How did both of you get into dancing and choreography retrospectively?
Ayelen: Personally, I was in front of the mirror all the time when I was a child, talking with the mirror and my mom found this a bit strange because I was only speaking to myself. So she enrolled me into a dance school. I really didn’t like it in the beginning because I was used to having my own mirror and in class I had to share the mirror and they told me what to do, this was really a nightmare. Then at age 11 I started to like it [laughs]. But I started at five years old doing jazz, flamenco, ballet, and everything in a really small dance hall.
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Naomi: I was also put into a dance class by my mom, I feel like that’s a classic. Also from when I was very young. I did a bunch of styles like jazz and tap. Then as I got older one of my teachers was like, ‘it seems like you take it very seriously’ and I did take it very seriously. Then she told me she knew this other dance school where they take it a bit more seriously if you want to dance a lot. So then I went there as a teenager, just like after school. One of the teachers there was like ‘oh are you thinking of making this your job’ and I was like not really but… sure! Then I auditioned for a hogeschool in the Netherlands and did a bachelor’s degree in dance. From there, well here we are ten years later [laughs].
Ayelen, could you tell me more about the creation process of the piece Zonder, of its inception?
Ayelen: Yeah, it is really particular because I don't have a set topic, I never have a topic. I have some topics that are always there like a ghost, but for this piece I read a book by a sociologist. The book was Ce que sait la main, it is about artisanal culture. It says that it is the hand that knows what to do and it is not the head that gives it the information, it is the opposite. For me, in dance, what I like in general is when I feel that the body already knows and it is not the head that gives it the information of what to do. This is the reason that on the first day, when we started to work, I just put on music and they danced. We started just dancing and by just dancing I already saw some qualities and some spontaneous energies that I was interested to work with because I saw things in between. It’s always what I see in between that for me is important and not the goal.
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When there is music, there is something that comes out of the professional dancer…but I was also interested in if there is still a small part of the mannerisms of the dancer. What this means, for me, is what is not studied in the body. There is this part of innocence, a part that is not codified and of course, I am interested in that contradiction and ambiguity between something that you know to do and something you don't know - I am interested in this within the people that I work with but I put this also on myself, these uncomfortable positions that in the end I like but it is not an easy position for anyone. I don’t know, nobody knows what this place is but we will go there [laughs].
I am interested in that contradiction and ambiguity between something that you know to do and something you don't know
For you Naomi, what was it like to be a part of this more bottom-up process?
Naomi: I think it was very different from any creation process I’ve ever been in. I mean I’ve worked with Ayelen before on a previous project, but I replaced someone so the piece was already made, so I just learned the material. I think for me it was interesting, because we worked a lot in the beginning with open improvisations. While that can be very difficult, it’s also an interesting way to get to places that you maybe wouldn't go if you had it set out ahead of time. I think lots of the stuff we have in the piece now came from early improv, from early things that we did. Even if we did them and then left them for months, we jumped back and forth between these things. I think it was a really good way to get to places that I personally wouldn’t have gone to for sure. And then of course - Ayelen’s work is usually quite funny so there are a lot of stupid, funny moments in rehearsals with my colleagues. Lots of laughs [laughs].
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As a choreographer, how does this project serve as a continuation or contrast of the previous projects you’ve worked on?
Ayelen: It’s always a continuation. Well, sometimes what I do is, if the piece that I did before I didn’t feel comfortable, I didn’t like it or I feel that I finish it in a certain way; I like to go in an opposite direction. But the previous piece I was really happy with. The structure was really set but there were spaces to play and there was this humor and irony. For this piece, I wanted to do the same without doing the same and this was really hard for me because I had this thing all the time in my head, that I wanted to go out of this. I think the previous piece was a bit simpler in a way, but now this time I have the feeling that we did the same but we went farther.
And for you Naomi, how has this project been different to the other projects you’ve worked on?
Naomi: Well for one thing, without spoiling too much, the set is very important in this piece and things that happen with it [laughs]. So that's one thing that's different from other pieces I’m used to. I‘ve done a lot of ‘classic’ dance pieces, where the focus is on the moving bodies and space and either there is no set or it’s minimally involved. Personally, I haven’t performed that many pieces where the final product is set, but it’s set improv. I know what I am doing but I can’t tell you. There’s no counts, I can’t promise that I will do this exact movement, for certain bits yes, but for a lot of it, it's the feeling and the state that you're in. It is more that that creates the atmosphere and the vibe, so for me that is relatively new to be working like that.
There’s no counts, I can’t promise that I will do this exact movement, for certain bits yes, but for a lot of it, it's the feeling and the state that you're in
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For this piece, how did the collaborative aspect come into play for both of you?
Naomi: For me, especially in this piece, me and the other dancers, we really depend on each other - like you cannot do this piece by yourself. I think all the best moments come from the moments where we bounce off each other. That's really where the magic happens. It’s really in the assembly of the team that is super important for this and how we get along, how we get along with Ayelen as well that really brings the piece alive. Otherwise, it could be more flat if there's no connection between you and the people. On stage, it happens a lot, but also in rehearsals, it brings new inspiration to see them doing things and improvising. It pushes you in different directions because it's the ‘yes and’ rule of improv. You just have to keep going, so if someone offers you something you just say okay and you just go with it and see what happens. For me, it’s really important this collaborative aspect.
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Ayelen: For me collaboration and sharing are essential, if we are not in a peaceful way of communication I can't work. For me it is the base, we share all the creation - I take all the material from them. It is not that I propose movements, we construct with each other and it is quite organic in the same way that you see a spider make a web.
It is not that I propose movements, we construct with each other and it is quite organic in the same way that you see a spider make a web
Due to Zonder’s collaborative and improvisionist nature, is there a certain narrative you aim to convey to the audience?
Ayelen: For me, it is always more interesting when I have so many interpretations that it really goes in all possible directions. It really is what I prefer. I never try to have a narrative. Even after, when the piece is finished you can read a narrative but it is not something that is voluntary. It is something that after, even me, I project things but it was not my projection to create this narrative. For this piece especially, sometimes I work with scenes that are so personal. Like when I was a child and my parents went to sleep, the siesta, I remember one or two times I took a plate and said to my sister, ‘I will break it, I will break it’ and my sister was like ‘no please please don’t’ and I said ‘I will do it,’ [laughs]. It's always this big memory for my sister and for me, like we did something crazy and this was in my imagination. Sometimes I go back to childhood memories because I think to myself how can I do this again, this feeling again now that I am 47. What can I do to have this ‘I will do it’ [laughs].
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Lastly, how has it been working within a theatre like Théâtre National Wallonie-Bruxelles?
Ayelen: It is fantastic to be in this house. For example, for this piece, they constructed the scenography, they made costumes in-house and because they are there already we can try them on. It’s also very human and warm how they support us, like an artist but also in a personal way.
<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”>@ayelenparolin / @naomisgibson / @tn_wallonie_bruxelles </div></div>