{feature} Connect to your heart, she says – Doro Saykaly

Doro Saykaly’s voice is very bright and full of joyful energy. She has a short black hair, beautiful smile and an open-heart — an authentic human being, talented choreographer and dancer who lives in Sweden and works with GöteborgsOperans Danskompani. Let us get to know her more with her background story – The dialogue was surrounding by motivation, creativity and curiosity. She shared a lot of warmth and inspirations with her presence, even through Skype. I was very excited and honored to be in the dialogue with her. Here is the moment. I tried to keep it as close to original as possible. Please note it that some part has been edited for the flow of whole article.

This conversation had been recorded through Skype in 2018 summer, Berlin.

Part I: Dance

How did you start dancing?

I was eleven years old. I was an introverted child. My parents wanted to send me to learn dance and ballet. But it was not appealing to me at all. I was like a tomboy. She said just tried it. So I went to the class. The first class was not something that I connected with which was with dancers younger than me. I was eager to tell my mother that it was wrong. The second class was with girls my age. I was able to keep up. I was just really enjoy looking. From that day on, I basically never stop doing it. I start it in ballet and some jazz when I am eleven. I did the classes when I could. That’s just something that interested me that I do. Contemporary came up much later. The more I was training the more I realized people can make a career out of it. That opened up a door for my mind to have something to work toward. I was focusing on ballet and some jazz basically.

They say love is blind. I think I was really blinded to find my love in dance, and I went for it. I kept doing whatever came up — workshops, summer program, or loads of auditions to get extra training. Doing whatever projects comes along that I can do. That was a turning point. I know I really want to dance. I remember I was watching thing my father had recorded for me. Back in the day we have VHS still. He had recorded a duet in slow motion, something like Neo classical contemporary from the art channel. I remember watching it and crying. I said ‘’if I don’t get the chance to dance, it would be horrible.’’ I was sad from the inside. These are just little reminder of that I just want to try to make a career out of it. It was really important that as long as there is opportunity to perform, I would do it. At some point when I was around age twenty, I saw a performance from this company “Compagnie Marie Chouinard”. That inspired me so much that just seen how those dancers are moving, the atmosphere of the show and the movement quality. That was the direction that I can finally see myself. Like now, I know what I am striving for. I ended up working with Compagnie Marie Chouinard for seven years since I was twenty-two.

How did you get into this company?

Everyone in Canada, across America and Mexico came to the audition. It was basically a through-day audition. It was long and thrilled. I made it till the end. That went really well, and I was inspired by being there. I love watching the dancers were at the audition. A couple months later, I was shoe-shopping with a friend downtown. My phone rang. The answer said ‘’Hello, this is Marie Chouinard.’’ I thought ‘’oh my god!’’ She offered me short contract to start work. At my first day in the company rehearsing, she said ‘’I want to offer you a one-year contract. Are you happy with that?’’ Which I thought ‘’yeah, I am!’’ She said ‘’okay, great.’’ That was just like going to an audition, and really just being present. I found that the most successful audition that I had is like the combination of ‘’yes wanting the job gladly’’ and also ‘’stay open’’. The audition is such a matter of timing, luck, dedication and presence. It just shows how precious being present is actually, how precious that you have an intuition to do something and just do it. Sometimes it works out sometimes it won’t. I was really just thrilled. It was like an exploration.

The production of Marie Chouinard in 2016, a powerful one.

You have danced in Göteborgs Danskompani since 2014. What are your fondest memories of it?

I start with company of ten dancers to a company of thirty-eight. The transition was really smooth. I was so excited. In the beginning my naive and excitement kind of saved me for this new challenges. It made my initial transition went smooth. I remembered feeling very challenging though in which projects we were doing. I remembered taking on a task that I had very little time to remount it. I felt like rush and out of my element. It was really a big grown point for me, also realizing how I reacted to stress. I think this company has deep experiences that has really helped me. Like how I deal with creation for example. I have to say dance in some way is something that saves me. Even though it creates insecurity or stress, or always it weights up more the inspiration that gives me a breath. Recently I start to create a little bit myself. I am not sure if I would really done that if I stay in Montreal. I think being in this environment with so many creative people around me like as colleagues. It is something open me up and brought me up to additionally more possibilities. There has been an incredible process that I have been very forming.

The stage memories are the ones pop up the most. Be on stage in certain contexts, and working with certain choreographers that are just really beautiful human beings. Someone who is being so brilliant, kind, patient and humble. It is so nice to know these people exist. In some way I am settling in now in Sweden. I finally start to learn Swedish. It is fun. It’s operating yourself in the funny experience. Deciding where to put your root down. It is difficult because once you put some roots down it becomes more permanent. So it’s something I have been thinking a lot lately — What makes a home? Can your home change often depends on where your heart and mind is?

performance of “KODAK” by Alan Lucien Oyen, performed at the Goteborg Opera ©Mats Backer

Would you say that would be your answer if I ask you what’s the question has been shaping your life lately?

I have to say a lot. I am trying to maybe change this right now, but my question has been always ‘’what’s next? What’s my next step? What’s the next stone I am gonna jump onto? Where is that other side that I would like to make through?’’ I would say that is something that shapes me, pushes me. Although recently I realized at the point I am I just need to focus more on ‘’what’s now?’’ You really just take in the moment that are at hands right now, and not think about what is for the future. The piece I am just made recently it had to deal with a lot of past with questions like how do you deal with memories? I was looking at ‘’cognitive bias’’ on how the mind form the information, which is the shortcut that we distort the information. I came across the information that even when the mind is doing like a mathematic equation. We are not programmed to live in the present. There is a break of this concentration during this mathematic equation. We either directly jump to think about the future or it start to attach the past. We adjust the details of the past. It is true. There is an idea at home which is there is something very present. It is the question that I have now — where is home? Also, where is my balance? What is my balance? The balance is between spiritual and physical, relationships and myself, my work and my rest time, enjoy indoor and outdoor. There are things been happening that takes a lot of weight in my life. Maybe there were things got me where I am today but I feel like there is a switching point somehow. There is a ticking point something on the verge of shifting. Taking in life in a different way. That is something that I think I need a bit more. I think everyone needs it — on the big high and big low. By no means I don’t want to be just equal, but just something I find it a bit softer and inviting.

Her solo ‘’UNraveling’’

Part II: Choreography

When did you start choreography? What interested you in the beginning?

I start doing choreography for some video work when I was at my twenty. I did my creations also at my twenty. I was receptive by a small festival in New York. However, I never get myself any credit from those projects. For me, I feel like I just start to create. Couple years later I decided I want to make a solo myself. What was trying to come out then? It is this need of ‘’I don’t want to wait anymore for choreographer to give me what maybe I thought I want to explore or what I want to do physically.’’ Not to say that what I created is exactly satisfying to my body all the time. But at the same time, I don’t want to wait actually. So I just got myself into the studio, and I work with one of the independent theater in Göteborg. I just start making a solo. What came out — what I realized what interests me is speech and words. What I had there at the sound scale of that solo was the speeches from a series of people. It start a line from Gandhi that I was just really like his voice. For me, it was more of the rhythm. I really love the message of change. I was also interested in looking at myths. I stumbled on looking at the Greek Prometheus — who is also the one who gave hope to human. He was tied on to this rock as a punishment because of the God said you against our will to help out the human. The solo revolve messages of hope, and what it is to have hope that something drive us. I think that’s actually in my career — hope has driven me a lot. The hope to get a contract, the hope to be able to dance every day. The hope to move my body the way I never thought I could three years ago. Creating is not very logical. As I said, I just created my own solo piece this year. I was joggling between full-time dancing in the company and this parallel project. I was completely tired afterward. I know I need some time to recover but my mind is still there. It’s like an engine there — I thought ‘’oh take this note down. You know what you gonna write a script about it.’’ There is just something in there that makes me curious. You just have to try it out.

Her solo UNraveling © Zawirowania festival

How long you had been working on ‘’Rosy Retrospection’’- the solo piece we are talking about right now? What were you using in “Rosy Retrospection”?

My creation period officially for this project was twenty-two creation days spread out over three months. It was a wonderful project my artist director initiated. That brought together our company and two other Swedish companies. It was a three ways exchange. One dancer from each company went to go create on other company. You walk into the room and you don’t know the dancer. You inherited three or four dancers that you have never work with before. In your creating it is also not in your home base. You create it somewhere else. This is also interesting since we were talking about home. Like what it is to create in another house? I had not a lot of time to create it.

The idea came a year before when I was applying for the project. I made working progress on two of my friends/ colleagues who I love and respect that we got in our dance company. It start off with the “cognitive bias”- the idea of distorting information, what is perception? But more and more it got down to how we distort the idea personally and in regard to a memory. It also came from my personal experience of how do you delay a memory down or how do you let go of memory? Do you try to shape the memory? By doing that it shapes you? Rosy Retrospection is a cognitive bias which differs from nostalgia. What it does is it makes you retouch the details of the memory to make it better than it was. It is like putting a pink glasses on and look at how things were actually been putting ourselves on a stuck moment. I went through a lot of tries when it came to physicality. I am still trying to develop what it is that express me physically. I really do enjoy a type of steger — a movement that gets interrupted. It has to do a lot with communication. This is trying to talk but you get interrupted. It has to do a lot with the connection between the hands and the body. Sometime it is very awkward. This idea of your bone is slipping out and you are trying to manage, and still pretending everything is fine, or getting caught in something and trying to work with that. I didn’t actually manage to put the element of groove in this piece. There was a lot of things I was putting in there. Flow is something I like. Knowing when is flow and knowing when to break flow. There is something I like to call it an inflatable man — basically you are just skin floating in the water and to cut that like something gets steger. I like to mix these two. Gaga helps me a lot. I have done the workshop few years ago. I applied for scholarship within the dance company after my first year to do a gaga workshop in Barcelona. I applied and received the scholarship. That was also a memory for me that I felt really supported by the dance company. They found my curiosity. At the end of that workshop I felt my false potentials after digging into work for one week and doing repertoire. There is something in gaga I feel like it empowers the dancers. You just need to go for it. I work very well with images. I realized early on that I need images and sensations to access the body.

Her recent piece ‘’Rosy Retrospection’’

How did you make your choices in 《Rosy Retrospection》?

I went in pretty prepared because I knew I have short amount of time. I had some scene that I wanted to do already. It had a narrative of the piece itself. I had characters. I had given myself a list of what I wanted to explore. What I think I forgot, and I only discovered toward the end was the element of a plain time. I made my choices based on instinct a lot of the time with videotapes, improvisations, duet montage — like the way we built that final trio. It came from improvisation with tasks. Maybe that’s not the best way to do it. It took a lot of time for me to figure it out, but everything there flow really well. That one was structured on instinct.

Her solo UNraveling © Zawirowania festival

You mentioned you like to work with scripts. Could you share a bit more of what is a script for you?

Last year when I was making a duet on some friends, I was looking at this acting technique that I had done in Montreal which called Meisner technique which is based on improvising repetition between two people. I love acting. I always feel like it is such a toy. It is such a pleasure and a gift when choreographers come with texts. I would think “please, give it to me.” Acting has always been instinctual and natural to me. I had done some classes that gives me some tools. I want to bring that work that I had done to the piece that I work on. Those inspired me the most that had texts and scripts.

The idea of having scene came up last Fall when my colleagues and I were creating and collaborating together. We were talking about scene — the challenges I had to separate myself. I said I would really like to work with script. So basically I would script out the dialogues between two or three people, characters we were carving out throughout the scene we would just base on its own. For me it was like building the scripts, dialogues and creating that scene, atmosphere and intention. What is that subject matter to talk about? For example, in Rosy Retrospection, I knew I want a scene that with quite difference from the whole piece. There is the idea like this — Obviously the relationship wasn’t working between a male and female character. There is a disturbing character that’s kind of not helping the situation. You don’t really know who he is. The other male character could be like a ship disturber. He is kind of the floating, satellite character. I knew I want a scene which is very different. So I thought I want a psychologist scene. Sometime mainly what I do is to write down my Wishlist, and I start think which one work, which one maybe too ambitious, what’s not gonna fit. For the psychologist scene I just start to write – inspiration from quotes and the research I done on the cognitive bias. I just pull my research and what I know from therapy sessions. I just start writing this dialogue based on nostalgia and how we distort information. I am doing instinctually and consciously, and choosing my words very carefully, reworking the scripts. Usually the scripts were too long, and I cut them down. Once again, gets down to the essence. I don’t think that more words is better. I like concise meaningful scripts. I like the gaps in between the words, two characters — that silence, the space in between people can feel. I like to do more of it and I think I will hopefully. I haven’t had former education, but I used to date a director for seven years. I also work with some choreographers who I saw them how they write the scripts. It is trough experiences basically.

A lot of people post a question asked me why I think the script is necessary. They ask why are you inserting scripts into your piece or whatever you do? It touched on what you were saying, sometimes something can only be touched through words, and others it can only be touched by the body. What I like is that there is a game of tennis between the two medium. Sometimes the script would push the scene forward or give it another weight and filter to look at the movement.

An example of a technique Meisner invented to train actors’ responses is called the Repetition Exercise:

“In this exercise, two actors sit across from each other and respond to each other through a repeated phrase. The phrase is about each other’s behaviour, and reflects what is going on between them in the moment, such as “You look unhappy with me right now.” The way this phrase is said as it is repeated changes in meaning, tone and intensity to correspond with the behaviour that each actor produces towards the other. Through this device, the actor stops thinking of what to say and do, and responds more freely and spontaneously, both physically and vocally.The exercise also eliminates line readings, since the way the actor speaks becomes coordinated with his behavioural response.”

video introduction of Doro

Part III: philosophy

What other hobbies do you indulge in besides dance?

I do meditation. It is something that I have inviting more into my life. Reading and laughing. I am trying to invite more love into my life. Love for the moment, love for the nature, love for people in my life, love for myself, love for my thought. Something to harvest.

What’s the best advice you’ve been given?

I think just be yourself. We hear that so often — my last two years been lived in Sweden, some cliche that I hear my whole life have made so much sense. Also, this idea to love yourself. I think I really understood what that mean — to be yourself, speak your mind, speak your thoughts, not to be apologetic about them.

What’s the best gift you’ve received?

Having a functional body. On the other level, there are so many beautiful gifts I have been gifted by so many friends like letters. Sometimes it is just a card they put words on it.

If you were an animal which would you be and why?

A wild cat. I think it is something I want to be since I was a kid. I was just thinking about it recently. I was always like an outsider when I was a kid for language purposes and everything. Whenever we play a game called transformer or cop and rider, I always want to be an animal. I thought animal is the most amazing things on earth, and I always kind of imagine I was like a black wild cat. Why? For the freedom of running fast, being so agile and wild.

investigating female body ©Melanie Garcia

What’s daily ritual for you?

Flossing. If I do it in the end of the day, it means I am taking care of myself. Also, just taking time to breath usually in the morning. You just need to give five minutes, put the timer on and meditate breath.

Who or what inspires you the most?

Thinkers. Unexpected people and inspiring people. I think about my mother not as you expected. You see her and expect one thing, and she would say something that you would never expected. Just people who are not afraid to say what is against the grain. They are people inspire me the most.

What does be a female in your profession means to you?

Been strong and have the strength of vulnerability as well. How to get comfortable with your vulnerability. There is something I want to get back to is communication. I think it is so important to be unapologetic and know how to communication in our profession. Once again, a cliche — you got to work twice harder than the other men. It is true. Work five times harder than the other men. That’s imperfection. It means having to speak up a little louder. There is something I was thinking about -it also means being comfortable with your identity, your body and your femininity. When I say femininity, by no means I am putting it into a box — I mean whatever versions of feminine power to be. To embrace it fully, it is important for our profession. To really just listen to your internal voice, your internal organs.

Her solo UNraveling © Zawirowania festival

What would be useful tools to practice regarding acting and expressing one’s imaginations more freely? Any secrets?

Connect with the heart. You have to just be there, you have to be willing to connect, and be brave. Really connect to the heart and not making it about what you gonna look like or sound like. When I was doing these Meisner classes with a really fantastic teacher in Montreal, they always say “the most important question in the room is the question in front of you.” In a way what that does are to take away the subconsciousness or take away the egoistical side of looking at yourself. There are something I have been curious about and fascinated with is how the face changes on stage. There is something about not putting on performance’s gaze. To just be present, just being there. Practice in present is very important and very fascinating to me. How a face be so open. When I am in situation when I am watching someone and I feel open, I want to remember these feelings, those moments, those pressure and their intensity and stress. This is how my face to be. This is how I want my soul to come out through my skin. Up through a natural face. To try to connect to that by breathing, by softening the tongue. These are tools when I try to use in moment of pressure, when I come to acting or dancing. The tongue is a very good manometer for how stress you are. If it is tight, you are holding it. Okay, it is to recognize I am holding my tongue, and that’s okay . Let it go and keep going.

Any word you would like to share with our audience?

I just want to say thank you for reaching out, giving the opportunity between me and you, and also between me and your audience For touching the audience that maybe I am not able to reach. Also, this is something I have been thinking about recently. Try to invite the opportunity to connect with your body, whether it is trough yoga classes, breathing, kundalini or a dance class. I find so many of us. People can go through the whole life without connecting to their body once. It is something which is such a blessing. The best gift really is to come back to the body.

If you are intrigued, you can find her on her Instagram @Dorosay.

Thank you for your openness and generosity in our communication, Doro. This dialogue meant a lot to me. You are a very wonderful human being.

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