Photo: Margareta von Klenze
Photo: Margareta von Klenze

Tonight you are showing your new production GRACE, but you also held a workshop today. How did you manage to do both in one day? Is it stressful to work on something else on the day of the performance?

It’s not that stressful. Perhaps before the premiere it’s a bit harder, but I actually enjoyed the workshop. I just love working with people, so I like doing these types of things.


How is your company organised? How did you come together?

Six years ago, we started working together as a small team of five dancers, and for the last productions it was only four dancers, so it’s a small community. I’ve known three of the dancers for a long time, because we all went to the Budapest Contemporary Dance School. So I’ve known some of them since when they were fourteen years old. I only held one audition, really, which is where I met Marcio Canabarro, who is from Brazil. Everyone in the team is a freelancer, so they are also working in other companies as dancers and choreographers.


So it is quite a close relationship you have to your dancers?

Yes, we have a close connection, because our work is not motivated by money, but by wanting to create something together. The financial support for the cultural arts is not that strong in Hungary, which makes it really difficult to plan a production. The financial support system is very fragile and you never really know what your budget is going to be like. It is not that easy to survive in the artistic scene, but we also have a strong underground art scene, where you can show your work. So, because of these difficulties, everyone works on various other projects apart from our pieces. Even so, we always come back again to work together and create new pieces.


How do you work to create your movement material?

We spend a long time just improvising. Sometimes, I bring in people from other artistic fields to help with the verbalisation and to do voice training. It always depends on the possibilities to present what I want to express. I give the dancers a lot of space and I am choreographing mostly through verbal direction, because I stopped dancing when I was thirty. I express what I want to show, and try to vocalise the feelings. Then I like to take a step back and just observe, while the dancers improvise and see what works for the piece. The dancers are very much part of the creation and I lead from the outside.


What is it like to work in a country, where the political situation is very strained, with the strict immigration- and refugee politics? Is that something you respond to in your work, and do you think that dance in general should be political?

When we started to work, we touched upon many taboos, which are also to some extent connected to current politics, although not explicitly. The dancers are naked on stage, which in some way is a response to the cultural and political mind-set. Theatre is supposed to be a safe space, although, when the refugee crisis started a couple of years ago, I realised that I’m not able to completely close myself off from these problems. Sometimes, I even wonder what we are doing in the studio, when there is so much going on in the world. And I ask myself whether we shouldn’t spend our time differently. So, political problems have started to influence and become part of my productions in many layers and not just by one scene.

But apart from the work, I also try to be as involved as I can in politics. I want my voice and my opinion to be heard. So I vote, I demonstrate, and am very concerned with all types of national and global issues. I am also part of a group that collects money for poor and underprivileged people. We provide lunches for families, but we have to constantly fight for it against the leaders of the districts. They would like to hide these things away, so people won’t see what is happening.


Your work is sometimes on the lines of a queer aesthetic. To what extent do questions of gender influence your work?

Not really, I am not really concerned with questions of gender. I feel like I am beyond gender. Of course, my dancers have their own personalities, and their performances are influenced by many things, so also to some extent, by their sexual orientation and gender identity. But it is not something that I choreograph or intent to do. But the dancers in the company are all very open about these things.


In terms of openness: Your use varying stages of nudity in your work. What is the purpose of nudity in your productions? Is it just another costume, or is it something else, something more?

In the 2013 production Dawn, the dancers were nude from the beginning. So, of course, when you appear on stage wearing nothing the entire time, then the nudity becomes your costume. But in GRACE we use glitter to create body paint. Step by step, the glitter is starting to melt, which creates a feeling of a universal texture - something shining and beautiful. In the last five minutes, when the dancers are completely nude, they are dancing a revue combination and are presenting this shining surface, this aura. This is also influenced by traditional, African drawings and Egyptian hieroglyphs and they are almost hiding the naked body.


What does it mean to work in the context of a theatre?

Theatre is imagination, it is not real. We don’t need to do real things, we can play around with ideas, and we can go very far with them. They do not necessarily have to be true, or real. This is the disadvantage of all actions in real life - sometimes you tell the wrong thing to the wrong person and you can go to jail, or get into all sorts of problems. This doesn’t happen in theatre in the same way. It rather offers us opportunities to play. It is a space of openness, community and knowledge. Additionally, we get the chance to meet different people and different contents. We are free to develop questions or opinions, and we simply remind ourselves again and again of the life we live. We can show otherness, similarity, opposition, and acceptance and may also get direct answers to all these things, in the form of the audience’s reception and reaction.


The dancers in your performances go through very intense corporal states and are extremely present, sometimes even animalistic associations arise. What role does rationality play in your work?

Step by step, I learned to deal a bit more with rationality. Usually, when we do something, we have to describe what it is. In the beginning we work a lot with sensations and things that we cannot really articulate. There is a lot of uncertainty involved. In my previous work Conditions of Being a Mortal (2014), we paid a lot of attention to unarticulated voices and movement. We were searching for these moments in life, when we are not able to catch on to what is happening. I really don’t want to be clever. I am happy when I see some movement, or action, which I can’t put into any category, or have no idea what it means.


Most people are afraid of such moments.

I’m happy about them, because you get the feeling of something bigger. It is beyond the comfort zone. It’s something that is alive, that exists, but I don’t know what it is. I can find something there. Sometimes it is hard and painful, but if I manage to calm down, something bigger happens. The sun rises in the morning and sets at night, whether we want it or not. I like that.


What are you working on right now? Can you tell us something about your next project?

Last summer I worked with László Nemes Jeles and created the choreographies for his movie ‘Son of Saul’, which even won an Oscar. He called me again to collaborate on his new movie, which is set in the beginning of the 1990s in Hungary. It is very interesting how people were dancing in this time, how they presented themselves as male or female. I also have some ideas about a possible next project that is planned to premier at Trafó House of Contemporary Arts in February 2018. Actually I always have too many ideas, but it’s not easy to choose only one of them.


Interview by: Chantal Waltersdorf, Michael Ludwig Tsouloukidse