Sven-Eric Müller is the choreographer behind The Trolley Dollies’ fabulous moves, and you can see Brendan van Rhyn, Rudi Jansen, and Christopher Dudgeon sass up the stage with Müller pizazz in their new show, NON-Specific, currently onstage at Gate69.
Müller has always loved performing; it’s something that comes naturally to him. He recalls many a moment in his childhood when the urge to dance already influenced his everyday life. ‘There are many stories of me as a two year old dancing on tables and other furniture,’ Müller shares. ‘Give me a song and I start to move; give me a stage and the excitement grows.’
When it comes to theatre, it’s then no surprise that his favourite way of expressing himself is through dance: ‘I love dance, contemporary in particular, because it's my first love and I find extreme freedom in it.’ That passion then also links up with his love for musical theatre as it ‘combines all aspects of performance into one —performing as a triple threat is something very exciting’.
For Müller that freedom of expression is so much more than just the physical expression of a rhythm and beat. ‘It means a great deal to me’, he explains. ‘It's how I get to be Me in a world that is not always tolerant or geared towards non-conformists. It's the lifestyle I have always wanted and, though not without its difficulties, I wouldn’t want it any other way.’
With dance, as an integral part of theatre, being so much more than just professional expression for him, Müller reflects that although it’s the way he best expresses himself, there isn’t one style or move that he feels best represents his aesthetic vision as a performer or choreographer. Or, if there is, he isn’t aware that he has such a signature move. Dance in general —in all its facets— excites him.
‘I am obsessed with movement and finding interesting ways to interpret and challenge existing styles. And, because of that, and my training, I am quite versatile and move comfortably between a few genres.’
It’s that versatility and creative adventurism that led him to Gate69, also fabulously referred to as the Purple Palace on Bree Street.
‘I was around when the “Purple Palace” opened,’ Müller says, ‘and was asked to choreograph the first Trolley Dollies show at Gate69’. ‘I found the prospect very exciting, even though I had never had to work in a heel before. It was a great experience and now, all these shows later, I find myself very comfortable in a heel (thanks girls).’
For NON-Specific, Müller helps The Trolley Dollies shantay across the stage with 80s flair. ‘The whole idea was for the girls to live their best '80s lives and cast their minds back to moments from their youth that have impacted and stuck with them through the years’, Müller explains. His choreography helps them recreate those moments.
Müller tells that he spent a lot of time watching 80s music videos and aerobics on YouTube —admitting that it was as much fun as it was research.
‘My process generally starts with a research phase where I absorb all the styles and genres that fit the brief. I let that information stew in my mind for a few weeks until a movement language emerges, then I take it from there. It can get very chaotic in my lounge during the choreographic process!’
As for the process of translating all that fabulousness that is Müller’s movement-language to stage, he reveals that he ‘always enjoys working with the Dolls’. One can just imagine the rehearsal-shenanigans that comes along with that process —what fun!
‘I always enjoy seeing them go from being so envois and uncertain on the first day to being totally comfortable —I never understand why they get so terrified in the first place. I won’t kiss and tell about who is best at what, but I can say that each of the trio has their strengths and I am generally very impressed with Cathy, Holly, and Molly.’
It is clear that Müller takes great care to make the girls feel comfortable onstage —taking into considerations their onstage personalities and playing (or rather dancing) to their strengths: ‘I try to give each number a little unadulterated taste of Holly, Molly, and Cathy’, Müller elaborates, ‘but in the end these girls bring their own unique flavour’.
‘The beauty of the Trolley Dollies is that they’re so solid in their characters already and good actors too. Even in rehearsals, they naturally gravitate towards what their characters would do [with] Brendan as Cathy, Chris as Holly, and Rudi as Molly.’
What can audiences expect of this NON-Specific experience? Müller shares that it’s a high-energy show (as one would expect of any Trolley Dollies performance), but what makes this show special is that it’s the backstage reveal of drag, giving theatre-lovers a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes of this much adored art-form.
‘It’s hilarious with a few solemn moments,’ Müller reveals. ‘It lets audiences relive some iconic moments from the 80s-era, served to you by the wondrous 8ft queens of the sky. Capetonians, be prepared to laugh and cry! NON-Specific is a perfect night out in the Mother City.’
NON-Specific is onstage at Gate69 until 27 July 2019. So book online at gate69.co.za, put on some fab stilettos, and go have a great time with The Trolley Dollies at the Purple Palace as they reveal all and impress you with their Sven-Eric Müller inspired fabulous moves.