Lenio Kaklea, adb

Posted on March 20, 2018


Lenio Kaklea interview by from stage to page


Arranged by date


Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

I ‘m Lenio, I was born in Athens. In 2005 I moved to Paris. I practice dance and writing. I work both alone and in collaboration with others. I sometimes work in precarious conditions, sometimes in more stable ones. I’m influenced by post Marxist feminist theories.


Are you working on a project at the moment? What do you want to question?

I am currently doing the fieldwork research of a new project for 2018, as an artist in residence at Laboratoires d’ Aubervilliers. Aubervilliers is a suburb in the north of Paris and the project is titled “An Encyclopedia of Practices. I am investigating the political and socially conditioned use of the body in everyday life. Once Encyclopédie pratique is completed, it will contain a collection of practices of the inhabitants of Aubervilliers.



encyclopedie pratique


Why were you interested in this?

I was interested in how social identity is constructed and questioned through the way we use our bodies. How do the ways we perform actions constitute and invent rituals that actually define our identity. How having and sustaining a practice is creating an identity.

In this research, my practice is collecting other peoples’ practices. Everyone has some form of practice. In may case for instance my practices include: Alexander technique, Iyengar Yoga, making Christmas cards, cycling, taking notes, writing texts, making dances, doing psychoanalysis – plenty of practices. I am also defined by the practices I don’t have: I do not go to the gym, I don’t wash my car, I don’t take photos, I don’t drive a car.


Is questioning always part of your process?

Yes, most of the times. I wanted to open up to others a question I posed to myself. The notion of ‘practice’ is something we have been discussing within the dance field for over a decade now. There is a whole discourse on the ways neoliberalism has taught us to think in products instead of techniques or to think of performance products instead of practices. Our practices are means to connect to the world, rather than just to deliver and consume products.


Do you want your questions to be addressed to the audience, to be stated as questions?

I am not interested in art-form self-referential questions: what is dance or what is choreography. Neither am I addressing the question exclusively to the dance field. Everybody has practices.

I am interested in working through the use of movement and text. The current project Encyclopédie pratique has a text- based work as the first phase; I enter in the studio and work chorographically in the second phase. I am interested in the non-linear (or non-narrative) body, the ways we all have or assume multiple identities, the ways we engage with society and with the world. Ultimately, the way we are, is always in process, we are not products.


Are audiences looking for a message? How do you address the audience?

I am not interested in the audience in that sense. I usually ask myself the question of whether the audience made sense of my work after the show, so I guess it is too late. I am always searching for coherency and simplicity in my work and also consider the comprehension of the work. The work itself is a means of communication.

At the same time, the making of a work is always a compromise between theory and practice, between propositions by the collaborators and my own ideas. Each work is a process of making choices. I am definitely not interested in the idea behind the question (or in the way programmers ask this question)- “How will this reach a larger audience?” There is no larger audience, there are multiple audiences.


What does it mean to produce work?

Producing a work is making a gesture, producing meaning or producing a frame for meaning to arise. The other part of producing depends on which frame I am working in each time: an institution, the periphery, a European metropolis, a non institutional work, a collaborative work.


What is your usual strategy?

I have an idea, a desire to make something. I start working on my own, at home, I discuss it with friends and colleagues, and sometimes I might invite people to experiment together in my living room. Then I might address the project to an institution or funding body. If I need money for the realization of the project, I apply to funding bodies that can assist with its production.



Matter of act


How did you start the research you are doing now?

I already did a pilot of this project in French Brittany at Festival A Domicile: a festival attended, created and organized by the inhabitants of a small city, Guisseny. I made a questionnaire of 20 questions about peoples’ practices. I edited the responses to this questionnaire into short portraits and activated these 50 portraits during the festival. The texts were projected scrolling on a wall, and I was reading some of these text-based portraits out loud. In the new project I plan to work on the embodiment of the texts, but I can’t say more at the moment, I am still one year before the actualization of the project.


Are you interested in the individual? Do you work with each performer as an individual, or do you work with large groups of people, or mass choreography?

I actually don’t have access to working with masses of people. I am also suspicious of the notion of the mass. How do you act in order to address a mass? A mass is not defined by the number of people that consist of the mass, it is defined by the way we address it and work with it and within it. I work with individuals and collectives of individuals. I am interested in how we construct our social identity, our capacity for the multiple identities we are required to have and the ways of promoting/selling these identities.


Do you have a specific method?

I don’t follow a single method. Every project has been very different both in content and context. Each one was an opportunity to experiment with different tools. I work with movement composition but use different tools from the social sciences, interviews, open calls, story telling and others and I am always interested in narratives.


Do you consider yourself funny?

I think everybody can be funny; it seems I don’t allow myself to be as much as I could. Still, I don’t think it’s a significant part of my choreographic identity.



Margin release


Are you an artist?

I think that for now, I do consider myself as an artist. But being an artist, I m not overly attached to this label, I could let go of it.


Are you a good artist?

I don’t think like that.


Do you like your work?

I always find ways to find interest in my work otherwise it would be a painful process. I don’t make work to look at it, what I do is experiment with different things. I don’t create work in order to please my eyes- it is really not about that.


Do others like your work?

I imagine that some do. I don’t use these categories, like or not like. I am interested in what this work produces, what does its process produces, what does it do to the audience, what type of questions does the project ask? What kind of engagement does it provoke, what kind of readings does it imply?


Are you happy with how you do things?

Sometimes. I think these are difficult times socially, politically and financially. One positive aspect of that is that we have to question anew the social categories we have been living by. I consider myself lucky because I have tools and I can dedicate myself to this kind of research. In any case, satisfied or happy are big words and demand lots of work.


How would you be happy?

It doesn’t happen very often, but I am happy when a new debate opens up, when a specific work becomes part of a debate and challenges the limits. It’s about taking the risk of being part of a debate, about challenging anachronistic questions and not reassuring them with fake narratives. I would also be happy in creating stability in the unequal world we live in. I would not say I am in a quest for happiness. I prefer pleasure than happiness.



A hand’s turn


Are you using the principle of improvisation?

I sometimes use improvisational tasks in order to research movement. Within this I find material I am interested in and then develop it further. I use tasks in order to frame certain materials. I don’t mean improvisation tasks in the way Lisa Nelson, Yvonne Rainer or Deborah Hay. We have experimented with this type of body actions since a very long time. I am not in the search of the ordinary body performing ordinary tasks.


In your work is movement or text improvised?

I do not improvise on stage, it is all set material.


What do you think about solos?

I perform solos myself but I get much more pleasure in working with others. Usually it is due to financial restrictions that I work by myself. The idea of working with performers and sustain a kind of dance company has become obsolete and largely impossible.

The real question is intimacy: How to produce an intimate frame, how to talk about intimacy. In this sense working by myself is easier. I do experiment on this when work alone.

With other people it is a completely different situation. Working with others requires different types of tools. I created a piece with 10 people and a piece with 300 people. In the project I am working on now I conduct interviews with a large number of people. But I do enjoy a lot experimenting material with my own body.


Do you create scores?

It depends on the project. In Arranged by date I designed a series of hieroglyphs, this was the score.


How do you archive your work?

It depends on the project, but generally I prefer to archive few things. In Fluctuat nec Mergitur (the project for 300 people), I archive the e-mails I exchanged with the participants, the open call I diffused and the secret video of the intervention. For Matter of act, I kept the grid of tools we used to appropriate the shows we were watching. I archive drafts and photos of course. I don’t archive rehearsal videos for example.



Arranged by date


Do you believe in less is more?

I don’t believe in it, I’m naturally drawn to it.


Do you favor a specific technique?

I use Alexander technique for warming up, Pilates, Yoga, exercises and movement phrases I have created through the years. I was trained in improvisation by Lisa Nelson and Deborah Hay, in composition with Lucinda Childs. I also use methodological research tools, interview, film documentation.


How do you treat in your work the following elements of a performance?



This is a question for someone with a recurring choreographic language. I am not interested in the western civilization or show business consideration of time. In my work I don’t use climax nor am I interested in activating the spectator’s eye. I deal with a time frame for the spectator to have agency.



I soon realized that I tend to work with site specific notions, in the sense of context. I consider the space in which I am acting as a space with many layers. It contains power relations, an identity, and references of time, histories and stories. It is not a neutral space. Space is a context. I don’t treat it in a phenomenological way.



Yes, when I work in theater. Natural light when I work outside.



Elements of set, more than set.



I sometimes collaborate with a costume designer. Almost every time it is the very last day that costumes finally appear in the work. I don’t know how to work with costumes really. I usually do it the last minute.

I feel that these questions address specifically stage works for theater spaces and this applies only to half of the works I have done so far.

When I start working I pose questions of how do we embody actions and rituals in relation to history, to politics, to our social context. Stage elements such as set and costume arrive later. I don’t work with a complex visual language, in my work the complexity is elsewhere.



Margin release


Do you feel you have sometimes failed?

Many times. Many projects have “failed” as for what I set out to do and what was finally produced. I considered Margin Release a failure and told Lou before the premiere. I think that I was so obsessed with making a successful dance piece -whatever that means- that I failed at investigating languages that would be more interesting. This is why finally in Margin release, in the end of the piece there is an intervention by a person who comes onstage and talks to the audience.

In a way, a work is never done. The question is how long you want to invest in keeping it as a process. Because there will always be things to change or reconsider while one is performing the work, for as long as you perform it.

Generally, I consider choreography as means to face, accept and welcome failures and not narcissistically try to avoid looking at them.


Is your work Greek?

I don’t use this definition. I don’t identify with any national term.


Is there a Greek dance scene? Can you identify characteristics?

I think the category of national identity create barriers instead of opening them up. I would try to identify characteristics of the locality, of the network of the city of Athens or of the dance network. There are many connections. I don’t think there is one identity, but common ideas, common spaces for work, common resources, common desires.

I really I don’t use or think in these terms. In the challenges we face today also of globalisation, social media, it would be more interesting to think about how different local scenes are interconnected instead of the national idea. It is the institutions that impose these identities, ideological tools used to impose certain types of structures operating on financial profit. Cultural policy is not my field. Institutions are then influenced by who funds them and it is a very complex system. There are different actors in the cultural field. There was also this ‘Crisis label’ regarding Greece but these are all cultural policies questions. Is the ‘crisis label’ more efficient? To whom?

I am connected to the Athens dance scene but I do not live in Athens. I know a few people here but I have been away for a while now. With the Parisian scene it is different. I feel part of it and I recognise all its deficiencies.

I don’t feel that it is legitimate for me to speak about the Athenian dance scene, I don’t want to speak about it. I am interested to see what are the ideas that interest people here and if we can connect. I was invited by festival DansFabrik in Brest to curate a part of the festival with the title Focus Athens. I connected with 5 female choreographers connected to the Athenian scene, because I thought we had things to share.

In really questioning what is a scene, I see people in overdrive of individualism, obsessed about creating a career. I don’t criticise this, I suffer from the same social obligations. Dance artists have to label their work really fast, they have to use marketing strategies. Only few people are dedicating time to each other, few people are talking and imagining different ways of working. At the moment I feel strongly that the scene is institutionalised. Even spending the time to go and see each other’s works, this is still mediated by institutions. Generally, It feels that there aren’t many underground scenes.



A hand’s turn


Why does your work matter?

Black lives matter. Not my work. Gender equality matters, Social equality matters, I don’t think my work matters.


Do you want to wish something?

Since you talked about happiness, there are certain social scleroses that make me unhappy. I would live better with less sexism, less inequality, less paternalism, less racism. With less of that, we would all live better. It sounds like a leftist manifesto-it was not my intention. I am not militant, I am actively disengaged.


Thank you.