We start with Hope Hunt, her first big recognition, thanks to Hunter Filmed. ‘I really felt like it’s the first time that I’ve seen how it feels to do the hope hunt, from the dancer’s perspective,’ she says. ‘That is because of Gaspar Noé. See how he filmed Irreversible? That’s what I said to Luca. “Film it like Gaspar Noé, fuck it if we don’t get all the choreography in”,’ she recalls, referring to the film’s dynamic and immersive camera work. ‘Also the spiral of the Lazarus: it’s the start of MDMA, it’s the bottom of ketamine… It’s got weight in it.’
The approach to The Devil was more traditional yet surprises us with its villainy. ‘We were just having a good time, just playing and trying to do something different, like “What if we stick to more of a narrative?” ’ In this short film, beyond the hunt we’ve seen her explore in previous pieces, another theme emerges: what needs to die for something new to be born?
Which brings us to Navy Blue, an exploration of the fragile equilibrium between collective strength and individual insignificance. Created with and for 12 dancers, it evokes the power of solidarity as much as the crushing loneliness of human struggle. Its genesis is a reminder that taking a few steps back can help us go leaps and bounds further than we started.
‘It was during lockdown. I rented a small dance studio down the street; the kids’ ballet class was off so I was able to get in. It was also the studio where my ballet teacher – she’s not alive any more – taught when I was a kid. I just started doing ballet to get strong again and I was really enjoying myself,’ Doherty says. ‘You know when no one’s watching you can like, do your stuff. So I was playing with Maria Callas and Rachmaninov because it was so dramatic, so romantic, so painful to listen to, it helped me get into my ballet groove. It grew from there.’
Doherty’s foray into such conventional form feels like a far cry from her early works, but these ballet dancers come in blue workers’ overalls. Suddenly, the redundancy of the barre is not so different from that of an assembly line. The evocation calls her home in more ways than one. ‘Not that I believe in ghosts but, it was my old ballet teacher’s room. And my contemporary dance teacher’s gonna see my show in London… Yeah, Susan would be really proud,’ she says, teary-eyed.