Kostas Tsioukas, interview by from stage to page

Posted on September 23, 2013

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photo aggelos giotopoulos

photo aggelos giotopoulos

Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

Kostas Tsioukas, performer, dancer, dance teacher, choreographer, with a background of traditional dances and computing. I recently started singing lessons and acting in films.

What do you want to question with your current project?

At the moment I am collaborating with visual artist Anthea Hamilton, on a project we co-choreographed, a research on Kabuki Japanese dance-drama. It was presented in Oberhausen Festival, Germany and we will have a small tour with this work. Part of our show is a song in which we reenacted our rehearsal process through Skype: all the fan Kabuki lessons were transcribed from the screen onto the here and now of the stage. The melody we used for this song we made up, is in Eric Rohmer’s film ‘Le perceval gaulois’.

Our question in this project is: do westerners/europeans have the right to dance Kabuki? Kabuki dance is taught from father to son in really insular communities. A Kabuki dancer dedicates their life to it, in yarō-kabuki men dance both male and female parts, similar to the only men casts in Ancient Greek Tragedies. Currently there is only one woman who was also taught by her father, but she is forbidden from performing onstage, she is only allowed to teach it. This dance is like a secret, westerners were not even allowed to watch rehearsals. In Kabuki, all the gestures have a meaning, they are encoded, for example here I point to the mountains, I cut my finger to prove my loyalty to my partner. One can say it is anti conceptual or is it overwhelmingly conceptual? In our project we also presented the metamorphosis of the Kabuki performer through make up and costume (also cross dressing) on stage, which is not exposed onstage.

A forthcoming collaboration is a project with musician, performer and pianist Fleur Khani (also a danceweber 2013) which will be presented in Brussels  in Volksroom, Ivo Dimtchev’s space.

Now as far as my company is concerned, a conscious choice is to put the company projects into hibernation for a while. I will carry on working in dance, performing and collaborating.

At the moment, my research interests in what I call the ‘greek conceptual/ vanity fair’. Although the conceptual is fading away in the european dance scene, I insist on it because I think that the greek dance scene has not and should go through this phase, even with a delay. (kind of like if you haven’t contracted measles as a child, I shall try to infect you now). Exactly because  the greek conceptual has not been determined, I believe it should be done and I now flirt with this element as part of my pan-stylistic idiom. As for the Vanity fair element, if there is  narcissism and vanity in my dancing, my interest is to be conscious of it. I want to show it to its extreme, to underline it rather than filter it or hide it. I believe that during the past few decades-during the generations zero of dance, the facial expression of the performer has faded, I like the face becoming part of the dance again. I am also interested in lifestyle, in the sense that when one uses recognisable elements,  one opens a future in dance.  Dance as a recognisable and accessible form of art, dance escaping from its  marginalised position.

Is questioning actually the process?

I work with the literal, with cliches, with pop culture. Using cliches makes the work more accessible to more places, Athens, Karditsa, Brussels and also accessible to people who have never seen dance before.

photo alexandra zata

photo giorgos makkas

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

I want the spectators to enjoy themselves and my ultimate aim is that they are moved. I am not interested in bring up questions, I think at the moment people have enough problems. For better or for worse due to our times , there is a sense of drama(tic) in most works by Greek choreographers. It comes unconsciously and effortlessly, due to what is happening around us. My artistic choice though,is to engage in  an indirect way of dealing with contemporary issues, I prefer reflections on and of the subject. When one is too direct, sometimes only transmitting information on current affairs, then a dance work becomes stuffed and dense in a negative way, leaving no space for reflecting and questioning. At the moment in my research another subject I interested in, is the ‘country’ -where one comes from.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

It is best that they don’t have to look for it, that the message is articulated in the performance so that they don’t have to look for the message and hence they can dive deeper into the subject.

Are you interested in the individual?

The person on stage is different to the one in daily life, they are the performance body. I am interested in knowing things about the performer’s actual life, for example for Nureyev knew he had fled from Russia, that he was Freddie Mercury’s partner etc. I like it when the performer is part of society, when their private lives are visible- otherwise it feels to me like one is hiding something? while an artist should be exposed.  I am interested in the transparent life of the artist within society.

Do you have a specific method?

I am attracted by a diversity of elements and the juxtaposition of different styles. I write a ‘script’ and then I use dance as my writing method. The aesthetic is also very important for my work and the specific choices are part of the rehearsal process. I find myself using improvisation less and less, I find it limits the accuracy I am after.

Do you consider yourself funny?

I don’t but others do. I think of myself as a suffering artist with his gaze extending into the void and his questions extrapolating into infinity. The others laugh at that….My work is funny, with dramatic undertones. I am subconsciously funny in life and consciously funny as a choreographer.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes, for me it is a necessity, some things I cannot communicate with the body. It also relates to the way I develop the initial script of the piece.  I am interested in creating a show- the way it is structured, the way the text is spoken or sung in the work. I sometimes use the lyrics of songs as text. Sometimes the reverse the selected texts become lyrics of a song. Some of these texts I write myself with my collaborators of each project. I could not say I choreograph the words, the text is the text and its content/ meaning, it is not used in an abstract way.

Is text improvised ?

No, never, it cannot be done.

 

photo aggelos giotopoulos

photo aggelos giotopoulos

What does it mean to produce work?

To pull out of your drawer one of your ideas and bring it to life, rather than leave it in there.

What is your strategy?

I don’t have a strategy. Not in producing ideas, this actually comes easily to me. My strategy at the moment is to not produce dance works as often as I did before. I want to limit myself to investing in a production,

over a long period of time with persistence and fervour on a specific subject.

Are you an artist?

Yes, the people around me seem to think that.

Are you a  good artist?

No, and I believe that the worst artist you are, the more interesting it is (gets).

Do you like your work?

Not at all, I hope I will like it more in the future. I have gone through a period that was a bit of a black hole in my work. I mean I see some works on video and I wish I wouldn’t see them. I do like a few works of mine.

Do others like your work?

I don’t know but there are people who are interested in what I do and they follow my work and this gives me the courage to carry on making work. There is a specific identity in my work.

Are you happy with how you do things?

Who is happy during this time? Find them and bring them here,  I would very much like to talk to them…..

How would you be happy?

Already things are better,  quite a bit from the vanity is decreasing and the cliche of the successful and happy artist is rubbing off.  Dance artists are closer to each other,the dance community is bonding. I still feel like there are obstacles but not sufficient ones to stop me from making work.

Are you teaching workshops?

I teach at the art gymnasium with lyceum classes (yes this is the official title!) which most likely will be shut down this year…Like many other art schools we doubt that they will remain open this year. I am interested in teaching workshops, and we are organising (the dancewebers 2013) some seminars in Ireland. I guess I do have the eternal student syndrome.

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

Not really, I would not say setting goals is main characteristic. I am trying though…My goal is to communicate dance and make it more accessible through dance education and also through dissolving the borders between the art forms. It is not a taboo for me to express myself through other art forms than contemporary dance.

Do you have a daily practice?

I take my dogs out for a walk on Filopapos hill  everyday and I dance in discos.

photo alexandra zata

photo alexandra zata

What do you think about solos?

They are totalitarian- solos are the easy and at the same time difficult way of controlling everything ( or just thinking you do).

Did you work on one in the past?

I have worked on 2 solos: ‘Pinocchio’- in which I had no control over the music, presented at the Athens festival, and ‘white floor over the ground’ presented at the MIR festival,  in which I controlled and did everything myself: video, music,costumes, dance, choreography,timing,shooting,set design, editing. Through this solo  I realised that I am not interested in such a closed circuited way of working.

How do you archive your work?

I still don’t have a website, I have videos of works on all possible formats vhs,dvd,mimidv which I am reluctant to expose. Time does test our works, I guess I could say that I have stored mine in a time capsule.

Do you believe in less is more?

Less is more bitch!

Would you say your work is dance theater?

Just recently during dance web I was told I look a bit like a Pina Bausch dancer (Lutz Forster). I wish I would have lived then, but dance theatre is dead baby, as is contemporary dance – it doesn’t exist in Greece. I mean for the average greek person dance theater is Lia Meletopoulou’s work and contemporary dance is the lyrical jazz presented at “So you think you can dance”. One can admit to some kind of misunderstanding when it comes to dance terms here.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

Visual arts, performance, poetry, film. My work is interconnected to the visual arts.

How do you treat the body in your work?

Intensely  and with provocative ways. I am also interested in Butoh but in a transparent way.

Do you favour / create a technique?

A mix of contemporary dance with pop elements and dance that is outreaching to everyone through fashion and MTV aesthetics.

Time?

Works of long or short duration, depending on the subject, the context and the venue. I do time travel in my pieces- meaning there can be an egyptian reference and then straight away a 50’s section and next to it something from our times. I don’t play around with time perception, manipulating it, it is more a theatrical way of time references.

Space?

Also within the theatrical context, frontal dance, and ‘show’ aesthetics.

Lights?

I am really interested in experimenting with lighting design. As they say ‘light can be the devil and light can be the god on stage’.

Set?

For set design I have collaborated with visual artists Dora Ikonomou, Kostas Sahpazis ( Deste Prize winner 2013) and often I do things myself. One of the characteristics of my work, is that I like to set objects into motion, the set is an essential part of the choreography.

Costume?

For costumes I have also collaborated with visual artists Dora Ikonomou, Kostas Sahpazis and often I do things myself. I have developed the Kostas Tsioukas wardrobe- its items which are available to our exclusive customers by appointment only!

photo anthea hamilton

photo anthea hamilton

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Not really, because I like failing and failing is part of my work. How much better will I fail this time…

How has that affected you?

In a very positive way. I have learnt a lot from experience, discussing and contemplating on each failure, on each hardship, this is what improves my ability to communicate better and more precisely.

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

Due to its originality uniqueness,etc….  I don’t know if this is necessary… it is a question… nothing is an absolute necessity…nothing really matters… Don’t know, in order to protect our national heritage maybe.

Before and after the crisis?

Before – more regularly producing more works due to available funding and the market, with some introspection and research but not that specific in their goals. Now, the introspection continues in a more extroverted way and more connected to society. My own work has gone into a pause or an idle mode of production. I am working on different projects and also in collaborative projects through which I communicate and expose myself. This need for dance is something I don’t filter, I just know it, what I say comes out of thought, emotion, awareness, everything. Necessity!  On the other hand, is anyone going to miss these 2-3 dance productions per year turnover? for example this year I only  see theatre shows that appear and survive in the market….I do believe that at some point they will miss us, they will miss the greek dance scene!

What do you wish for?

To travel more often. I wish for the existence/development of a network of dance, that will be as recognisable as the greek film makers( who with complicity and collaboration they created and exported the greek weird cinema style). I hope for the acquisition of some identity for the greek dance, it is very important.

Thank you

thank youuuuuuuu.

photo anthea hamilton

photo anthea hamilton

 tsioukask@yahoo.com

update on Kostas Tsioukas

 

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