It's midwinter spring at the Arts Centre as nature's bounty is brought to life by exciting American dance outfit Momix. Time Out speaks with designer Michael Curry
Working with his long-time friend Moses Pendleton ‑ one of America's best-known choreographers ‑ designer and master puppeteer Michael Curry is giving form and colour to the patterns of nature and the science of plants and flowers.
Curry is about as big as they come in the very big world of stage design, having worked on Madonna’s Super Bowl show, Britney Spears' Femme Fatale tour, hit Broadway show The Lion King and Cirque du Soleil’s brand new Michael Jackson show.
He spoke to Time Out from his home deep in the hills of Oregon.
What is the essential role of the set designer?
The role of the set designer is that of the illusionist. We're creating that suspension of disbelief.
What's the secret to a successful design?
The element of surprise. In this show, Moses' use of light, and more importantly his use of shadow, the absence of light, allows for very simple things to become important. It's a great blend of the human body and the illusion.
Has the natural world always been an influence on your creative life?
Absolutely. Right now I'm looking out of my window onto Mount St. Helens volcano in Washington. Many years ago I moved out of New York City to a place on the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon, right in the heart. And that's the area I grew up in. I grew up in a small logging cabin in Oregon. In fact I started out painting and sculpting animal figures.
Moses Pendleton is also famously infatuated with the natural world. What is the inspiration in nature for this show?
It's procreation. It's flowers. It is magic. And nature is magic. You look at time lapse footage of a flower opening. There is magic in that. It's true, Moses is a obsessed with the natural world. At his home he raises this vast field of sunflowers. Every year he raises them in a different shape.
Is working on a show like Botanica significantly different to the monster stadium shows you work on?
This is among the smaller shows I do. There is no money involved. Moses and I really haven't exchanged money ever. But for me it helps balance the really big stuff. I'm working now on the Russian Olympics - you know, stuff so big that it isn't even fun anymore.
I only really work on the smaller shows with dancers. I can't afford to do it all the time. But Moses won me over very early, so I'm very happy to do it, to patronise his work. And I get a lot out of it, even though economically I can't afford to do this stuff all the time.
Finally, what can we expect when the Michael Jackson spectacle lands on our shores?
He loved Circ de sole, and it was very important for us not only to great a show that Michael would have liked, but one that he would have flipped for.