Scottish-born interdisciplinary artist, Magnus Westwell, is a Young Associate Artist with Sadler’s Wells. He has choreographed and produced work which have been shown at venues across Europe - his most recent commissions have been shown at ADE (Amsterdam Dance Event), Sadler’s Wells, The Silver Building, King's College Chapel and on BBC 4.
Q: You're a dancer, choreographer, musician and interdisciplinary artist, how do all these disciplines come together for you in the creative process - does one discipline get more attention than the rest?
I think this depends on what I am making. For most of my own ‘choreographic’ work, I usually start by composing, producing and/or mixing the music. Then in the studio I will choreograph and direct the dancers, taking inspiration from the music and various images. In the performance space, I will design the lighting, and I will usually film the work live, edit the footage, and then publish it on a social platform. This will usually lead into my next work. It feels like a circular process. I don’t really ever see myself limiting my work to these disciplines or just focusing on one area. I feel most stimulated when I’m learning new things, and I get bored quite easily, so I am constantly looking for different ways to let one practice inspire the other.
Q: In the last year there's been a big shift in dance and performance art merging into the same spaces such as gallery spaces and nightlife. Why do you think this is happening?
I think a lot of contemporary dance is more suited to spaces with less restrictions, and where the audience can respond more physically to the music and movement. People want to feel stimulated when they go out, and club spaces and less conventional spaces allow more room for your mind to wander. Personally, I have never really enjoyed the restriction and formality of sitting in theatres to watch dance.
Q: In past collaboration with illyr you’ve often played the violin alongside him, what importance does incorporating classical sounds with contemporary sound do for you and for dance?
I was trained in classical music, so this has influenced my own sound quite a bit. I work a lot with choral harmonies, organs and strings, and I think that they can create really interesting and intense textures in contemporary music. I think these sounds act as a point of reference, an ode to the past.
Q: A lot of your work references youth and club cultures, what draws you to subculture as a conceptual aesthetic for your work?
As I was developing and exploring my voice as an artist, I was similataniousy being introduced to London’s underground cultures. I think my work is a reflection of my experience of this, amongst many other things, but I wouldn’t say it’s been a conscious decision. I enjoy trying to transform theatre spaces - creating worlds with no restrictions - I want my work to be provocative. I think club spaces can really open up our imagination, and I think this has definitely had a creative impact on my work.
Q: Does being raised in Scotland have an impact on your work in London today?
A lot of my work references my childhood, and my memories of being brought up in different parts of rural Scotland. I was involved in the Scottish traditional music scene when I was younger, and this has definitely influenced my sound quite a bit.
Q: Looking forward, how do you see the medium of dance changing?
I hope to continue to see dance moving into less conventional spaces. I also hope dance can become less gendered, both in the studio and on stage. I think the current rules surrounding COVID-19 and large crowds in theatres could push dance into much smaller spaces, and this could be really interesting.
Q: You’ve recently become a young associate at Sadler’s Wells Theatre, What's next for you after the coronavirus is over?
I will be creating a new piece for Sadler’s Wells in November. Leading up to that, I will be starting to work on the music project which will hopefully be the soundtrack for the new work. I had some really exciting performances planned over the next couple of months - hopefully they will be rearranged/postponed to a time when things start to look more normal. I’m also currently working on an EP to be released this Summer.
Published: 28/03/20 by Queerdirect
photo by Matt Lambert
Edits by Tamar Clarke-Brown