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Blog for dancers, choreographers, critics, pedagogues

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24.10.2020, 19:38:10   |  Photo: Dragan Dragin  |   Category: Dramaturgy, Space & context, Interdisciplinarity, Process of making, Education, Art & Society

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Hungry Hearts

Key words:
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I’ve talked with Eva Urbanova - dancer, choreographer, dance maker who was one of the residents taking part on this year Coaching Residencies about her work on the piece which she recently presented as her final work on HAMU ( Academy of Performing arts - Music and Dance department). We've dwelled into the process of her work and topics she was addressing in her work together with eight performers coming from different backgrounds. We’ve talked about the numb hectic skin avoiding encounter and vulnerability of becoming intimate with the other in her choreographic process. 

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I’ve talked with Eva Urbanova - dancer, choreographer, dance maker who was one of the residents taking part on this year Coaching Residencies about her work on the piece which she recently presented as her final work on HAMU ( Academy of Performing arts - Music and Dance department). We've dwelled into the process of her work and topics she was addressing in her work together with eight performers coming from different backgrounds. We’ve talked about the numb hectic skin avoiding encounter and vulnerability of becoming intimate with the other in her choreographic process. 

ZZ: So dear welcome to this amazing interview 

EU: I'm so excited 

ZZ: :) But maybe firstly just describe me what actually happened during your performance? 

You were just telling me that you had presented your master piece on Thursday a week ago, and I know you were working on its final part during the Residency with Coaching. So let’s start with this, what was it and how was it for you? 

EU: This piece is called Hungry Hearts and it was my final choreographic project of my MA studies at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, which is two years long study program. 

I’ve started to work on these ideas two years ago. The main theme of the piece that time was vulnerability. Two years ago, it was called the Power of vulnerability and during that time I was working with another performer Agáta Jarošová, who was also working with SE-S-TA before and did the couching residence two years ago. The thing is that I was not really satisfied how the piece evolved, how I created it and I felt there is much more to explore. I decided to continue to work on this topic and develop it for my master thesis. Within the piece I was connecting several concepts like millennials, busy and fast lifestyle in the cities, consumer society and capitalism. I was thinking about how we are disconnected from ourselves as people and about this hunger for life that we have inside of us, and that there is something what has to be fulfilled. I was questioning how we get our hearts fulfilled. 

And it is not only vulnerability, but also playfulness and intimacy which goes within it. Our generation, if I can call us us millennials, we are connected to the technology more than to the people around us. And this time I was working with eight performers. There were two dancers who were a main duo. They were more experienced with contemporary dance than the rest of the group, which I call ensemble - girls who were a little bit younger. From the beginning I knew I would have two main performers who are going to hold the whole piece and the rest will amplify the situation with their intentions, with their presences and energies. 

I also wanted to present this piece out of the theatre space. I wanted to research on how the body will be perceived when being out of the classical frame of the black box and out of the classical audience expectations. I decided to not use any light design and stick only with the daylight which made me think of how I can connect audience and performers.

ZZ: When you talk about this question of the visitor, or relation among performer and the audience  which was also very much resonating during your Couching Residency…. I wanted to ask why are you going out of the black box and coming to the gallery space? Is this some kind of homogeneous space where you are creating a similar condition for visitor and performer? What were the strategies and how were you exploring the relation with the visitor, what kind of methods you found out throughout the process? 

EU: The place we were working was Korzo in National Gallery in Prague, a place with big windows where people passing outside can observe what is happening inside. And this disposition worked quite well with the idea I had in the beginning. During the work in progress presentation people could move around and change the point of view and angles. I asked them to move, and I gave them options to sit or stand or move. This was creating a different energetic field in the space. I wanted to explore what it would be if people would move from on one side and the energy would be not settled. Those experiments during the process of rehearsals brought lots of new ideas that I would like to explore in my future pieces. But actually for this piece, I've decided to let people sit on two sides. During the rehearsals in the gallery we worked also with the moving walls on the wheels which are part of the Korzo’s architecture. I felt that I cannot risk the safety of the audience so we decided to place audience into two corners (in two groups). Those groups could watch each other and they could also observe what was happening outside. And similarly, watchers from outside could observe what is happening inside. 

ZZ: So you were pretty much involved with the work on architecture. Because the gallery space allowed you to work on inside and outside in the same time entangling gallery space with the public space. And this was also creating a specific scenography… 

EU: Yes and at the end of the piece all the dancers went out and they were performing outside in the public space for the audience which was inside. 

ZZ: Coming back to the choreographic work, material related to your topic - vulnerability, intimacy… Could you develop little more on this, how you were working on the choreographic score, what kind of tools you were using, how you were expressing this intimacy, was the intimacy your tool or score or? 

EU: In this case I think what was really interesting was to create the material with two main dancers. They didn’t meet before. They were coming from different backgrounds. It was very organic throughout the process to work on their vulnerability and intimacy between each other. They had to overcome an uncomfortable situation to open up, show who they are. I’ve chosen some improvisational principals and task as part of the score for them. We were exploring what is happening before, after and during the hug and also the quality of melting. We were observing the muscle tension, exploring how the dancer can soft them, how fasciae works.  Within the partner work, we were exploring how we can grow from the hug to lifting. Support was another element that we work with . These principals we brought later to the group choreography. 

ZZ: So you kind of created a scene of different things also different dynamics or colours, coming from the idea of hugging, melting and support.. which created later the material for the choreography. Maybe I would come back here to the question of choreography … As you were mentioning architecture, urban, space, accumulation, were you also applying these principals in relation to the movement in the space? 

EU: There were two worlds in the piece. There was the world of vulnerability, playfulness and intimacy and on the other hand the world of the city. In the city world we created a material based on the linear movements of our bodies. Another element in this part was a stylized civil walk.

ZZ: What is the stylised civil walk? 

EU: I wanted them to hold their torso in the axes. So there is no movement of opening and closing of their torso. At the same time we were keeping “the middle points.”  You find the point in front of your heart and on the back of your heart. Then you find a middle point inside of your chest, which is connecting these two points. After you find lots of these middle points on your torso in different places. 

ZZ: It s reminding me a chakra chain 

EU: Yes, similar image. However, it’s a bit robotic. It holds the body in a certain restricted position and it creates a cold mood for performers and performativity, żof coldness which I wanted to bring into the space. It’s not much about moving or creating, you're not opening or closing your body parts. This was one of the main principals we worked with inside of  this scene.

The world of vulnerability is evolving to intimacy and playfulness, but the world of the city goes to the opposite side. Performers are people with senses, but they do not use their bodies the way as they really could, they are not expressing themselves, and that is why they can easily go to the other side which I’m calling the dark side. They have a lot of shaking moments.  Each of them has a little bit different story. It’s a constant falling down, they are loosening their muscles, their balances, each of them has different movement qualities. In the world of vulnerability we worked mainly with soft movements, diagonals and melting of muscles.

ZZ: Speaking about the darker movements, what were he triggers for them? 

EU: We were trying a lot of things. One task was inspired by the morning walk in the metro station, when people are passing around you. Being in the rush and inside of the crowded place, lot of times is happening that they hit with their shoulder yours. Some people say “I’m sorry”, some not even have time for saying anything and some people even don’t feel the touch. They are in the box of their mind and their skin lost the sensitivity. And this is what is happening after the dancers start to walk in the first scene. They start to bump into each other’s shoulders. More bumps you receive, more of the dark world is appearing inside of your dance. The music is the cue for the dancers. The music is getting faster and more layers are appearing inside of the score. This is creating the atmosphere of a busy city. 

ZZ: If we zoom out and we observe the dramaturgy of it. How would you describe the curve? What kind of city we are experiencing by watching it? 

EU: I imagine something like a huge city. I lived in London and Tokyo. Materials which were in the gallery are cold, marble … dancers didn’t like it. If you imagine the center of NYC or Tokyo people are surrounded by these cold materials. Through the body of the dancers I wanted to bring the contrast. So I focused on softening the muscles. I was departing from the image of the abandoned city where the nature is growing through the buildings. Eight dancers were creating connections through their arms, crawling on the ground. In the scene of the city world they are individuals disconnected from each other. In the scenes of the vulnerability we wanted to create the connectedness as the plants are doing with their rooting system.

ZZ: And why you were working only with girls? 

EU: It was not that I would make a strict decision about it. But it was somehow that only girls wanted to work with me. 

ZZ: I'm asking if it was a certain statement, then I was also asking that you have to work with 8 performers because it was a condition for the master project from school? 

EU: They wanted me to work with group, officially you have to work at least with 3 performers. And I wanted to work with 10 and I've got 8 performers. 

ZZ: You are speaking about millennial generations. But you are also working with the teenage girls and “grown ups” :) … Teenage hood is also hectic dynamic period, and it is very much encountering first sexual intimacy. Teenage is something what you are doing for the first time. You also described how the younger dancers were changing the energy in the group or how they influenced the work… 

EU: I didn’t mean young by age but by performing… like performing contemporary dance… young performers more by experiences in the contemporary dance scene. And there was age difference also but what was interesting for me was to experience their various backgrounds. It was interesting to observe how the people coming from different contexts can work together. I had to step out of my style and go more into the conversation with them. It was really crucial for me that they were coming from different backgrounds, bringing their knowledge to the basket and this very much worked with the topic of the piece. Even-though we are so different, we can still enjoy life together. 

ZZ: Last question, are you going to continue on this? Or you think you found  a final form for this piece? 

EU: It was a very hard process for me. We didn’t have so much time.  I would appreciate more time to experiment inside of the space of the gallery. And I also got lost in the idea throughout the time. But let’s see, maybe after the winter and Corona crises… but I think I want to continue to work on this topic and explore it more in the future for sure and also explore the dance in the gallery space. 

ZZ: So you feel like going out of the black box?

EU: Yes

ZZ: Maybe it would be nice, if you could establish collaboration with National Gallery.  And I think generally, it would be great also for other artists, performers, choreographers, dancers if National Gallery opens its spaces for performing artists and let them rehearse in the whole space. 

EU: Yes! It was very nice experience. For example, during the rehearsal time people walking by or visitors were reacting to what we were working on in the space. 

ZZ: Good to hear. Thank you Eva very much for the Interview! 

EU: Thank you!



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