Medie Megas- Φora, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on October 28, 2011

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update here

“Guard Dog. An allegory about the Media”, photo Petros Papakiriakou

Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Medie Megas with an e. I was born in England but I have dual English/Greek nationality. I am not a young choreographer, but I am relatively new to the job – currently working on my third piece! I find my balance in life through teaching history of dance and doing many other things besides choreographing. I am also part of a collaborative initiative aimed at the creation of a strong Greek dance community.

What do you want to question with your current project?

For me it is not so much a matter of questioning, but of deepening my understanding and insight into the subject matter of each of my works. In the case of the piece I’m working on right now the subject matter and title is ‘Metapolitefsi’*. *[(Greek: Μεταπολίτευση, translated as polity or regime change) was a period in Greek history after the fall of the Greek military junta of 1967–1974 that includes the transitional period from the fall of the dictatorship to the Greek legislative elections of 1974 and the democratic period immediately after these elections.-Wikipedia]

Why?

Looking back at the other two pieces I’ve made, I realize that what I am always trying to do is to find my personal connections to the theme I have chosen. At first, it might seem very removed and far away from me, but my intuition tells me that it is actually really close. I find that through working on the choreographic forms and the dramaturgy of a piece, I can reach a deeper understanding of my subject. Here are the titles of my two pieces just to give you some hints about what I mean: “Poetic Asylum” and “Guard Dog. An allegory about the Media”.

Is questioning actually the process?

No, for me the research is the process. I don’t mean a theoretical research that simply lands in the studio. For me, research is ongoing on two levels: inside and outside the studio. These two converge into one – the process. Do you think audiences are looking for a message? I think that audiences are looking to understand. And I feel I understand their need to understand and their frustration when they don’t. What is difficult for the audience is to be satisfied simply by the experience of a work, especially if the work is not easily decipherable. I also believe that our post-modern legacy has focused a lot on articulating questions, but seems to have no interest in answers. When I say answers, I don’t mean it in a modernist sense, where the answer would be a monolithic statement or an absolute judgement, I mean answers as attempts to organise chaos…I don’t know…..

Are you interested in the individual?

It’s funny you ask me this question while I am creating this piece. I have just finished the first phase of rehearsals and I am beginning to realize that what works for me in this piece are the points at which the personal experience merges with the political – the moments when history is inscribed in the body and the moments when the actions of the individual create history, not in the heroic sense, but in the mundane everyday sense. Take for example the 80’s in Greece – a time of extreme political polarity: the intense experience of waving the flag and shouting out the name of the prime minister to-be. This is for me a clear instance of when the individual’s experience meets the communal experience, just by the act of gathering at political rallies. Did I answer your question? Maybe not… Anyway!

Do you have a specific method?

Again with hindsight. I always seem to have two starting points: 1. a very conscious decision about the issue that I want to deepen my understanding of and 2. a formal idea about the piece which I intuitively know will come in use in one way or another. So the process for me involves these two poles expanding towards each other and ultimately meeting. There is always a point in the making of each piece, when it becomes clear to me why my intuition led me to that form in the first place.

Do you consider yourself funny?

No, I wish I were. Although for me, there are elements of humor in my work that other people don’t always seem to get! Maybe that’s the price you pay for having a sense of humor that is half Greek and half English!

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Very. For me words and music coming from the dancer are elements that somehow complete the dancer’s expressive capacity. They are not necessities in my work (my last piece had no spoken text) but if they come up through the process I let them be. I don’t want to block these means of expression in my work.

Is text improvised?

Text is not improvised – not in the performance, only during rehearsals. But it is a goal for me, to manage to create more open forms on stage.

“Guard Dog. An allegory about the Media” photo Petros Papakyriakou

What does it mean to produce work?

I understand production in its classic sense. I make work – on stage. So there are production issues that come with that. For example, I have never participated in a platform or festival in which excerpts of works are presented. The way in which I develop the dramaturgy of the piece is such that the work makes sense only when it is presented as a whole.

Are you an artist?

Yes.

Are you a good artist?

I am faithful to myself. I‘m very sincere. It is impossible for me to do anything that is not 100% true for me.

Do you like your work?

Yes! Of course I like my work, but that doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good! My work is often very different from the work I like by other choreographers – meaning that I often explore dangerous terrains – dangerous in the sense that they could easily lead me to things that I don’t like seeing in other people’s work…

Do others like your work?

I think that many people do. I think that it manages to speak to people in some way. Something that I am conscious of is that negative critique doesn’t always reach us. I wish there were some kind of platform for discussing our works – embracing both positive and negative critique. This is especially important for Greece, due to the lack of critical discourse and the lack of opportunities for artists to articulate and exchange views regarding their work. As you know there isn’t a single dance critic at the moment writing reviews in any Greek newspaper!

Are you happy with how you do things?

I can usually say that I am happy with how things get done, but I am not always happy with how I do them.

How would you be happy?

I would be happy if I could reach a level of communication with my dancers which would allow for all thoughts to be expressed, but still try out every idea. What I mean is that I really need to know if a dancer thinks that a certain pathway we are taking is crap, but at the same time I need to know that he/she is available to follow it through, anyway. I get very affected by the emotions of the group of dancers I work with. Also, I’m not always happy with the way I introduce an idea in rehearsal. Sometimes I say in retrospect that I should have been bolder and presented the idea in a more direct way, and sometimes I say that I should have created a richer and longer journey to reach a certain point. Many ‘what ifs’ are involved in the work of a choreographer!

Is your work set or improvised?

It is set, although I never teach set material – I use structured improvisation to arrive to the set material. Now I come to think of it though, the dancer is usually free to play with the material, but not to make choices that affect the dramaturgy.

Do you set precise goals? Do you have specific expectations?

When the dramaturgy of the piece starts to become clear, then, yes. Although to a certain extent it remains open until the end. For me the goal is the dramaturgy, when that is clear to me, then it is just a matter of working out all the rest.

The rest?

What you see. The actual piece. The movement material, the choreography and the structure. For me dramaturgy is the underlying code or rules of a piece. That which determines what stays in and what should be chucked out.

Do you have a daily practice ?

Checking my emails is my daily practice.

What’s the difference between process and practice?

For me, the process is much broader than the practice. The process consists of many things outside the studio. Half of my time is spent in the studio and the other half is spent outside: researching, interviewing, thinking, writing, discussing…

Do you create scores?

I would say I write about the length of a book for every piece! It is not a codified score, but it is very articulated.

Political Asylum, photo Vasilis Mihail

Would you say your work is Dance Theater?

Yes. But I’m not sure if all the connotations would be right… I would add the word theatre when it comes to the dances my dancers and I create, because I search for a directness in movement that resembles the way performers address each other and their audience in the theatre. I find that movement very often becomes referential in a way that – for me – blocks its own expressive potential. I’m talking about negating the ‘dance mode’ that dancers so easily access – this ‘dance mode’ that ultimately isolates them from what surrounds them.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

I am influenced a lot by poetry, philosophy and the social sciences, and of course, the history of dance and its current developments… Usually, poetry and music inform the intuitive choice of form that I make in the beginning of the process. Philosophy and social sciences are where I run to in order to deepen my understanding of the subject I’m working on. History of dance and contemporary dance influence me, simply because I love dance. I love watching it pass through history, make its modernist statements, pose questions, conduct radical experiments, create ruptures, unfold its diversity… It is what I am passionate about…

Do you favor / create a technique?

Yes, I think I create a technique of responding to ideas and to words. Also, there are certain qualities in improvisation that I know I’m always looking for, which could be defined as some kind of a technique. I suppose we could say that I have a method that helps me access these qualities, but it is different for each piece. It is as if each piece somehow requires its own technique. Also, what I talked about previously, this directness in addressing the audience and the rest of the performers, I would say this is a form of technique too.

How do you treat the body in your work?

I am not very interested in the body’s limits. Not interested in taking the body’s capacities to its limits. What I am interested in is accessing body memories, body rhythms, body images and body sensations that have been wiped out by years of dance training.

A few questions on the elements of performance:

Time?

Real time.

Space?

Codified space.

Lights?

Unknown terrain.

Set?

Not set for set’s sake. ‘Set’ or ‘setting’?

Costume?

Mmm that’s a hard one. I usually know what I don’t want. I haven’t found exactly what I want yet. I can’t stand trendy or ‘pop’ clothes on stage. I usually go for unobtrusive costumes. If something on the costume needs to be accentuated – some detail – fine, as long as it is semeiologically correct. I think many creators forget the semeiological strength of clothing. They work hard on the messages their piece sends out, on all their dramaturgical choices, and then suddenly ‘dress’ the piece with clothes that look good, but give out completely wrong messages.

“Guard Dog. An allegory about the Media”, photo Christina Georgiadou

Do you sometimes feel you have failed?

Of course I feel I have sometimes failed. But I would say they were partial failures: failures in the (very important sometimes) details, not failures in the big picture, not large scale failures! But as I said I am new to the job! Just hoping the first time won’t be in ‘Metapolitefsi’!

What do you wish for?

I’ll pass on that question.

When you started your company was it because you were actively dissatisfied with what kind of choreography was on offer?

I wanted to try out things that were in my head, I needed to succumb to this desire of trying things out and see if they would lead me somewhere. To be honest, I suppose it also had to do with the feeling of not being 100% satisfied as a dancer. But by no means did I enter this scene with an attitude of – ‘here, I’ll show you how to do it’.

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

I think that in the Greek context companies like mine don’t matter. Don’t get me wrong. What I’m trying to say here is that our country lacks a system of support that can create a sense of continuity and value for dance. And I think that this is why initiatives like ‘from stage to page’ and the association of 5 choreographers I am part of are so important. Because their work can help fill in these gaps, repair this lack of continuity, create a sense of value between ourselves, within the community and with the audience. Otherwise things get lost, fall into nowhere (to use a Greek expression), leave no traces of their existence. I am not talking about recognition. I am talking about support, about a sense of community, about the development of discourse in our country.

What do you wish for?

I wish for bridges. Bridges between theory and practice, between artists and between art forms, between us and the public. I hope that we, Greeks, will manage to surpass our difficulty or unwillingness to discuss, interact and exchange in a way that will enrich each other’s practice. I really believe in Greek dance and Greek dancers. For this to happen, I think, we all need to actively shift our position, alter our perspective a little bit. In order to meet.

Thank you.

update here

Political Asylum

medie@andriotakis.gr

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