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Bytom 2010 - interviews and articles in English
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Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:28 am ]
Post subject:  Bytom 2010 - interviews and articles in English

Interview with Harmen Tromp, teacher and choreographer, by Regina Lissowska

Regina Lissowska: You have come to the Contemporary Dance Conference for the third time. How do you feel here?

Harmen Tromp: I love being here because there are very interesting people from all over the world. We all come to the funny little town of Bytom, which is a very nice place in the summer, there are many parks, but in the winter is less pleasant here. The atmosphere of this place is wonderful, people like what they are doing. I think that there is nobody who would not want to give something of their knowledge. I like the fact that there are many performances. When I am in Linz, I have no chance to see such a variety and when I come here I see works from America, Canada, Israel, Holland, Switzerland, Belgium – all this in the little town of Bytom. It is fantastic and I say this truly from my heart. The students are very nice, one can see that they want to learn. Nevertheless, there is too much shopping around when it comes to the workshops. After three days of classes there are still new people coming and I have already started my system. My classes gradually build up so, coming after a few days, students do not know what they should do. This is the only shortcoming.

R.L.: During this year’s Conference you are handling classical ballet and Floor Barre classes. What would you like to teach your students in the cycle of those classes and what are the advantages of learning these techniques, as far as contemporary dance is concerned?

H.T.: When it comes to the ballet class, I would like to teach my students the coordination of ballet, which in the case of this technique is very specific. It is beautiful and at the same time provides a dancer with some new knowledge and richness. This is why I also draw from the classical movements of the polonaise and waltz. I am basically teaching the essentials one needs to achieve proper coordination. What is the most beautiful and exceptional about ballet is the strong coordination between the arms and the head – everything has to be in the right place, at the right time. There is no place for chance movements. In ballet everything is under control, yet it has to stay organic and human - it is difficult to learn this. Quite often, when dancers take a position, they become mechanical, and ballet is not mechanical but organic.

On the other hand, I teach Floor Barre because I believe that one can take to it like a fish to water. Personally, I learned Floor Barre within a week. My teacher used to prepare exercises based on the knowledge of yoga, the anatomy and kinesiology. I love teaching Floor Barre as it trains dancers in a soft way, but it does not mean the same way as that release. It is about the tone a ballet dancer has to have from the very beginning of their first exercises. It is about the carriage and alignment present in the spine, but it is all on the floor; that is why it is easier to work with different muscle structures because one has support. If one is standing on two feet, it is very difficult to feel all the working muscles because the two feet are the least platform one is on. In its precision and coordination, this technique is almost like ballet. Learning it, they learn to talk to their body - to tell it precisely what it should do. In this way the dancers become their own teachers if they first learn the essentials from me.

R.L.: You are also managing the auditions to the Institute for Dance Art in Linz. Could you tell how the auditions are held?

H.T.: Normally, the auditions in Linz take two days. Handling the audition here we knew that we did not have many places so we could chose only two dancers but, nevertheless, we chose three dancers because they represented a high level. During the audition we are looking for dancers who are strong, talented, physically well equipped, are very fast at picking up steps and understand the different requirements when a dance section is given to them. Jianan Qu gave a small combination of very released and very strong elements. On the basis of such dance section we can learn a lot about a dancer. We also take people who lack in technique or who have not taken ballet lessons; however, in this case the talent must be extremely strong because one has to invest a lot of effort and energy if there is no sound background.

R.L.: Could you reveal the plans of the projects you are working on with your students in Linz? What would you like to stage here next year?

H.T.: We already have a performance starring our graduates. The group is called The Company of Verticality. We would like to perform the new piece created by the director of the Institute, Rose Breuss. It is very much inspired by Kisiński’s novel entitled “The Painted Bird,” which was popular in the 90s. The performance will be premiered in Vienna in December. We have already started showing small sections of the piece in different theaters, but, finally, it will be a full evening production. In my opinion, it would be perfect to stage the performance in the old Power Plant. It would be also wonderful to stage again Georg Blaschke’s solo - “Jetzt bist Du dran.”

R.L.: Thank You.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 08, 2010 5:38 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews

Interview with Idan Cohen (Israel)

Regina Lissowska: What are your impressions of this year’s conference?
Idan Cohen: Honestly, I love being here. I didn’t know if I could come this time because I have a lot to do in Israel. It is extremely important for me to be here. It is really inspiring here – I meet many new people and watch plenty of performances I wouldn’t have chance to see otherwise. The participants of my workshop are very enthusiastic and passionate, so teaching here is a pleasant and reviving experience. This event gives me lots of inspiration – not all the things I see I enjoy, but definitely there are always those I appreciate greatly. It is a fantastic experience and I hope it will continue for many years to come.

R.L.: What is the message you want to convey to the participants of your workshop?
I.C.: The central idea is to explore the body as a tool to express emotions and feelings. In addition, we need a deeper understanding of who we are as people who dance.

R.L.: The movement you teach differs from what Polish dancers are used to – that is what is usually taught. Thus, I would like to ask how do you see the differences between Polish and Israeli dance, or movement in general.
I.C.: It’s a difficult question to be answered lightly. I think that people who come from different parts of the world move differently - their body language is different. The type of dance I’m interested in and I teach has a lot to do with body awareness and understanding the cultural context we come from. Sometimes we are influenced by factors such as weather or culture. Often, even the political atmosphere around us can change something in the body. In other words, it’s not a question I could answer in a concrete way, but, undoubtedly, it’s a fascinating question for many of us.

R.L.: This year, the participants of the conference will be able to see several Israeli works. Can you see any common traits between the dance pieces from your country?
I.C.: So far, this year, I have seen only Yossi Berg and Oded Graf. Yet, to take them in general, not talking about any particular work, I notice that Israeli pieces are all in search of forms of movement different from those we normally experience. When you watch such a performance, it’s just not possible to point your finger at something and state that, for example: this is inspired by Cunningham technique, by Limon, by Graham, or by Russian ballet. What you can see is rather seeking for new forms of movement. I think this is what makes Israeli works unusual and successful.

R.L.: Israeli works are really popular with Polish audiences; recently, they have been presented at many festivals and were well received.
I.C.: That’s fantastic! It’s great to hear that.

R.L.: Unfortunately, we won’t be able to see a piece from you this year…
I.C.: Yes, I’m presently working on a new dance which will have its premiere in 1,5 months, so we have nothing to show this time. I hope that next year we’ll present a performance here.

R.L.: Could you tell us about the new piece?
I.C.: I was invited to create a work for Maria Kong, a relatively new Israeli company. It’s a group established by four ex-members of Batsheva. With my dancers they are preparing a new creation,“Brazil”. It provokes questions about pleasure, love and their opposites, their different aspects. It is concerned with our dreams, longings, but also fears.

R.L.: Is there something you would like to say to all the participants of the conference, not only those who take part in your workshop?
I.C.: Here, we’re surrounded with many great ideas and styles. We should be as open and receptive as we can. We shouldn’t reject new alternatives or remain indifferent to other styles. We should always try to explore new horizons. We should produce a kind of pressure so that this beautiful art always goes forward. What is also important is to push the boundaries. We shouldn’t play safe, even if we fall; we must take risks and bravely push the boundaries as far as we can.

R.L.: Thank you.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Tue Aug 10, 2010 12:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews

Interview with Helena Jonsdottir

Regina Lissowska: You conduct a workshop called “Get out of the Hole Into the Whole. Physical Theatre/ Dance Theatre” at the 17th International Dance Conference. Could you tell us about the central idea behind your workshop?

Helena Jonsdottir: What is essential for me is that the dancers awaken in themselves the awareness of what they are saying with their bodies; that they learn to integrate body language with their way of thinking when they are performing on stage or creating choreography. Also, to support this approach with knowledge and the valuable tool of using words.

R.L.: I know it is difficult to answer this question so early, just after the first class, but what are your first impressions as the teacher?

H.J.: Yes, it is early to comment about that. We are at the first stage of using text in a dance role, so, for the potential of every participant, that is already a great step forward.

R.L.: During the class, you told us about body language, about what we can read from the posture and movement of the dancer on stage. Taking that into account, what is most important for you when you watch dance performances?

H.J.: The most interesting thing for me is when I see that a dancer lives their part. I don’t care about high legs or fifty pirouettes, the most important thing is that the dancer is completely immersed in his role at a given moment; that is delightful and I’m captivated. You have to put yourself into the way of thinking and the body language of a given character. I find this a lot in the theatre world, but I think it is lacking in the dance world. I want to fall in love with the dance, with the choreography. I want to cry, scream and laugh, but this happens less and less frequently. I believe that the works of Pina Bausch showed this quality. She cared about what moved people, not how they moved. And this is what we need to highlight, to bring out more. We are great in terms of technique, we have so many talented dancers. We need to conquer the world, we need to become visible in the media. We must speak, use words, use different languages. I want to have new choreographers who create their own languages, just as Merce Cunnigham and Pina Bausch did. But we need to remember that it takes time. Finding her own voice took Pina ten years, 27 with her company.

R.L.: How do you see the difference between physical theatre and dance theatre?

H.J.: It is a huge dilemma in the academic world. When I talk to academics who know the history of dance theatre, they often quarrel about the difference between dance theatre as two words and dancetheatre as one word. And I ask: why are we debating that at all? Of course, we need to categorise things. On the one hand, there is theatre, on the other hand, we have dance. Dance performances are pulled forth with dance, theatre performance – with theatre. Dance theatre combines the two: it’s both text and images. In my opinion, physical theatre is several arts put together. Everything is equal – sound, music, text, dance, circus, pantomime, etc. It’s a physical work because most of our being is physical, it’s not words. If it comes to body language, it comprises 65% of our daily communication, while voice matters in 15%, and words only in 6%.

R.L.: I was intrigued by the name of your workshop - “Get out of the Hole Into the Whole”. Could you explain that to us?

H.J.: I always wondered - where does the hierarchy among the arts come from? I think music has the highest position, then it’s visual arts, below that we have theatre and dance is at the very bottom. Why, particularly when it is an international language. I believe it’s about the tools we use - we need to learn to compose music so that we understand it better; we need to plan larger productions; we must learn more about set design to realise its full potential. Also, we must learn to apply the words correctly. We need to get all those tools. We go to ballet classes, step classes, contemporary dance classes, but we never ask the question:“Who are you?” If you’re not going to be a dancer, maybe you can be a fashion designer. And if you love dance, perhaps you can design clothes for dancers? It’s vital to build our army in all these fields. So I tell the dancers: get out of the hole into the whole!

R.L.: Thank you.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sat Aug 14, 2010 5:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews

Modern or contemporary?

Magdalena Mikrut investigates terminology

The issue concerning the definition of “modern dance” has been debated for many years now. It is an umbrella term, with as many interpretations as the number of people you ask. It's time to consult the experts and put an end to these disagreements. Yet, will it be conclusive?

Stuart Sweeney believes that there is no generally accepted definition of modern dance. Geographical differences result in some people using the term modern, while others prefer the label “contemporary”. Nevertheless, it should be remembered that every time our interlocutor uses the term “modern dance”, if there is any doubt we should ask them what they mean by this phrase. Sweeney agrees that in a European context, what we can see in Bytom is contemporary dance. When inquired about its definition, he responded with one possible avenue - the explanation applying in the world of fine art, which states that the word “modern” refers to the period before WWII or the early 1950's, whereas later work is described as “contemporary”. What is more, he argues that the discussion concerning the definition of terms can become dangerous if they are used as an exclusion filter – what to show and what not to show. Overall, he believes we shouldn't get too hung up over definitions, but just be clear what people mean when individuals use the terms.
George Jackson agrees with the preceding opinion, declaring that it is impossible to achieve a technical explication of modern dance. In his view, modern dance chooses truth over beauty, freedom instead of discipline, education rather than entertainment; it prefers discovery to tradition, values improvisation more than precise technique. Moreover, this dance form doesn’t stand in opposition to ballet. According to Jackson, modern dance should be a never-ending revolution.

When asked how would he classify the performances at the conference, Jackson responds quite carefully that it depends on the perspective. Some represent modern, others exemplify contemporary.

As you can see, dance escapes all attempts at unequivocal definition and the problem remains unsolved.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews and articles in English

Question: What does it mean to be a professional dancer?

Regina Lissowska asks some of the teachers, choreographers and dancers working at Bytom 2010

Harmen Tromp:
In my opinion, it means loving dance and loving movement. Also, respect for the body and discipline, which comes together with that love – that is why it’s not like military discipline, but rather cherishing the ability to express yourself so much that you want to say something with your body. In addition, it’s having the discipline to practice every day; changing your body, working with it, developing it. And a good and healthy spirit is very important too.

Rossa Estrella:
It’s a really difficult question. In terms of emotional life, the answer is to be able to communicate with people, share your experiences and your life with people. Movement is a language; it’s a very social type of work, even if you’re shy or reclusive, because you get to work with other dancers. In the practical sense, to be a dancer means a lot of hard work in a very limited period of time because you don’t have many years to dance.

Paraskevas Terezakis:
Being a professional dancer rests on the ability to remain honest with yourself and expressing your inner world instead of the external world because we can all see what happens outside.

Mackenzie Green-Dusterback:
It means a lot. Having dance as a career is great because I can do in my life the thing I really love. I feel blessed that I can dance and make a living from it.

Manuel Sorge:
For me it means doing what I love. I think myself very fortunate because most people work because they have to and I work because I love to. And I get to stay fit which is always a bonus. And I get to travel a lot and meet all sorts of people.

Jens Bjerregaard:
In my opinion, it’s the question of the profession you have chosen – it doesn’t matter whether you have or haven’t got a job in that sphere. A professional musician, for example, a guitarist, needs to practice their fingers, a professional singer must practice their voice. I think you become a professional the moment you have worked out your abilities as an artist.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Sun Aug 15, 2010 5:56 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews and articles in English

Interview with Rossa Estrella

Regina Lissowska: During today’s class, you asked the dancers - what does dance mean to you and why do you dance? Now, I would like you to answer the same questions.

Rossa Estrella: I love dancing because it’s the first thing that made me feel free. As a child, I worked with an older Gypsy dancer who taught me how to dance flamenco when I was still very young. That man couldn’t read, write or do anything official in our world. He lived in his own world. He told me that that dance can “heal the tribe”. I’ll remember that all my life and I feel that, besides expressing myself, I can help others through dance.

R.L.: Do you often teach flamenco to contemporary dancers?

R.E.: I have the great benefit of having often worked with contemporary dancers in classical dance and in flamenco. Apart from being a trained flamenco dancer, I also studied contemporary and other dance styles. Because I feel that every movement is important, it doesn’t matter what it is called or to which school it belongs. If it’s movement, I can use it in my work. I didn’t become a dancer and a choreographer to be limited by schools of thought. That is why I work with contemporary dancers, and I enjoy it a lot, because it gives me a chance to show flamenco, a very specific dance, from a different perspective - in a different format.

R.L.: What is the plan for your workshop?

R.E.: On this course, I teach choreography which combines contemporary dance and flamenco: its energy, rhythm and emotional quality. The participants will present their work during a students’ performance on July, 9.

R.L. What are the benefits that contemporary dancers, or dancers specialising in other techniques, can draw from performing flamenco?

R.E.: Flamenco opens your ear because its rhythms are very complex. It has a metric of 12 but we divide this in various ways so it allows dancers to develop a rhythmic style of hearing which is very helpful later in their work. Apart from that, we combine: all the movements; the way we use torso, legs and the whole body and the essential coordination of these elements. . These experiences are extremely useful for dancers in general. In the case of classical ballet dancers, because the technique they employ can result in rigid torsos, flamenco can help them fight that problem. When it comes to contemporary dance, flamenco is also very helpful, since it has many elements that dancers specialising in contemporary can use in their work.

R.L. Thank you.

Author:  Stuart Sweeney [ Thu Sep 23, 2010 3:29 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Bytom 2010 - interviews and articles in English


with Regina Lissowska

Renata Lissowska: It is visible in your works that you are interested in going beyond boundaries; it is somehow incorporated in release and the Feldenkrais method you employ. This is why I would like to ask how you perceive boundaries in the context of the body and space as well as in psychological and theoretical aspects.

Georg Blaschke: It is a very interesting question. A boundary is a cognitive tool. It refers to the Feldenkrais method which is very important in my work, both, when it comes to the aspects of the body and representation in the sense of aesthetics. It is a wide topic. In the Feldenkrais method, the boundaries are called constraints. It means starting with the smallest movement abilities in joints. One can experience, naturally or consciously, that there are some constraints in moving. But there are also constraints which we can impose ourselves, like in the situation when we block one limb using other one. The very constraints give us new possibilities of movement because those force us to look for new solutions in order to go around the obstacle. From the somatic point of view, this is the way of exploring new spaces and movement awareness.

I also use this concept to develop the internal and external presence. The pictures presented by bodies can be transformed through self limitation. Additionally, physical contact, like in the case of partnering, creates boundaries – one is not free anymore since a constellation of bodies is created. So it’s a somatic tool enabling us to produce pictures which could be read by the audience. Nevertheless, I don’t stop here, I go further – I draw from the architecture, which naturally sets space limits. What I find interesting is how it is possible to use the architecture for discovering new ways of going beyond the constraints. I would like to delve deeper into this problem. When it comes to release or the Feldenkrais method, it is a process that starts inside and extends to the outside. Starting with the body work, I precede to the partner work, to the group work, and then to the work with space and the architecture. It could be discussed from the social and psychological point of view. All the constraints are very inspiring for me. They are a source of new possibilities of representing the presence, as well as the physical and aesthetic forms.

R.L.: What other fields are you interested in? Do you draw inspiration from other forms of art?

G.B.: As I have already said, I’m inspired by everything that surrounds me, namely, the space and the reality. I don’t utilize many factors coming from the outside. I consciously exclude them because I want to stay as close to the somatic approach as possible. It can be exteriorized so I don’t need any additional inspirations. Somehow, it is always new and, in some sense, also rich. I find the fusion of space and choreography very inspiring. All the performances I have been recently working on are adapted to the space characterized by different distances, light patterns and architecture. I’m interested in phenomenology of contemporary sculpture - the way the sculptures or bodies are inscribed into the surrounding space, how they transform the space and what kind of relations between them is established. Apart from this, I take interest in archetypes of the human bodies and their differentiation – young and old, masculine and feminine, etc. Currently, I’ve been cooperating with a light architect and a musician, it is very inspiring too.

R.L.: One can clearly notice the deep theoretical awareness present in your performances. What is the way from the theory and inspiration to the act of communication with the audience?

G.B.: It takes time. I’m not a conceptualist, philosophy and phenomenology come later in my works. It is a process; during the last five years I’ve been developing a kind of a language combining the somatic approach, which is influenced by release, the Feldenkrais method, Body-Mind Centering, as well as my own experiences. All this is related to the way the body is presented in space, in relation to the architecture, etc. I don’t search for new spectacles, I rather deepen and transform the already existing forms. It is a complex process as the somatic approach reveals various issues.

In the case of “Jetzt bist Du dran,” which was performed here during the Festival, the former choreography was reconstructed. I was analyzing the form of the choreography, I was trying to capture the essence of tendencies in space through the somatic approach. I was thinking what to do with certain tendencies – should I elaborate more on one thing or place the other somewhere near the space limits? What follows, should I extend the presence to longer distances? I’m curious if I could filter the feelings through the somatic approach, in order to obtain new quality and extract the essence. “Jetzt bist Du dran” represents the very approach to the reconstruction. It undergoes the process of changing, next year it will be something different. I develop it through practice and the next step will come later.

R.L.: Will you continue the reconstruction approach in your future performances?

G.B.: The already existing performances are interesting for me. I’m also inspired by dancers’ bodies, their personality and history, I would like to redefine those. I have some concepts but I don’t want to reveal them now.

R.L.: I would like to change the perspective now. What do you, as a spectator, expect to see on stage? Which performances were especially inspiring or shocking for you? Is there a spectacle that is embedded in your mind?

G.B.: I could talk for hours about the performances I have seen because there have been a lot of them during the last twenty-five years. I have seen spectacles which were very inspiring, some of them, but not many, were shocking. When I go to see a performance, I try not to have any expectations. It is not easy as we all have a tendency to compare things; with the years, we develop some patterns in our heads. If I were to describe my expectations, those would probably be high taking into account how I perceive dance. But it is also a part of my job that I’m trying to leave the expectations aside and to look at a piece less critically. Anyway, later it will become clear what attracts me in the performance.

R.L.: What do you think about the Conference?

G.B.: I feel well here. I’m for the fifth time in Bytom and I like to come back here because I love the spirit; I see that people here are really engaged in what they do and respect each other. When I teach my classes, I see that the students are eager to learn something and to share their experiences. I feel really attracted by the space here, for example, by the postindustrial sites. I like the rawness, like this of the old power plant, one can find here. The lights and the colours present in the ambient are just wonderful. Probably many Poles think that this area is ugly as they have in mind the damages caused by coal mining; nevertheless, the atmosphere of this place appeals to me. From my observations I can tell that the Festival provides chances for the local community as well as for dancers from other parts of Poland. Here, one can be bitten by the dance bug.

R.L.: Thank you.

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