Q&A: Remi Wörtmeyer

Wed 19, 2023
  • Q&A,
  • Ballet
Written by Cassandra Houghton
Q&A: Remi Wörtmeyer

Q&A: Remi Wörtmeyer, choreographer of Miroirs

A multidisciplinary artist with a vibrant international presence across ballet, fashion, and film, Adelaide-born Remi Wörtmeyer has a drive for creativity and a distinctive voice to match. He first danced with The Australian Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre before joining the Dutch National Ballet as a Principal Dancer as well as a choreographer and designer, retiring from the stage in 2022 to focus on choreography and (multiple) other artistic pursuits including jewellery and couture fashion. Currently in Brisbane to choreograph a premiere work for Bespoke, we sat down with Remi to find out more about Miroirs.

Tell us about Miroirs and the inspiration behind it.

Miroirs is a non-narrative piece, and the inspiration behind it is about perspectives on relationships. It’s about reflecting people’s honest relationships with other people and how they navigate these throughout their lives. With this ballet, I want the audience to interpret it in their own way, to come in and feel it for themselves. I think, like any good piece of art, hopefully if we get it right, it should be open to interpretation in different ways. No-one’s going to react in the same way. So I hope that the audience finds their own kind of interpretation, their own inspiration, and their own pleasure in watching the piece. Or maybe not pleasure – not liking it is also a valid reaction! I hope everyone comes and has their own natural reaction to this piece.

How did the collaboration between yourself and Queensland Ballet come about?

Li contacted me pre-COVID, and we were actually already in the process back then of me preparing to come over and create this piece. And then, of course we all know what happened. So, to get here now and to be creating this work is so exciting.

Can you describe your choreographic process and what you enjoy about it?

I like to come semi-prepared. I like to have sequences or at least the structure of the piece and an understanding of the music and the motivation behind it. In the first couple of days after arriving, I feed out a lot of information and a lot of choreography and then, as I get to know the dancers more, I actually like to drop that away and really just work to pull out their natural abilities, their strengths and the things they inspire me to create.

You are also designing the sets and costumes. What can audiences expect from these?

The name Miroirs is French for ‘mirrors’ and I wanted to have some sense of reflection in the costumes. So we have silver elements on their costumes. Within the set, there’s a sequence of moving chains that drape across the stage and can be moved in flowing movement. Australia really inspires me – we have this amazing land that has so many resources and minerals, so I thought, let’s embrace that kind of metallic. It’s about these relationships that chain us together, and these experience that shape who we are, but also tie us to where we are, who we are, where we’re going, and who we’re going with.

You’re here at Queensland Ballet for about a month. How are rehearsals going so far?

Fantastic! The dancers are incredible. Not only are they exceptionally talented, they’re exceptionally hard working, which is a bonus. And creative in their own right. They really do inspire me because they just offer so much when I’m creating. They give suggestions, but they also take suggestions and elevate them. So, it’s a pleasure.

How important is it that we stage new productions, not just for the choreographer, but for the company and the audiences as well?

I think, in Australia in particular, it’s very important to be constantly creating and evolving the artform of ballet because we can’t just be a museum country of other older works. I think it’s really exciting to bring our own voice and to create and develop and have a seat at the table internationally.

Tell us about the music by French composer, Maurice Ravel.

Daniel Le (Queensland Ballet pianist) will be playing live – I think it’s fantastic to have this beautiful piece of music by Ravel played live. It will be really special. The piece of music is called Miroirs, by Maurice Ravel. He created it because he was a member, in the early 20th century, of a group of artists called Les Apaches, – they were a kind of rebellion. They were called hooligan artists because they didn’t fit in anywhere else. They were an artistic movement, and each movement was written for one of these artists in this group.

Some audiences may be surprised to learn you’re a multidisciplinary artist – can you tell us a little about the other projects you’re working on this year?

I straddle a few different things. I choreograph for musicals and opera and fashion. I do a lot of fashion shows in Paris – the Paris Couture Week, and I also design and make bespoke jewellery for different couture houses. I’m also coming out with a sculpted handbag line – a very select number of bags, all one of a kind. And we’re setting up a shop in Amsterdam in August for that opening, which will be cool.

What happens on opening night?

Opening night is one of those moments where I’ve had to get used to a different aspect of it because, as a dancer going on stage, you have nerves because the pressure is on. You’re ultimately in charge of the show going well. Whereas as a choreographer, you have no control anymore. So you have to learn to let go. It’s definitely something that, in the moment, you have to tell yourself ‘ok, I’ve done what I can’. The dancers have all the information now and I’ve got to let them take it. It’s their piece now. So you sit in the audience and try not to be nervous, but you always are because you care so much. You care so much for them because you know that they want to do well. But it’s always nice to see them take charge of it and to own it.

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