The Two Fridas – united yet apart

Balbir Singh’s narrative unfolds

The Two Fridas is complex to develop. You could make a piece about either artist as there is so much rich source material, as well as their lively personalities. Yet here we are, making a work about both of them!

They lived at the same time, had so much in common, yet never met. So this work is a way of getting them to meet – even if it's just in our imaginations.

I am also aware that the piece must be made to work outdoors and also in a socially-distanced way – both for the performers and the audience. The choreography and staging have to work artistically and practically at the same time. This is something my company has experienced many times – though not in these circumstances of course. We are used to working in unusual spaces, often taking our work out of the theatre and into the community.

In some ways our socially-distanced Fridas will be an extension of that flexibility.

Some members of the audience may not have heard of the artists, which means we have to take them on a journey into the world of painting and ensure the work is accessible. This includes reassuring them that there is no right or wrong way to read art.

They say that watching paint dry can be a boring thing, and that is something we have all experienced during lockdown. But what I want to do is imagine watching a painting by either artist dry to see how the magic of the work comes to life.

My hope is that the audience will leave inspired and want to find out more about both painters.

Balbir Singh

Balbir Singh, photo Malcolm Johnson

“You could make a piece about either artist as there is so much rich source material, as well as their lively personalities. Yet here we are, making a work about both of them! They lived at the same time, had so much in common, yet never met. So this work is a way of getting them to meet – even if it's just in our imaginations.”
Balbir Singh

Devising under lockdown – find out how it worked

”We are exploring how to have a sense of the presence of the artists’ work. The cubes are a clever and interactive way to make the paintings part of the performance rather than just having images of the paintings”
Balbir Singh

As the work evolves, Balbir is experimenting with the use of larges cubes covered in fragments of the artists' work, including their famous self-portraits. Balbir explains how this device is being used:

”I am conscious that the strength of the work is the artists’ paintings and without trying to create a bulky set, we are exploring how to have a sense of the presence of the artists’ work. The cubes are a clever and interactive way to make the paintings part of the performance rather than just having images of the paintings. Of course there is a large body of paintings to draw upon, so the task is to identify the ones that resonate well with the myriad themes in the work.”

“Balbir knows exactly what he wants from all of us dancers, and he gives us space to use our imagination to the fullest. He is able to set up a creative environment for the ideas to flourish. He never disturbs the creative flow of the dancers but instead elevates the idea through encouragement whilst holding the bigger vision.”

Abirami Eswar, dancer

Photo Doug Moody

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