Burrows and Fargion joint biography 2020
Choreographer Jonathan Burrows and composer Matteo Fargion have been collaborators for over thrity years, the past two decades of which they've spent slowly building a body of duets which straddle the line between dance, music, performance art and comedy. The work has drawn a loyal international following for its integrity, openness and independent stance, situating itself at the forefront of dance practice, but resisting the currency and hierarchies of the marketplace. Watching a Burrows and Fargion performance has been described as like being invited into their living room, and this conversation with audience is central to their performance practice, equal together under the same roof.
Both artists studied classical music composition with composer Kevin Volans, which knowledge and experience informs their frequent use of written score, as a way to work with duration and as a distancing mechanism from more conventional notions of performance. They describe all their work as music, and are often engaged in acts of translation where what was heard is now seen, or what was seen becomes spoken language. This synesthesia is a common experience of the spectator at a Burrows Fargion concert, in turns disconcerting and revealing.
Above all the individual pieces of Burrows and Fargion build rhythmic relationships of materials and ideas, creating a counterpoint of images which are amplified and altered by unexpected clashes and juxtapositions, so that what has been seen before is explained by what follows, and what follows is destabilised by the memory of what came before. However this play of structure is continuously undermined by an approach to performance which breaks open the formality and gives permission for virtuosic play.
The performance practice of the two artists extends also to collaborative workshops with other artists, students, writers and curators from dance and related mediums, which both share the processes and methodologies of the work and act as a staging ground for current questions around performance. Burrows also wrote the widely used A Choreographer's Handbook, drawn from his experience of leading five years of conversational workshops, which has sold over15,000 copies since its publication by Routledge in 2010.
The two men are co-produced by PACT Zollverein Essen and Sadler's Wells Theatre London. They perform regularly around the world, presenting different works in different combinations, frequently for non-theatre spaces. Their philosophy is that all work is new at the point of performance, and they often don't announce new pieces in favour of guerrilla performances which bury the new into the body of work without further comment.
Current touring includes the series Music For Lectures, which invites a speaker to give a talk which is then backed by a rock band. Speakers so far are Katye Coe in Music For Lectures/She Dancing (2018) and Mette Edvardsen in Music For Lectures/Every word was once an animal (2018)
Burrows is also touring his first full length solo piece Rewriting (2019), which takes the form of an intimate and increasingly complex memorised card trick of 108 cards with a simultaneous memorised talk.
Also touring is Any Table Any Room (2017) a project which invites four local artists in each city visitied to join Burrows and Fargion in the creation of a performance, which is shared with the public after three days of rehearsal.
Duets still being performed include Both Sitting Duet, Speaking Dance, Cheap Lecture, The Cow Piece and Body Not Fit For Purpose. The pair are now working towards the creation of a new duet.
Other recent performances include Let us stop this mad rush towards the end (2019), commissioned by London Contemporary Music Festival, conceived and directed by Jonathan Burrows and Matteo Fargion, with dance and choreography by Claire Godsmark, singing and piano by Francesca Fargion and the London Contemporary Music Festival orchestra conducted by Jack Sheen
Burrows and Fargion's performances are often combined with the work of other artists as part of salon events which they have variously titled Return Of The Salon (co-produced initially with Stephen Brett, Kate Gowar and Janine Fletcher at the Nightingale Brighton), or Hysterical Furniture. The most recent edition of Hysterical Furniture was a four hour event in the long room of the Baroque Herrenhauser Palace in Hannover, co-curated with Hugo Glendinning and produced by Beate Schuler and Stefan Buchberger for the 2018 Kunstfestspiele Hannover. Salon events include always a meal shared with the audience, and live contemporary classical music by a living composer.
This more recent work in which Burrows and Fargion invite other artists to share the stage, or where they act as support within the work of other artists, comes from an interest in the idea that artists might visit each others work, not as collaboration but in the sense of being in service to each other's ideas.
There's a beguiling mix of the scholarly, the quizzical and the righteously indignant that is unique to Fargion and Burrows...the concentration of their work demonstrates how much expressive power even a small gesture, a tiny variation of tone or rhythm, can possess.
The Guardian, London, on Body Not Fit For Purpose
'...occasionally feeling gloomy during some performance or other, I’ve wished that a fed- up theater goblin would whisk away the show I’m watching and deposit Burrows and Fargion in its place.’
Deborah Jowitt on Cheap Lecture, DanceBeat, New York