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 Post subject: Interviews Bytom 2009
PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:41 pm 
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Interview with Jacek Łumiński
Director of the Festival and The Silesian Dance Theatre


A.H.: It is already the 16th International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival in Bytom. The schedule of the various dance techniques classes lead by a growing number of foreign guests, filling to the brim the workshop participants’ time from eight to six is already a great success, together with the evenings busy with performances by contemporary dance companies. The scheme of the Conference also encompasses, integrated dance workshops, a dance conference for children and a dance critics’ seminar.
Where did the idea of organizing the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival in Bytom in the present form come from?

J.Ł.: The IMDCPF was created for educational reasons. From the very first edition, we have aimed at showing dance in a broad cultural context; we offer audiences the experience of dance from every possible angle, in every possible form and conception. Dance is a complex phenomenon perceived by the senses. It has, therefore, a remarkable ability to influence people and its values, in the so-called stable systems of cultural identity, play a vital role. In order to understand this notion, a theoretical background is required. That is why we organise lectures, meetings and discussions, and we try to teach those interested how to write about dance. We talk about the ways of organising dance actions, methods of raising funds, preparing a budget and selling the artistic product.

The Conference is a well thought-out structure, in which new elements are frequently added. Some, like new media or photography, have been eliminated due to the lack of interest. We hope that they will reappear some day, in more favorable circumstances. All the interweaving projects of the Conference support each other. The people who come here are well-known and important in the structures of dance organisations, significant for art and for cultural politics.
While inventing the structure of the Conference, our target was to enable young dancers, fans and professionals to meet in Bytom as many as possible of the eminent figures from the sphere of dance -the people who influence politics, managing and teaching. Those encounters are sometimes designed by us, at other times they take place informally in the Jazz Club. We believe that in this way we support the autonomous development of dance in Poland, together with its numerous individual identities.

The idea of the Conference was to create such a structure in which everyone feels comfortable and secure. That comfort encourages acquiring and cementing knowledge, and facilitates contacts and discussions. This is how new acquaintances, ideas, projects and trends are born. Over these 16 years the Conference has created a huge international community which has a life of its own. This group identifies with Bytom, and with dance. It gives young Poles the ease of operating in the world. That is what we wanted.

A.H.: What are the crucial pillars that the IMDCPF is built on?

J.Ł.: On the idea for efficient service and the transparency of the Conference’s conception; not forgetting funding.

A.H.: This year is the first time when two new opportunities are offered – radio workshops and integrated workshops for children, “The Little Direction.” What are the aims of the organisers when planning the range of workshops?

J.Ł.: The radio workshops are an example of a project which disappeared a few years ago. We decided to reinstate it because of the growing media interest in dance and the dearth of specialised, professional personnel. Each of the restored or newly established schemes is the result of needs expressed by and addressed to us by those interested in this sphere.

A.H.: Last year, a competition for the best poster for the 15th Conference took place; this year, already for the second time, the Conference will include a street dance tournament. Where do ideas for organising such undertakings come from?

J.Ł.: The street dance tournament is another instance of our response to the demands.

A.H.: In recent years, the level of education as regards the art of dance has been increasing quite rapidly in Poland. Several dance schools have been established in Poland, including the Dance Theatre Faculty of the State Higher School of Theatrical Education in Cracow, with its seat in Bytom.
In what way does the programme of this year’s International Dance Conference refer to the transitions which the Polish dance community is undergoing at the moment?

J.Ł.: These transitions, I believe, were to a large extent influenced by the Conference. Whether this level of education has really increased, we shall see in a few years. So far, we have been experiencing a growing preoccupation with studying dance and dance theatre.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 30, 2009 1:45 pm 
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A fascinating interview with a senior local politician about what contemporary dance means in the context of the Festival's home town. Great to read that dance receives very positive comments.

Interview with Piotr Koj, the Mayor of Bytom

Anna Hackiewicz talks to Piotr Koj about the significance of the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival for his city.

Anna Hackiewicz: In what way does the International Modern Dance Conference contribute to the realisation of Bytom's development strategy?

Piotr Koj: The Bytom of coal and steel belongs to the past. Nevertheless, we have a long way to go in shaping a new image for the city. The fact that culture can provide a specific character, taking into consideration the potential we have in this sphere, is not surprising. Further, Bytom's speciality in the arts is primarily dance. Thanks to events such as the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival, during which Bytom becomes a meeting place for the best dancers and lecturers on modern dance from all over the world, the city is teeming with life, because it is the people who give it its color; they are its energy, and for us, they provide the directions of further actions.

A.H.: During the Conference, Bytom experiences a great inrush of foreign guests, people from Poland, as well as from abroad. What is the influence of the annual IMDCPF on industrial investments made in Bytom and its infrastructure?

P.K.: The International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival is a unique event on a European scale. Yet, it is not only dancing that draws tourists and adventure seekers to Bytom. The artists who come to Bytom from various parts of the world are enchanted by its architecture; they go sightseeing; they take photos. We are happy to hold the Conference in our city; however, we are aware of the amount of work which still needs to be done. That is precisely why our principal investments include, among others, creating hotel facilities and road building. Good roads stand for faster development, investors, and more tourists. The post-industrial areas and their possibilities for adaptation play an essential role here. An example of such an investment is the CHP Plant Szombierki, which is a location where cultural, business and sport events take place.

A.H.: In the development plan for Bytom for the years 2001-2015 it is stated that Bytom is the main repository of centuries-old Silesian culture, especially in the sphere of music, and the Bytom’s government’s task is, among others, to valorise the cultural legacy. What part does International Modern Dance Conference play in promoting Silesian culture?

P.K.: Bytom thrives on dance not only during the two weeks of the Festival. The Ballet High School is based here and the best students can continue their education in a higher school. Moreover, they can also perfect their skills during the workshops organised by the Silesian Dance Theatre. The International Modern Dance Conference has an enormous influence on promoting Silesia and Bytom, which has pretensions to being the Polish dance capital. The Silesian culture is an industrial culture, the cult of work, of coal and steel, folklore that cannot be found anywhere else. The Conference enters the industrial space, replaces the workers who were once the hosts here, and proves that art does not need beautiful rooms. Art needs people.

A.H.: The Performance Festival is acknowledged in many places all over the world. And what is, in your opinion, the local citizens’ view on the International Modern Dance Conference, which takes place in Bytom?

P.K.: Those two weeks in July, during which Bytom metamorphoses into a multicolored, multicultural city are impossible not to notice. The citizens of Bytom, for 16 years have grown accustomed to the cultural diversity present during the Festival. The local retailers are intensely interested in the event; they ask when the artists arrive, since they already know their, for instance, culinary preferences and want to be ready when the extraordinary guests approach the city limits. Furthermore, the All-Polish Street Dance Tournament organised last year for the first time made us aware how much the younger citizens of our city want to dance and how many others cheer them. Modern dance is a field of art deemed elitist and still not appreciated enough among larger audiences.

A.H.: The fact that the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival is organised in Bytom resulted in this city being now associated not only with Silesia but also with dance. What is the significance of the image of Bytom for the whole region?

P.K.: Let’s look globally – Bytom, which together with 14 adjacent cities constitutes the Upper Silesian Metropolitan Union, stands out against this background thanks to dance. This event is broadcast and promoted not only in the Polish media but also in specialist foreign media. Katowice has Rawa Blues, Mysłowice – Off Festival, Bytom has the International Modern Dance Conference and Performance Festival. Combined with other cities of the USMU, we create a huge, diverse cultural mosaic. As a consequence, Silesia is a place where everybody can find something for themselves. If we add to that the post-industrial legacy adapted for alternative uses, it should be admitted that, apart from art, audiences have the opportunity to discover how untypical and one-of-a-kind is the atmosphere of our region.

A.H.: Last year, the acting faculty of the Dance Theatre was relocated from Cracow to Bytom. What are the plans for the further development of the dance community in Bytom?

P.K.: The plans are ambitious. We are thinking about concentrating all the institutions connected with dance in one place. A perfect area to locate them would be the premises of the former Rozbark coal mine, which recently have passed into the ownership of our commune. That is exactly where, at the gates of Bytom, we intend to create the Dance Centre, which would include the Silesian Dance Theatre, the dance theatre faculty of the State Higher School of Theatrical Education and the ballet school. We should, nonetheless, remember that such an investment requires colossal sums of money, for which we shall strive in the Ministry of Culture. We will also try to obtain European Union funds.

A.H.: Thank you for your answers.


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PostPosted: Sun Aug 30, 2009 10:23 am 
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Interview with Karolina Staneczek-Pucher, Marketing Manager, Bytom Festival

By Ewa Zielińska


Ewa Zielińska: How long have you been working with the Modern Dance Conference in Bytom?

Karolina Staneczek-Pucher: That is my second Conference.

E.Z.: What problems concerning the promotion of the Conference do you encounter? What has changed since you became responsible for that?

K.S.-P.: Let me see… In fact, there wasn’t anything particularly difficult for me. I do not think that the form of promoting the Conference has changed, I continue what was started by my predecessor. We try to promote the Conference everywhere: radio, television, the internet, but also other places, such as houses of culture. We want to get to all the places where young people hang out. It is because they are our main target audience. Paradoxically, schools are the hardest nut to crack for us in terms of cooperation and promotion. When we prepare special materials for these institutions, out voluntaries and interns take them to the departments of education. It is the school’s duty to collect them and take care of their distribution – this is where things get tricky. This is the greatest difficulty, because television, the internet, web portals such as, for instance, Interia, know about the event and want to engage themselves in its promotion. For them, it is simply the prestige, for schools, it is just information.

E.Z.: On the one hand, the Conference should not have problems with sponsors or patrons, on the other hand, we are in Silesia, when something does not happen in Warsaw, it is like it did not happen at all. Are there any problems with finding sponsors of the Conference?

K.S.-P.: I deal with patrons, Katarzyna Furmaniuk (assistant director, department of development) deals with sponsors. As far as I know, there are, for sure, the City of Bytom, the Voivodeship, the Mayor of Bytom, and for the first time this year we have joined forces with the Upper Silesain Metropolitan Union. They know the institution, the event, so there is no problem. If it comes to patronages, we have regular collaborators, for example “Gazeta Wyborcza.” They already know that when June comes, we start to talk in terms of what, where, how and when. New patrons are “Didaskalia” and “Slajd.” For many years, we worked with “Ultramaryna”, and this time we have decided to cooperate with a young, rapidly expanding magazine. With patronages, as I have said, there are no problems, this year we succeeded in getting the “Elle” magazine’s patronage. We were awarded, together with Bytom, the Golden Format prize, which was sponsored by, among others, this magazine exactly. A bit more difficult, it is with television, but not the local ones, for them this is an exceptional event, it gets harder with the All-Polish television. This year, the Conference was mentioned in “Teleexpress” (a very popular news show), that was a great success. Nonetheless, Polish media know the event, yet claim that it is not their target because it takes place in Bytom and that is beyond their coverage.

E.Z.: From the perspective of Warsaw, not much is happening in Silesia, but that is where business which could start cooperating with culture is. It is a problem, nevertheless, what does the Silesian Dance Theatre do to convince the stubborn?

K.S.-P.: We inform how does the whole deal look like, we try to establish contact, we emphasise it being the biggest event of that type in Poland, that people from all over the world come here. This year, we have a large group of guests from Hong Kong, who came for the dance workshops organised during the Conference. We say that it is worth coming here. This contact is facilitated by local media, such as the Katowice Television which prepares material and then forwards it to others. To say it simply, we persist in informing that we are here, we cussedly communicate that something is happening here all the time.

E.Z.: Firstly, Bytom is not Warsaw, secondly, Bytom in itself is a difficult city. Even though the officials are very favourably disposed and people know about the Conference, often they just ignore it. How do you think, why does it happen?

K.S.-P.: You are partly right, this year, we carried out surveys which indicate that the least number of applications is, unfortunately, from Bytom. We got them from Gdynia, Sopot, Warsaw, Wrocław, yet here, it is a bit of a lemon. I think that the inhabitants of Bytom are gradually coming to like us, maybe not the workshops, but the performances. What can be seen during the whole year, the artistic season. Then, they come and participate eagerly. If it comes to the Conference, I have my own private theory to explain that – we are in Silesia, and even though many things are happening here, everything changes, people still try to go away during the holiday season.

E.Z.: Still, everything seems to be going for the better. In Silesia, a fashion for industrial scenery is introduced and promoted. We have an ample supply of that here. Coming to the Szombierki CHP Plant for a performance is a stunning experience. Is it another idea for promotion?

K.S.-P.: It seems to me that combining culture and postindustrial setting is a great concept. We offer these buildings a new life. Many people go to performance to see the these spaces. I think that mixing those two elements is brilliant.


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Interview with Viacheslav Krichmariev By Joanna Zielińska

Joanna Zielińska: You are a ballet school graduate who danced in many ballet performances. Why then , did you decide to start an adventure with contemporary dance?

Viacheslav Krichmariev: I wanted to change myself; I was looking for something new in terms of movement. Classical ballet, even though it is very expressive, does not offer so many opportunities for development. It depends on physical predisposition. With contemporary dance, one can show more personality, more emotions.

J.Z.: How important is classical training for contemporary dance?

V.K.: I think that every dancer should have ballet education because it creates the proper body posture. And the body should be professionally prepared. Obviously, one can perform contemporary dance not having been educated at a ballet school, but then the body which has no classical technique is physically limited, and if a dancer wants to dance with different choreographers, in different countries, the problem increases. For instance, I have solid classical and contemporary technical bases, so attending different workshops is easier for me as I already have long experience in my body, which enables me to perform the elements regardless of the teacher’s style.

J.Z.: How did you use your classical training, dancer of the Polish dance technique, while working in the Polish contemporary dance company of Jacek Łumiński?

V.K.: Everything is interconnected. Earlier, when I started working with Jacek I thought that what I already knew was useless. At first, I could not connect my classical technique with Jacek’s expectations. Only after some time did I realise that this experience is extremely important for me. When I recognised that, everything became easier. Of course, my body had to change the way muscles work. But that is a matter of predispositions.

J.Z.: You create your own choreographies; do you consider them neoclassical or contemporary works?

V.K.: It is not neoclassical, maybe for Jacek it is, but for me this dance is contemporary. Contemporary dance created for ballet school dancers and graduates. Those dancers who can perform ballet, dance contemporary dance quite differently. The same movement made by a dancer who was educated only in contemporary dance technique is not identical with what is produced by a dancer with classical preparation. Ballet artists also look differently, they have elongated line, differently working arms, long legs.

J.Z.: What are your themes?

V.K.: Various. I make solos and duets: in solos, the theme is often concerned with the lives of women, various situations in life; in duets, I explore the theme of interpersonal relations and love, because there are many kinds of love. If everything is fine, it is not love. And from this complexity, a multitude of possibilities and stories result. Often, I draw themes from what I feel at a particular moment.

J.Z.: If it comes to contemporary neoclassical dance, who inspires you the most among such names as Kylian, Forsythe, Mats Ek?

V.K.: I think that Kylian is one of the best in neoclassic. He produces great choreographies, obviously not all of them, but nobody creates masterpieces every year. But for me, just as there is Petipa, there is Kylian.

J.Z.: Who else apart from Kylian?

V.K.: Pina Bausch, who does not work in ballet but in contemporary dance. I like very much the Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, who are here this year, especially Enno Greko, any many others.

J.Z.: Do you regret abandoning your career as a dancer?

V.K.: On one hand, I regret it because I did not dance what I wanted to. For example, two years ago there was the Campania Tour and I did not dance such choreographies, and that is what I regret. What is more, I signed a contract with Kibbutz but could not work with them as I did not get a work permit. But I spent two weeks there, and saw a great performance, “Memories”; it was fantastic and I regret not performing in it. I knew which sections I should dance, what solos, what duets, etc. There are many things I observe and would like to dance. I would also like to work with a choreographer with whom I could engage in a creative discussion; who could receive something from me. But time flies, I am 37, and a dancer on stage should be young.

J.Z.: Nonetheless, are you planning to return on stage?

V.K.: I do not know, I do not do anything alone in my life. I never went to and never took part in auditions for companies. Maybe it was wrong, but I cannot feel myself when there are 100 people on stage apart from me. I feel myself well when I am alone on stage or when there is a choreographer with 5-10 dancers. Maybe, if I was 20 now, I could take part in auditions, with all the experience I have now, I would feel more secure. Anyway, now everything is organised. I even think now more like a teacher.

J.Z.: Do you consider performing your own choreographies?

V.K.: I do not like making choreographies for myself. I work with students or with choreographers.. I already tried on my own, but it is quite a problem. You prepare choreographies, you dance, you arrange lighting, you create costumes and music. You lose an objective perspective very quickly. Everything is concentrated around you. Besides, I do not want to do something I already can do; I want to dance something new, experience something new, something I still do not know about life, about movement. What I already know is not interesting for me.

Z.L.: This is your tenth Conference conducting workshops. How has the standard of the participants changed over this span of time? Are they more aware of what they are looking for in dance? Are they better prepared?

V.K.: I would not say that, I think that in past years, the level was a bit higher, there were more dancers who wanted to dance very much. Today, after the first day of the workshops, I must admit that there are very few true dancers. Obviously, there are people for whom dancing is interesting, mainly girls, almost no boys. There are no aficionados. However, , it is like that everywhere. There are few contemporary dancers, and good ones, even less.


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Interview with Jonathan Lee - dancer, teacher, choreographer

by Justyna Sidz


Justyna Sidz: Which dance techniques do you use in your choreographies and which of them is the dearest to you?

Jonathan Lee: Freestyle dominates my style, but I use also techniques such as popping, blocking, in addition, I create new styles. In my choreographies, I try to interweave different techniques and bind them into a coherent whole. I studied dance and became familiar with many techniques, from ballet to jazz. But hip-hop is my greatest passion.

J.S.: What do you want to convey in your dance and what is most important about it for you?
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J.L.: Dance is the result of three components: emotions`, movement and technique. All these elements have to balance and complement each other, and thanks to this, dance becomes a real experience. I put emotions in first place because they set the body in motion, they are the connection between the dancer and the audience. The key to communicating emotions is their profound experience and awareness because then they become real and natural. We can improve our technique by learning and training to become better dancers. However, if we do not harmonise with emotions, we will not achieve the intended effect.

J.S.: Why did you choose hip-hop as your main technique?

J.L.: That was love at first sight. Hip-hop was the first style I danced, my first fascination and, in consequence, passion. I did not have to decide, to choose - it was a natural process. I felt that it is my style and I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to do it. It is a specificity of movement that suits me and in which I feel best. I come from New York, Brooklyn, that is the place where hip-hop was born so I identify with this culture, this lifestyle, and first and foremost, this style of dance.

J.S.: Who is your dance idol?

J.L.: I have several idols, they are dancers existing in various spheres. My idols are a mixture of personalities and dance styles. I was fascinated most by Michael Jackson who was a great dancer, singer and an ingenious stage personality. I strongly admire works by such personalities as James Brown, Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers and many other similar Hollywood stars. My mother Robin Dann is another very important figure for me, who influenced my perception of dance. She is a choreographer and hip-hop teacher in NY. I respect people who express themselves in various artistic forms. Many people have the tendency to divide dance into different styles, forms and genres. But nowadays, all kinds of dance interweave, so to dance good hip-hop, one should have classical, jazz or other technical bases. Flexibility and openness to new dance forms broadens the scope of dance creativity and allows for more individuality in dance.

J.S.: Have you ever considered abandoning dance?

J.L.: No. I never thought about quitting. I do not dance professionally any more because I suffered a serious injury during a show in Germany - I could not walk for 3 months. That was the time when I became aware of how much I miss dance and its role in my life. I became respectful and humble towards dance. I started to appreciate what I could lose so easily. Dance is my life, my air, I hope I will never have to abandon it. Of course, I have many other passions, the music I create and photography. But dance is my first love.

J.S.: What do you advise to young dancers?

J.L.: First of all, practice! I also recommend learning various forms of dance from different teachers, because in the future, when you are going to dance with many choreographers, you have to be prepared for the challenges they pose. Each choreography is different, so you must have the skills to deal with them. I wish you luck.


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Interview with Rafał Urbacki - dancer and choreographer

by Regina Lissowska


Regina Lissowska: How do you create your performances? What is the inspiration for your art?

Rafał Urbacki: I started dancing very recently - about 3 years ago. Earlier, I practiced yoga and among my interests at school and university was movement theatre; I produced amateur performances, but narration in them was always constructed from a basis of the plasticity of movement.
Regarding my own performances, they are small pieces, but on themes meaningful for me. The first was Sleepless, with Iwona Olszowska helping me, a very short solo. I had problems with insomnia at that time and interestingly, they disappeared while working on the performance.
The second one was Birthday, dancing to music from birthday cards. That performance was hugely important for me – it was a kind of liberation after a relationship ended at that time. Next came, 7 Up, created here, during last year’s conference. It was created spontaneously, for similar reasons to Birthday. Through dance, I wanted to deal with things that were painful for me and I incorporated them in the choreography class of Victoria Fox, in which I participated at that time. But that dance project stemmed from the very need for movement, for discovering joy in it. I danced on the stairs of the foyer, using the strength of my body and various muscle tensions. People walked through the corridor, at both sides there were glasses filled with 7 Up. I also did a video dance to Tel Aviva’s music, which will be added to his CD in Israel. It was a small piece about feelings, video dance in an elevator. That was very nice. I think that everything I do must be pleasurable for me - that is the starting point. My dance must always result from the simple joy that I can move.

R.L.: Could you tell something about your movement?

R.U.: As I mentioned, I started dancing only recently. I have been on wheelchair for 10 years, and never thought I would dance. It was classes conducted by Kasia Rybok that made me aware that I really can do it and, some people tell me, do it well; that it is a suitable medium for me to communicate with audience. When I was starting to move, I went through many stages. The first was accepting that my body, with its disability may serve as a dance medium, may convey something with its particular motor activity. The next stage was leaving the wheelchair, when my body is no longer an integral part of me. It is as though I became an autonomous person, dancing without a prop. Later came experiments with different techniques, especially Body-Mind-Centering with Werner Bechter, contact improvisation with Iwona Olszowska, and other workshops. My most recent discovery is that, despite lack of feeling in my legs, through using various connections in the body, skeletal movement and hyperflexions – I can move my legs. I have discovered that I can dance in the standing position. For a dancer, these are obvious things, just standing. For me that was an amazing discovery.

R.L.: Why did you decide to take up directing?

R.U.: I never thought that I would dance and I do not know whether I will do it in future. In Poland, there is a big problem with perceptions of disabled dancers, especially outside the Silesian Dance Theatre, where there is the Direction Dance Theatre. I would very much like to dance in future and am doing my best to achieve it. I am a student of the State Higher School of Theatrical Education, but I have never wanted to do drama theatre. I am interested in dramatised dance theatre. My inspirations are, for example, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Alain Platel, using a synthesis of dance theatre and music. That is why I have chosen directing, not choreography. I have already produced 5 small directing projects.

R.L.: Could you tell something about your most recent performance?

R.U.: Together with Karolina, my friend from the directing course, we have been engaged on a work in progress for a long time. We have prepared the frame of what is to happen. Only when we are in this space, which is startlingly beautiful and amazing in its imperfection, will the whole be created. This performance is not about me or Karolina, it might be said it is about our attitude to the main protagonist, the space itself. It is a burned out school – a space which ceased functioning in the normal social circulation. Everywhere there are traces of fire and broken glass – traces of people who started to treat this place differently. It is overgrown with plants, and starts functioning within a completely different framework. But, at the same time, with its façade in the foreground, this place tries to keep up appearances of its previous usefulness. We want to persuade the place, like a human being, that it is fading away, that it is ruined. It is where the title comes from – Leveling. Soon, this place will be demolished, will cease to exist. What we want to do is, in a way, to hold a wake . That is why it is not about me or Karolina, we will play subsidiary roles, show people around this place like a museum, talk about what is lost.


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Interview with Barbara Sier-Janik - dance teacher

by Justyna Czarnota


Justyna Czarnota: You have been a teacher for many years, but you also have great stage experience. Is it helpful in your work?

Barbara Sier-Janik: I think that stage experience is essential to become a teacher. Someone once said that one cannot give driving lessons if you have only read about it, you have to be a practitioner. It is similar with dance – you have to be on stage. Artists have this advantage. Unfortunately, it still happens in our schools that we meet teachers who are experts on theory, have MA degrees, but have never set foot on stage. For instance, the notion of stage fright – if you have never been on stage, how are you going to prepare your student to deal with this powerful anxiety?

J.C.: Can you learn how to overcome stage fright?

B.S.-J.: Yes. From the cradle, you can teach a child the courage to present themselves. It is about the strength of the psyche. Actual experience of standing behind the scenes, waiting for the moment when the curtain goes up and you start performing, is vital in order to teach it.

J.C.: Teaching ballet is an enormous challenge in the contemporary world. Many a time, during the classes you have underlined that you try to encourage students not to abandon classicality. But how do you do that?

B.S.-J.: I try very hard to familiarise young people with effort. You have to love getting tired, as my professor, my dance guru Wojciech Wiesiłowski told us. Their psyche must be made ready for that; there are some who just cannot be persuaded, and then it would be better for them to abandon this profession, but in a friendly way, without torturing them, without distorted expectations. It is extremely important to instill these expectations in a child.

J.C.: Do you think that ballet is a vital technique to learn contemporary dance?

B.S.-J.: Maybe not completely. Of course, I advocate the usefulness of knowing the classical base when running a contemporary dance company. It's something solid you can return to. It is a kind of discipline put into the body, a way of shaping the body – those dancers look a bit different. Classicality is still an elitist field, it requires particular body predispositions. Knowledge of classicality surely will not do any harm to a contemporary dancer. This is what I assure my students here, in theatrical school. And I must say I admire them. They are great because they are open to my arguments, they allow themselves to be persuaded.

J.C.: You have been teaching ballet for over 20 years. What are the similarities and differences between teaching the young nowadays and in the past?

B.S.-J.: I see similarities because the established code of the classical vocabulary remains unchanged. Although now we emphasise rather what should be done, instead of how it should be done. Now we do not teach by imitation, you have to quickly notice what a particular person does wrong and correct it. Also, our ideals have developed. We draw them from the wisdom of contemporary dance, yoga and all the other assisting techniques. Earlier, there was not such an abundance of techniques to be used, enabling symbiosis - now you can look to another technique and take from it a breathing method, a way of using your body. Apart from that, nowadays everybody is in a rush, in the past, much more time was given for learning how to dance, and now we have to do it faster.

J.C.: You are the author of a book entitled Post Modern Dance. You have said that in retrospect, you are not fully satisfied with it, that you would like to expand it. Are these firm plans?

B.S.-J.: Yes, I am working on it now. I would like to devote more space to the way postmodernism was born and evolved.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2009 11:48 am 
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Interview with Stuart Sweeney, Lecturer and Associate Editor of the Conference Newspaper, with Joanna Zielińska

Joanna Zielińska: Firstly you were a banker. What was so powerful about dance that you finally left your banker career and became a dance critic ?

Stuart Sweeney: Most of my life I've actually being a film enthusiast but when I moved back to London around 1982, and saw the American dance company, Momix, this was really my way in; they blend dance and gymnastics in an imaginative and witty mix. After this revelation, I started to see more and more dance. Initially only contemporary dance, but after couple of years also ballet, primarily after seeing Birmingham Royal Ballet perform Hans von Manen's “Twilight” and “The Green Table” by Kurt Jooss. But going back to your question, my interest in dance was growing and growing while I was working in the bank and when the opportunity arose I thought: “Fine, let's move on!” I soon began dance writing for the Internet. I had a great time over a number of years writing every day and helping to set up an international dance website, CriticalDance. That's really how the banker became a dance critic.

J.Z.: You are the guest of many festivals in Eastern and Central Europe and managing a forum on this theme for the website CriticalDance. What is the difference between dance perception and criticism style, compared with Western Europe ?

S.S.: I would actually characterise it more as the difference between the Anglo-Saxon world and continental Europe. The Anglo-Saxon approach is more dance reviewing rather than the style of literary criticism. UK and American dance reviewers tend to concentrate on the movement very carefully, their own reaction to it and then look for some themes. When you read dance criticism from a country such as Belgium, the critics see themselves as closer to academics and write in a literary criticism style. Similarly when I come to Poland, you have much more intellectual approach to theatre than we do in the UK, where we are famous for being pragmatic and even anti-intellectual. Certainly I can see the Polish theatre criticism tradition carrying through to dance criticism from the people working on the newspaper here and also in Lublin. Sometimes, I have to remind people to describe the dance itself and how well it was performed.



J.Z.: Would you have some advice for polish dance critics ?

S.S.:Focus on a way to get your work published, perhaps in a local newspaper or the Internet, and this is part of my final lecture here, “Dance writing for the Internet”. When I first came here, there were few opportunities on the Polish Internet compared with now. Basically be bold, just go and do it. The first review I ever wrote, actually started as an email to a friend about a performance. When I looked at my email, I thought : “Oh, it looks like a review!” So I actually finished it as a review and posted it on a website and it turned out it was a premiere for a popular dancer and no one else had written about it, so it was published in their online magazine.

J.Z.: It is your fifth year at the Conference. What is your impression of this event ? Is the festival developing, making progress ? How does Bytom look compared with other dance events?

S.S.: Bytom festival is extraordinary. The other massive festival in Europe is ImPulsTanz in Vienna, where there are many performances, workshops and other events, but I'm not aware that they have dance history and dance writing seminars or outreach work. Thus, in terms of its size and range of activity, Bytom surprises everyone coming for the first time, and many elements are at a high standard. For instance the dance workshops - they've accumulated over the years an excellent team. With the seminars, we see that dance theory is developing here and there are more and more contributions from young Polish dance academics, which is excellent. However, most of my colleagues on the teaching faculty would say that the problem area is often the quality of the performances scheduled here; at other festivals I tend to see far fewer really weak productions. The exciting, new development in Bytom is the university course and everyone is very impressed. It is a major chapter in the development of contemporary dance in Poland and the first steps seem very positive. Certainly everyone here wishes Jacek and his colleagues every success with this new venture.


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