{feature}How do we perceive, he asks – Niels Weijer

Niels Weijer was born in 1988, Netherlands; a choreographer who began his path on artistic research.  We had our dialogue nearby the cafe across the entrance of User studios. At that point in time, there were a lot of air planes flying by. His presence was warm and inviting, a sense of curiosity arises naturally within me. In his recent work of choreography, there were space in between of objects and human beings – a relation to be addressed and redefined. The performers interacted, and pointed out a space for us to look at. Continue reading, you would hear about his background story, philosophy, passion, and more.

This dialogue was recorded in August 2018, Berlin.

Part I: Choreography

What’s your story? 

I start ballet dancing for many years in Amsterdam, then I start doing contemporary dance in Rotterdam. After that I had my first job in Osnabrück. It is very good experience first in the company. In school, I already wanted to make my own work. So I quit the company and starting freelancing as a dancer. In the same time I start to create my own thing. It was very small thing at first. It is a development. From the beginning on, I was working a lot with visual artists. Immediately the visual arts triggered me a lot.  It is still like a big inspiration for my work, much more than dance, performance arts. My start point was a lot more of visual art work.

I have been dancing, creating as a freelancer. I did a lot of children performances. It is a very interesting audience. They are really direct. There is no contemplation of the concept. It just has to catch right away their attention. They take it or they don’t take it. It is still something that I would like to do in my own work. How do you get the attention right away? And take them along.

At some point, I think after five years of freelancing, I decided I would like to really do the creations. That is why I moved here to Berlin to be able to make fresh start. A new start to do it intensively. Because if you dance a lot, and you make money with that, you are distracted consistently. You can’t really focus. It is also hard in Netherlands, it is hard to get into choreographer scene when you haven’t gone through what I had just done the choreographer education. It is same here in Berlin. It is hard to get your head around if you haven’t done any education. Being here, it fits really well with what I am pursuing as a choreographer. It is really nice with an open door. Now being seemed as choreographer, it is a nice switch.

THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES © Roberto Duarte

I consider there is oneness, but with object there are barriers. Are you willing to engage with the objects? It almost feels like tripping. 

Exactly. For instance, we can identify ourselves better with animals which looks very much like us. We can see the emotions from the dogs, cats, monkeys or horses. It is easy to identify with us. We can consider it as an object as well. It is another entity but it is very close. And with plants, we can see its growth. We can relate to it well. But with this cup in my hand, it is still alive but with different aliveness. It is harder to engage with it. But then on a philosophical level you can. That’s something I found it interesting to question – why do we like to identify ourselves more with something that we can see there are emotions. It is a lot to do with ourselves and how we look at our worlds. From a human perspective, maybe we can look at the world with a more all-inclusive perspective which is difficult.

It is about spirituality. Do you meditate?

I do actually. I am very interested in Buddhism. It talks a lot about the consciousness, being one, being here.  

Would you consider yourself religious?

Yes, I do. I grow up as a very active Christian. Then I kind of put my back onto the system which the church is. I don’t agree with how they structure and organize. I open up to Buddhism in a more philosophical way, but it has its religious aspect as well. It is very beautiful to see the origin and the tradition of Islam. It is different. Again, there is this system and also the art comes out of that which is very beautiful. I find the word ‘religious’ has a lot of heaviness.

Let’s say you have a believing system. 

Yes, I like that. 

THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES © Roberto Duarte

In this artistic research, you put a lot of geometric shapes and items. How did you relate these elements into your work? 

I am very interested in mathematic and geometry. Plato start with that. He has all these crystals in the shape of hexagon. He kind of puts the shapes into the elements which let them all relate to the same shape. I am trying to say that everything is coming out of the five elements – water, fire, air, earth, and energy. It is a driving force for me, because it is a big research for long time. Out of the study of geometry and shapes, there is all these interesting space as well. Especially in the city, there is all these geometric shapes and structures around, and we interact with that consistently. Like I come to this meeting, I walk through buildings, pass streets. I have to go around to sit here with you. I consistently interact with space and geometry. In the performance, the only different is that I take certain shapes and I interact with those shapes with the surroundings, which is an interesting equation.

There is all these layers of consciousness that I put in the work that you have to visit with. Like ‘THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES’, there are mirrors and people.You can move the mirror like this, and you have to respond to each others. You can copy and mirror each others. You play each other’s time. There is the whole consciousness. How can you reflect and play with your surroundings. There is all these mathematical conscious of how to deal with the shapes and space.  It creates patterns, showing patterns. For example, you see in the historical Islamic part, there is a lot of structures and patterns. They are very symmetrical, and I like that. In ‘THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES’ it became much more complex, it was asymmetrical, still interacting. Like an interesting flow pattern came out of that.

His choreography “The life of Fine Lines”

Mirror is a human invention, it gets so emotional and poetic. All of a sudden, it looks like you are looking into a different universe with the sky background and greenish. It looks like a parallel universe that more than itself. The pictures just capture it sometimes.

What first attracted you to 《THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES》 and how long have you been working on it? 

My instinct would be since I was in Berlin. It is never just that. It is like there is a bunch of ideas, and they manifest themselves. Because just as a habit, I also like to photograph. In that photography research, there has been a play with reflections. How the reflection I see from the window stands the line? There has been that research going on just visually, not yet as a sense of performance. And then, when I moved to Berlin. In order to make the money for study, I made a crowd funding within my friends and family. I collected some money. One of my friend gave me twenty euro folded in a crane of traditional origami. I always want to know how to do that, so when I arrived in Berlin, I start to look at how to fold a bird. And then, I figured the bird is actually moving because you pull the tail and it moves. It is amazing. You have moving origami. I did a lot of folding in the first three months when I was here. And I had this one origami which I was playing with. I was thinking “what can I do with this?” It really got my interests but I didn’t know how to work that out. I thought maybe I can make a really large origami, and move with them. I start researching but it is really hard. The cool thing of paper is it has this kind of stiffness and looseness, and you can fold it. It is very nice structure. But if you start to make it with bigger paper, it doesn’t work, because it can falls apart, or paper got so stiff that you can’t fold it anymore. 

Then I was thinking “what was it so interested me?” I have this origami which when you pull it, it has this fish zigzag line. If you pull it, it shrinks. I realized it is a play with lines. Because I am able to see the lines, the shapes appear because of the lines falling onto it. It is like a play of my perspectives. How do I perceive the lines and the shadows? You can draw lines, but if you fold it, you can see the shapes because there are lines, shapes and shadows of others. I got into this whole research on perspectives.

From that I came to what is the original perspective, to get into Renaissance. That is the first time in Western society where this idea of perspective comes into question. It comes into question in relation to painted landscapes. If you have a landscape, you have always a point of view. It gives its perspective. From the perspective, you draw lines. I was busy with perspectives, landscape and horizon. There is this French philosopher Francois Jullien who wrote a book ‘Living Off Landscape’ about landscape. He put the western idea next to eastern idea. He studied the symbols of Chinese. In western, we have a word for it called landscape which we related to certain surrounding, and then, there is like in Chinese in which the word for landscape is combined with two symbols ‘mountain’ and ‘water’. Landscape is a combination between the stable and fluent. It is kind of like in any continue. It is not just that. The weather inside is like the tension created there. In between the tension, there is why the landscape start to appear. It is not something we look upon, but something that we are in. From the whole origami, I came to this perspective which is how I got to the ‘THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES’; for me, I had this church which was the stable mountain, and with mirrors which is what I wanted to create as the fluent water. Because it was outside, and there is whole interfere of the weather. It was simple, step by step. It is really beautiful when I see the big mirror on the floor in the second performance, it looked like a river. They were lying there like still water which you can see reflections. When you move it, it looks like a blowing wind in slow motions – a still image which is a new idea of a landscape.

THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES © Roberto Duarte

How do you create – do you go into the studio with a firm idea of the movement you want? Or is it more free-form and organic?

‘THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES’ was a different working process for me. Generally I went in to the rehearsal with very strong clear ideas. “This is what is going to happen,” and my last performance was on a triangle. I came in with a very clear and simple numerical structure. We want to welcome the walking patterns. We just have to put the composition together but it was quite clear what is gonna happened; This one, I realized quite late what would work with dancers. Although the project was in June, I did the audition in April which is really late. This is because I wanted to make a performance with just objects. Then, I realized I am not interested in just objects moving. I am interested in relation between human and objects. So when we came in to the studio, I didn’t have much time to research on my own before. I was a lot like “okay, here is the mirror, can you move with it?” After I saw they move with it, it might be “I really like what you did,” and then we remade it, named it. Then, we teach each other. Bit by bit, constructing it. Still, create some kind of system. I wanted to make a score for the performance, but I ended up providing the structure; where they have a beginning image and an ending image, and in between they had to take from each other which is a very complex approach. It was something kind of develop on its own. My plan was to make the score but I realized it doesn’t work for this piece. They have to interact with each other. Also, because of the materials was complex objects. You can not say I want you to hold the mirror or the tube like that, because they can not see what they are doing. It was very imaginative. They were interacting with the space, with each other, and with the mirrors. There was these three layers. It was beautiful to see how it evolves day by day until the performance. I have a basic understanding of what I was looking for, for how to move with an object. I just have to work with them to see until they did it, and I take that out.

The basic start is how to connect, connect with your objects, connect with your space around, connect with other people, other objects, other spaces. It is a big ball of complex connections. And yet still be able to make clear decisions. 

Niels Weijer

What is your fondest memories of all that creative process?

That would be like taking one thing out. If I look at the whole thing, I just look at what is the common, what is the core, what is the essence. I realized there is all these different aspects of myself being in there. I am curious if there is an answer.

Which part of you resonating in yourself at this moment?

I feel that what is the core thing in most work that I created, is that there is always this system. Our society is a system. These kinds of performance and installation is also like a system of interactionist. When the performer are performing, I also realized there is not just about doing it for you. That would be like “I show you what we learned in the studio.” We were actually showing the system, a reduced reflection of a different society.

One memory I had is a performance I did with a visual artist Evelien Jansen in Netherlands. We were in a residency in Turkey for a while, and I came to visit her. We wanted to take the inspirations for a piece – we realized being there on the streets you hear people talking, and you have no clue what they are talked about, because we don’t speak the language. There is this different language which you don’t understand, and you observe that. I start trying to make some kind of sign language with movement which is not necessary with meanings. Random movements which is not loaded with meanings. I created sounds to that. We use that as a platform to look at people with different cultural system. You don’t understand them but you start to grab, seek and hook onto something.

The other show I did are ‘The Question of Broken Triangles’. There was this mathematical structure of three. They walk in triangle, a repetitive numbers which keeps on changing. It is kind of simple – two, one two one, and one two three. But it consistently changes so you never able to get the system.You just have to let go. In there, they also have a small system to communicate with each others. This one is counting, and the others know where they are. It is a system of interactions. If I take a core, it is not necessary about the memories but the system of connectedness – how they are connected through a performative theme, and reach the audience. To see how do we perceive and what can we get out of it. I like abstract arts because it doesn’t tell me how to look at it. I like how it gets me start thinking. For me, it is the gold of artist that how to make people rethink the things which they already have opinions about. Try to open it up again. 

You are still digesting the piece you just made.

Thinking about digesting, I actually don’t refer to the creation of a piece as creation. Because that means I know what is gonna happen, and I don’t know. I just had an idea. But I am slowly discovering it what this idea want to be. I really believe that the idea is already there, and I am just discovering it. Of course, I made an interpretation of that. If you ask five choreographers to make a piece on a same idea, there would be five different work. But they have different discoveries because of their personal connection they made through their minds. The way I realized the ‘THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES’  is not me creating it, it is discovering, and making decisions.

THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES © Elliot Hughes

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

The tool I need to give myself is not to start researching or reading, but just try to keep it open. How to leave it open as long as possible. The more open you are, the more you are fluid. It is like how to get intuitive, how to get back to my belly. For example, the key moment really pull things together, I made it on my belly. How to make these connections between the rational and intuitive. That is one of tool I am discovering.

What does being a male in your profession means to you?

I feel like in my profession it is not just being a male, it is also about being a straight. I am a male and straight – it questions me as well. How did you deal with that? It is a struggle as a person. What can I do, and what can I not do? As a dancer, I understand it better because I have danced for long time. When you enter the audition, there would be five males and forty-five females. For me, my competition was always with the female in that position. I needed to step out of my gate. It is not about being a male or female, but it is about trying to be successful.

His work “reframing La Tourette”

Part II: Philosophy

What’s your favorite meal of the day?

Breakfast. I love eating pancakes with maple syrup and a good cup of coffee.

What other hobbies do you indulge in?

I like doing photography.  I love making coffee. I love walking and biking. 

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

It is very cheesy but follow your heart. Do one wants to do, do not hold yourself back, even when you are in bad situations. Listen to yourself. 

What’s the best gift you’ve received?

I got a really nice knitted earwarmer from my ex-girlfriend. I think it was very beautiful and practical. 

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

A fox, because they are curious, nutty, and funny. 

Which city do you love the most and why?

I don’t know. I really like Berlin but it has been too short for me to say I love it. I really like Amsterdam but as a tourist. To really live there, it is not enough. I have an interest to be in New York but I haven’t been there. 

THE / LIFE / OF / FINE / LINES © Elliot Hughes

What’s daily ritual for you?

Making a coffee. 

Can you describe how would you make it?

That would be very precisely because I am a barista as a side job as well. Basically what I do is – I take out my scale and my coffee. At the moment I really like Colombian. I weight my sixteen grand of beans, and I dry them. I boil my water, prepare my air press, put in the coffee, put in the water, and prepare the coffee. And then, I put the coffee into my cup, and I drink it. That is the summery version of it. That is my daily ritual. 

Who or what inspires you the most?

It is visual arts. It is not like just one thing. It is several artists. When I don’t feel good, I like to go to museum. It charges me, gives me a lot of inspiration and new ideas. It opens up my respective. That would be my biggest inspiration.  

Any word you would like to share with our audience?

To be open. To be willing to stay open, to see what an artist want to tell you, to not judge from your experiences. That is a very special place for the artist and the audiences. 

The meeting point.

Exactly. The conscious exchange.  

If you are intrigued, you can find him on his website.

You can find the Mandarin version contributed to Red Bull Taiwan here.

Thank you for your openness and curiosity in our communication, Niels. This dialogue was important part of my transformation. You are a very wonderful human being.

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

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?

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?

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.

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 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.

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 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.

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. 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.

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’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.

{feature} Conscious body system – Chaim Gebber & Roberta Pupotto

Chaim and Roberta created the company which is named ”Chaim Gebber-Open Scene” in 2015. They introduced a dazzling combination of movements including a technique called Conscious Body System which is started in 2005 by Chaim Gebber himself. It makes me curios of their work, so we speak on a dinner table after I had a taste of intensive training of it— It was wonderful and fun to dance with a group of compassionate dancers/movers. Following up, you would read more about them. 

This interview has been recorded in the spring of Berlin, 2018.

Complex Simplicity EMERGENCIA ©Chumpan

PART I: conscious body system

How did Chaim Gebber open scene start?

Roberta:  It started around the end of 2014. When me and Chaim were already working together in performances. I met him when I arrived in Berlin. I have been working with different artists in performances. When we met, we produced two to three performances together. There was a moment we thought about to make a fixed group, create a company together. We were five in the beginning. Now we are two organizing the company, and we invite guest dancers to work with us.

You mentioned ‘’consciousness’’ many times during this training, how do you apply consciousness into your body movement?

Chaim: Firstly, every single movement or action that we play on the classes are based on the personal decision. You should know where you are and where you want to go before starts the “journey”. That means to have a clear intention and aim. Even on the combinations we guide the participants in not  copying the steps but focusing on the way they are doing it on their personal speed/timing.  – What I try to create in my work (Classes, workshops or choreography) is an environment in which each single person has it own space to grow as an individual, as an artist  and as a part of a community, even if an ephemeral community.  So the positive quality I try to develop/ to work on, is the constant collaboration. The capacity of one’s being able to take full responsibility of his/hers actions and consequences  related to his/hers body, space, time and timing and the same in relation to all others involved on the process. So it is always an exchange. When we go for the space, we should be conscious about the space, timing to be able to share. 

Roberta: It is about train the body and the mind with awareness and then bring it into every situation. For example, if you are aware of the space and the surrounding people, you will have the ability to react if something change. For me, it is a lot about being more free on the stage as well. Because I have more control of myself and I can decide consciously to take risk during improvisation for example without hurting myself or the others. This kind of workout gives you the instruments and tools that you can apply it into your daily life, on the stage or in the classes. Do we know our bodies, but sometimes we are not completely aware of our posture or bad habits. If you bring this consciousness into your daily life and training, it helps to prevent injuries and improve your body condition. 

Body Play Shanghai 2016 ©Yao Yao

How about the most challenging situation at the outset of the process in production?

Chaim: In my case is it to bring my ideas to the stage dealing with the financial difficulties. When I have the need to talk about something, to create a performance or choreography, I create a vision with music, costume, light, stage design, number of performers and so on, but to bring it to live I have to deal with the financial situation and start cutting things. It often gets to a point I start to measure the money or take the risk and try to get funding and keep on going. I don’t create an art work to get rich, instead, I create the idea to fulfill the needs of expressing something. So we invest a lot of time, energy and money to create our work with the hope to get this money back later. That brings lots of stress for an artist to create something. 

Roberta: We have already ten works done in complete different formats. They are all important. There are performances for theater, big theater, alternative spaces, art galleries and so on. Chaim is very creative, and he can keep doing new pieces. But we need to focus on what we have already, that is a lot, and we are struggling to find the best way and conditions to show them in the proper way. We have a lot to offer, and we keep going, for showing more in Berlin, Europe and abroad. 

M.O.S.T ©Henryk Weiffenbach

PART II : Choreography

Their newest production《M.O.S.T》was performed on April 20th & 21st 2018 in ACUD Theatre. I was there in the audience. A group of beautiful dancers mixed their personal stories on the stage. A generous offer to the audience toward their personal reflections of lives. We are here now sitting on a table of restaurant after sweating with a group of beautiful dancers who was involved in the practice of conscious body system.

What first attracted you to 《M.O.S.T》 and how long have you been working on it?

Roberta:《M.O.S.T》it is born from a working process in November. It was a way to research. Now we are working with the full version of the piece which is mostly improvisation but combined with some choreography.

Chaim: The place is a space we can experiment with idea. The idea is to see how the idea work visually. It is so strong, and we got invitation and emails that requesting to see the performance. The idea is to talk about how human beings get back to oneself. The situation right now is we escape from not knowing who we are by losing ourselves in entertainment. Mostly, we confront with the question with ourselves – Who am I? What is my core? We try to get back to this core and find what is in there.

I start to think about M.O.S.T by observing how we the “modern” people are always trying to escape from the reality. I believe that soon we will get to a point in which we will lose the borders between the “Real me” and the “desired me”. In fact, it is already happening in some ways through social medias, where we never know if what we see is what is real or produced. This goes many times back to the person that is producing him/her self on the social images and looses the perception of what they are and what they are promoting about themselves.

The main idea in M.O.S.T. is to talk about how human beings could and wish to get back to themselves. M.O.S.T (My Ongoing Silent Transcendence) It is a trip to the inner “ME”, to our core. It is a diving trough the layers of “ME”.

How do you make your choices in 《M.O.S.T》?

Chaim: Mostly by observing and analyzing my surroundings. I like to collect ideas observing real and virtual daily life of people. How we deal (in this case for M.O.S.T) with our possibilities of communication. Then I pick what stays stronger in my memory ROM what I saw and start my individual trip on my memories based on those inputs. 

M.O.S.T ©Henryk Weiffenbach

How do you create – do you go into the studio with a firm idea of the movement you want? Or is it more free-form and organic?

Chaim: When I have the need to say something , to talk about an important topic for me, I already know what kid of energy I will need to express my ideas.

 If you want to talk about protest, you already know what the energy you want to bring in. If you want to talk about meditation, you know what attitude to bring in to. When I go to studio, I already have a clear idea of the texture of the movement that I want to propose for the dancers/performer to improvise. 

What comes out of improvisation is how each one of them/ us turn one idea into physicality. I work on this feelings and physicality to develop situations or scenes. 

How do you choose the performer in this piece?

Chaim: I allow myself to have this freedom to have single decision in each piece. The dancers we work with are from twenty to sixty-two years old. For each single work, I see what kind of people are more suitable deliver the message I am proposing. Then we me and Roberta talk a lot about it before the final decision. Normally we invite people we already knew. Last February was our first audition because we would like to know people. There we got more than four hundred inscriptions. From them we invited 40 dancers for the audition, and we had to choose only 2 of them. 

Roberta: In this case, it was much specific because it was a piece we already showed a lot (Body Play) and we were looking for specific roles. There were beautiful dancers in the audition. But we were looking for specific skills for this particular performance. For other works, we have more freedom because Chaim is working on people. I seldom saw him marking steps by steps without improvisation. He always tries to use what the dancers have. He has an idea or an image, and he tries things. Of course, we are looking always for strong, flexible performers. And he is creating the choreography on these bodies, this person who can express the character, the topic and the messages he wants to give. That is already done. We tried to find roles who are fitting in it. He likes to work on personal skills and direct the piece in this way — open to try things with this group of people at this moment. 

What’s the potential of improvisation?

Roberta: For me, it is important to have clear tasks to research a concrete idea or message that I want to express. Improvisation is about the “moment” — is good for both performer and audience.  Of course, what you are going to deliver is always the same. How you are going to deliver is new. I really like improvisation in this way because it is also challenging. You have to be present and aware all the time. For performance based totally in improvisation, I think it is a harder work but it is more alive. It is real, it is there, it is an experience more than just showing something.

Chaim: It is just like Roberta was saying, you should be there. You are transparent. People can see who you are. That’s beautiful. It is a strong tool to deliver a message.

M.O.S.T ©Henrik Weiffenbach

How do you look at Berlin scene?

Roberta: I like Berlin is giving the freedom to show any kind of arts and cultures. You have chance to experiment and try things. You can find complete different audience who is not necessary connected to the artist and/or intellectual scene. Every kind of people are interested in art and are curious to discover new things. Personally, I love that there is possibility to show. Of course, it is not so easy. Berlin’s performing art scene is so full. But it is very active. Things are always moving and people support each other. I feel less competition and more collaboration between artists. 

Chaim: The art scene in Berlin is like a lost child. An experiment needs a clear aim from starting point to the point we want to reach. A try out in other hand in only a test of the potential of someone or something, not necessarily going somewhere. In many cases it  just becomes a scream and then it’s gone. Of course, there is a lot of things are good. I just would like to see as much artistic research as I see physical researches. 

How do you see unfinished piece?

Chaim: I think if it’s clear it is not finished, it is good because then you have a chance to try out your ideas into something physical. Because you put your idea out there to see — Is my idea / message going through? If it is going well, then I can finish. If it’s not, then I can start over again. But it should be clear it is work in progress that is not finished. 

Roberta: Like what I said before, the freedom to show is nice, but sometimes, it’s also confusing for the audience. Can be disappointing because you expect to see something else. There are a lot of situations in which people perform just to research an idea, an image or a feeling. Sometime is the beginning of something bigger that will come later, but I think it is always good to be honest with the audience and tell them when is about a work in progress or research process.

CBSW in Rabat © Chaim Gebber Open Scene

PART II: To know more

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

Chaim: As my mom used to say that the best way to give advice is to be an example.

Roberta: The advice I give myself is, if you believe in something and you give in it one hundred percent, it is impossible you would not get it. This is something I always advise —Do your best. It will come back. 

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

Chaim: I would be a dragon for two reason. Firstly, it doesn’t exist. It is a collection of ideas and wishes that people created in a shape of a dragon. Secondly, because my son is a dragon in Chinese lunar calendar.

Roberta: I like cats. Cats are independent, smart, good energy and mysterious in positive ways. Or horse. It is intelligent, sensitive, wild and free. 

Chaim Gebber in workshop © Katya Pomelova

What’s the questions in your head this week?

Chaim: How would I get an apartment in Berlin?

Roberta: What is going to happen in summer? More or less, this question comes to me when things are very open.

What’s daily ritual for you?

Roberta: Coffee. The breakfast coffee for me is very important. I normally take my time and looking to nothing through the window of my kitchen.

Chaim: For me, it is to talk with my son in the morning and in the evening.

Roberta Pupotto in workshop ©Chaim Gebber Open Scene

Any word you would like to share with our audience?

Chaim: First of all i would like to say a big THANKS for all the support our audience has giving us so far. On our workshops, classes and performances. And as well that I hope we can keep their interest in our work. 

With many thanks to Chaim Gebber & Roberta Pupotto
Chaim Gebber Open Scene website here
Photo credits/ as description below each photos
Original article in Mandarin contributing to Red Bull please see the link