production that has taken us into a whole new sphere of creativity. In a way that really complements the dancers, Corinne is a poet and a real master of words, sounds, textures and colour. There’s a real synergy between music and dance and it’s when they start to effortlessly interweave that you know that something special is happening.

So what are some ways in which you’ve seen this synergy happening throughout the creative process and what has it been like to work with the dancers?

C: The dancers are qualifying this year and it’s exciting for me to think about what paths their careers are going to take. This feels like a really special moment in these young people’s lives and it’s really heartening to be around a group of people who are passionate about what they do. I went to ballet classes as a child, but my sister did contemporary. She was always more at home with the freer kind of movement, so working alongside the dancers here reminds me of a time when I couldn’t necessarily find that freedom. It’s refreshing to be here having another go at that. I’m really grateful that the dancers are bringing that energy into what we’re making here. It has been great to experiment across music and dance and see what chimes.

S: Every dancer has a unique energy that they bring to the stage and they each bring about something special. The creative process has involved layering their movement with sound, choreography, and visuals. Thanks to the high level of support and tutoring that we offer here, we have seen exceptional development taking place whilst creating this new work, who knows what opportunities will arise because of this experience.

We can’t wait to see it! What can the audience expect to see from the finished work and what do you hope people take away from this performance?

C: I think the finished work is going to surprise us as well as other people in the audience. I’ve been working with my band, and we have been responding to the dancers by creating music in the moment. In the same way, the dancers themselves and their feelings respond to the music in the moment. This means that Seeds, Dreams and Constellations is collaborative, generative, and interactive in the sense that improvisation sometimes takes place on both sides. The performance merges polished and clean choreography with movement and dance that is wilder and more spontaneous, so I’m excited to see what the audience thinks of this.

S: I really hope that the audience is inspired physically, emotionally, and contextually through language, sound and music. I hope that the work inspires others to continue to look at how we work with music and dance. The dancers here at NSCD come to us with passion, ambition and big dreams, and collaborations and connections with other artists such as Corinne Bailey Rae allow those dreams to begin to materialise. Even if the audience takes away just one thing from this performance, I hope they take away the ability to dream.

Tickets for Seeds, Dreams and Constellations premiering 25 – 27th May are available to book here.

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Watch the video interview with Corinne Bailey and Sharon Watson