This time we are delighted to have the opportunity to interview this exciting contemporary dance duo, Luke Bafico and Peter Babbage, artistically known as ‘Pierre & Baby’ in anticipation for the highly awaited performance of their work ‘Achilles’ in Ugly Duck spaces, a fabulous period building located just south of Tower Bridge, which regularly hosts creative events.
We live in an era where sex dating has filtered through our mobile apps, creating a whole new digital language which transforms our desires, feelings and emotions in online connections that rule our sex life. ‘Achilles’ explores those desires, frustrations, passions and love through an innovative and elaborated dance performance which blends the extraordinary technique and creativity of Pierre and Baby with cutting edge digital art, music and narrative.
Can you tell us about your dancing background and how did you start in the world of contemporary dance?
We both started dancing from a young age and then came to London to study full time but at quite different schools; Luke trained in contemporary dance at Laban Conservatoire and I trained in musical theatre at Millennium Performing Arts before going on to study contemporary dance at Tanzfabrik Berlin. Our technical training has definitely given us a grounding and strong understanding of our bodies. Once you’ve graduated there is a time when you have to break away from the technique you’re instilled with to find your own language. I think a lot of movement research has helped us both mature as dance artists and start creating our own work.
When did the two of you meet and decide to form Pierre & Baby as an artistic duo?
We met in 2013 through a mutual friend who studied with Luke. We became friends and kept up with each other after graduating, but didn’t connect creatively until we were both living back in London in 2017. At that time, we were both looking to put our energy towards something creative and so I suggested that we get into the studio to play with some ideas together. Our chemistry and working dynamic was very clear from early on and we knew that our different approaches to dance could be married together, as our artistic visions were so similar. It was shortly after that we formed Pierre & Baby and have been working together pretty much since then.
Can you talk about your main artistic influences and sources of inspiration?
We have so many influences and inspirations both within and outside the dance world. Our name Pierre & Baby, as well as being our own nicknames, is also an homage to the French artistic duo Pierre et Gilles, who’s work combines painting and photography in a beautifully iconic style. Their approach of combining multiple mediums of art within their work is the same approach we take to live performance. We are also hugely inspired by a variety of visual artists such as Francis Bacon, Anne Imhof, Wolfgang Tillmans, Arca, David Hockney, Tom of Finland, Greg Araki and Andrew Thomas Huang. Then within the dance world our main choreographic influences are Holly Blakey, Theo Clinkard, Marion Motin, Sharon Eyal, Christian Yav & Sedrig Dimitrie Verwoert, Maeva Berthelot, Trajal Harrell and Pina Bausch.
Visual artists have more available spaces and art galleries to exhibit in, but with dance it is even more complicated. What are the main difficulties you confront when looking for venues to showcase your work?
It can certainly be more complicated for dance and we ideally look for venues that have the facilities to accommodate dance artists. However as emerging artists we like to market our work to the dance and art cross-over, so that means sometimes we find ourselves performing on hard floors, in cold spaces, or without a suitable warm-up area . The positive is that these venues can have a more inspiring atmosphere and give the opportunity to reach an audience that might not have otherwise seen contemporary dance.
Your last project Achilles represents how online dating is affecting our sexual and love relationships and dance seems the ideal medium to showcase its physical element in an instant gratification and body obsessed society. How did you come about this idea and developed the project?
The idea came about from our personal experiences to these themes and becoming aware of the shift in the use of technology in everyday life. Through talking to friends we realised that nearly everyone has their own experience with dating apps or at least knows someone who has. So the subject interests a lot of people.
We got into the studio and began developing movement around the physical idea of desire, addiction and cyclical habits. We also did a lot of movement research in playing with being physically intimate without an emotional connection. We researched club and gabber dancing and how this can be mixed with contemporary dance. Through hours in the studio the piece began to develop and take form.
We reached out to filmmaker Emily Mcdonald who used a technique that turned multiple still images into GIF like films, which was the basis for the projection.
Why did you choose the title Achilles?
We chose this title for two reasons; the first is a reference to the Greek myth. I had been researching queer depictions within Greek mythology and in some works the relationship between Achilles and Patroclus was depicted as romantic, which we found very interesting. I read “The Song of Achilles” which also provided much inspiration. Achilles was known for having an incredible God-like physique which I thought was also a metaphor for the hyper-sexualisation of male bodies in the gay community and the pressure to attain a stereotypically “desirable” physique. Furthermore, your Achilles heel is known as being your weakness and this is in reference to the addictive and instantaneous nature of dating apps.
You have collaborated with Kieran Finch in the projections, Sam Parkin in the music, as well as with dramaturg Martin Hargreaves, how did those collaborations originated?
Kieran Finch, a motion graphics designer, was introduced to us through Emily McDonald. He was able to take the films and warp them in a really hypnotic and glitchy way. His contribution helped us go into ideas around body dysmorphia.
We met Sam Parkin through our V&A performance, who we later found out was a musician and DJ. We reached out to her to take the current soundtrack, make it longer and elevate it by bringing an even more eclectic sounds and edits to what we already had.
We knew Martin Hargreaves had worked with so many artists that we follow and admire, so it was incredible that he was able to come and lend his expert insight to the choreographic development.
Your performance in the V&A was a big success, how did this opportunity arise?
Celine Roblin-Robson who worked for Block Universe saw our premiere at The Place for Resolution Festival in 2018 and really loved the work. She put us forward to Block Universe, who presented our work to the curators of the Friday Late. It was an incredible opportunity for us and a very full circle moment as we’d gone to the V&A to study the statues when first developing the work, so being able to stand in the Raphael Cartoons and present it there felt quite momentous.
Your career has strong links to the LGBTQ scene. How do you feel when you are performing in front of say, a queer community, as opposed to performing in front of a more formal theatre audience? Is there a difference from the artist point of view?
When we perform in front of a queer crowd, there feels to be an instinctual understanding and deeper resonance to the narrative of the performance. In a formal theatre setting, we also get really positive feedback, even if they’re not used to seeing a same-sex relationship played out in such a sensual way.
The feedback we’ve had has brought forth some really great discussions about modern relationships and people have shared very personal stories with us.
You will soon be performing in Ugly Duck in Tanner St. in London and you have adapted your performance to the nature of the ‘garage’ space, where it will take place. What will be different in this show?
Yes, we’re so excited to bring Achilles to Ugly Duck at the end of July. It has an industrial warehouse vibe that we’re hoping to transform into a club-cum-cruising spot. The space gives off a DIY queer rave vibe that fits the narrative of the work and has the ability to elevate the experience for the audience.
What else are you working on at the moment, or what are your future projects?
We would definitely love to perform the full length of Achilles more and are planning a tour at the moment. We’re also working with Drew Lint, a Berlin-based filmmaker who recently wrote and directed the feature film M/M, to adapt Achilles into a short dance film, which we’re really excited about.