Antigone Gyra-interview by from stage to page

Posted on November 27, 2015

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‘my own fish’ , photo- Despina Spyrou

Could you briefly introduce yourself?

Lately I introduce myself as a dance, theatre and video-art maker, gradually abandoning the choreographer title. My vision is expanded and I want to liberate my creativity to different mediums. I am also the mother of Kinitiras since its conception and the mother of 3 children.

What do you want to question with your current project?

At this moment I am working on two projects. One is a children’s show “My own fish” and is part of the surprise action Ekplixi. In this project I am interested in finding how to approach children through quietness and serenity. We worked on a fairy tale ‘The fisherman and his wife’, collected by the Grimm brothers which deals with greed. In our version, the fish dies in the end, thus we discuss the connection between greed and loss.  We came across an article which states that greed is inherent in humans, it is deep seated in our DNA, because humans are aware of the imminence of their death. In that view, greed is not a trait of character, it is in our genetic constitution and the only other animals like this are monkeys. So we have to learn how to live and deal with greed. Our materials for “My own fish” are silence, movement, orchestral music and very little colour, in direct contrast to how most children’s shows are made. During a workshop in Skinner releasing technique, in a sudden moment of epiphany, I realized the amount of ‘noise’ in our lives and in our relationships with children. Just then the idea to approach the next children’s show through silence, appeared.

The second project is titled ‘unexpected time’, an odd project which I keep on announcing but has not been presented yet. I guess it will, in unexpected time! With the occasion of 20 years of Kinitiras, a mixed group of professionals and amateurs was created and started research on this piece last year. The deriving point, was Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot and our subject was the unsuspected moment in which ones life can change completely. Moments in which everything changes in one go, a bomb, falling madly in love etc. This group of performers (14 to 22 people), all move continuously together, creating a circle. This is the basic movement concept with which one can enter into trance when engaging for a long duration. Within this circle lots of different events appear. I imagine this piece presented in a really big space with 50-60 chairs scattered around, so things happen amongst the spectators. Random events occur, in unknown time-someone will fall, someone will have his birthday etc. This project is part of a bigger project called ‘urban surprises’, in which we rehearse and perform in open spaces, at unknown times, just appearing somewhere.

With everything that happens around us, I am no longer fulfilled by the notion of the artist experimenting in his studio, confined by four walls. It is no longer enough. Art as a political act has come foreground with all that we have to live though now. It is time to go out there, activate people, make someone smile, someone think or rethink about something. During these past months most people are helping, collecting food or clothes for refugees and still there some Greeks who are hostile and insensitive to all this, forgetting that Greeks were once refuggees themselves. As a person, I feel the need to stimulate awareness, to make people conscious and help them realise that this person lost their home or their child on their way, that we need to take care of each other, create our own ‘coat’ for what is happening to us and around us. It is tormenting to witness all these horrible things happening, feeling you can’t change them.

 Is questioning actually the process?

Νo, questioning in the intellectual perspective, it is not our process. We have a question as a starting point, a pretext. Our process is the people and our everyday life. Kinitiras works evolve and form by the people in it- their everyday life and anything that affects their everyday life. For example I started ‘unexpected time’ project with Beckett’s Waiting for Godot, but now the piece has evolved into something else. I am sure that Beckett has influenced this work and is somewhere, somehow in there, but the piece is no longer about that text.

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

When I first started choreographing, I really wanted my questions to become the audience’s questions. I passionately kept on wanting that, for at least the first 10 years of making work. All that interests me recently, is that each spectator finds their own way of connecting to the work. I prefer works to retain an openness, raising different questions. It is beautiful when a spectator has seen something completely different to what you intended. I used to get stressed out with that, conversely I now welcome all these comments and different view points, they advance my work. To go back to your question, I could almost say that I don’t want my questions to become the audience’s questions anymore. And if I do I am running the risk of being didactic.

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

Yes: the parent, the spectator-parent, the average spectator-parent, the average teacher, they are looking for a message. A more experienced audience, who has seen more shows, doesn’t. It really depends who you address the work to. This is why it is really important to think of ways to educate the audience. This why, in ‘unexpected time’, we are out there rehearsing, for people to experience our art-form more often, to help them realize that meaning is there, whether they are looking for it, or not.

life style drug

life-style-drug

Are you interested in the individual?

I am interested in people since always and forever. My emphasis is individuality and the differences between people and their abilities. I focus on the different capabilities, not on the weak points but on how these different strengths can constitute a group. Different entities, giving the best of themselves within the process, become a team and hence an ensemble. The creative work in Kinitiras is a group process. I might arrive with a specific idea in one rehearsal but end up working something completely different because that specific day, the people pointed to another direction.

Do you consider yourself funny?

I would like to be more funny. My works contain my sense of humor, it is there, while in my everyday life, my humor is less visible. I would want more of it in my everyday life.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes, but not necessarily till the end of the process. Texts can be anything from newspaper clippings, philosophy, literature and poetry to a play or devised texts created in the process. I work with theatre methods too.

Is text improvised?

Yes, devised texts are created within the process. These texts are then collected and organised by one person only, or by the whole group.

How did you start this research?

An idea comes in unsuspected time! Then I start informing the idea: through discussions, reading, google-ing, finding people that know much more for the subject and discuss with them. Then, I put together the team of performers who will work for this project. We are quite a few and I select the most appropriate ones for each show. I sometimes invite new people to join, in order to keep Kinitiras extroverted. I also set goals, like within 10 rehearsals, we need to have achieved this or that.

In ‘My own fish’ we spent the first two weeks in improvisations and research all together. We all participate in the research and bring things in. There is this long piece of paper (which I buy by the meter) in the studio and people add things to this board, you can find anything there: newspaper articles, paper boats, sketches for costumes, collages, devised texts, writings, notes and ideas. Then, for the next 2 weeks, I create a rough draft of the show (from beginning to end) and we keep making these drafts, usually around 6 versions. We improvise on these different versions of drafts. During the second month of rehearsals things gradually become set.

Are you an artist?

Yes.

Are you a good artist?

How do you define that? I don’t know, just an artist.

Do you like your work?

Yes, very much so. I fell in love with my work again this summer. I was invited to teach at an education camp for adults, I was teaching under the trees and I realised once again the power of our work. I was reminded of how lucky we are to be doing this kind of work.

Do others like your work?

Some like it, some don’t.

life style drug 1b S

life-style-drug

Do you have specific expectations?

When I watch the piece, the most basic thing is that it moves me, makes me laugh or cry in an artistic way. If I can’t connect to the creation emotionally, I realize that something is missing.

Are you happy with how you do things?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.

 How would you be happy?

I cannot be happy all the time, it is a fact. At the same time I am very happy with what I have done so far. I am a worker of art and I have worked really hard. I give myself this recognition and appreciation. I know what I can do well and what I could do better still. And I keep on going, in order to improve and further develop myself and the work I do.

Are you teaching workshops?

I teach an awful lot in order to survive. I would like to teach less, but it is also true that teaching is an elemental part of me. I’ d say that the teacher part in me, is possibly above my artist part.

Is your work set or improvised?

Depends on the work, ‘My own fish ‘ is all set, ‘unexpected time’ is improvisation within specific parameters. I am open to different interpretations, for example a movement can be performed in this way or that way too, but there is always a clear framework.

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

When I watch the final piece, the most basic thing is that it moves me, that it makes me laugh or cry artistically speaking. If I can’t connect to the creation emotionally, I realize that something is missing.

What does it mean to produce work?

I see two definitions of this word: one is producing as creating, as in making something beautiful and that’s the good part, the second is ‘I need to do the production-oh my god-find a producer and manage to communicate my ideas with them- oh my god- too many things to do by myself’. So to produce is binary and contrasting- one part beautiful and one part heavy. Ultimately, the financial and practical jobs necessary, suck a lot of energy out of me.

Do you have a daily practice?

I do quite a bit for myself, since I realized that this is the only way to be good with others: I walk by the sea, I swim, I take Feldenkrais lessons (which has saved my life, without a doubt) and I take part in a psychology seminar on basic principles of groups. This seminar is addressed to team leaders, and helps you develop better skills at supporting the group. I support a lot of groups as a leader: my family, Kinitiras, the students. I also participate in a ‘reconsideration support’ group for parents, meeting twice a month, which is a method of speaking with a time limit. It’s about learning how to listen better to yourself and the other. If I stop any of these practices, I loose my balance and really these are the only times I have for myself. Considering that I work 12-14 hours a day, it’s not much.

Do you believe in less is more?

1000% yes, goes without saying.

 Would you say your work is dance theater?

I don’t know. Even at the very beginning, the name of the company was Kinitiras dance spectacle, rather than dance theatre. There are some dance theatre influences, but I would now describe my work as spectacle only.

Ο Καφές #3

o kafes

 

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

Yes, cinema. I really like cinema and I watch anything from classic old films Fellini, Kurosawa, Tarkovsky to new cinema.

How do you treat the body in your work?

With love and care, I don’t want bodies to hurt,  be mistreated,  or in any discomfort. I also like all kinds of bodies, all ages, shapes and sizes, I always have and I want this to manifest in the work.

How do you use the following elements of a stage performance:

Time?

In love with time! Like in the title of the project I‘m working on now. The most important elements for me are body and time. Time plays a crucial role in the methods used and during the process. How can you make something work for 5 hours and then make the same thing work in one minute? How can time be soothing for rapport in the group? How much time to allow for awkward moments? For the final product, tight timing and rhythm are main concerns of mine. Even the long pauses and silences of “My own fish” are carefully designed.

Space?

I am intrigued by space, not just Laban space. I am interested in the notion of personal space and its extension to outer space, from inside to outside. I am attentive to this both philosophically and in my teaching. How does one of these scenes or images we create in the studio looks like in open air? Can we imagine how this image seems from outer space? The other day we were rehearsing outside, by the sea, on a windy day at sunset and it was an amazing experience. What we were doing became a part of this beautiful bigger picture, and it was magical. Going back to the studio this had informed our work and that day is now somehow part of our piece.

Lights?

I always work on the lighting design myself, I even have a pseudonym for myself as a lighting designer: Anti Steve.

 Set?

Oh well, with the financial crisis, no set. In the past, for about a decade of creations, I would first make the set and then start rehearsals.

Costume?

Depends on the concept. Costumes can be one of the first elements in the process or pop up last minute. Occasionally the actual concept of the piece is based on the costume idea.

Ο Καφές #1

o kafes

 

Do you feel you have sometimes failed? And how has that affected you?

Of course, if failure came at a point in which my personal life was fine, the failure assisted me in thinking a next better step to take with the work. Failure hurts momentarily. When I was not well in my personal life, failure really affected me, one time I was ill in bed for a month. Now I can handle failure- it is a matter of priorities- and at the moment my personal life is my priority not my professional life.

Do you consider your work Greek, or belonging to a Greek dance scene, if there is one?

My work is fringe forever! I don’t feel that my work is valued enough within the Greek dance scene. What I make is not only Greek, I consider it to be universal and it is true that my work receives more recognition abroad than locally.

There is a Greek dance scene for sure and it is flourishing at the moment with very competent people creating beautiful work, enriching and developing dance and other art forms. They are artists that work against all odds, because it is all based on personal effort and I really appreciate and respect that.

As for an identifiable Greek characteristic, I don’t really know. All I can think of, is Papaioannou’s work which looks into our ancient heritage and has become mainstream and so it is recognizable by many. I can’t say much about this, because I only see fragments of what is created. I don’t see enough dance performances to be able to say if I identify a Greek characteristic. I don’t see as much I would want to, because I don’t have the time unfortunately. I don’t have a clear picture of what’s happening. Last year I managed to see 3 shows by new choreographers at Stegi and I was very happy to be there and with what I saw. But I didn’t see anything in common between them nor in any of the others I have seen. Greek choreographers are all so different, they all have really strong egos. Maybe this is the actual characteristic of the Greek dance scene, that each maker is very different, creating works with a really personal style.

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

Kinitiras is no longer a dance company, it is a network of people, it is a family and every family matters.

 What do you wish for?

I wish that none of the things I am afraid of happen in the world. I hope that my fears are not exaggerated.

Thank you.

paramoni prwtoxronias2

paramoni protohronias

 

 

 

kinitiras dance spectacle

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