When creative couples work together

Chemistry is vital on stage, when we want the performers in front of us to transport us out of the everyday. Does it make a difference when there's an extra element — does an intimate relationship make it easier to create and perform? As the New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) prepares for its most provocative and poetic work, The Absurdity of Humanity, we talk to four of its dancers, one choreographer and a jeweller — three couples — about creative chemistry.


Ross McCormack and Emily Adams. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Ross McCormack and Emily Adams. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Ross has made a new work, Matter, for the NZDC in which Emily performs and makes her company debut.

What are the benefits of living and working together?
E: "It' s a bit double-edged somehow. On one hand it's great because we get to see a lot more of each other, and on the other hand, we get to see a lot more of each other."


R: "Emily has been in several of my works, as a creator or, in this case, the choreographer/director of the work. There are days in the studio, where I feel quite fragile or unsure about ideas or where something may be going; she always picks up on this. Her understanding and help at these times is amazing, plus, she understands that the work remains in my head at home and a common interest and love of this kind of work means we can share thoughts quite freely."

And the challenges?
R: "That the work remains in my head 24 hours — poor Emily."

E: "Everything gets quite heightened with Ross during a creation, he brings the work everywhere with him, which makes for interesting conversations, but it's hard to escape at times. He gets so focused that some days in the studio we may not have a conversation the whole day, which in normal terms is fine, but when you are in the same intimate working environment in such close proximity, it can be hard, I guess."

How is working in a creative industry different from others — and how important is it to have a partner who understands that?
R: "For me, I think it depends on the nature in which you create. I like to share a lot so at times I demand a certain attention from Emily. It can be selfish, I guess, at times, but totally unintentional and I think she understands that. I hope. But when I need her advice/eyes/support ... I need it! Then, when I'm locked into something, I tend to zone out so it can be, yeah, kind of greedy, but she understands the demands in this world of work, so for us that's quite important, I guess."

E: "I think my partner just needs to understand me. It's great that Ross understands my career, and that, yes, it can be super-challenging and hard at times, but all careers are. Ross is older than I am and there have certainly been times his advice or perspective has really helped. I would add that [working] contract to contract is quite a juggling act, so to have someone who understands this style of continuity does help, too."


Carl Tolentino and Chrissy Kokiri. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Carl Tolentino and Chrissy Kokiri. Photo / Dean Purcell.


"The benefits of living together are that Chrissy and I share a collective passion, which doesn't end at the work. Every day, we experience something new and thought-provoking and it's special to be able to continue these conversations openly at home."


CK: "We are also fortunate to be able to travel the world together; something people only get to dream about and we get to share all of that together.

CT: Our intimacy/relationship gives us a chemistry that can make it a lot easier to create and perform together."

CK: "We spend so much time together and in that there are these tiny pockets, resulting from mental/physical stress or fatigue, these moments we need our individual space or time apart, which can be difficult because we live and work together. We have a system during stressful times where we are able to give each other space while being in the same space."

CT: "We are in an industry that is creative, expressive using our own/other bodies as the medium or tool. Our bodies are something intricate, complex, unpredictable, conscious. This is very different compared to other industries, where to achieve a creative task there requires cohesiveness with another intelligent being, while pushing for something innovative and progressive.

CK: It's important to have a partner who empathises because this can get very emotional and difficult to understand."


Nick Von K and Lucy Lynch. Photo / Dean Purcell.
Nick Von K and Lucy Lynch. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Lucy is a founding member of the NZDC and Nick is a jeweller known for his use of hand-carved elements and organic materials.

L: "It's great at the end of each day that I can come home and talk to Nick about what we've been working on and I know he will have some valid feedback for me. And, for my part, I love jewellery — I mean what woman doesn't? Nick's jewellery is very quirky and unique and luckily that's exactly what I like. I'm a very visual person and I've always had a great interest in fashion and visual aesthetics. It's great to have a partner who's into that as well. And I get to suggest ideas of things that I'd personally really like to wear — it's perfect.

N: "We both have a natural interest in each other's art form so we often bounce ideas off each other. Lucy is a very good barometer for me, in a lot of ways she represents my target market, so it's always good to get her opinion on new designs and marketing ideas. And, to be honest, I have a secret wish that I could do what Lucy does; I'd love to be dancing on stage so I have a great respect for her dedication as I know what it takes to be that good. I love watching her perform; I'm like that crazy fan who turns up to every show and always hangs out for an autograph afterwards. "

L: "Because we are both so invested in our careers, it means we are often quite exhausted at the end of the day. August is often crunch time for both of us: Fashion Week and new collection release for Nick; always a premiere of a new show for me."

N: "That is a really hard time of year, especially if our timetables clash and we don't get to see each other's shows. Another thing is I get major FOMO when Lucy goes on tour. I'm friends with a lot of the dancers in NZDC and I'm always hearing about how much fun they are having. I'm still trying to invent a job for myself with NZDC as an excuse to go on tour with them!"

L: "Working in a creative industry is really different because you are so passionate about it and often you're putting your heart and soul into it so you need a partner who understands that. It's not one of those jobs where you can walk away from it at the end of the day; it doesn't stop. So it's vital to have a partner who can understand and support that."


N: "We've both had partners in the past who weren't so invested in their jobs and it creates a pressure at the end of the day when you get to downtime. I think we both feel a sense of relief and freedom for being with someone who also has a creative career because they understand the devotion and dedication it takes."