Dorotea 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 started when I was eleven years old. I was a bit introverted my mother suggested that I try a ballet class But it was not appealing to me at all. I was a bit of a tomboy, not enthusiastic about the idea but my mother said “just try it”. So I went to a first class with some younger girls, which I didn’t connect to at all, and I was so eager to tell my mother that she was wrong. But the second class was with girls my age and seeing that I was able to keep up, I got inspired by the others around me. I was just really enjoying looking and learning. From that day on, I basically never stopped doing it. I started it in ballet and some jazz and did classes when I could. Contemporary came much later. The more I was training, the more I realized people can make a career out of dance. That opened up a door for my mind to have something to work toward.
They say love is blind and I think I was really blinded in finding my love for dance, and I went for it. I kept doing whatever came up — workshops, summer program, loads of auditions to get extra training. Doing whatever projects came along. It was a turning point. I remember realizing how much I wanted to dance when I was watching something my father had recorded a TV program for me. It was a duet in slow motion, something like Neo classical/contemporary from the art channel. I remember watching it and crying realizing how sad and unfulfilled I would be if I didn’t get the chance to dance. 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 of Compagnie Marie Chouinard. That inspired me so much to just see how those dancers were moving, the atmosphere of the show and the movement quality. It was the direction that I could finally see myself. “Like now, I know what I am striving for”. I ended up working with Marie Chouinard for seven years since I was twenty-two.
How did you get into this company?
Lots of people from across Canada, the States and even Mexico came to the audition. It was a two-day audition, long and thrilling. I made it to the end. It had gone really well, and I was really inspired by being there. A couple months later, I was out with some friends downtown and my phone rang. A voice answered and said ‘’Hello, this is Marie Chouinard.’’ I thought ‘’oh my god!’’ and she offered me short contract to start working with her. My first day in the company, she came up to me and 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.’’ And that was it. It was pretty natural and reminded me of the audition process, meaning being present and open. I’ve found that the most successful auditions that I’ve gone to are a combination of ‘’yes I want this job’’ and also staying open. Auditions are such a matter of timing, luck, dedication and presence. It just shows how precious being present can actually be, how precious it is that you have an intuition to do something and you just do it. Sometimes it works out sometimes it doesn’t. I was really just thrilled. It was like an exploration.
The production ‘bODY_rEMIX’ of Marie Chouinard
You have danced in Göteborgs Danskompani since 2014. What are your fondest memories of it?
I was really excited about this change. In the beginning I think my naivety and excitement kind of saved
me for this new challenges. It made my initial transition smooth. I remembered feeling very challenged by
the projects we were doing and having very little time to work on them. I felt rushed at times and out of my
element. It was really a big growing point for me, also realizing how I reacted to stress. I think this
company has offered deep experiences that has helped me. Like seeing who I am in creation for
example. I have to say dance in some way is something that saves me. Even though it creates insecurity
or stress, or it always ends up giving me more inspiration and breath. Recently I started to create a little
myself. I am not sure if I really would have done that if I stayed in Montreal. I think being in this
environment with so many creative colleagues has pushed me. It has opened me up in many ways. There
have been many incredible creative processes that have been very forming.
The stage memories are the ones that pop up the most. Being on stage in certain contexts, and working with certain choreographers that are just really beautiful human beings. People who have been 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. It’s opening yourself to the funny experience of relocation. Deciding where to put your roots 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 depending on where your heart and mind is?
Would you say that would be your answer if I ask you what’s the question has been shaping your life lately?
My question has always 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 has shaped me, pushed me. Although recently I realized I am at the point where I want to focus more on ‘’what’s now?’’. To just take in the moments that are at hands right now, and not think about what is for the future. The piece I just made recently has to do a lot with questions of how do you deal with memories? I was looking at ‘’cognitive biases’’, which are shortcuts in the mind that distort information. It turns out re not programmed to live in the present. So even when the mind is working on a mathematic equation, where there is a break of concentration, the mind immediately starts to think of the future or it start to retouch the past. We adjust the details of the past. So other questions that I have now — where is my balance? What is my balance? The balance is between spiritual and physical, relationships and myself, my work and my rest time, indoors and outdoors. Taking in life in a different way. That is something that I think I need a bit more.
Her solo ‘’UNraveling’’
Part II: Choreography
When did you start choreography? What interested you in the beginning?
I started by doing choreography for some screedance films when I was in my mid-twenties. I also dabbled in an interest for installation, and I was received by a small festival in New York for a work I made for myself and a dear friend. However, I never gave myself any credit from those projects. A couple of years later I decided I want to make a solo myself because I felt that I didn’t want to wait anymore for choreographer to give me what I thought I wanted to explore or what I wanted to do physically – not to say that what I created was satisfying to my body all the time. So I just got myself into the studio, and I worked with one of the independent theatres in Göteborg. I just started making a solo. What came out I realized was an interest in speech and words. What I had there as the soundscape was a series of speeches from people who have initiated change. It started with a clip of Gandhi’s voice and I just liked the rhythm. I was also interested in looking at myths and came across Prometheus who gave blind hope to humans. The solo revolves around messages of hope, and what it is to have it as a motivator for change. 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 always logical. I just created a new piece this year, a trio. I was juggling between full-time dancing in the company and this parallel project. I was completely tired afterward and needed time to recover but my mind was still there. It’s like an engine that you need to fuel— I thought ‘’oh take this note down. You know you might want to write a script about it.’’ There is just something in there that makes me curious. You just have to try it out.
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 days spread out over three months. It was a wonderful project my artist director initiated. It 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. And you are not always creating in your home base. This is also interesting since we were talking about home. Like what it is to create in another house?
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. I started off with looking at “cognitive bias” and the idea of distorting information. What is perception? But more and more it got down to how we distort an idea personally and in regard to a memory. It also came from my personal experience of how to let go of memory? Do you try to shape the memory? By doing that does it shapes you? Rosy Retrospection is a cognitive bias associated to nostalgia. It makes you retouch the details of the memory to make it better than it was. It is like putting on pink glasses on and getting stuck in a moment. I went through a lot of trials when it came to physicality. I am still trying to develop what it is that interests me physically. I really do enjoy a type of stutter — a movement that gets interrupted. It has to do a lot with communication, getting interrupted, the connection between the hands and the body. Sometime it is very awkward. This idea of bones slipping out of you 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 to use flow and knowing when to break it. There is something I like to call it an inflatable man — basically you are just skin floating in the air, inflation and deflation. Gaga has helped me a lot actually, sparking curiosity, empowerment and the use of imagery fuelled me quite a bit. 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 had a short amount of time. I had some scenes that I knew I wanted to do. The piece had a narrative, characters. I had given myself a list of what I wanted to explore. What I think I forgot along the way, and that I only re-discovered toward the end was the element of a play time. I made my choices based on instinct and filmed improvisations — like the way I built the final trio in the piece. 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 flows really well. That one was structured on instinct.
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 that duet on my friends, I was looking at this acting technique called Meisner that I had done in Montreal which is based on improvised repetition between two people. I love acting. I always feel like it is such a joy. It is such a gift when choreographers come in with texts. I would think “oh please, give it to me.” Acting has always been instinctual and natural to me. I had done some classes which gave me some tools and I want to bring that work that I had done to the pieces that I’m making.
The idea of having scripted scenes in Rosy Retrospection came up last Fall when my colleagues and I were creating and collaborating together. We were talking about what challenges we would all like to explore and I said I would really like to work with script. So basically I started scripting out the dialogues between two or three people the atmosphere and intentions. What is that subject matter to talk about? For example, in Rosy Retrospection, I knew I want a scene that would be quite difference from the rest of the piece. There was a failing relationship between a male and female character and a third character who is kind of not helping the situation. You don’t really know who he is. He is a bit of a shit disturber. He is kind of the floating, satellite character. So, within this frame, I wanted a scene which would be very different. Dark, somber, a bit out of context. So I thought of a psychologist scene, which I have heard from people is one of their favourite scenes in the piece. Sometimes, what I do is to write down my wishlist of what I would want in the piece. Then I ponder on which ones could work, which ones maybe too ambitious, what’s not gonna fit. For the psychologist scene I just started to write based on instincts, quotes and the research I done on cognitive biases. I just pulled from my research and what I know about therapy sessions. I just started writing this dialogue based on nostalgia and how we distort information. I was doing it instinctually and consciously, and choosing my words very carefully, reworking the scripts. Usually the scripts were too long, so I cut them down trying to get down to the essence on a scene. I don’t think that more words is better. I like concise meaningful scripts. I like the gaps in between the words, between the two characters — that silence, the space in between that people can feel. I would like to do more of it and I think I will hopefully. I haven’t had a formal education, but I used to date a director/writer for seven years. I also worked with some choreographers/writers and saw how they write scripts. It is trough experiences basically.
A lot of people ask why I think script is necessary. They ask why are you inserting scripts into your piece. Sometimes, something can only be said through words, and others it can only be said through the body. What I like is that there is a game of tennis between the two medium, dance and text. Sometimes the script would push the scene forward or give it another filter to look at the movement happening.
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 been 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. In the last 4 years of living Sweden, cliches that I have heard my whole life have started so much sense. Also, this idea of loving yourself. I think I really understood what that mean only recently— to love yourself enough to be yourself, to speak your mind, to speak your thoughts, not to be apologetic about them.
What’s the best gift you’ve received?
Having a functional body. On an other level, there are so many beautiful gifts I have been given by so many friends and family. Sometimes, words or cards can be the softest and most personal gift.
If you were an animal which would you be and why?
A wild cat. I think it is something I’ve wanted to be since I was a kid. I was just thinking about it recently. I was always a bit of an outsider when I was a kid because of language purposes. Whenever we played a game like transformers or cops and robbers, I always want to be an animal. I thought that animals are 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.
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. You see her and expect one thing, and she would say something that you would never expect. 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?
Being strong and having the strength to vulnerable as well. Being comfortable with your vulnerability. There is something I want to get back to and that is communication. I think it is so important to be unapologetic and know how to communicate in our profession. Once again, a cliche — as a woman you have to work twice as hard than men. It’s true and that’s the imperfection. It means having to speak up a little louder. 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 is to you. To embrace it fully, it is important for our profession. To really just listen to your internal voice, your internal organs.
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’re going to 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 person in the room is the person in front of you.” In a way what that does is to 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. A practice in being present is very important and very fascinating to me. How a face can be so open. If I am in situation where I am watching someone, a performer, and I feel open, I want to remember these feelings, those moments, those sensations that I feel in my face and eyes. This is how my face is supposed to be. This is how I want my soul to come out through my skin. Up through a natural face. I try to connect to that by breathing, by softening the tongue. These are tools when I try to use in moment of pressure, when it comes to acting or dancing. The tongue is a very good barometer for how stressed you are. If it’s tight, then you are holding it. That’s ok but nice to recognize it, 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, an audience that maybe I am not able to reach otherwise. Also, something I have been thinking about recently is trying 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 can go through the most of our lives without connecting to their bodies. It is such a blessing to do so. The best gift really is to come back to the body.
If you are intrigued, you can find her on her Instagram @Dorosay.
You can find the Mandarin version contributed to Red Bull Taiwan here.
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.