By shifting our gaze somewhere else, we continue to ask what it means to believe in what we believe in and whether one could experience a moment when one truly feels like something else. Interview with Urvi Vora and Kinga Szemessy about their new piece This is How You Move Them.
How did you guys meet, and how did the idea of realizing a creative piece together come to light?
We met in London at a conference about Dance Studies, and after chatting over a pint of beer, we felt that we had similar interests and ways in which we wanted to work. Both of us, having graduated from the Choreomundus International MA Programme which focuses on Dance Anthropology, had experienced different dance cultures in four different universities in Europe. We arrived to the realization that we would love to be able to explore those theoretical ideas in practice as well.
Two dance/movement researchers/anthropologists and dancers realize a piece about a socially important topic. How would you define this topic? Does it rely on the researches you’ve made, or it has other inspirational sources?
A lot of the research that was done before the realization of the piece came from Urvi’s research in the field of performance studies and affect theory. It began from an analysis of what we could call conditioned bodies and the possibility of having an unconditioned body at all. Very soon, it moved on to asking questions about what we could think of as ‘a better world’ – whether it made sense to even think of one and what it would entail.
While we were certainly informed by ideas of social justice, freedom, and the possibility of invention, we did not intend to make the piece a change-maker or a serious message about the tough social reality around us. Something we realized early on, was that a way of tackling some grand questions was to turn to very personal ones. These were evoked through our concerns and hesitations as young individuals, emerging dance artists, and friends who often quarrel. The piece does raise questions about the norms, beliefs, and values we cherish and what we hope to retain. However, most of these are posed in a much more covert manner which the spectator has the right to leave unnoticed or to outright ignore. Perhaps when we think of compassion and violence, they are overarching concepts that a society expresses concern over. But perhaps, they exist in the most personal stories and experiences that we are moved by. And perhaps, we don’t really remember them anymore.
This piece is not a human centered one, but you involve different creatures. By giving voice to animals you might get closer to human issues from a different angle – as for instance the field of animal studies does? or maybe I’m totally wrong and misunderstanding 🙂
Kinga: Urvi, as a choreographer brought me to moments where I felt I am not myself – fully. I could see myself in the mirror and decoding the image as a bird, or Gollum, or a tied ham, while being 100% aware that I am in a dance studio listening to the Postmodern Jukebox. In what terms it made me get closer to my humanity? Well, it reminded me of the “magic” or altered state of mind that could be triggered by using the body, or rather being in the body with my full attention. It then brought a sense of play, an acceptance and love towards my inner desires, furthermore a will to share them – I guess these are feelings and sensations that could create a utopic community.
Urvi: What I find amusing is that every time we want to talk about something non-human, we cannot help but talk about it as a juxtaposition to the human. This piece was an attempt to think through those spaces, without neglecting the serious conundrum we have ahead of us. And inevitably it required us to move out of this and ask questions like “are goats happy?” or “does a fox watch the sunset?” By shifting our gaze somewhere else, we continue to ask what it means to believe in what we believe in and whether one could experience a moment when one truly feels like something else.
Urvi, what is the basic movement vocabulary you use in this choreography? Does it have any direct reference to any experience of yours?
We did not really work with a particular movement system but with many frameworks such as the translation of a text, following verbal instructions, or simply using visual cues as starting points. Over many months, we worked through different ideas in the studio, in cafes, on Skype and during walks in Budapest through a free form which allowed movements to appear in order to unfold the multilayered self. A lot of the movement material came from very specific images and the desire to replicate them. Some came from absolutely accidental moments. On the whole, once we had an idea of what the piece wants to do, the physicality is something we experimented with constantly. Often, we still do. The piece works with an open score and every single time we do it, it is kept alive by the sheer surprise of the other’s behaviour and our own personal revelations.