Interview with Dancer & Choreographer Marchell Linus
Marchell Linus, who obtained a three-year training at First Rain Dance Theatre and specialized in Contemporary, Hip Hop, Commercial Dancing & Jazz, is steadily becoming one of Namibia’s most sought after dance influences.
Linus has been part of Namibia’s biggest award ceremony’s, the Namibian Annual Music Awards (NAMAs) as a Dancer and Assistant Choreographer for five consecutive years from 2014 until 2018.
Through the NAMAs, Linus worked with numerous international choreographers such as South Africa’s Paul Modjaji and Willie Venter, including Kelz from Tanzania and Simba and Bruno from Angola. Linus who is part of an Artist Dance Management program doing choreography for corporate events has worked on musical theatre pieces and most recently, a drama theatre piece called ‘Battered’.
Namib Insider sat down with Linus to talk about his career.
One of your latest projects was Battered. Can you tell us more about your vision for the play and the rehearsal process?
When I was approached by the Writer/Director of ‘Battered’ to be part of the creative team, I really didn’t know what I was getting into until we had a table reading with the cast and crew. I only got an idea of the whole play and that’s when my creative juices started flowing as to how I wanted to choreograph some parts of the play that needed the dance aspect. The rehearsal process started off really well since we had already decided on the type of music to use. Then I started engaging with the actors as to how I want them to move with the specific tone given to us to carry through. The first piece of choreography had to deal with sensuality and feminine movement but at the same time it had to be very strong with emotion, Odille Gertze who played Yvonne did the first piece. With the other choreography, I had to tone it down a notch, because it dived deep into emotional spaces that characters had to deal with so I had to make it softer and intriguing.
‘Battered’ used Namibian music. How did this aspect impact you work?
I was really happy when the production team decided to use Namibian music because it made my job so much easier and authentic. There wouldn’t be any level of comparison, because I’m using my Namibian rhythm and understanding to tap into a story that can only be relatable to me and the characters in the play.
When choreographing a piece how do you approach the creation process? What do you draw inspiration from?
I first ask my self what message do I want to tell with my work and then I tap into the tone of the music and the emotion that comes with it, there’s always energy in everything and that’s what I love to challenge.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a choreographer?
Working with people who only see into one direction and aren’t accepting to change.
What qualities do you look for in a dancer?
Patience, determination and must be hard working.
In addition to all of your work as a choreographer, you also work as a dancer for various events. How do you find a balance between the two?
It really gets complicated and tough at times, but time management really helps. Even when two shows are scheduled to be on the same the day, which has happened a lot to me, the timing helps. During the month of March, I literally had to choreograph three shows. The Namibian Independence commemoration, Musician Lioness’ show that took place at Warehouse Theatre and then I had to come back for ‘Battered’. For all of them had intense rehearsals happening.
So as a choreographer, and as a dancer, who are your influences? Whose work do you really like?
I would definitely say Tulimelila Shityuwete and Haymich Olivier. They are one of the few Namibian Dance veterans who not only advocate for dance but also make sure that the work they create speaks high volumes and reaches different platforms all around the world. The company they founded First Rain Dance Theatre. While partaking at the first ever Namibian Annual Music Awards (Nama’s 2014) with Tuli and Maymich, I joined First Rain Dance Theatre. This allowed me as a dancer to explore into the world of dance and through this, I acquired guidance, knowledge and understanding of the technique that comes with different dance styles. Which I’m so thankful for. I also like the work of South Africans since they are leaders in the African dance industry.
What are your thoughts on Namibia’s dancing scene? Is there real growth or is the dance industry stagnant? What is one thing you’d want to change?
The Namibian dance industry is really strong, there is a lot of raw talent out there that just needs polishing and moulding to put Namibia on a competing level with other countries. I wouldn’t necessary say that the Namibian dance industry is stagnant, I think it’s just developing at a slow pace. We just need more funding and collaborative minds that need to work together to make the industry grow further. There are festivals such as Windhoek International Dance Festival that celebrate dance, but we just need more of those.
What advice would you give to aspiring choreographers and dancers alike?
For any dancer I would definitely say just be open-minded, explore different styles always train and be hungry for more. Basically, always challenge yourself. For choreographers, I would say be more understanding and patient.