Alexander Ekman talks Duchamp, cacti and why the inner ballerina is desperate to shake it out.

A rising star of contemporary dance, Alexander Eckman makes his Australian debut for Sydney Dance Company with his internationally acclaimed Cacti– a work that pokes gentle fun at the pretentions of dance. He talked to Limelight about the piece, his sense of humour and working with Jirí Kylian at Netherlands Dance Theatre.

Why cacti?

I tried to find the most random and unexpected object I could think of that the dancers would suddenly bring on stage. I think there is so much you could also analyse and interpret from a cactus which makes it a very “artsy” prop to bring on stage. It sort of also reflects Marcel Duchamp’s famous bottle holder idea. When you bring a random ordinary object on stage and present it we then brand it as “art”.

How does the music – all “core classical” from Schubert to Mahler – interact with the dancers?

The musicians give the dancers a short fragment from the Presto from Schubert’s Death and the Maiden. The dancers then answer in a rhythmical phrase with breaths, slaps, snaps – basically any sound they can create with...