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Daniel Davidson. Photograph by Miguel Altunaga

Rebel Rebel

Daniel Davidson on dance, queer culture & Bowie

Based in London’s South Bank, Rambert is one of the world’s most celebrated dance companies, creating extraordinary work which finds the sweet spot between iconoclastic and classic. Edinburgh dancer Daniel Davidson joined Rambert in 2013, having previously performed with Scottish Ballet. More recently, Davidson has emerged as a brilliant choreographer in his own right. On stage he is a mesmerising dancer, and with his elegant and statuesque presence, he has a rock star energy, seeming at times to emulate the glamour, rebellion and poise of a young David Bowie. I caught up with Davidson during a break from making creative tasks and classes with the company to enquire about his brilliant career, queer culture, and of course, Bowie.

What are your earliest influences, in terms of culture?

I’ve often been influenced by film and music. People have often asked about my style of movement and the influence, and I can remember certain movies and characters that sparked my interest in dance and the body. For instance, I was obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton when I was younger . . . I vividly remember watching Jack Skellington’s body language. Although it’s a stop-motion animation film, I remember being fascinated by the way he moved . . . His long, eerily slender body with jagged limbs and his ability to jump and squat and move with ease. I find him to be a great source of inspiration. In terms of music, I was and still am obsessed with Aaliyah (the R & B singer who died in a plane crash aged twenty two) I loved her honey like vocal qualities mixed with  harder hip-hop beats. That dichotomy really spoke to me. I find disunion a source of inspiration for creating work.

Daniel Davidson. Photograph by Miguel Altunaga

I can see the influence of David Bowie—particularly in your recent photo shoots. Are you a fan?

Absolutely! My dad was and is a huge fan, so I  was surrounded by his music and films growing up. I remember seeing the cover art of Diamond Dogs for the first time. The Bowie and dog hybrid is a wonderful balance of terror and beauty. I watched Labyrinth constantly too. Bowie’s fearlessness and ability to blur gender boundaries really spoke to me as a young boy.

You’ve worked with some incredible choreographers. Which ones have been most creatively satisfying for you?

I recently had the opportunity to work with Sharon Eyal and Gai Behar and some of the company L-E-V. they helped me to find a deeper understanding of my body, my emotions, my approach to my art. As an artist, her work really allows you to dig deep into your own state of being and explore your own body’s possibilities.

And the most challenging?

Again, I would have to say Sharon’s work. Challenging in a wonderful way . . . Her work is relentless and it really pushes your body and mind to their limits.

How have you found making the transition into creating your own choreography?

I’m in a fortunate position where I am still dancing with a company whilst beginning my transition into creating dance. It’s great because I’m still working with choreographers who are creating work for the company so these new experiences continue to inform my own voice and my own work.

You are interested in queer bodies being represented within dance. Do you think queer culture is represented enough at the moment?

I think it’s definitely making huge advances. There is still a way to go but I believe people have access to a lot more things that represent queer culture these days. I watched the film The Miseducation Of Cameron Post recently and thought it was beautifully told. It’s the story of a young woman who is confused about her sexuality and she’s sent to conversion therapy. Movies like this weren’t easily accessible when I was growing up, so it’s comforting to see that stories about sexual identity and queer voices are easier to access. We’re making advances slowly and surely.

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