Queer Bulgarian, Ivo Dimchev is King of Queens

Queer performance artist Ivo Dimchev has improbably become one of Bulgaria’s most famous singer/songwriter. He chatted to FUSE Magazine about his latest work King!
FUSE  |  Art & Culture
Queer Bulgarian, Ivo Dimchev is King of Queens

FUSE Magazine spoke with Queer Bulgarian singer/songwriter/ superstar Ivo Dimchev about his collaboration with Sydney-based Shaun Parker & Company and his exclusive Australian performances in KING, opening at the Seymour Theatre Sydney Tuesday, February 28.

FUSE: You have been involved in KING from the early days and wrote a beautiful original score to accompany the choreography. Given you are based overseas, how did you get involved in the project with the Sydney based contemporary dance company?

IVO: One morning, I received a beautiful message from Shaun Parker with an invitation to write the music for the work. I didn't know about the company before, and usually, I'm very sceptical about collaborating with choreographers – being a choreographer myself and having a very particular understanding about what choreography is for me.

So, I was very pessimistic when I first opened the video file of the work that Shaun sent me, but it was cool and graphic. After a few seconds, I was already fascinated by the complexity of options and the choreographic vocabulary. I was, of course, kindly seduced by the beauty of the dancers, so I didn't have much choice left but to say yes!

FUSE: Tell us about your music for the show; what is it like? And what are you trying to convey?

IVO: I already had some inspiration because of the title, KING, and I had a few ideas based on dead English poets. I asked Shaun to send me more beautiful old English words that are important to him; texts that can relate to the 'kingness', or in some way to the story of the piece; and works by other dead poets such as Emily Dickinson and William Blake (who wrote Tiger) and some others.

A few of the songs were written based on my emotional state during these periods, while I was in the rehearsals and just enjoying the sun. I wrote around 10-15 songs for the production, but we felt that there was also a need for some space and for something more abstract, so I wrote some music and brass.

FUSE: You perform the soundtrack live in every show. How does it feel to be on stage with Shaun Parker and Company's ten dancers?

IVO: It's a big responsibility because of the amount of precision in the choreography and the dancers. There is an energy all these people invest in every second of the piece. When I have a normal concert, I am usually improvising and playing with the timing and so on, but when I have such precise timing and measurements with the other professionals on stage, I cannot allow myself to play so much; I cannot do this. I must be very precise, which is a very big challenge to me because usually I'm not precise, but very playful. But it also makes me a better musician. And it's amazing. I learned a lot by the amount of responsibility.

I also really enjoy the fact that the focus is not on me all the time. At times, I am just an ornament to the whole, and tread very harmoniously, between the choreography, between each individual dancer, the dramaturgy and between me as a singer.

FUSE: You have also released some remixed versions of the songs from the show. What has the response been like to the music simply as music in its own right?

IVO: When I was creating the songs, both Shaun and I agreed that those songs should have their own life. I also believe that every song can have multiple faces, multiple forms, and take very different paths. I have songs that have acoustic pop, house, folk and club techno arrangements, and through this creation it can enhance its meaning. I believe that a song is something that is very alive, it can be moved, transformed, and have different values and context.

FUSE: You were last in Sydney for the world premiere of KING at Mardi Gras in 2019 and then toured with the production to the Middle East and Austria. Tell us about the response to the show overseas. And what did it feel like to be a part of it?

IVO: I thought …. wow! I'm working with a dance company. I've never been in a dance company before! But KING, can be so easily placed in so many ways, and different contexts in different theatres. For example, in the Middle East, it had a different meaning than what it had in Sydney. The work itself resonated on such different levels in different cities. Sometimes it feels more masculine, or more gay or more sexual or more liberating! Sometimes it even feels more Bourgeois. It really depends on in which context it is presented. This is a good point about KING. Such a good thing to observe.

FUSE: Apart from KING, you have an incredible international career with a huge following across Europe in the US. What have you been working on of late?

IVO: The last thing I did was a musical based on my experience during the pandemic, when I did home concerts in hundreds of people's houses in Sofia, Istanbul, New York, and Los Angeles. I interviewed these people in the private homes after each concert, and all their stories kind of synthesized into a musical that tells a story of a little private birthday concert, in a little closed gay bar during the pandemic. The title of the musical is In Hell with Jesus. I'm touring the show, mostly in Bulgaria and in some of the European festivals. I hope one day it will be presented in Australia.

FUSE: During COVID, you became even more famous in your home country of Bulgaria for your home concerts.  Why did you feel these were important at the time? And are you still doing them now that the world is somewhat back to normal?

IVO: I have no interest in doing it now because it was kind of my personal artistic protest — a little mini-revolution. When public culture was forbidden, and everything was online, I needed to find a way to connect with my audience in a real way, and that was the only option that I found. I used to tour all over the world for 20 years, and for me, the idea of touring was essential to me, and now I needed to tour in my city, Sofia. So, I went to people's houses and performed in their rooms and kitchens and basements and bathrooms. I was touring everyday between different parts of the city in different houses.

I would have like three concerts per day - at 6pm, 8pm and 10pm in the evening, from one apartment to another, from one house to another. It was intense, sometimes just sleeping somewhere in a parking lot in my car for 30 minutes and then going to the next home concert. It was a really beautiful and precious experience, but now I do not have the need to do that.

FUSE: In a career spanning 20+ years, what has been your most proud achievement? And what would you like to do more of in the future?

IVO: I'm proud that I have managed to betray myself as an artist many times! Songwriting is one of the most old-fashioned and conventional forms of art. Once upon a time, I would never have done that, but I managed to overcome that prejudice. I'm proud that I managed to do that. It took up space that I know I didn't know existed yet, and possibly, I can now connect with audiences that I would never have previously been able to connect with, especially when I used to do my highbrow contemporary performance art.

The other thing I am proud of is that during the pandemic, I kind of broke my convention because I always thought that the only way I can be an artist is on stage, which is actually a very safe place. During the pandemic, I learned to transform into a stage, every kitchen, every house, every place that I didn't impose any value on before - as a space, or ethically, aesthetically. I learned to really appreciate every place, no matter what. Every space has value and can be a beautiful performative arena. Connection is everything. 


KING | 28 Feb - 4 Mar 2023

Seymour Centre and Shaun Parker & Company in association with Sydney WorldPride, present KING. A music-dance collaboration between award-winning choreographer Shaun Parker, internationally renowned vocalist Ivo Dimchev, and nine outstanding dancers. 




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