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 Post subject: Bytom 2008 - Interviews
PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:07 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
DANCE WRITING WORKSHOPS

Roman Pawłowski talks with Joanna Zielińska

Joanna Zielińska: It's already the fourth year that you lead Dance Writing workshops during the International Contemporary dance conference and performance festival. You teach future critics how to express and commit their emotions, ideas, thoughts about dance to paper. Is it a unidirectional process or you are also learning from the participants?

Roman Pawłowski: Absolutely! These workshops let me examine my own work from a distance, which is impossible when you are working for a daily newspaper, where we don't have time for reflection. Here I can weigh up once more the role of the critic in respect of, on one hand, the audience, and on the other an artwork and the world of the artist. I can also re-examine once more the problem of the criteria we use to judge art, and I don't mean only dance art. Besides that of course contact with new generation of writers, each year better and better educated people, is valuable. It opens new horizons for judging and interpreting art.

J.Z.: How has the level, skills and knowledge about art has changed during these 4 years?

R.P.: I have to comment on two aspects. Firstly, awareness of dance art has certainly grown. Four years ago they started with only very basic information, whereas today's participants not only know what modern dance is, but they are also able to distinguish the features of dance theater among other arts. They have their favorite groups, they place particular events within the context of the history of dance; they compare the performances of particular artists, this new one with one from the past. So I think they already know more about contemporary dance than me. Also the fact that today young people usually study two majors is significant. Thanks to this they connect knowledge about history of art and dance with general ideas of philosophy, sociology, human communication or journalism. It enables them to speak about theatre in a more inspired and varied way.

J.Z.: So if we consider future dance critics or theorists, do we have potential?

R.P.: The weakest point is still the writing itself. It appears that Universities don't teach students how to communicate in a readable, clear and succinct way, their thoughts and ideas onto paper in the form of a review or article. Yes, this is the biggest problem. On one hand the participants of these workshops think better, and read performances better, but they have a problem transferring their intuitions to paper. Too often it is still imitating popular newspaper language or the language of an essay and as a result, these texts lose their power.

J.Z.: How to find own style and how to exercise yourself in a succinct style of writing?

R.P.: It is the result of practice. I have been a journalist for 18 years and for 15 of those, I write about theatre and as the Romans said: “There is no day without a written line.” It's the only way of improving your powers of communication.

J.Z: What do you think about future of Polish dance theater? What changes have you noticed during the past few years of the festival?

R.P.: Clearly the situation is better now than at the start of the 90's, when the Bytom performances saw only 5 or 6 full rows. Participants for all the events were 60, now we have 600. Then contemporary dance was probably as virgin and unintelligible as impressionist paintings a hundred years ago or abstract art from the 20's. During the last few years in Poland an incredible turning point took place. We have changed our attitude to dance and generally to the body. I think that together with opening our border to ideas of the western Europe we have also changed our attitude towards body expression and the body itself; it consists in regaining faith or trust in the body, but also in defeating some limitations which were imposed on people by religion and mores. We shouldn't deceive ourselves: in Catholic tradition the body is a symbol of a martyr but on the other hand it is also a source of the devil and sin. Because of that we Polish catholics experience a tearing inside when we take part, receive or create contemporary art, which talks about the body in the context of breaking social convections. But on the other hand, I think that's good, especially for the future of Polish dance theater, because among these conditions it will always be revolutionary here, always there will be some dramatic tension. Events inside this theater will often be controversial, they will arouse opposition and for art it's really good, I think. For sure it's better than in Switzerland where probably everything is possible on stage and nobody pays any attention.

J.Z.: What is your opinion about polish contemporary dance technique?

R.P.: Theoretically I think that the assumptions of this style are good, very interesting and deep. On one hand Łumiński refers to maybe not a particularly Polish tradition, but rather tradition in Poland, I mean Jewish culture and on the other hand he uses techniques which have roots in avant-garde Polish theater from the middle of XX century; I have in mind Grotowski. It's a Polish specialty, if we talk about something like that, we rely on searching for sources of art inside of our psycho-physical beings and this is exactly the subject of Grotowski's art. I think that he achieved the most among any artist in the world. Unfortunately, nobody appreciate his discoveries and today, thanks to Łumiński, they have the opportunity to pass into the main trend of dance theater. The best proof is that Łumiński leads the department of dance in Cracow's Theater Academy. Actors started to pay bigger attention to the body, how it can be used as the main tool of the artist and exactly what Grotowski was fighting for 50 years ago. So I think that still we have something to offer to Europe.

J.Z.: You were born and grew up in Białystok (in the very east of Poland, near to the Belorussian border). What do you think about such a high attendance of your fellow countrymen from Podlasie on the Dance Writing workshops (it's 8 persons)? Where does such an interest in dance come from in Podlasie?

R.P.: Yes, that was surprising. Maybe because of that I didn't realize how this city grew up, how art circles have developed in my hometown, which I left a long, long time ago. But on the other hand Białystok always was the place where people were greedy for new trends in art. It isn't a coincidence that Podlasie is the motherland of two artists essential for the development of Polish theater, I mean: Tadeusz Słobodzianek, who at the end of the XX Century reformed Polish drama and Piotr Tomaszuk, director and founder of experimental theater called Wierszalin.

J.Z.: Thank you.


Last edited by Stuart Sweeney on Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:00 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 09, 2008 3:11 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
5 -minute interview with Louise Frank, Limon technique teacher at Bytom

In conversation with Anna Hackiewicz

Anna: What describes a good dancer?

Louise: Discipline, technique.

A.: What do you think about classical technique ?

L.: Ohm...All kinds of technique are good if you have it. The technique shapes the future experience of the dancer, of the human. You can spice your life in whatever way you want, if you have a good base.

A.: Does „technique” mean a „discipline”?

L.: It is the rules on which you build yourself.. The dancer has to be consciousnes of his technique, like the human his style of living. Just to know- why he does these particular things. Do what you have to do. In that way you will observe different ways of thinking. The dancer also should be open for the new.

A.: What type of „new” do you mean?

L.: You have to be open for those things which are coming with life...for everyday suprises. And...don't hold yourself too much. Let things go. Be open for all sorts of techniques. The new makes you richer...

A.: How is to „be open for the news”?

L.: The curiosity, curiosity of everyday situations which are around you. Don't close yourself.

A.: Louise, what gives you your energy?

L.: The world where I live in, this global unity which I am a part.


Last edited by Stuart Sweeney on Thu Jul 10, 2008 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Thu Jul 10, 2008 1:37 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Little Contemporary Dance Conference – to organise and interest

Magdalena Górnicka talks with Emilia Olejnik


In the Little Conference, about 20 children from 7-11 years old are taking part, and almost all of them have some dance experience. You need to pay attention all the time when you are working with a group of children and a teacher also must have a defined scheme for every single minute of the workshop.

Magdalena Górnicka is teaching the children dance improvisation. She says that the most important thing when you are learning how to work with children is to “learn yourself, with yours eye open”. The exercises and tasks should be prepared for children in a special way and Magdalena’s own experiences are useful from the time when she was 5 years old, and took part herself in dance classes.

Preparing a full, well-defined schedule of workshops is essential, as kids commit themselves instantly when the task is interesting to them. They are also impatient - they don’t like it when a task is complicated and needs a lot of explanation. Then the children will start something before you tell them what to do. The main thing is to be clear and simple with your instructions. Further, teachers can’t work for a long time at the same exercise to make it polished. The children expect variety.


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 Post subject: Bytom 2008 - Alex Cheung's „Being in and Out”
PostPosted: Mon Jul 14, 2008 1:12 pm 
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Location: London, England; Tallinn, Estonia
Ritual circle

by Joanna Zielińska


It is sometimes difficult to experience art, especially contemporary art, which is the result of a foreign culture. It is even harder to understand it. The notion of time, movement, dramaturgy are constructed on the basis of a different mentality and aesthetic. Simply there is a lack of a conceptual alphabet to interpret it and because of this as we don't know how to react, we are laughing, leaving the hall or manifesting our boredom. For myself, I became emotionally involved in the by last few minutes of Alex Cheung's „Being in and Out” . It's true that the thrill arising from participation in this ritual was neither natural nor easy. However, the final impact was so intense that everything I'd felt earlier was erased from my memory and lost its significance...

Let us come back to a hall of Szombierki Power plant, where the performance took place . We entered to the space lit by hundreds of candles, placed on the floor, platform and steel sculptures. Monotonous drum music slowly brought us into a trance. On the large screen hanging from the ceiling we saw a rocket launching, then exploding and falling. At the same moment next to the steel roof beams, where a rope ladder was suspended, we saw the small figure of Alex Cheung dressed in the costume of a traveller.

Slowly the actor descended a staircase and sat, now dressed r in a kimono. In the presence of sounds of a tropical forest he put himself in a state of meditation. Suddenly the music changed to a contemporary, even industrial composition, with the vibratiions penetrating the audience. At the same time, the artist moved smoothly to the left side of the hall, casting aside his black toga, to reveal thee uniform of a contemporary yuppy: well-cut suit, tie and white shirt. Cheung danced and balanced among the candles, and described a circle around a railinged opening, from where he finally pulled out a statue of a contemporary idol, which could be imagined as a symbol of money controlling our souls. He placed it in the middle of the hall and during his whirling dance, he dethroned this green god, striking it with a long pole.

During this year's festival it was the first time that the space of Szmbierki Power point hall was so completely and creatively arranged. Mobius Strip Theatre in a touch of genius used the perpendicularity of the space, with the performance moving from the ceiling, down to the lowest levels of the opening, as well as on the horizontal level, where we saw circles described by Cheung and his musician - Kima Dae Gun. The lattermoved behind the audience playing on the dram, gong, bricks, pipes or flute, and described a ritual circus around the hall, enveloping all the space into a mystic sphere. In combination with music floating from the speakers, this composition of sounds penetrated the interior of the spectators, triggering tension and anxiety. Cheung's movements, which were slow and focused in the beginning, finished with an attack of energy - an epileptic fight between the artist and the green idol which had captured his soul.

The performance was a mystery based on the collapse of our civilization., which was announced firstly by the disaster of the rocket. It was a diagnosis for our culture, where illness is manifested by the disappearance of spirit and faith, and the substitution of intellect. This condition is a result of rational European philosophy, which relativised the notions of truth, beauty and goodness, and replaced them with post-modern notions of accidental values, accidental beauty and temporary truth. Our uniformed world is ruled by the yuppy, in a well-cut suit, stiff and brusque.

To decode this performance, we can refer to the aesthetic model of Jerzy Grotowski - theater as a vehicle. In fact, Alex Cheung worked with the Master during his cooperation with U Theater on Taiwan. Grotowski believed, that art could be a ladder, which brings an artist as well as the spectator to achieve some kind of enlightenment, by carrying them into unusual dimension of experience. Such a concept of art, as a vehicle, allows artist and audience to experience themselves and reality deeper and more truly. It is also directs our attention to archetypes, which actually rule the world, although usually hidden.

The performance “Being in and Out” was such a vehicle. On one hand, it doesn't need spectators, it was a meditation for the artist himself, and we were merely witnesses, as in Grotowski's theatre. On the other hand as time passed, the presentation also began to become the vehicle for the spectator, who began to be included and absorbed by the music as well as the action inside this ritual circle, sacred space. Cheung's performance is a realization of the notion of a stripped actor, who, referring to myths and archetypes, in this case of western civilization, unites what is collective and individual; reaches the deepest layers of our experience and psyche; finally uncovers and releases emotions, which usually are deeply hidden.

For many it will be only symphony of boredom and high decibels. For most of the performance I balanced between bewilderment and fascination, but by the end I was totally absorbed.and convinced of its truth and subtlety.


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