Katerina Skiada – Lemurius dance company, interview by fromstagetopage

Posted on February 5, 2012

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Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

My name is Katerina Skiada, and I was born in Athens Greece. I still consider myself a dancer /performer more than a choreographer. It is only recently that I became more interested in choreography –dare I say more so than in dancing. It has to do with the ‘inside’ and the ‘outside’. I started on the ‘inside’ and now I am more interested in the experience of the ‘outside’. The transition period is the one of watching, being the observer. In brief, I went  from the ‘inside’, to the observer and now I am trying to find ways that will lead me to the ‘outside’-  the choreographer’s position. Still though, when someone asks me “What do you do?”  I find myself replying “I am a dancer”.  The word choreographer doesn’t seem to come out of my mouth ,yet.

In our company Lemurius, we are all co-creators we are all performers and choreographers at the same time: a double identity. Hence I have not yet been totally on the ‘outside’ during a creation. But,  it is now clear that I am becoming more interested in this position. For now, I observe, question  and research.

 What do you want to question with your current project?

We are just at the beginning with this idea. The question is – How can one see/understand/decipher something , without this something being necessarily visible or present on stage?

I am more interested in what the spectator doesn’t see: what is not happening at that moment, an image which is not present.  It is more about hinting on things.

For example in our last creation, “Big Production”, there is an ongoing cyclical pathway but only one half of it (a semicircle) is  visible on stage and available to the spectator. The other half, one can hear sounds from it, imagine it. During the non- visible part of the pathway, we would also have very fast costume changes, so when we became visible again it was apparent that something is happening that you don’t see. Also other performers that you have never seen before on stage appear on the same pathway!  So, what is on stage is as important to us, as what is beyond the stage. We are flirting with these two worlds: the world the spectator sees and the one he doesn’t.

Through translating this same idea, we chose the blank canvases as objects. This white frame provided a way of disappearing, whether it a part of a body of a person, or of a whole person.

The starting point of “Big Production” was:  how could lots of people –like 100- create a dance piece together.

Evidently this was a far too difficult and complex task, so we simplified it.  We interviewed lots of people, asking these questions: what  would you like to see as the beginning of a performance? Describe a section of about 5 minutes that you would like to witness onstage? What would you like to see as the ending of a performance?

We did not make a collage of these collected ideas. We worked on creating a structure that made sense with these suggested ideas. During the rehearsal period period, we worked with 2 performers on the ‘inside’ and one on the ‘outside’, exchanging roles. This became a pattern for us- we would hide in order to prepare an idea, then reappear in order to present it. This practice of disappearing and reappearing – from the rehearsal process became a concept of the work.  It was also present in the collected interviews. So we used the  ideas from the interviews, interpreting them in our own way.

Is questioning actually the process?

Yes, I think we sometimes overdo it with the questioning, but then we realize it is necessary  ! We discuss a lot during rehearsals.

Do you want this question to become the audience’s question?

Yes, it is really important for us that the work’s questions become the audience’s questions. Not as an end in itself. We strongly believe that, when things become very clear to us, there is a higher probability that our questions come across to the spectator.

Regarding the ‘reading’ of a work, if a spectator reads something else than what we intended, its fine.  But, if the spectator cannot read anything, then it’s a problem.

Do you think audiences are looking for a meaning, a message?

It is really hard to find a spectator who does not look for meaning, who doesn’t have the wish to understand. This insisting effort at understanding is sometimes the reason for missing out on things. A spectator once spoke to me after a show and said: “I didn’t understand. I was trying so hard to understand that I didn’t actually see the performance.”

I am wondering what -spectators who are not involved in dance- would want to see. If they would understand what they are trying to understand- that is the point.

Sometimes spectators, are impressed with technique and virtuosity, they say things like:  “I didn’t understand a thing, but the dancers are great”. Maybe it is possible to understand through emotions and sensations.

I am intrigued by and would like to find out, what is the absolute minimum of information that the spectator needs in order to feel they understand, (in order to start thinking). The work offers an incomplete sentence and the spectator needs to fill in the gaps to complete it. In this manner the spectator can shift the meaning also, there is that space available. The question is,  how can we engage the spectator as an energetic rather than a passive viewer.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

Yes, without making any particular reference. Each one of us, has their own influences which they bring with them into the work.

Are you using technology in your work?

Not yet. We would like to do so in the future, provided that it serves the needs of a particular work.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes  but only if it serves an idea. Sound played an important role in our first works .After all Lemurius was founded by 3 people, 2 dancers and 1 musician.

Are you interested in the individual?

Yes, of course. Just the mere fact that in the company, whoever is participating in a project enters the process both as creator and performer, I think that says it all.

Are you teaching workshops?

Yes, a few in the past. We are just now starting to teach workshops with the network “Sindesmos”. It is something I am interested in a lot.

Do you have a daily practice?

Yoga.

What’s the difference between process and practice?

I believe that the practice chosen by  a dancer is linked to their process. For me Yoga, is connected to my work, in many yet indirect ways. Certain principles of Yoga: the respect for the body, not moving all the time- a stillness that continues to move although it is not apparent- (stillness not as non-movement and non-action), taking responsibility. Accepting responsibility, realizing that it is not the circumstances’ fault, the dancers fault,etc.

Do you consider yourself funny?

Yes, lots. I am really trying hard to maintain my self-sarcasm and my humor. I think it is an important part in our work. I am really interested in invalidation. I work with things which cancel each other out, in order to do so you need humor. Making fun of something, also means you are questioning, you disputing it at the same time.

“Big Production”

Are you an artist?

Yes,  I say this nor lightly nor momentously- just simply and spontaneously.

Are you a  good artist?

What is good? A good artist? Potentially every artist is a good artist. It ‘s a big question.

Do you like your work?

While we are in the making, during rehearsals, yes. Whenever we have reworked something though,  we have always changed it. What’ s important for me is,  that when we are on stage, at that moment of performing , we are honest and we are there, where we are. We could not be ahead of ourselves anyhow.

Do others like your work?

People have come and talked to us positively. Not that many people  have seen our work though so far. We have had both positive and negative comments .

Are you happy with how you do things?

There is always better this or that. I do not bestow any responsibility to circumstances though. In any given moment in time we are where we are. I feel happy and good, we have found ways to do things. I don’t think that it is due to circumstances that we don’t do things or that we don’t do better things.

How would you be happy, or happier, what would you need?

I could say more money …

But as long as I have the possibility and the desire to do things- even if this sounds a bit romantic- I don’t need anything more.

“Big Production”

Are you using the principle of improvisation?

Yes of course. Our process is really slow, we really gradually go through the different stages. We work on one idea at a time and investigate thoroughly and dig deep into it and then slowly we add on. For example,  we would never start with a thirty minute improvisation. Our method is to focus on one idea and work on one thing at a time.

 Is your work set or improvised?

The final product is set- very set indeed. Almost everything is set during the performance, on the other hand we use a lot the improvisation in our workshops. During a workshop we are more interested in the dialogue with the material, in a way of thinking in movement. Setting is for a later stage of the work anyhow.

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

Expectations. I don’t like this word. It feels like a long wait, it stresses me, it blocks me, it puts me under pressure- I don’t want to think about it.

In Lemurius , we would have not created our works the way we have,  if we had expectations. Precision and detail – we do work on these a lot.

Goals on the other hand, we do have. The ultimate goal is –to communicate what you have to say, in a better way.

What does it mean to produce work?

This bit is alien to me. So far we are producing our own work, we only do the absolutely necessary. At the same time our work is really very simple, it was only in the last production that we even had lights. Yiannis is doing most of the production, promotion stuff. I do most of the budget and accounting things and it really eats up  a lot of my time.

“Big Production”

How do you archive your work?

No we don’t have an archive!!!! We do have DVDs of our works. We are now thinking of doing something about this- it is part the production stuff…..

Do you have a specific method?

I don’t have a method yet. I haven’t found it yet. So far all of our creations begin with a lot of discussions.

Do you create scores?

Yes, in the last production we had posters of notes on the walls. We change the piece all the time, it would be impossible to do, without looking at notes at some point. We do change all the time. So we need to write things down somehow-each of us in their own way. During our shows at ‘Kinitiras’ – we had a different ending on each performance, also in our next performances of the same work at the Athens Festival.

So, since we change things all the time, the scores change all the time. This is what I really enjoy in our work, that it’s not a problem changing whole sections, even on the day of the show.

Do you believe in less is more?

Yes I do. What is the minimum amount of information that the spectator needs in order to become active towards the work ?– to fill in the gaps- to have the space to do so. The audience needs to understand something if they are to be entering such an active attitude, if they feel they are confronted with chaos they won’t. You don’t want the spectator to suffer during the work by no means, nor you want them just sitting there waiting to be ‘fed’ information. The issue is how to render the spectator active.

A few questions on the elements of performance:

Time?

Relevant. Can contract and expand. Boundless. We like to test the limits with time. We have had whole rehearsals in which you sit on a chair during ALL of the rehearsal, and observe what happens, how thoughts or time change. In our performances time,  is real time. The performers and the spectators share the same time. It’s not theatrical/ stage time.

Space?

The primary element, for us. We realized that we cannot describe time- while maybe it is possible to describe time through space. In “CrossTalk” there was a really long linear pathway, which defined not only space but time as well. Another example is during a long scene of our bodies still on the floor, examining how presence gradually dissolves  and disappears. We remember people and then at some point we forget about them. We are interested in what is happening to the spectator even when there is nothing happening on stage or when there is no change on what is happening.

Lights?

It is only in our last production “Big Production” that we used lighting design. Until now it didn’t feel necessary, we were focusing on sound and movement. It seems that the elements are added one by one, in our work.

Set?

The stage space, becomes our space. We use each particular space we are performing in as if it was our set. We also use props, we don’ rule out the idea of using set one day. We do end up with the bare minimum though. We always start with more and then try to limit ourselves as much as possible. We are interested in exhausting the possibilities of usage of any given object.

Costume?

We have never used theatrical, non realistic, of a different era type of costumes. Usually it is just clothes- although anything you wear on stage is a costume. Many of these are our own clothes.

How do you treat the body in your work?

With respect. We don’t take the body to its limits in the sense of taking risks that can be dangerous or that can strain and injure the body. The work is physical and tiring, but it is not dangerous.

“Big Production”

 Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Hmmm, sometimes I still wonder about this… all the time….It doesn’t matter. Oh well so what? What matters is what you do with this.

How has that affected you?

In the past I used to have lots of ups and downs because of this,   nowadays I am not preoccupied with failure. It is only interesting to me as far as it can teach me more about the next work. Of course this has to do with my own perception of what is failure or not, for other people a creation can be a failure or not irrespectively of how I feel about it.

In any case I don’t sink in to the emotional side of this experience. I treat it as my homework: to understand why. There are times when you watch the work and you think to yourself –Yes , nice, good, and then sometimes you look at the same work and you think – what were we on about? This is ongoing, it depends how you watch that day, sometimes you see more what worked sometimes you see more what didn’t.

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

 I just wanted to work together and more closely with certain people. It was the need for team work and collaboration that founded this dance company- and communication. I guess I was also at an age in which I wanted to try certain things for myself. It didn’t start from my big desire to choreograph.

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

I don’t know if it actually matters …… But from the moment that we decide that something will become a performance- it automatically involves the others. All our works start from studio works- we are mainly interested in research. If we decide to communicate this to an audience and when we do so, we become really interested in the friction generated through the exchange and dialogue with the spectators. Our performances are sparse in actions, we leave space to the viewer to take a place in this.

What do you wish for?

That we are all well. My wish is collaboration- the notion of a team.

Thank you

Thank you too.

 Lemurius Dance company

Yannis Mantafounis (founder member), Katerina Skiada (founder member), Anastassis Gouliaris (founder member),  Nikos Dragonas  (collaborator)

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