DancePosted by Thibault Mon, February 18, 2019 23:06:39
I originally wanted to talk about my work with the Virpi Pahkinen Dance Company, whom I tour and perform with as a solo dancer, but then I thought how boring and self-centred.
Instead I would like to talk about this amazing opportunity you get when you are a freelancer: choose your work.
Virpi Pahkinen is for me an inspiration, someone I look up to, someone I respect and someone who inspires me all at the same time. She has seen the world and shared her works as a solo performer literally everywhere. She has also had the chance to create her own company, based in Stockholm, Sweden, composed of a few dancers, which now tours with her. Her language, style and universe are all very uniquely inspired from asian cultures, though she was born and raised in Finland, and there is a little taste of her origins in her personality. But that's all I can say before speaking for her and entering the privacy of her sphere.
However, I can say that sharing her choreographic bubble has always been a pleasure for me as a dancer. She often presents movement that are not only technically demanding (I thought I was flexible before working with her and I turned out to think wrong)
, but also have a deep spiritual meaning, which is why her work pleases and inspires wherever she goes.
Monolit Polygon, Virpi Pahkinen, Picture copyrights Jose Figueroa.
Now, I chose to work with her after a first experience when I was a dancer at the Finnish National. We met then as she choreographed a piece for the ensemble and I straight away stole her contacts. When I jumped out the window, towards the freelance scene, I contacted her straight away and voila, we were already discussing about how she could incorporate me in her next productions.
What I mean to say is that I decided to work with her not only because I liked the artist and her creations, but also because I admired the human being. You see, often we see the movements and patterns we have to or wish to perform, and forget about those behind the control panels, just like sometimes dancers' personalities are put aside and chosen for what they can do technically only. But for me both clicked, so it was a win-win situation.
I assume eventually she could also have chosen someone else, because there are thousands of dancers that are way more talented than I am in Northern Europe, but she chose me, not only for my dancing, but most probably also for my passion and admiration for her work.You are F-R-E-E
Remember that as a free
lancer you are free
to work with the artists that you
like. I very often feel very frustrated about those who just sign contracts for the sake of paying their bills and then gossip about their co-workers or directors. It not only saddens me, but also confuses me: why dedicate so much time to something that leaves you flat lined. No judgement though, people are clearly free
to live their lives the way they want. That being said, I will most probably point this 'issue' out in every post I write, so get used to it.
I fully understand the stress of being out of work, and like I stated in my earlier posts, it is a tough life and tough job, especially if you live in the nordic countries because work is rather scarce. But once again (read the article here
), as a dancer, there are million other opportunities for you to choose instead of using dance as a regular job, because it is not, and you will end up unhappy and frustrated.
So be wise, see the patterns and directions of your professional life, and just enjoy the freedom of it. It does not mean that you will not have to work your ass off, but it sure means that every fruit of the work you have provided will become yours and therefore will be fully appreciated. The artists you work with are your visit card
You also have to keep in mind that those you choose to get involved with are those that will appear on your CV, which by extent, tells a bit who you are, what you have gone through, and at what level your career stands.
Those you work with also most probably have a network
, and your name might go around, something for you to consider with the way you work and behave (trust me, took a while for me, still a learning process haha).
However, through that aspect, I do not mean to be black and white by talking about only working with top-class / social media famous / company type choreographers only. I only turned down offers when I had to face artists or producers that did not appear and act genuinely, in everybody's interests and with kindness. Instead I mean that your visit card will speak for itself if you work with passionate, hard working, inspiring and kind people. Trust me, leave the A-holes out of your life, whether they are ready to give you a lot of money, or not at all, because those who will potentially hire you after them will know what and who they are and you do not want to carry any baggage, you want to remain free.
There are many hidden choreographers who just mind working in peace and quiet, and have the most amazing artistry to feed dancers. So pack your bags
and go look for them.
Monolit Polygon, Virpi Pahkinen, Picture copyrights Jose Figueroa.Keep it simple, stay humble
I will write a longer post about this, but I already want to introduce the idea of humility on my blog. You will eventually work with both big and 'small' names, though I don't really like the use of that word because it is so arbitrary, and the dance world is already full of opinions, but also because big names were once 'small' ones, and people have their own taste, which is totally legitimate of course. Do remember that whomever you will meet on your road, staying humble and grateful will only bring you upwards to feeling happy and fulfilled. Good energy attracts good energy
, make this your mantra and I am sure you will see some changes come around the corner.
You also want to represent the dance scene as a freelancer, and you want to be a vehicle for art, for communication, for inspiring people and allowing them to have windows where to look out to when they face the wall of reality. You want to be a vehicle for life.If people do not value your time then NO
Very often as a freelancer you will be facing those who take ages to answer to your mails, your calls and your whatever. It happens, we also all forget to answer a message after postponing, we all promise ourselves to consider offer and take time to think about it... In a nutshell: we are all busy
. But clearly, someone who does not get back to you after receiving your offer, both lacks respect and has very little value for your time and work. Fun story:
I once sent an email to an acclaimed director of a dance company, who knew me, and whom had already engaged in further conversations. Not only did I not get any answer, I got worse: an empty email, to which, being all naive and sweet, I answered by asking if that person had made a mistake and sent me a draft. I had the thoughtful idea of asking for a delivery confirmation with that email, which was read and therefore acknowledged. Well, needless to say that would that person get back to me now, he/she could wait forever.
But... Remember not to hold any grudges, that one was a tough lesson for me. Little by little, I however discovered that people who thought had some power, were the most blinded and powerless people on earth. Politics
are unfortunately aspects of our profession that come in the way of who gets the work and who does not. Did I ever benefit from it? Definitely. Did I ever suffer from it? Most probably even more. Yet, I did realise that mighty rulers, those who treat dancers as objects (because choreographers are always well treated and respected) are people I feel sad for, because the extent of their happiness is bound to being rooted in a medieval system of not caring for people and not seing further than the tip of their noses, and there is nothing more depressing than a voice for art that can not speak or speak dishonest words.Always remember that it only takes only a little breeze to blow a house of card, and that winds always change directions.
So build your castle, be strong, know where you want to go, who you want to become and how you want to be seen. Keep focussed on those you want to work with and those who inspire you. Stay kind and loving, always wish your neighbour the best and laugh out loud from the mistakes you make, from the negative answers you get, and from whatever comes in the way of your happiness, because it is only life, it is only dance, and it is all only way too much fun.
I wish you all love, please I want to hear what you thought about that post. You can send me a message here
or at email@example.com .
On the roadPosted by Thibault Sun, December 30, 2018 23:30:44
Travelling when you are a freelance artist: my childhood dream, my adulthood life. I never even thought I would get to live such a trip. But it would not come as a surprise if I told you that such a lifestyle comes with its pros and cons of course. And while going around for something you love is fun and makes you drunk with life, it does have a few downsides, which one needs to embrace. The empty time between contracts
This might actually be the most frustrating part, because whether your calendar is filled with artistic project, or with part time work, this "off" time in between often feels like a waste of time.
If you are part of the lucky bunch, then it will just be a matter of a few days or weeks between 2 artistic productions, and in a way it is perfect before starting a new process or rehearsing again an old production: HOLIDAY TIME
. This is actually something that is way undervalued by dancers, and especially freelancers, and those who do not understand that live a way shorter career unfortunately. So if you have an empty slot between 2 periods, just breath in, chillax
, and take care of yourself and of your body.
Now, if you are part of the less lucky bunch, see this time as an opportunity to do other things, discover new people or places, study and learn about new subjects... In other words, do something you had not had the time to do while you were working really hard on that previous dance project.
I know that the financial pressure is there, and that you will have to pay your bills regardless of what happens in your life. Yet again, it is just a matter of perspective.
To be honest I have had that period at the end of 2018, a year that made me wonder if I should stay in the dance industry in the first place, and financially very stressful, since aI started freelancing full time. So I thought to myself "ok, just try something else, discover new things, even get a new and different job
...". And seriously?! It was more than worth it. I got to work with an awesome shop in Helsinki, met incredibly nice co-workers, and learnt a lot about customer experience and being part of a commercial industry. Point of the story? Well, I learnt about being in direct contact with the people who actually had money and were ready to spend it, I learnt to shape my language and my behaviour for them, and I learnt to solve problems (even when there was none). The barrier between the artist and the crowd disappeared, and though I was not in a dance/artistic situation, I did have to deal with the actual people, the ones that come see my shows and buy my tickets.
Truth is that many dance artists would find it degrading or shameful, because there is this wrong concept of not settling for "less" when you are a dance artist. But one has to live with his time and difficulties and turn them into something useful
. So yes, I had no time to train, yet I know my body perfectly, and this period changed nothing in the way I dance and move my body, and on top of that, I had a lot of fun, and got many more ideas about my future and about how to live my life. (Side-note, MERCI Monsieur K).
Keep in mind to see those empty slots coming towards you, it might help planning a trip abroad, or start studying a short term course if you feel like. Arriving in without any plans will make you feel like you have hit the wall and need to turn your career around... So: see it coming with ease and love.New friends / New cultures
Going from place to place
What's coming will be controversial. Some of you will ask if I'm kidding, some will fully understand.
By travelling as a freelancer, I mostly mean going from places to places, including changing cities or even countries. And this is exhausting. I love it though, do not get me wrong. But fact is: even if you know what/why/how/whom with... you will work with on the next project, travelling adds a lot of pressure if your work is a big pay check or a huge artistic project.
For example, lately, I had the immense joy of working as a soloist for the Virpi Pahkinen Dance Company, in Stockholm, SE. She created Monolit Polygon (which will be the subject of my next blog), at the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern, a full evening program. Well, I know Virpi and her style as a choreographer and her expectations as well. But as usual in the freelance scene, the rehearsing process was very short, and I had about 8 days to learn my solo parts and be ready for the premiere: IT WAS A CREATION!!
Overall, yes, I lived for it, and even though I worked like crazy up until the premiere, I loved every single minute of it, I loved the setting, my coworkers... Everything. But I would lie if I said that I was not exhausted, drained, physically and mentally, and unfortunately I did not have time to enjoy Stockholm although I was there for a month.
So, this part is only here to remind you that even if you get a lot of work, it will be tough. Because most of the time, you will go from one choreographer to another, back and forth, on repeat mode. And even if you know them, and regardless of how long you have worked with them, your body will suffer, because it always needs some time to adapt.
Right now, you could say "But that's what happens in companies". Actually no, because when you do travel and you do work mostly on creation processes, it is way more draining energy speaking than when you comfortably come back home at the end of your working day in your usual working place. I have done both, and even when I worked in-house with demanding choreographers, I was never that exhausted, and it has nothing to do with my physical condition as I actually had been training for 3 weeks prior to the process.
So think about it twice, it is not for everybody, and you will go through way more stress and exhaustion than usual at first, because you want to please and prove, but it is more than worth it if you pull yourself through that, and the feelings of living your passion will be multiplied towards the moon.
That one was also a tough one for me, with my first freelance projects going abroad. You see, when I don't know people, I happen not to be very outgoing or I can lack confidence which is translated into overconfidence by my body language, and I tend to avoid people just for the sake of keeping my safe place
, which is also ultra important when your landscape keeps on changing, but this will also be the subject of another blog. Yet, experience makes great spirits and it taught me as much on the human side as on the artistic side.
Anyhow, I now think it really is true luck to have the opportunity to constantly meet new people who come from diverse background
s. But here are a few things you should always keep in mind when working as a freelancer, travelling, and changing coworkers on each project. I have had experience in every of the parts below, whether I was active or passive participant:
- Remain calm:
you will face situations that are very stressful and demanding, both on psychological and physical levels, but just keep a cool mind, after all, it is just dance and you want to be the best of yourself. So stay good in your head and your body will follow.
- Stay friendly and polite:
though you will work with choreographers you have chosen or vice-versa, you might not end up liking your mates. Well, remember that this is a point that must be out of the picture. When you work for someone, your personal opinions which might be hurtful to others do not matter. Focus on being kind, creative and productive. Keep in mind that the choreographer will be 10 times more stressed than you actually are, and any situation that comes along the road will slow down his/her process.
directly linked to the previous part, this one is for you to remember that people come from very various backgrounds and cultures sometimes. You might end up working with people who have either only company or freelance experience, or both, and work codes are very different. Social codes might come in the way as well, and as a French man, I am very often misunderstood, as much as a German, Italian, nordic, Russian (just to quote a few examples, no offense)... might be. So put the 'oversensitive' you aside, take away the ego, and accept people for what they have to offer, even if they seem like a pain in the ass at first. Remember that your feelings do not matter, and that dancers get chosen on a project because each of them have something something to bring to it, accept that and embrace it. Compassion is one of the reasons why you do this in the first place, so use it here.
remember that those are one time experiences. They are the most enriching and empowering experiences. One never stops learning from those, and it is impossible to grow towards anything else but being a kind hearted human being through these.All of that takes time, whether you have discipline problem (which I had big time), or are struggling with ego issues and accepting and respecting those who work with/ for you. Just keep it cool, really, once again, it's just dance, it's just life.
Voila, just a short glimpse of what it's like for me to one an artist on the road. One last note:
there is a lot of evil happening at the moment around the globe, and I just would like to raise awareness by saying that what we consider as our daily problems very often can be laughed at afterwards. Seriously, just focus on being kind and spreading love...
That being said, I hope you liked that post, which was a bit distant in time from the previous ones. I could do nothing but include non-dance pictures at this very point.
All the best to all of you, stay tuned,
DancePosted by Thibault Tue, October 02, 2018 19:40:39
Improvisation performance danced by myself in interaction with Pekka and Teija Isorättyä: it happened at the Galleria Rankka, in Helsinki, on the 23rd of august 2018. Did you miss it?!
HERE IS THE VIDEO !
The solo dance performance was a question-answer
between Pekka and Teija's art installation and my movement.
It lasted exactly 20 minutes and everybody was welcome to stroll through the performance while I was using the entire space. As a matter of fact, the performance space was a beautiful industrial atelier, big enough to contain quite an impressive crowd.
The essence of the performance relied on its movement improvisation and on my capacity to adapt to the forever changing state of Pekka and Teija's art installation's soundscape. Yes, it was pure improvisation
, but wait to read some more about it.
The soundscape was originally pre-set to be the same whenever somebody would approach the installation. There was a sensor installed during the daytime exhibition. It was activated whenever somebody walked by, the soundscape then ran for a short time. This sound could be mixed live through a mixing table, which we made use of during the performance, and which Pekka controlled during that occasion.
Now, the dance itself was supposed to follow that soundscape, on top of following the geometrical pattern of the installation, which looked like thousand small mechanical arms, cutting through space, very geometrical, very mathematic. So there was a lot to get visually inspired from. I believe the art installation already looked like a dance itself. I just felt like I was taking it a bit further, by making the movement three dimensional and creating a vortex, directly connected between me, and the installation.
Now I give you some details: Pekka and Tuija Isorättyä's art installation is the result of a collaboration on the creation of kinetic and electromechanical sculptures, often constructed from organic materials and discarded or outmoded objects.
Therefore, he mixed, I adapted, simple, doesn't it sound? Well, not that acurate. You see, we had defined a set of rules before, otherwise it would have been for the pure love of movement, and well, in that case, why even bother to invite an audience...First came the movement frame...
The dance improvisation I performed was inspired by neo-classical and ballet technics. A summary of all I have ever learnt, now part of my body, as a dancer and a creator. Of course, I worked a lot with improvisation in my career, and the fact that I also happen to be a choreographer helped me feel comfortable creating on the spot for people watching right up in my face. I took it as a simple study of cognitive and intuitive movement, adapted in time and space to the visual and aural art happening near by. It was almost like a conference, I was speaking with my movement.Now the coulisse part:
I had recorded some of the possible soundscapes which could come up during the performance about 2 weeks prior to it. I then rehearsed in studio, giving myself some movement tasks to the soundscaped. With that I mean I was exploring all possiblities, always trying to re-invent the movement.
So in a way, the performance was rehearsed, but still, the movement I performed was completely genuine. I had no choreographic structure, nor any kind of short sections I could slip-in real quick in case I would run out of ideas.
And about running out of ideas, wasn't I scared about hitting the spot? Not at all, because like I said, I have quite some experience, but also because one has to go through a performance like this with confidence. You see, it often happens that dancers freeze when they run out of ideas, which means they go BLANK
. It even happens with choreographies that have been rehearsed for months and months. However, dancers are also human beings (apart from being god like creatures with magical powers)
and do happen to forget everything in some situations, mostly under a big amount of stress. So that occasion was just perfect fit, stress: yes
, forever changing: yes!
Yet, if you are able to just breathe, be aware of the space around you, the people in it, its structure, the thousand sounds that come to your ears... You are just fine. It is all about being in the present, breathing, staying calm and so on.
And it brings me to say that there was no dramatic performance. With this, I mean that I did not try to put on a mask, or act in a specific way. The drama remained within the movement only. The theme, if I may say so, was really scientific, and it would just have looked weird if I had tried to put on a second skin and become an actor.
Hopefully it translated into my movement, which of course was made of momentums, attacks and so on... But overall stayed really floating, out of the muscular approach dancers are often used to choose. Then came the time frame...
Because it was my first improvised solo performance, I decided that there should be a frame for the timing of it. The first reason is that I did not know what would be the audience's reaction, so the self-conscious artist that I am was affraid that people would get bored and so on... It was 20 minutes after all.
But mainly, I felt responsible for installing a rythm to the performance. The rythm was so that it was divided in 10 bits of 2 minutes. Now I won't give you the detail of each section, because magicians never give away their magic tricks, but mostly because I cooked it myself and it is part of how I work (no secrets, just intimacy).
And now I must thank the universe, because the feedback I got was so positive! I think it definitely worked, as people described the performance as an "hypnosis"
, or "some kind of trance"
. This is exactly where I was aiming at with my rythm. The art installation itself is some kind of machinery that I could have watched for ever, it is a hypnosis itself.
How did I keep track of the timing? Well I honestly did not, but we had a few cues we had agreed on before the performance, with Pekka, for which he was giving me the go. So really, it WAS a conversation
, and not only a dance performance.
Was it physically hard? HELL YES!
But who does not like a little workout? I really tried to be self-conscious throughout these 20 minutes. It gave me a little insight on staying away from using muscular and heavy power, I tried (and managed maybe) to stay as calm and positive as possible, just like a yoga workout. I also always tried to recycle my movement, and use new creative ways of approaching the experience from within. How did I do that? Well, I am an experienced dancer, and maybe in the future I will talk again about improvising...
Overall, the experience was really inspiring, I truly believe that I learnt a lot from it, as a performer, but also as a creator and as a person. Pekka and Teija are lovely human beings and it was my pleasure to be able to connect with artists working in different disciplines. Go and check out their website: Isorättyä
I would like to thank Galleria Rankka
for welcoming me in their amazing space and time. Thank you Aarno Rankka
ja Jyrki Riekki
! Thank you also to Jessica Leino
, you are all lovely!
More improv' performance to come in the future, stay tuned.
My next blog will talk about sexual genres and male dance artists.
Love you all, T.
ArtPosted by Thibault Wed, September 19, 2018 14:09:08
For all of you dance lovers...
Conceptual dance exists everywhere, all around you, and is most probably the first type of dance you have ever experienced: dance with a meaning, dance that does not care about its shape, dance that's a result of your thinking process.
The term "appeared" in the 90s, and I would agree on the fact that its use is rather ambiguous.
There has been, and still are very fiery discussions about what to call conceptual in the dance world, and about where the border has set itself. Unfortunately it is not resolving, as the possibilities for performing arts keep on growing and offer new kind of performances.
But I decided to write about that
subject because of the comments I have heard in the past few months,
within my social circle, and on online platforms. I believe that
every artistic work has its role to play. Of course, I also have my
very own opinion on whether I like or dislike some content, or
performance. But I think that kindness and respect are keywords for
watching conceptual dance, in the performing arts. Obviously, people are entitled to their own opinion. But we live in the world where destroying the work of others has become way too easy, so let's rewing backwards, and look at the situation.
If you ever find yourself disliking a
conceptual dance performance, or even performing in it, then find a
reason for you to either give it a second or third trial with another
artist, you might get good surprises.
Working at the Biennale di Venezia.
Unlike what the general opinion tends
to think, conceptual dance is for everybody. It sure isn't open to
all kind of audiences, depending on its content (such as nudity, which is so very taboo although TV and social media bombard us with that), but it does target all kind people. However, it is not senseless and
easy-access, it is not the result of our western capitalism: it
rejects the mass consumption effect.
As a matter of fact, conceptual dance
is research from which an artist, or a group of artists, agreed to
develop a meaning, a thinking process, a philosophy, and present it
to an audience. In most cases, its basis is found dealing with a
sociopolitical inspirations. The range of this theme is of course very
wide, and will go from gender equality, to the importance of our
species on this planet, only to quote a few examples. Even some people would like to
think that it includes some other metaphysical/ scientific ideas,
such as nature, and the universe in general for example, but even
then, one will always find a link with the way human societies
resume, and how humans interact, communicate and strive.
So far so good, quite simple. But, this
field within the performing arts, claims to be more intellectual itself,
not in the way it is presented but with the thinking state the
artists create and invite you in their universes. And on that note,
one shall understand that a conceptual performance will not
necessarily involve dance in its traditional representation. Quite
the opposite actually. IT will most probably be an attempt to
separate itself from the already living repertoire, and create a gap
with what has already been done. Of course, movement remains in some
cases, but I think it is very important to understand that one is not
invited to go and watch a performance for the sake of sitting and
being visually pleased.
This however, does not mean that
conceptual dance gets rid of movement as time goes. There are
actually various alternatives to its development, and one might have
the choice between very physical (technicality, heavy, muscular
performances for example) and very abstract (minimal, lack of
movement, almost can't be seen), among many other possibilities.
Why? What for?
The reasons are very different from
artist to artist of course, but most would agree on the fact that the
main grounds for creating such content/art, is to keep the question
mark hover above it, whether it is dance or theatre, or both. This
can be explained with the way conceptual art was 'branded' in the 60s
and 70s, defined as art being presented as a thinking process, not
anymore as a craving for aesthetics, an urge for materialistic
It is a way to constantly renew, or
refresh, the already existing part of the performing arts, asking new
questions, raising new debates/ keeping them alive... Conceptual
dance actually has a very important place in society.
hear my peers screaming in horror already, but dance was conceptual
at its beginning (if we can even talk about a beginning): it
had no rules, no predefined sets of movement, and was performed for
its audience/ its performers to resolve social/ religious/ political
arguments. Most of the time, that was performed by 'artists'
considered then as shamans, wise... His/Her ideal was to transmit a
succession of ideas, thoughts and actions. Note that the importance
of the performers remained very strong throughout history, up until recently.
Therefore, already thousands of years
ago, conceptual dance existed in order to question daily situations,
or problems related to us, social animals. How did the status of
the performer change? This is a question that our present
society will most probably argue for a very long time still.
But here is something to ask yourself :
why is there such a strong need to make this art form so inferior and
lower it at the moment ? Is it for us a way to deny our
origins? Say that we are better than this 'easy' and 'shallow'
art form? Or even for ballet/contemporary performers to
establish a hierarchy within the dance sphere, and feel more
important, more valuable...?
What to expect from conceptual dance?
The answer is also here a bit tricky. I
would say it depends on what one decides to go and watch. Most of
all, I would say that one shall expect a thinking process from
conceptual dance (hopefully). One should go and watch a performance
with a need to let this art trigger ideas within his/her head, and resolve daily/ personal challenges.
And if you are scared to end up watching a performance where nothing happens, well you never know before watching a
show for the first time, a conceptual piece might actually be made of
movement only, in which case it has a meaning as well of course. And yes, you might also find yourself sitting for a really long time, hoping you would be somewhere else. But hey, why not make the best of your time, and still try to figure what is offered to you as the performance goes?
Galleria Rankka, Helsinki.
The artists behind it?
The dancers/ performers behind
conceptual come from very various backgrounds. When you actually go
watch a happening, a performance, an event and so on, you might actually go
watch people who have done everything and nothing at the same time.
The professional range is rather
diverse. Some artists will be beginners, without even a dance
background, some others will be retired artists from ballet, modern,
and contemporary dance. Yet, I have met so called beginners who were born to do dance, and they were going at it in conceptual pieces.
One of my examples, for my fellow
dancers, is William Forsythe, who created a series of conceptual works, right at the apotheosis of his
career, involving movement far from his usual aesthetics, a
lot of theater, a lot of speech and so on. I quote here one out of many "You made me a monster" for example. And I quote his work just
for you to understand that artists sometimes feel the need to take
other roads, and separate for simply creating movement that will
satisfy you visually, in order to go deeper in processing artistic
ideas, and let these grow.
So no, conceptual dance creators are
not simple hillbillies who felt the need to go crazy by making a
dance piece. Well, in some cases maybe, but still, they are actually
voices to be heard, with a content, a statement, or even perhaps a
Working at the Biennale di Venezia.
How to look at conceptual dance?
Stay open-minded, it is the first key
to appreciate the work of others. It did happen for me, to be sitting
in an audience where I was literally thinking of something not even
related to the performance I was supposed to watch, yet at some point
in the performance, I was able to find the trigger and let my brain
enter the key-hole, allowing me to finally understand that
Respect, it is also an important word,
to consider the work of others, which are offering it to you as a
gift. As much as a ballerina who worked for hours, conceptual
performers thought and discussed, rehearsed and practiced for hours.
There is no bad conceptual performance.
Actually most of them have either been funded by cultural organisms
or by sponsors, which already proves that there is a necessity for
whatever you will watch. Also, I must add that many events you will
participate in are presented by people, like you and me (who have
normal lives) who have worked for a various amount of time, most
probably getting very little money. And I think that presenting
something that has been studied, and thought through, with the risk
of not being financially comfortable, and with the knowledge that
what you presented will be highly debated, is very brave. Not because
it falls in the social myth of the artist (poor people who think they
are doing some good to society), but because it is the manifestation
of human beings still wanting to question the world we live in, by
presenting art as life itself. Artists involved in conceptual dance do
not attempt to please their audiences, and I would hope they strive
for the opposite.
At last, yes, you might attend
performances that have been improvised, also under a large spectrum
of professionalism and work, but I will talk about this with my next
blog, offering a summary of my improvisation performance at Galleria
Rankka, in Helsinki, Finland.
Feel free to comment and share, whether
you just liked this blog, or even if you disagree with me, I would be
more than happy to hear your voice as well...
DancePosted by Thibault Mon, September 03, 2018 18:10:31
Being a freelance artist.
Why such a subject?? Because lately
many people asked me why I chose not to be part of any other company
than the Finnish National Ballet, and my decision was welcomed by
rather various statements, from family and friends. Therefore, here
are a few aspects of being a freelance dance artist.
start with, before I took the leap, I had been working for many years
on small projects, including dance and photography, yet I did not
realize what it took until I jumped in the wild of freelancing by
investing all my time into it.
seems to happen, I also worked quite a while with small and big dance
companies, and I honestly must admit that I would never have imagined
that it would be more difficult than being a dance company member.
we often talk about the difficulties of being part of a dance company
from within : the competition, the lack of social life, the
financial struggle, the amount of work... Well, here are a few points
that will help you understand the difference between being a
« professional » dancer and a freelance dance artist.
does it take to be freelance ?
actually takes much more than it seems to be freelance.
and foremost, once you are at it, you are directly exposed with the
cost of every single services which are free if you are part of a
dance company. For example : morning classes, whether it is
ballet, pilates, contemporary... Well guess what ? There is no
one wiling to make you train for free, because most probably these
coaches and teachers are also freelancers, and also have bills to
doesn't stop here. As stupid as it will sound, professional dancers
often take for granted the smallest things in their daily work :
where you train, where you rehearse (renting a space also costs),
buying training clothes (or buying ballet shoes), purchasing a
costume and taking care of it... So it does take a lot of effort in
order to financially manage that situation.
of that comes time management. Yes, silly indeed, but you do have to
make up your own schedules, including every bits of training,
changing locations, rehearsing and so on. I will not even talk about
the amount of time you spend writing emails or funding applications,
or even making phone calls. To all the producers I ever worked in the
past : I love you and I admire all you ever did for me from the
bottom of my heart.
about time management... Space management is also another point, and
unless you live in those cities where you can always find work
(Paris, London, Berlin, New-York...), being a european freelancer
will require from you to travel, A LOT. One might have a homebase
somewhere, but one will have to move a lot. So be mentally and
physically ready, because that means you will go to places where you
can't even train properly, or perform in spaces that do not fit your
usual conditions, but hey, positive thinking is the way out, and
always remember that you do what you love.
last, being a freelancer requires a lot of versatility: to be
at the best of what you want to offer or do you have to get involved
with what makes you better. I myself work with ballet and modern
dance, they are in my opinion, the best combinations. It does not
make me the best at neither, but it does allow me to land much more
projects than others can.
much time do you spend working ?
might have already understood, it requires a lot more than just
showing up where you are required to be. Actually, your producer or
your director has planned that out for you a while ago already.
working shifts can be quite exhausting, going from place to place,
trying to make each minute productive and meaningful. And as I
already said, every service you buy, becomes a service in which you
have to be the best of yourself. Why ? Because you can not let
yourself down after making it to this point, and rely on the work you
have done so far.
a workaholic is often what happens for many independent artists. But
not only to be stable on a financial level. It is actually due to the
liberty that such a status gives you : you have to be focussed
to aim in the right directions, plan your projects in the best way,
and whenever it happens, make the best out of your collaborations.
freelance dance artist does not happen by just showing up. There are
no repetitors, ballet masters or coaches to tell you exactly what to
do. Therefore every single bit of time spent in front of a mirror, or
on a dance mat by yourself, is a research and a moment for you to
become better : nobody will do the work for you, or teach you
through how to do it.
Finally, for some of us, being a freelance means working a second/third/fourth job... And on top of all the physical work might come working shifts in order to simply pay your bills. With that comes also working on partnerships and toher artistic projects. You might also have "to work" for free, just so that people get to know you. Be ready to face the challenges of not getting paid, or getting the recognition you deserve, but never agree to anything if you feel that your capicities are being looked down at.
Photography by RaKai Photography.
makes me strive to keep on going ?
is beauty in every single moment of freelancing. Being your own boss
condemns me as much as it frees me. I am a perfectionist, and I'm not
ashamed of it, yet it does come in the way of my work sometimes.
want to keep pushing to make the best out of your work, and apart
from knowing that you might not make it at the end of the month, it
is also for you to become the best of what you have to offer as an
artist and a person.
often talk about the discipline you acquire by being part of a corps
de ballet/dance group member (which I never had), yet going freelance
gave me a whole new lot of responsibilities and helped me mature.
listen to those who forget about those artists who make it and only
work by themselves, often say it just happened because they were
talented or so. No, hard work is also the key to make it. I do not go
to bed before I know I have completed my daily tasks list and have
done every thing I could to make my road a little bit longer.
Being a freelance artist teaches me gratitude, and it also teaches diplomacy. We live in a world where all of that if being forgotten, and just for that reason, it makes me strive to keep on going further.
pros and cons ?
would like to think before taking such a path. I must admit that I
chose to jump in this emptiness a bit hastily and was not really
prepared for it, just like many artists I meet. But never become a
freelance dance artist by default, whether you decide to be a
performer, a teacher, a coach... It will just lead you to being
unhappy and frustrated. The world out there is full of beautiful
opportunities, do not waste your time with something that clearly
doesn't stick to your skin.
want it, plan it. Write down all the financial aspects that come to
your mind, study the cost of being out there, and the possibility of
getting any income according to a time frame you have set for
educated and open your mind. This is the only way you will survive.
It means that you might want to study a bit on producing, marketing
financing, designing (lights, costumes, sounds...).
plan B to pay your bills, whether it is waitering, or petsitting, there
are no little jobs, and the most important is for you to feel calm
and relaxed so that you can work in a healthy environment, at the
best of your capacities.
face it, it is and it will be hard, especially financially. But being
a freelance artist is so gratifying and humbling.
Photography by Marko Rantanen.
there is this myth about being an artist in general. I often read in
social media or magazines that artists are the low ranks of those who
didn't make it at school. Freelance dance artists are the ones we
like to put even lower, just so that we can establish a hierarchy
among the art circles, and within the dance spheres. Directly linked
to that, these artists are perceived as lazy, or marginals :
they did not invest there time at studying something that would
eventually pay, therefore they are lazy (and a bit outcast).
what?! It took me as much time and effort, if not more, to
become a professional dancer/choreographer than it might take you to
become a doctor.
speak for myself, but I know that most of my peers can relate... I
was a grade A student, and graduated with better scores than those
who went on with their academic studies. Few people know, but I
actually also studied philosophy and I am now studying other fields.
Yet, I do not do something else only because I can't. I remain a
dance artist because it makes me happy to give all my time to me and
myself only, as well as those who cherish what I have to offer, on
top of those smiles and sparkly eyes I can awake when my work is
clichey is also that freelance artists are weak and technically
limited. Well, I assure you that I met so much more talented people
in the freelance circles than in dance companies. Dance companies
often limit themselves to meeting standards, such as beautiful lines,
heights, weights... Yet entering the freelance sphere is overwhelming
once you witness all what others have to offer, and compare it with
your ex-company-dancer fresh tool box.
another struggle once you are out there : staying relevant and
competitive. Because you do want your work to sell, and even if I
never compared myself to other with hostility, one does have to have
very wide eyes open in order to cling onto artistic projects and
remain on top of what you can do. So that's one of the other
stereotypes: freelance artists just go with the flow : NO,
they go at it teeth and claws out because they want it more than
I do that all my life ?
not. Like I already said to those who asked me. But it doesn't mean
that I will quit just because it is hard. It is because it's hard
that I keep on going. Yet my road might change at some point because
alike many other freelance artists, I have other interests, in
different fields than the one I work. For example I love social
sciences, I love psychology, I love nature... So, the spectrum of
possibility is huge and maybe I'll choose to redirect at some point,
which we all have to do as dancers anyway (at some point), and I
encourage all my readers to do the same : open your mind and
your heart to new experiences and further horizons.
you liked that blog. I want to hear what you thought about it, how it
made you feel, and get back to me here :
will talk about conceptual dance. So stay tuned for more, because it
is just dance, and we just love it.
ArtPosted by Thibault Tue, July 31, 2018 19:34:57
Us dancers, always tend to think that we must stick to training in dance and watching dance in order to increase a pseudo 'dance culture' based on what we see and what we do. It is not a lack of interest, nor a lack of education, it is simply because the system we are raised by, (the dance education), is the direct institution responsible for narrowing the way we look at the world surrounding us.
However, I have come to believe that any artist must remain open minded and ready to welcome any new experience, in order to strive in his (or her) own field. This open mindedness is the root to creating new artistic experiences, to open new roads, to invite new audiences, and most important, to stay relevant and re-invent oneself constantly.(On top of the British pavilion: Island)
For those who have not read my previous article, I summed up my experience at the Biennale di Danza di Venezia 2018
(article just below). I was lucky enough that the dance department is just a tiny part of the bigger festival, which presents an architecture department, putting on display creations from a selection of countries invited: The Biennale di Architettura
(of Architecture). It is a huge exhibition, open air and indoors, happening in Venezia's gardens (giardini) and at the Venezia's Arsenale (old military fortress).
Each country invited displays a pavilion, result of a creation depending on a yearly theme. This year the theme was FREESPACE
was incredible to witness for several reasons. First, because it was interesting to see how each country dealt with the same theme in its own ways. You could clearly read cultural, social and political opinions with each pavilion; that added up to each country's own vision of creativity in architecture. But also because you could read the intention put in each project, sometimes in symbiosis with reality, sometimes in negation with it.(At the Swiss pavilion)
The pavilion I admired the most was the Swiss
exhibition: Svizzera 240: House Tour
The exhibition space presented a simple empty house, where dimensions and proportions varied as I went from to room. I thought it was simple, but honest, genuine, smart and creative.
I also thought the pavilion was in total rupture with what was expected from the theme, while being the evident description of it: a space where everything is possible and which is yet a social prison from our western societies. In fact, while we live in a time where performance, progress, innovation and competitiveness are key words to succeess; the House Tour
simply put on display the reality of our lives, stressing the gaps between our hopes and what we must content ourselves with.
One could really feel the analysis of our modern indoors, which are the direct result of a copy and paste culture, of a middle class eager for urban lives in cities where landscapes are expended following similar patterns, in order to house as many people as possible.
Switzerland really deserved its golden lion
(highest recognition from the architecture exhibition). I also appreciate that the indoor was so raw and nude; visitors could just come and go while letting their imagination refurnish and re-imagine each square of the space, which in my opinion was accessible to 100% of the audience, and was the key to the success of the installation.
Of course one of my favorite was also Finland's pavilion
, named Mind-building
, inspired from Alvar Aalto's work. The exhibition had public libraries
at the center of their study, it was a way for them to connect free space
; two finnish assets, admired all over the world.
Finland played then its strong cards, even though the building hosting the exhibition was very simple, there was no high ceiling, no extravagant structures and the space was small but not confined. It was very much close to nature, built with simple basic material and surrounded by trees and vegetation. Another way to invite the Biennale's audience into the finnish atmosphere, by bringing a bit of Finland into this beautiful italian garden.
I felt back at home for about 15 minutes, and at the same time I thought the content of the exhibition was really interesting. It also examined the structure of public libraries in terms of urban spatial organisation, the way it affected its visitors in several finnish cities.
At last, I would have hoped for a simpler content. The content put on display offered too much information, and there was a lot of reading material, which I assume was the reason for not awakening as much interest as the other pavilions.(Finland's pavilion)
Many other pavilions stuck out in my opinion, such as Germany: Unbuilding Walls
; which as its tittle evocates, dealt with the destruction of the wall, the transformation of the german space, but first and foremost with the pyschological effect of its people, and the healing process necessary to the german nation.
pavilion: Sunyata: The Poetics of Emptiness
, also awoke my curiosity. Once again, it was a space where our modern mathematical way of thinking had been tared down, and where our brain could just go back to analysing a basic spatial organisation, while appreciating a visual and aural symbiosis.
I hate to make negative comments, because I always feel like artist's works always come from genuine places, but I do have to say that I did not appreciate a few pavilions, such as Israel
(In Statu Quo: Structures of Negotiation
) and the USA
(Dimensions of Citizenship
I felt like their exhibitions were a bit hypocrite, they dealt with welcoming others and accepting cultural differences within their own borders. I will not comment on that, but the actual international politico-social context is enough to discredit the arguments they advanced regarding their open mindedness and acceptance towards one another (as in their respective countries).
Of course, the artists who put up the exhibitions might have done so on purpose, to keep hopes up and show the road towards other directions, but I do wish it would have been done in a different way. That being said, it is just my opinion, and it might be as narrow minded as I experienced it in the moment it happened.
Of course there were many other locations, outside of the exhibiting spaces, such as at the Catholic Church Santa Maria delle Presentazione, where the Vatican
was exhibiting Holy See: the Vatican Chapels
. There were also outdoors exhibtion throughout the city.(In the last picture, Egypt pavilion: Robabecciah the Informal City)
Finally, I am sure there was more to see and understand than my brain was able to, and I completely ackowledge that these architectural projects are art pieces in devenire
, and that they all propose brighter visions and solutions while reflecting on present situations.
I am forever grateful I was invited to visit the Architecture Exhibtion, thank you to la Biennale di Venezia. Being there definitely triggered my brain into thinking about the definitions of free space
, as well as placing it in diferent polical and geographical contexts. It opened new paths for my mind to explore, and gave me artistic ideas for future projects.
I recommend to go and visit it when in Venezia, which affirms its important place as a city of creativity and freedom in the world.
I hope I can come back some day,
DancePosted by Thibault Sun, July 22, 2018 01:50:42La Biennale di Venezia
is an art festival happening every year (unlike its tittle suggests), in Venezia, Italy.
The festival welcomes a variety of art fields, such as cinema, theatre, dance, music and architecture. Although the event is better known for its cinema and architecture sides, it actually is an amazing connecting platform within the dance world.
As a matter of fact, La Biennale di Danza
(which is how the dance department is called), offers every year a week of performances and happenings, such as interviews and open discussions. But it also is a place of research and creativity, as a choreography college
is held there yearly. This college is divided in two parts: the students, who get to participate in workshops with international choreographers; the professional dancers, who get to be choreographed on by new choreographers chosen by the artistic director of the dance department.
In 2018, Marie Chouinard (photo with me above)
was the artistic director of the Biennale di Danza
She chose 3 choreographers and 7 professional dancers (which I was selected for), to work together for 6 weeks, in order to put up a full triple bill program to be performed at the end of the creative process.
Now I must express my gratitude.
First, because Madame Chouinard holds a very dear place in my relation with modern dance: the first show I ever went to watch was a mixed program with her 'Prelude to the afternoon of a faun' and 'The rite of spring', back when I was still a student.
But also, I know that so many people around the world applied to actually be part of the program, which is very generous in all aspects, and only 7 of us were invited to come.
There, I had the chance to work alongside Antonella Albanese, Sara Angius, Mario Gaglione, Marie Schruoffeneger, Giulia Spinelli and Luigi Villotta. All together, me included, we represented 4 diferent countries.
And the three choreographers we had the chance to work with were Maria Chiara De’ Nobili
(Italy), Ezgi Gungor
(Turkey) and Rebecca Jensen
(The seven dancers and producer Silvia Polacco)
Now to be honest, the process was both exhausting, and freshening. I would assume people already expect me to talk about the long rehearsals, the never ending days, the physical work required... But what was exhausting was actually the need of brain work required.
You see, these three choreographers came from complete other backgrounds, diferent horizons, diferent cultures even. We also, as dancers, were selected for our diferences, and all together we more or less represented all dance types, from ballet to hip-hop, and dance theatre to neo-classical. We had never worked together, nor did we know each other. We had diferent expectations on the experience, and very diferent needs physically and mentally speaking.
Therefore, the most tiring part was forever adapting to someone creating on me/us with a certain vocabulary, while adapting to each other, and adapting to the context/situation.
Of course, there was also the fact that each choreographer was to create a 20 minutes piece including all 7 dancers. That required from us learning 20 minutes of movement and/or brain work, 3 times. That brings me to talk to what happened from there.
We rehearsed all day, 2 hours
per rehearsal, 3 times
a day, 2hours break in total.
The morning schedule was also built so that each choreographer would have the chance to explore a way to give out workshops, in order to later generate material, create, and impose their own style. Choreographers took then turns, every day giving their own warmups, one by one, following straight away with their seperate rehearsal times.
This warm up idea was both a good and a bad idea. Obviously it was a great idea as it became then a platform to experiment on how does one create a basis to its language, but it wasn't that great either considering that the amount of time to do so was very short, and that we, as 7 diferent people had our own needs in order to get our machines going and be ressourceful during the day, especially when that day was filled with so many different genres.
I loved every single minute of that time. Of course, some days were really hard to deal with, because of the fatigue, because of life taking over, and for other reasons too. But I must say that I found my share of interest in every of these 3 beautiful choreographing ladies. All of them came in with ideas about what they wanted to do, even when it was unclear, they knew where they wanted to head to. Each choreography was to have personality and soul from the very first day.
The choreographing process took a lot of improvisation, as well as movement analysis
. We worked a lot with video, filming ourselves, watching clips... And it was a new way for me to work, as I was mostly used to be told what to do, or create but consciously directing my patterns and my qualities.
For those who read this article in order to find out what and how the choreographers were like, the telling is not my business. I had as much fun performing and creating every piece and if it was to do again, I would do it without even questioning myself (though I would need a very long holiday before re-doing it).
All I feel like I can say is that I felt transformed in every single parts of the final evening, and that as a performer is a true gift from a choreographer
The audience watching might have not seen the difference, at least I would hope they did, but I felt new and fresh at every curtain going up, as much as I was dying and disappearing at every curtain closing. And here the saying is both a metaphore and a way to give clues on how I physically felt too.
The final pieces can be found here:LA BIENNALE DI DANZA DI VENEZIA
(Pictures by Andrea Avezzu, copyrights La Biennale di Venezia)
Otherwise the program at the Biennale di Danza was very nice. Marie Chouinard's Company performed 'RADICAL VITALITY' and 'SOLOS AND DUETS
I keep in mind MARLENE MONTEIRO FREITAS's piece called 'BACCHAE-PRELUDE TO A PURGE'
as well as MEG STUART with her company DAMAGED GOODS in 'BUILT TO LAST'.
Each of these piece were of course very different from one another, but they both had the capacity to bring me to another universe, a place making me think and feel on my/our condition, and I found the beauty of dancing again: the combination of movement and idea(l)s.