Burrows and Fargion joint biography 2018
Choreographer Jonathan Burrows and composer Matteo Fargion have been collaborators for over twenty years, the past decade of which they've spent slowly building a body of duets which straddle the line between dance, music, performance art and comedy. Often shown in tandem over a few days of performances, 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, building 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. And 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 A Choreographer's Handbook, drawn from his experience of leading five years of conversational workshops; the book is published by Routledge and has sold over13,000 copies since 2010.
The two men are co-produced by Kaaitheater Brussels, PACT Zollverein Essen, Sadler's Wells Theatre London and BIT Teatergarasjen Bergen. 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.
A selection of Burrows' and Fargion's work can be seen on the William Forsythe Company Motionbank website:
Current projects include 52 Portraits
, a year long online art work made in collaboration with video maker Hugo Glendinning which released a different gestural portrait of a dancer every Monday throughout 2016, now being screened as a two hour cinema event. In 2018 they began their Music For Lectures
series, collaborating with Fargion's daughter Francesca and inviting speakers to give a talk on performance backed by a rock band. The first edition of Music For Lectures
is She Dancing
led by Katye Coe, followed by Every Word Was Once An Animal
led by Mette Edvardsen. The duo were Guest Artists for the 2017 Berne Music Festival, and presented a four hour performance salon event called Hysterical Furniture
at the 2018 KunstFestSpiele Herrenhausen in Hannover.
This recent expansion of Burrows' and Fargion's work towards collaborations with other artists, reflects a desire to question hierarchies of authorship, challenge diversity, and respond to what Gurur Ertem has called the need for art to go visiting. Burrows' and Fargion's salon events were developed with Steven Brett, Janine Fletcher and Kate Gowar at the Nightingale Brighton, and have been presented since then in many different contexts and formats, always with guest artists, contemporary classical music by a living composer and a shared meal with audience.
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