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Precipice – Luke Smiles


Contemporary dance fans who were lucky enough to witness G, the phenomenal Giselle adaptation by Australian Dance Theatre which was presented during last year’s Winter Arts Season, will soon be all smiles. Luke Smiles, the composer of the electrifying soundtrack for G, is back in Perth composing the soundtrack for a new work called Precipice by local dancer/choreographer Rachel Arianne Ogle. Smiles offers some insight into his process as a composer (who also happens to be a professional dancer), and gives us a hint of what to expect from this exciting debut work from Ogle.

How does the process begin with your compositions?

I like to be in the rehearsal studio right from the very beginning so that when ideas are happening, just the beginnings of possibilities, I am there with headphones on. I watch what’s going on and then I’ll chuck some music out there and the choreographer might run with that for a little while.

Precipice is entirely different because Rachel has spent eight weeks with the dancers prior to this period, so the choreography is really developed, and there is a very clear structure. She presented me with a video of the piece, which was pretty much about 90% choreographed to some other music that Rachel felt fit the piece. I was able to delete that soundtrack and respond purely to what I was seeing, and I rewrote everything from scratch.

What led you to begin composing? Was it a natural progression from being a dancer or was it something you did prior to dancing?

The desire to do it has always been there. Right through dance school I was working as a DJ. We always had computers at home, like the Commodore 64, and I was always interested in what could you do with it. I gravitated to sound and making electronic or techno music — It was the kind of thing you could do in your bedroom, you didn’t need a drum kit or guitars. When I began working as a dancer, my first commissions came out of that.

While in the rehearsal room as composer who is a dancer yourself, do you ever feel the urge to “take over” the rehearsal?

It is the director’s final say, so all I’m doing is offering a suggestion. You do sort of do take over in a way for a bit, and I’ll even jump up and demonstrate what I see in relation to the music I’m making. Sure, I make 100% of the soundtrack and the choreographers (and dancers) make 100% of the dance, but we’re finding something in the middle ground. We all throw our ideas in, but what the audience sees is a third thing.

What is the tone of the soundtrack to Precipice?

It’s precarious, risky, detailed. At times it can be bold and loud and distorted, at times it can be really subtle. There are long crescendos like you’re falling into something, or the world of the piece is expanding, and you don’t know how big it can get. It’s really true to our understanding of what “precipice” means, it’s the edge of something, heading towards something good or bad, where you don’t know what’s coming.


Precipice runs at the State Theatre Centre’s Studio Underground until Sunday, August 24. 


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