Eurasia view

We won’t stop at nothing!

Triple interviews exploring the new emerging facets of the world of dance

If we had to assign one word to describe the year 2020, I can safely say most of us would agree on ‘Lockdown’. The virus made its way around the world, intruding into almost every aspect of our lives. And in its wake, we found ourselves confined to the walls of our homes unlike before. We saw such ups and downs; but dance, there was no stopping it. We danced, and continue to dance gracefully through the months of uneasiness and discomfort. We danced in our kitchens, our bedrooms, bathrooms, gardens. We saw these mundane spaces with fresh eyes, and motivated minds. And before we knew, we were designing a new dimension to our ‘normal’.

Although the whole world is in the same pickle, the experience of it has not been alike everywhere. Here we have 3 highly appreciated artists, from different parts of the world, discussing and exploring with us this new truth of the world of dance.

Teni Matian (Head of the Dance Department, Loyac Academy of Performing Arts, Kuwait)

Mariska Febriyani (Artistic Director, Ballet ID, Indonesia)

Marta Wolowiec (Krakow Choreographic Center’s Manager, Poland)

Teni, Mariska and Marta are members of the of the Eurasia Network and thereby support and encourage its various initiatives. EurAsia Dance Project International Network is a Non Profit Association, directed by Stefano Fardelli, creating cultural “bridges” between different countries around the world, giving opportunity to young talents to become professional artists. Eurasia has more than 20 partners in 18 countries, weaving a ‘sutra’ (thread) of passion for dance through the 5 continents into an artistic connect.  

I had the pleasure to interview Teni, Mariska and Marta and ask them some questions, to which they answered with such warmth and positivity.

If the world is a stage, and this Pandemic is a drama play, what is the role of the Arts and the artists?

Teni: Art and artists are always change makers. We are changed because of Art. I think someone who has had this little change from art, cannot be stopped. We cannot stop. We all are changing. And I mean changes are good, changes are nice. It keeps you a little bit offtrack, makes you think more. As much as it has had a negative impact on us as individuals, families, and our social-cultural lives, I’m 100% sure we are already finding some ways to stay connected. Especially for us dancers, it is very important to stay connected all the time. For us, connection is a way of communication, by just a gaze or a touch. I always repeat to myself: I’m changing. The world is changing. I am a change maker. I have to play my role in this transition, even if it is a little one. I truly believe in these words said by Robert Fulghum: “Be aware of wonder. Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”

Mariska: In Indonesia the artists, the art, and the art community has never been a priority to the government. Yet the government supports them in some ways, but it not the most important thing. I am one of the artists, and that is my life as well. We all artists in Indonesia realise that this is a hard situation, and because of it we have to help each other. That’s where the solidarity comes in.  So many people who stay home and work, they get bored and use their art to kill boredom. So yes, we know we can do so much with our arts. If we think of a stage, the arts surely don’t have like a main role. But for example, in a ballet, it’s like the ‘corps de ballet’. The ‘corps de ballet’ is like your spine. You cannot see it, but it’s always there to support many things. Without the ‘corps de ballet’ the stage looks really empty, but also sometimes it can feel like we don’t really need it as well.

Marta:  Yes, the art is especially important for us, the artists, but people also need it. The pandemic brought out our need to present ourselves. We all saw on Instagram and Facebook that people wanted to share what they are practising and their work.  The pandemic showed us that when people are bored or don’t have anything to do, they listen to music, read books, or do yoga for their body. Artists will be creating and keeping contact with people, and this somehow opened up another sphere of communication. Somewhere we realised that performances don’t have to be about productions, success and fame. The most important thing about art is not to be famous and well known. In this period, it’s more important to be together and stay connected.

How was your work affected? How did you (and your company/students) cope with it?

Teni: In Kuwait, the company that I work for went online very quickly, probably one of the first companies that went online with their classes. But even though the Dance department was older and bigger, it did not do very well because dancers need the environment, the studio, the people to express themselves. Professional dancers who are used training, they know how a structure of a lesson works. So for them I think the shift to an online platform was easier. But I think we have a serious issue for the new generation in dance. The ones that we would like to train to become professional dancers in future, especially children. I’m personally very much engaged with children and I know that it is a big challenge to keep them focused on the screen and make them understand the body positions. They get bored very easily, and the challenge for teachers is to make the class interesting. Also, for traditional classical teachers, who have 25 years of teaching, it is difficult to manage the internet connection and the music and so on. But this is a brand-new challenge and you have to face some challenges.

Mariska:  I will tell you a little about first. is a non-profit organisation. We have 3 main programs: education, showcases of our students/artists, and outreach programs for the underprivileged. But in 2020, due to the pandemic, we had to cancel almost everything we planned. To continue giving our support to the art workers, we organised 2 online events. One of them was called the ‘HeART for PEOPLE’. It went on for 6 weeks, on every weekend and it involved ballet and contemporary dance workshops from about 12 teachers from 10 different countries. The profits of the workshops were donated to the art workers in Indonesia.  People who haven’t done any dance or ballet classes before, for them it was nice to do it from their homes. But for many students who are used to a studio, it was hard. Many even left the classes because they didn’t find it appropriate to do it online.  Many preferred to stop classes and continue when everything gets better. Also, most people don’t have enough space to do class at home. Sometimes it’s like you to choose if you want to see the upper body or the lower body. I think it is really hard, because finally you cannot touch them if you want to explain something and teach the details. The situation of going online is not the best, but it is the best that we can do because the training has to continue no matter what.

Marta: When Krakow Choreographic Center shifted online, some kids and teenagers immediately resigned because all their school activities had also shifted online, and they just had so many classes. It’s difficult to communicate in groups online. Being the teacher I felt like I am a leader, I am speaking and rest are just listening and waiting. But I always tried to encourage them to talk about their feelings and shared my feelings with them as well. For me as a teacher, in the beginning I did feel the need for contact, but then there was this magic with students online who were following only my voice. It created a different kind of energy. But when the second lockdown happened, I could see that it was becoming quite exhausting for everyone. In September 2020, I decided to create a new group ‘Body Laboratory’ dedicated to dancers who are based in Krakow to work without any special goal in the end. The most important thing for me was the coming together and the process. Thanks to the pandemic, many dancers were not travelling and I’m sure if I would’ve liked to do it before in a different period, I wouldn’t be able to find this group of people. It was a beautiful experience. Although the beginning was beautiful and new, now I’m tired. We all miss the personal meetings.  Dancing together with people is different from dancing alone. And I think now we feel a bigger need to dance with others. So, I think the pandemic makes us rethink our passions and our job. I feel like now is the time for us to really observe the reality and our feelings, especially for the artists who feel the world in a little different way.

Is the pandemic a boon or a bane?

TeniWe talk about using breath while doing movements, but now even the way we breathe while dancing has changed because of the masks. Being seen by your audience, getting feedback, getting claps, these are things are not there. But being online is not a bad thing because you can connect with many other artists from all over the world. Before there was a need to be in the same space to work with each other, but then people realised that online is the only way.  Dance became more accessible to people. Now I see many people because they have a home comfort, they don’t fear being watched. This will give them a way to train themselves and may be when we get back to the normal, they will feel much more confident to be seen by others. But in terms of the professionals, if they don’t continue to self-motivate it will become complicated. As soon as pandemic started, we had a bunch of free sessions from the very high level international companies. So, we, in Kuwait, really struggled for charging for sessions. Who would pay for a local institution when there are so many international instructors offering training for nothing. But also, how long can you teach for free because finally you need the income. Moreover, having classes online is not any more about only Kuwait, you have to think internationally because you can get students from any country, any skills. You have to widen your abilities and engagements. Artists always rely on funding and grants from the governments any way, but now even more- more application, more paperwork. Instead of us spending time in the studio, we will be spending a lot of time on the preparation for the moments when we will be back to the studios. It’s not going to end that quick and will take longer than we are thinking. All we have to do is to make adjustments to this new way. Eventually we have to think that this is going to continue for a while. Am I going to continue this journey? I’m not the only one. This is something all of us are a part of.  All dancers all over the world are going through this transition.  I think we are in a new era and in terms of dance, I think we are in the middle of a transition.

Mariska:  Well, I think the good side is that the students really learn that they have to memorise the steps because there is no one else there that they can follow. They realise that they have to be responsible for their dance, the steps and the class. But for me as a dancer, I have to say that because of the pandemic I don’t have to travel a lot. This means that I have more time for myself. Because of travel time, and being stuck in the traffic in Indonesia, I did not get a lot of time to do classes for myself. But now, I could do 2 or 3 classes only for myself. But I think in this situation we really have to push ourselves and our creativity as well. Me and my friends we engaged in dance videos or dance films and we kept creating something. Also in these times we have to remember that it is not a stage. So the dance has to be suitable for the online platform and space as well. This way we also learnt the technological aspect as well.

Marta: When the pandemic happened, it was beautiful because everyone stopped at the same time, everyone had to wait. We got to rethink our work, our aim. For me, it was a beautiful moment. It was scary everywhere, but I was involved in so many projects, that this pause was extremely necessary. It was a moment for me to find myself again, because Arts can get obsessive at times. I could do other things and not just dance all the time. In general, I can say that online events/workshops made it possible for 100 dancers to attend the class. In a different reality, we would not be able to find the space to have the same. But this was at the beginning at its high peak because there was the fear of the being stopped. Now, somehow, we know about this possibility to join classes online wherever we want (something we didn’t think about dance before). I was also engaged in online performances, because of which I learnt many different technical tools. I had a premier of my solo online for which, fortunately, we did a good job. The film maker created the whole film of my solo as a master shot, which means he didn’t make cuts or breaks in between. It was like he was all the time with me on the stage. In this way, it was not a performance, but a film of a performance (link to the performance: I think without pandemic, we wouldn’t think about this kind of productions. We also organised several performances during Summer at the choreographic centre, which was quite a big organisational event for us. Dancing from our homes or without a live audience has added to our possibilities. Many choreographers and dancers will now think that they don’t need to create only for stage, but they can create for films. And that’s another sphere which was opened for us.

How has the pandemic changed ‘Dance’? How can we expect to re-imagine the world of dance when we go back to the studios?

Teni: Going back will be there but in a different way. Last year was probably more shocking but this year we are more ready. May be we will have more site-specific, outdoor performances, also they maybe more limited in terms of the number of dancers as well. But then you would think, what will happen to opera houses, theatres; that’s uncertain. If we think backwards of when we started dancing in the street, open concerts and performances will take over. Sometimes it’s good to look into your roots, where you come from, the journey you went through.  As for dance films, I’ve always been fan of it. In these times I look at it as something very individual, to talk about your feelings, or talk about your culture or Heritage. May be the way we move will change, like there are already new rules with contact and touch. The freedom of dance will change. But now we have now wider opportunities because we can connect virtually. This virtual connection will stay. It was always there, but it wasn’t a practical part of performing arts like it is now. We have the capacity to adjust and this is the most important thing.

Kuwait has been a country where the art scene has always been a big-big question. It is so complicated to dance in Kuwait, that every little aspect is a big matter for us. So, I think we really value things. The people here have lived with restrictions, having dance kept underground. So, I think nothing is going to stop them. The pandemic for them is nothing.

Mariska: Performing on a virtual platform is very different. The camera and technical aspect also come into play, not just the dance. The videographer gives us feedback in terms of what looks good on a screen. So, the dance itself, the choreography, is not the same as we do live. Moreover, maybe we get less tired because a virtual performance is not as long as a normal performance. We have to respect the audience’s ability to concentrate on a screen for that long, because the screen already makes a kind of disconnect. But I think the advantage of this platform is that you can zoom in and zoom out of certain body parts which you want to focus on- one thing at a time. On stage you cannot do that as the audience sees your whole body. In short, it is just a different process. Finally, it is the best we can do when we cannot perform on a stage. And the best part is, the distance doesn’t matter anymore. But looking at the situation that we can dance even online now, many schools in Indonesia want to keep the option of online classes. So honestly, we cannot really imagine how it will be like for sure.

Marta: When the first pandemic lock down happened, the Polish dancers were not ready to publish their performances online because we have mostly very technical recordings of the performances. They were not in a very good quality, which somehow takes out the value of the performances. But when the pandemic lasted for longer, I noticed many dancers chose to collaborate with film makers to make projects in a better way. In this way, dance performances somehow found another life. Unfortunately, we don’t know when we will go back to the normal, so we can’t say how dance will change. I feel like there will be a change, but more of an individual one. With this period, I think we really opened the world of dance and this will stay with us. We will use these virtual connections with international artists, and continue the world-wide collaboration of dance that the pandemic has somehow made possible. Before the pandemic, maybe we thought that this kind of mobility was limited, but now the internet has given us a way and it will stay with us even stronger than before. So, I think in this period we should concentrate on these changes. What is happening with our body? What are we feeling? Why we need this contact? Why we need dance? Somehow these restrictions with the pandemic, created this atmosphere and opened a new sphere for us.

Kind and honest words leave an echo which can be heard long after they have been said. And as we navigate through this period full of changes we must remember, as Teni, Marta and Mariska shared with us, that in the end we are all in this together!

– Tejaswini Loundo


Inserisci i tuoi dati qui sotto o clicca su un'icona per effettuare l'accesso:

Logo di

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto Twitter

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Twitter. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Foto di Facebook

Stai commentando usando il tuo account Facebook. Chiudi sessione /  Modifica )

Connessione a %s...