Arts

Interview: Lewis Major – Choreographing his way back to Adelaide

Adelaide’s own Lewis Major is bringing the stunning Little Murmur to The Space Theatre this August

Britain’s Aakash Odedra Company will return to Adelaide in August with dance-theatre performance Little Murmur, choreographed by award-winning dancer and choreographer Aakash Odedra and South Australia’s Lewis Major.

Lewis Major is an award-winning regional South Australian choreographer, director and creative entrepreneur with a background in sheep shearing and foreground in contemporary dance theatre. As a dancer and performer, Lewis honed his career in Europe over a decade spent working with seminal contemporary dance makers Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Russell Maliphant, Hans van den Broeck (Cie Soit/Les Ballets C de la B), Damien Jalet and Hofesh Shechter amongst others. He was also a founding member of Aakash Odedra Company.

Glam Adelaide spoke to Lewis about the show, his collaboration with Aakash Odedra and what led him to forge such a successful career as a highly in-demand choreographer. 

“I’d always wanted to be a maker, much more than I wanted to be a performer, as soon as I discovered dance in my final year of high school here in Adelaide. Starting dance so late in life meant performing would always be more difficult, and injury and an undiagnosed congenital back condition soon ended my fledgling career as a dancer anyway. I’ve always loved telling stories or exploring ideas through the human body, and I love the things that dance can say in a way that words and text can’t. I’m glad that people have found what I make resonant. However, since moving back to South Australia, it doesn’t often feel like I’m very successful or in demand – it’s very hard for an independent artist in South Australia!”

Lewis shared with us how this collaboration with Aakash Odedra came about.

“Nearly ten years ago, Aakash and I travelled the world together touring a previous company work, and in the constant waiting in airports and on planes, we often discussed what the next show would look like. Aakash has a very interesting way of looking at the world because of his dyslexia, and he always talked to me about how he would see words and text as flying around him rather than in simple 2 dimensions. This was a starting point for a work based on these experiences of someone who looks at the world differently, who doesn’t fit in, and we began to explore ways that we could use this very new technology at the time – 3D Mapping and Stereoscopic projection – to create this world that he inhabited in a stage environment. We approached Ars Electronica Futurelab in Austria, they loved the idea, and so we spent two years making the work ‘Murmur’ which toured internationally for many years. During COVID, we discussed turning the show into a kid’s work, with so many of the themes and ideas explored in the show relevant to young people. Spark Arts came on board, and slowly but surely, Little Murmur emerged through lockdowns.”

This is not the first time that Aakash Odedra and Lewis have worked together.

“After graduating from ballet school in New Zealand, I ran away to Europe and ended up living in a dancers’ squat in Amsterdam for a few months. I met Aakash through a mutual friend one night while he was in town, and he stayed with us for a week. One morning, he was – unbeknownst to me – watching me warming up and rehearsing (the squat had a fully-fledged dance studio!) and shyly asked if I could teach him some contemporary floorwork. We spent some hours exchanging our dance history and experiences together, myself in ballet and contemporary dance, Aakash in Kathak and Bharatanatyam, and we immediately connected with each other. He mentioned he was looking to start a company in the UK and asked if I would like to come over and teach there. I moved over, ended up staying in the UK, and was there the day the company was officially formed; I was one of the three founding members alongside Aakash and Anand Bhatt. I stayed for four years in the company. With only three of us, no money but plenty of drive and a huge passion for what we were trying to do, I worked in everything: performing, choreographing, rehearsal directing, tech managing, designing the posters, editing the music and tour managing. I’ve done bits and bobs with them ever since and it feels like coming home whenever we work together.”

Based on the true story of one child’s struggle with letters and words, Little Murmur is about facing challenges and overcoming the odds. Featuring groundbreaking projections, an extraordinary soundscape and a blizzard of paper and confetti, Little Murmur is a stunning visual treat about living with dyslexia, and it explores the warped realities of living in a world you struggle to process.

“At the end of the day, the work is about the trials and tribulations and eventual triumph of growing up and finding out who you are as a young person. That is an incredibly powerful and timeless message for young and old audiences alike. I’m so humbled and grateful when people come out of the show and say, ‘I really saw myself onstage’.”

Little Murmur will run for a very limited season in the Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre from August 21.

“I’m thrilled for my hometown audiences to finally witness this unique fusion of dance, sound, and visual storytelling. It’s an entertaining show that educates and creates a deep connection with audiences. Young people, perhaps struggling with learning, neurodivergence, or their own identity, come away sincerely moved by the work and the story of someone overcoming challenges. I’m eager to see how South Australian audiences, particularly children, react to and are inspired by Little Murmur.”

Little Murmur
Space Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
August 21 – 24, 2024
https://www.adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au/whats-on/little-murmur

Photo credit: Lewis Major and Angela Grabowska

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