Choreographer Narelle and musican Huey Benjamin are partners in life and dance – and their daughter, Marlo, is also a dancer.
NARELLE and Huey Benjamin are almost childhood sweethearts – they met when Narelle was about 19 and still a dance student and Huey was 22 and a session drummer. They married seven years later. Their first collaboration was on a film, Arachne, which was Narelle’s first project as a choreographer rather than a dancer, with dancers Brett Daffy and the late Russell Page. Since then all of Narelle’s choreographic projects have used Huey’s compositions. They have a daughter, Marlo, who is a professional dancer, and a son, Eddie, who is a musician.
Describe your process together.
With Arachne, Huey composed the music and sound to the visuals after the shoot was finished. That’s the process we usually follow when working for the stage as well. He works with the video footage from the rehearsals, from the research and development period.
I’ve only ever once choreographed to an existing piece of music, and that was for the Australian Ballet’s The Dark Room, to music by a band called The Necks. It was a really different way to work – the music directed the piece and the ideas fitted into the structure of the music. It is a very effective way of working when you have the time restraints of working with a company.
I usually begin the development period with temporary music. I source the music from anywhere, so long as it fits what I want to work on. Sometimes it’s really hard to let go of the temporary music – I’m sure this is a frustration for many composers, competing with music that artists have become attached to.
Why not stick with the temporary music?
Because I want something original. I’m always much happier with the end result – Huey really brings the work together as a whole and his music is tailored to the whole piece, not just sections. He helps layer the work with an understanding of its beginnings – we’ve talked about it, he knows the aesthetic and ideas behind it.
Do you talk through the early ideas at home?
Probably not so much in the early stages. I do my own research and go into the studio by myself. Then I research with dancers, developing, extrapolating, going off on different tangents. Huey comes into the process later once the work already has a linear journey to it . . .
This is an excerpt "Being the Benjamins", published as part of our "Great Collaborations" series, in the February/March issue of Dance Australia. To read the rest of the article, buy Dance Australia from your favourite retailer, purchase an online copy via the Dance Australia app or subscribe here.
Pictured top: A still from a film installation by Cordelia Beresford (to be shown at Mosman Art Gallery in Sydney), featuring Marlo and Narelle Benjamin.