Sofia Mavragani-FINGERSIX, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on October 14, 2011


update here

incorrect me—photo:Aggelos Tzortzinis

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

Sofia Mavragani was born on a sunny day in 1978. She had her first ballet class when she was 4 years old. When she was 5, after having performed on big stage, she stopped. Some years later, while studying Economics, she decided to have a career change. So she found herself  in Holland studying in order to become a dance maker. There she met her friends and colleagues, and founded FINGERSIX artistic network. Sofia Mavragani/Greece together with Melina Seldes/Argentina, Marta Navaridas/Spain, Danielle ES Brown/USA and Alessio Castelacci/Italy , all graduates from the EDDC-European Dance Development Centre, ArtEZ-University of Arts, Arnhem-NL, created an international artistic network, named FINGERSIX, a collective of independent artists with diverse cultural and artistic identities, who share an endless curiosity for the art of performing, and a deep belief in the rich experience of collaboration and interdisciplinary exchange.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?
My main influence is social and political observation. From there I move to theory, to move to related art forms, to move to practice.

What do you want to question with your current project?
I am looking into the role of lucidity in contemporary society and culture. In this context, Ι have developed an international experimental performance project called playforPLACE.  A series of in situ performance workshopswhich explore the performative potential of the act of playing. In each selected location I create with a local artist a unique experimental process based on collective teaching and experiential exchange.

I was inspired by the book ‘Homo Ludens’ and the way it approaches the element of play as fundamental element of culture. This book was written by John Huizinga a Dutch historian and cultural theorist in 1938.  I am interested in finding the contemporary expressions of the element of play in current political and social intrapersonal relationships.

So is questioning actually the process?
Questioning is the process from beginning to end. Performance is an ongoing process of questioning. I don’t believe there is ever the perfect from of a piece, there is always something to correct, or something to discover.

Do you want this question to become the audience’s question?
Not necessarily. I am surprised when the audience lights up another aspect of the work. I like to be surprised.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?
Yes. And the creators are responsible for that. We give elements to the audience which make them start looking for the hidden messages. But all this is problematic since, if they try to find my message, they miss out on the possibility of creating their own parallel universe to the work.

Μ_dancetheatre solo, photo:Giorgos Makkas

Are you interested in the individual?
Yes, all of my process is based on the particular individuals involved in the project and the combination of the group of collaborators. It is difficult for me to dream of a project in advance, if I don’t know/see the people, start rehearsing.

Do you have a specific method?
Yes I have a specific method, which is so open that it becomes different for each project. I work with “Open Form”, a combination of set material and improvised structures. Creating the appropriate open form for each work is always a challenge. The work is based on the individuals and their specific characteristics and needs.  Ultimately the dancers formulate/influence the method as well.

Would you say you choreograph all-together?
I would say I choreograph with the dancers. The “Open Form” requires creative input and responsibility on behalf of the dancers. I am responsible for creating the “Open Form”, coordinating all the elements both of performance and production. Inside the work both in the process and during the performance, the dancers have to maintain their creativity. In effect I direct the creativity of all the collaborators, independently and in relation to each other.

Do you set precise goals? Do you have specific expectations?
I have precise directions, and keep myself ready to move away from them if necessary.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?
Although I am not fully oriented in using text, it has been present in all the works. Maybe because I strongly perceive voice as part of the physical expression.

Is text improvised too?
Most of the times. It depends on the ability of the performers. I prefer to have the text improvised as well, but so far in my experience I have had to set it. Or set it before I can let it free again.

Would you say your work is dance theater?
More dance theater than dance…or theater.

What does it mean to produce work?
It’s an adventure. It excites me.
Writing the press release, finding the form for the marketing material, choosing the photo, shooting the trailer, can all be creative.

What is your strategy?
I try to make production a creative process. Connect it to the specific characteristics of each project.

How did you start this?
I always liked organization and management, I suppose there is a seed left in me from my previous education ιn business administration.

Are you an artist?
For me art is more connected to the way you do things or the way you perceive reality, and not necessarily to what you do. . In that sense, I consider myself an artist

Are you a good artist?
Are you doubting this?

Do you like your work?
Not all of the works. There are some which didn’t fulfill my expectations, and left me with a bitter taste. On the contrary, there were some that  I fully enjoyed.

Do others like your work?
Same answer. Some people like it some people don’t. I believe both that art is subjective and that personal taste is irrelevant to the communication value of a work with the audience. Art is a stimulus, an occasion to think and exchange. Exchange and improve. Even when we don’t like something it can still change something inside us.

Are you happy with how you do things?
I am happy, there is space for improvement in my work and in my processes. I am aware that even an unsuccessful process and all the positive and negative aspects of it can improve my way of thinking and my working methods. So no matter how difficult an experience is, the final taste is good!

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?
According to a western point of view, I would say yes. But because I don’t believe in failure I say no.

incorrect me_in progress, photo: Aggelos Tzortzinis

Do you have a daily practice?
I run, I play tennis, I hope I will soon start stretching sessions, these are my weekly practices.

What’s the difference between process and practice?
Practice, is the individual work that one should do in order to get himself ready to start the process.

Do you create scores?
It is part of the ‘Open Form’ method I use. Parts of the piece are based on specific scores –so yes.

How do you archive your work?
photos, video, press release, dossier.

Are you using technology in your work?
My main focus is to find a strong physical identity. I prefer to concentrate on people’s physical presence rather than impressive technological tricks.

Do you use / create a technique?
I recognize in my work specific technical requirements. Therefore I have developed some methods of training the performers, so that they can adapt to the specific demands of the work. It is a combination of anatomical release, embodiment of images and performance technique.

A few questions on the elements of performance :

I respect time by just letting it be.

It is my obsession. I get excited to observe and discover its hidden magic.
I love light. I hate the lights in the Greek theatre spaces because of their technical limitations.
Has never been a main element, in my work.
Problematic area.
How do you treat the body in your work?
With love and care.
Do you consider yourself funny?
Well, people say I am funny while I work. They laugh in rehearsals because of an extreme reaction to something , a unique expression while watching, or the loss of all verbal articulation at times…

Why did you start dancing?
By accident.

When you started the company, were you dissatisfied with what kind of choreography was on offer at the time?

No. I didn’t create a dance company to fill in a gap in the dance scene of that time- but to fulfill my own personal artistic needs. To tell you the truth, for a while, I did have an ethical dilemma whether one should create more and more works or rather focus on supporting and developing the works that already exist.

So why does your company, why do companies such as yours matter?

Because the Greek company -FINGERSIX Athens- is a branch of an international network, my main concern in the past projects has been to collaborate with artist from abroad (Austria, Spain, Argentina, Germany, Korea, Holland, Switzerland).
The idea behind is to start establishing in Greece the multinational character that dance has abroad and to establish a bridge between Greece and other countries.

What do you wish for?
To keep our minds open.
When it comes to the Greek context I wish for the end of suspicious-ness.

Thank you.

update here

incorrect me_in progress, photo:Aggelos Tzortzinis