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Cowpuncher, Queen Elizabeth Hall
© Daniele Fummo

What’s the deal with… ‘Cowpuncher’?

Rising star choreographer Holly Blakey heads in to the Wild West with her dance show ‘Cowpuncher’, a collaboration with ‘Under the Skin’ composer Mica Levi

By Andrzej Lukowski
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‘Cowpuncher’ has been commissioned for the reopening of the Queen Elizabeth Hall – is that a big deal?
‘It feels like a massive deal. As a young dancer I never imagined I’d be showing my own work at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, and I was a big dreamer. I wondered recently if making some kind of reference to the Wild West was a subconscious abbreviation for my own experience with this invitation, feeling ever so slightly blown away.’

What, in a nutshell, is going on in ‘Cowpuncher’ and what are you trying to do and say with it?
‘“Cowpuncher” is a joyful and perverse exploration of ego and identity with exhilarating music and some of the most tender performers I have ever worked with. The costumes are Andreas Kronthaler for Vivienne Westwood. I’m not so much trying to say something as I am trying to make people feel something.’

Are you a fan of westerns?
‘No, not really! What I am a fan of, however, is the cowboy. How can something be so utterly alpha-macho and so wonderfully camp at the same time?  “Cowpuncher” is almost an anti-western that aims to recreate their imagery  for the sort of people you never see in them.’

How did your working relationship with Mica Levi come about?
‘Mica and I have worked on a few projects, including an artists’ residency at the Southbank Centre. This one is happening with a crazy quick turnaround. At the moment I’m building the movement and the language and working with a series of loops and tracks Mica has sent me, so in a few days we’ll put it all together. For me, that’s the most exciting moment, because I know everything I thought I understood about the show will go out the window.’

It’s a single performance only – is that more nerve-wracking than if you had a run?
‘Yes, probably. In a tour the work will shift and perhaps right before the very end you will make sense of it, if you’re lucky. With “Cowpuncher” it’s just one night, one moment, all this preparation and design and rehearsal and chaos for one hour. But there’s something super-theatrical about that: perhaps that’s the ethos of “Cowpuncher”.’

‘Cowpuncher’ is at Queen Elizabeth Hall. Fri Apr 13.

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