Scottish Dance Theatre’s Joan Clevillé on Antigone Interrupted, being back in theatres, and the future

This year’s Dance Base programme for the 2022 Edinburgh Festival Fringe features Scottish Dance Theatre in a two-week run of Joan Clevillé’s Antigone Interrupted. David Mead caught up with him recently at the company’s Dundee home.

Antigone, Interrupted, which premiered in February 2020, was Clevillé’s first work as artistic director of the company. “It was great to be back, and especially to be working with Solène Weinachter,” he says. We all know what happened next.

But now the production and company are back. After performances in Mannheim and a short Scottish tour, Antigone, Interrupted finally made it to the company’s home stage at the Dundee Rep last month, ahead of its extended visit to Edinburgh’s Dance Base in August.

Sophocles’ Antigone has been called possibly the most commented upon play in the history of feminist, philosophical and political theory. She was the woman who dared to say ‘no’. Clevillé explains that the intimate production brings a new perspective to the old story of a young woman and her uncle, the king, whose power she challenges with the resulting inevitable confrontation.

Solène Weinachter in Antigone, Interrupted by Joan Clevillé,
Photo Maria Falconer

He says he’s really interested in looking at the value of disobeying or not agreeing with society and how we channel that impulse, but the unique twist to his Antigone, Interrupted is the way Weinachter, who tells the whole story solely through her own body and voice, intertwines the Greek tragedy with the story of her own life and relationship with the play, which should be a highlight of not only Dance Base’s programme but the whole Fringe dance offering.

The return of Antigone, Interrupted followed Scottish Dance Theatre’s April premiere of Ray by Meytal Blanaru. After all the enforced closures and restrictions as a result of the pandemic, it was really good to be back on stage, Clevillé says, although he admits it was a difficult couple of years.

Joan Clevillé (left) with Dundee Rep Artistic Director Andrew Panton
Photo Peter Dibdin

After taking over the artistic directorship of the company in 2019, he had lots of plans. “Everything had to be transformed, postponed or given up on,” he says. “I had a year, which was sort of taking care of what had already been set up, and getting used to everyone, the environment and the company. Then, in spring 2020, immediately after the premiere of Antigone, Interrupted and literally as Meytal was to come and begin to create Ray, everything closed down.”

It was important to try and be grounded and make whatever practical decisions needed to be made, he says. “I needed to take care of people, make sure jobs were safe. But at the same time, try to innovate and find new things. And, yes, it did prompt us to do some things we had never done before.”

Clevillé says the unprecedented situation also sped up the process of taking ownership of the company. “Business as usual wasn’t viable any more. You had to start making decisions. Me creating was the horizon, but as soon as everything closed, we had to accelerate that.”

Scottish Dance Theatre’s Every Map has a Scale
Photo Genevieve Reeves

Among the projects that followed was these bones, this flesh, this skin, a digital collaboration with Scottish Ensemble that came about because both organisations were stranded but still wanted to connect with people.

“Similarly, we developed a project in autumn 2020 called Every Map has a Scale. We couldn’t go anywhere, so we explored the neighbourhoods of Dundee, spending time in them, then going to perform with an outdoor performance.

There was also The Life and Times, the first major production that I did, which was a digital/live hybrid performance. I would never have done that if it wasn’t for the pandemic; and definitely, the dancers and I have got to know each other much better.”

Amongst other projects there was an important international digital collaboration Yabin Wang of Yabin Studio in Beijing for 合[], which explores our relationship with nature and the environment.

With an eye on the future, Clevillé says, “I think, in a way, this is a brilliant moment. We’ve had time to think and ask questions like ‘What is a repertory company in 2022?’ I think there’s been a recalibration of value and where we place that, although it is something that has always been part of the DNA of the company right back to its beginnings as a community dance company.”

When he first came to Scottish Dance Theatre as a dancer, Clevillé says the way the company integrated with the community was unlike anything he had previously experienced. “It was really special.” While international touring will remain incredibly important in terms of SDT’s role as a flagship company, he says, “I think we’ll be looking carefully at what is the value of everything: production, visit, tour, creation, community work.”

Maybe that means going a little bit deeper in the search for value, he continues. “You can spread yourself too thinly, too shallow, just going in and out. I think having projects and performances like Ray that expand a little bit more what a repertory company can do are very important. Of course, the double-bills on middle and large-scale stages will still be the main core of what the company does, but I think there’s quite a lot that can be done on the fringes around that.”

(l-r) Kieran Brown, Adrienne O’Leary, Jessie Roberts-Smith, Ben McEwan and Pauline Torzuoli in Ray by Meytal Blanaru
Photo Genevieve Reeves

With Ray, which is performed in the round and where the audience are an essential element of the work, Clevillé says the company had brilliant interaction with community groups in Dundee, including having them in for the dress rehearsal.  “They were familiar with the dancers. They were familiar with the language of the piece. And for the dancers, the other way round, to have that sort of relationship with the audience, to have a bit of connection, is incredible. “

Creating work himself is part of the future too, he says. “I am drawn to dance theatre: to play, to humour, to tell stories. That will definitely be part of the menu.”

Being in a theatre that also has an acting ensemble and that programmes all types of work is teaching him a lot about audiences, he believes. “You get in your bubble and you stay there because it’s comfortable. But then you wonder why people don’t come. Actually, there are many reasons. So, trying to expand the range of work, having a whole range of experiences that pushes the art form forward, I think is crucial to us going forward.”

Solène Weinachter in Antigone, Interrupted by Joan Clevillé,
Photo Maria Falconer

Going back to Ray, which is scheduled to return in the autumn, Clevillé says, “Meytal made the piece so that it is not about the room or the theatre but about people. That really excites me. Promoters have told me they could see the work living in a dance theatre in London but equally in a community hall in the Highlands. I think making dance about people and taking it to where they are, are two exciting routes to explore.”

Turning to Dundee itself, one of the big plusses about the city is that the impact of what you do can be seen very clearly and very immediately, says Clevillé. “I freelanced from here for six years, and it was amazing. It’s a city with a great entrepreneurial spirit.. Sometimes you hear dancers say, wouldn’t it be great to be based in Glasgow or Edinburgh. Of course, the exposure and the opportunities would be greater. But there is something special here that is to do with the framework and the people around us. You don’t feel observed but you do feel supported. Our stakeholders see it as a big plus that there is a company like Scottish Dance Theatre here. There’s very much a ‘can do’ attitude to making things happen. It’s a really exciting place to be.

For more on Antigone Interrupted, visit

For Dance Base’s full Edinburgh Festival Fringe programme, visit