Encouraged by his family to become a doctor, Ben Curé met them half way and pursued a career in Physiotherapy, but his heart wanted something else. Following his first Rock Eisteddfod, he was offered a scholarship at a full time dance school and took a gap year that turned into the rest of his life. Today Ben is a choreographer, teacher, and founder of Lion Heart Dance Company.
Tania: There’s a bit of risk involved in trading in a career in medicine or physiotherapy to be a creative. Do you consider yourself a risk taker?
I don’t think of it that way. It’s an interesting question, because theatre is a risk, putting on shows is a risk, but it doesn’t feel like it to me because I am doing it and I love it, so what else would I be doing.
Tania: There’s a lot of sacrifice involved.
Ben: Heck yeah! There’s loads of sacrifice. I’ve often thought what if my body stops working and I can’t keep dancing? I wouldn’t be against going back and doing physiotherapy and I’m sure I would have been fine if I went down that path, but I’m really glad I do what I do. It’s kind of a risk but if you work hard at something and you really want it to happen, you will find a way.
Tania: How did other people react when you decided this was the path for you?
Ben: It was an interesting journey. I am very close to my parents and in their eyes dance was a phase or a fantasy. It wasn’t until they saw the first show that I produced, that they went, ‘oh you’re actually good at this’. They saw instead of giving up, I was carving out massive chunks of time to do things and starting to get work and opportunities. Seeing the quality of my work and my commitment to it helped them understand that it was the future I’d chosen for myself and now they are my biggest supporters. They do so much for me and my work and I'm incredibly grateful.
Tania: You teach choreograph & perform, tell me about some of your favourite moments
Ben: Starting out and doing everything through profit share so you can’t be like ‘here’s a $5000 job’ and get people. When you say we’ll potentially make no money but we’ll work hard and create something we love, you get a different kind of person. Someone who is passionate about what they do, has integrity and a heart and joy and a willingness to share. I’ve forged some of the best friendships that I have through that process and had the privilege of working with some of the most ridiculous talent.
Tania: Talking about starting out, how did Lion Heart Dance Company come to be?
Ben: It was a dream of mine for about five years. Dance is the medium I work in and I love being able to use that to tell stories and help people to connect with different things and seeing how it can move people, help them wrestle with new ideas and engage with concepts that are difficult to deal with or talk about.
Tania: And Table of Eight?
Ben: That show! Table of Eight was a very personal show for not just myself but the cast. The narrative follows eight close friends and their relationships. Half way through, one dies and we see them trying to deal with the effect death has on how they perceive the issues in their lives and the struggles they have. You watch a couple who’s relationship has completely broken down rebuild it as they remember what they felt for each other when they first fell in love, and realise what it would mean to lose that person. It was intended to be quite redemptive and provide space for people to wrestle with this concept of death, which is a part of life, but we rest in the hope that life goes on and that anything can be rebuilt.
Tania: When you’re creating a piece like that, does the music come first or the story?
Ben: For me it’s the music. As I’m listening I’m picturing what’s happening. What’s the story? What’s the music telling me? I find different stories and characters and start weaving them together. I look at the characters journey and the catalyst for change in their lives.
Tania: How do you approach the choreography?
Ben: A bit like how a director in theatre would block a piece. I look at what needs to be communicated in the scene, and choreographically what needs to happen at what point. I rarely choreograph set routines before working with the dancers, because I believe dancers can imitate, but they dance their best when they are dancing like themselves. I tend to choreograph on the people I’m working with because I want to see how they move and how they interpret the movement. I’ll get in the studio and create it with the dancers, that way I can tweak it and know it will sit right on them.
Tania: Tell me about some of the challenges you faced on the way
Ben: For a show like this it’s finding dancers who can carry the technical dynamics of the movement and perform the character truthfully. One of the things I struggled with was getting dancers to understand the emotional journey of a character and to be in it. There’s the need for the dancers to be actors and not just be emotionally available but to play their emotions like an instrument, and be able to control them. Not many dancers have those skills.
Tania: How do you deal with that?
Ben: My creative mentor Eugene Wong runs a theatre company, Candlelight Productions. I get him to come in and spend some time with the cast. He asks them questions and helps them explore the characters and the narrative.
Tania: And most valuable lesson you’ve learned so far?
Ben: Persistence and commitment. If you want something it doesn’t happen because you do it once.
Tania: What’s your inner critic like?
Ben: Probably the same as every other artist. I think with maturity and experience I’ve learned to not look at my art as if it’s myself. Early on I’d get upset when stuff I created didn’t get the response I wanted. Now I have a thicker skin and recognise what I create is not who I am, not everyone will like everything you do and that’s OK.
Tania: Who or what inspires you, how do you stay energised as an artist?
Ben: So You Think You Can Dance was my first introduction to dance and Centre Stage is a movie that has a real soft spot in my heart. All I wanted was to be a male ballet dancer after seeing that movie. Now, it’s people, when I see new dancers and how they move I’m inspired to look at how I can move differently and create different kinds of movement. I also genuinely love teaching and seeing people make massively different interpretations of what I’ve given them.
Tania: Is it important to you that your work inspires other people?
Ben: It’s really important that we inspire people, not just with shows, but my artists teach in schools. Inspiring the next generation is part of being in a position of leadership. You can’t tell artists what to do, you have to lead through inspiration and hope people get the vision, catch the fire and come along.
Tania: Tell me about your next show
Ben: The next show, ‘Fabricated’ is really exciting. It’s a lot bigger and I’m scared out of my wits. It’s also creatively different. I’m known for narrative driven, easy to understand storytelling. I want to challenge that, so this is a bit abstract. In my mind it’s constructed so that by the end you’ll understand everything, but it might challenge some people. It deals with the idea of one relationship through six dancers playing the same couple. The first piece is contemporary ballet, and a very fairy tale representation. The second is a very stylised, contemporary jazz piece dealing with the monotony of the relationship, and the last piece, very lyrical. Soft and emotive, it’s stripped right back and deals with the reality of what love is like. It’s the fantasy, the nightmare and the reality and you’re watching this couple transition through this journey. It’s not stated it’s the same couple but you can step back and see it’s one relationship.
Tania: Exciting stuff and when can we see it
Ben: The week of 17th-20th August.
Want to keep up to date with Lion Heart Dance Company? Move over to their Facebook page to find out more about Fabricated and stay up to date with company news, cast announcements and notifications for upcoming auditions.