For the second half of our summer intensive physical theatre students either took Body Memory taught by Heni Varga and Dénes Döbrei or Commedia dell’Arte taught by Chiara D’Anna. In the Body Memory course students worked in an ensemble to awaken their bodies to memories of the pasts in order to create new work. Below we hear from intructors Heni and Dénes about their experience teaching this course at the ADA this summer.
Heni Varga’s professional debut was at age 15, the role Ophelia in Vito Staufer’s 1985 production of Hamlet at the National Theater of Subotica (ex Yugoslavia). The youngest member of this national company, she held a leading role in several plays for the next three years.
In 1990 she left for Paris where she graduated two years later from the International Movement Shool ‘Jacques Lecoq.’ She then pursued her training at ARTA (La Cartoucherie) with different workshops, ranging from Katakali and Topeng to Theatre Nô. In 1995 Josef Nadj (France) cast her for the first time. The same year she created the role of Marie in his acclaimed creation of « Wojzeck », a role with which, 20 years later, she still tours all over world.
Meanwhile, she pursued her own research and creative experience as a singular and unique artist. Her encounter with Min Tanaka’s Body Weather movement had a major influence on her work. She worked with several of his dancers -such as Christine Quoiraud, Frank Van de Ven, Oguri – throughout Europe for several years before meeting Tanaka himself in Japan where she performed under his direction in 2003.
She has been creating solo pieces with various musicians since 2008. She performed these improvisational or fixed numbers in Toulouse (France), Budapest (Hungary) and Subotica (Serbia). Varga obtained her State Diploma for Dance Teaching in 2013. Three years ago she started her current collaboration with Theater Y a Chicago-based company led by director Melissa Lorain.
Heni met her husband -director and dancer Denes Debrei- at age 19. For the last 30 years their relationship, the experiences and time they shared forms the base material of their work as a duo. With Denes’s company, Nyari Mozy, they continually create new pieces together, bringing in a wide range of creators -musicians, painters or writers- to accompany their artistic journey.
Heni Varga has been giving workshops throughout Europe for the past ten years. With her ‘Bodymapping’ approach she offers participants -professional performers or general public- a unique opportunity to investigate sensorial awareness, working with them in the physical world and within inner, intimate spaces.
Dénes Döbrei is a lecturer at the University of Novi Sad Theatre Academy (Serbia) and an instructor at the LEDA Theatre School (Toulouse, France) and Theatre de l’Acte (Toulouse, France). He has served as Artistic Director for the Nyari Mozi Theater Community since 1986.
Denes continues to work as choreographer for several Serbian, Slovenian, Bosnian, Hungarian, and Romanian theatre directors, among which Emma, performed at the National Theatre of Subotica (Serbia) – written by Chat Geza and directed by Peter Fekete – won Sterija Prize for the best choreography in Novi Sad (Serbia).
Some of Denes’ past work includes:
Acting in Pál Erdös’ film “Gondviseles” (Hungary) for which he won The Golden Toucan Prize for the best leading role at Rio de Janeiro’s International Film Festival (1986). From 1989-2004 he participated in Joseph Nadj’s National Choreographic Center (Orleans, France) as a collaborator and dancer in La mort de l’empereur; Comedia Tempio; Les Échelles d’Orphée; Woyzeck; l’Ébauche du vertige; L’Anatomie du fauve; Les commentaires d’Habacuc; Le vent dans le sac; Les Veilleurs and Length of 100 needles.
Between 2000-2005, he collaborated with Min Tanaka (dancer and choreographer) on Smiling in the Forest (Japan and Europe). 2011 collaborated with Slovenian theater director Tomi Janežić on Putujuće Pozorište Šopalović, Galeb and Smrt Ivana Iljica.
From 2011-12, as Program Selector, he curated the International Festival of Alternative and New Theatre Infant – Novi Sad (Serbia). In 2016, also as Program Selector, he curated the Festival of Professional Theatres of Vojvodina.
Dénes Döbrei studied drama at Novi Sad’s conservatory 1980-1984. Between 1984-90 he performed at Subotica’s National Theater / KPGT.
Select Choreographies (1986-2017) include: Solanum Tuberossum; Tomato, avagy a paradicsom; Hu Die; Five for Two; La Chute de Belzebuth; HhouAka 1( A ): Skin Garden; HhouAka 2 ( A ): Miel d’éphémères; HhouAka 3 ( A ): Morsure d’Abeille; Lit and Mix Book; Strange Loop; Imago Sonus; Lifkoptikum
What is valuable about the work you do?
HENI: To live in example, that I find very valuable. In my private life, on the stage, being person who is trying to transmit.
DÉNES: Everytime I work with a new group I always have some new valuable things because it’s the same way to work, but the group is always changing, so they give me new answers for my work. I always start with researching the body. Every body is different and every body shows me new elements in my work. And it’s not just for me, for them it gives value as well. This is why it’s called body and memory, when we wake up our memory we always discover new elements in the work and in life. Usually I like to say that from the moment we start new work together our lives are changed because it’s active and reactive work. There is an exchange always on both sides.
What is the importance of memory in this work?
DÉNES: We start with a simple exercise warm up and slowly from the warm up we see the needs of the group, and which way we can go with them. Then we search how it’s possible to wake up our souvenir of our life. It depends on how the people open, for themselves and for the teacher and for the group. Then this element comes out of what is new for everybody. You can discover something that you really forgot that you have this possibility to have in your body. When you don’t work with rational mind and you work just with your intuition and you try to be in the moment here and now, we can get new information and this new information can wake up our memory. It’s not just in the physical body, it’s emotional and imaginary. You make a movement and it can wake up some imagination or some emotion or the other way around, you have some emotion and then with the emotion you can have some physical action.
What do you hope the students take away from this intensive?
HENI: Well, I’m really trying to be an example, so I’m trying to not explain, but to make it alive, and I hope that this way of working will be quite visible to them. So I really would like that they take my behaviors and what I shared with them, and I must say that I’m also changing and I’m different because of them and they teach me to go out from my habits, and I try to show this with all my senses because this is one of the centers of what we propose in our work.
DÉNES: It’s not easy to answer because hopefully everybody will take something different and maybe I don’t or they don’t know right now what it will be. It must have time. Maybe something will come out in five years or maybe one month because we touch a lot on not just one level. It depends also on how deep they go into this proposition. Sometimes what we propose they don’t really go deep they just touch a little bit, but later maybe in other situations they will understand what it means, this situation that we strive for together. I hope that it’s something positive. I ask also that they should always make a journal of how it was, you can’t really make a specific definition for the work, but you must do it in your body so that it really stays. I don’t like when they want to film the exercise because if you make a video it’s garbage, when you really work with it you feel it in your body then you can keep it with you, then it can stay.
Last summer, Dénes you taught the Body Memory intensive by yourself. How has this summer been different teaching together?
DÉNES: I cannot say that it’s co-teaching. We are working together as a couple. We work a lot in partners so for me it’s very interesting that we’re together and we can really share our experience. For me it’s very nice to find out in this area with these students how we can communicate between us. We work a lot together we have some duets together with musicians and we teach together in Serbia but here it’s different, a different language, different area, different weather so it’s nice to find our new communication.
What’s the your next project?
DÉNES: When finish here we will go to Chicago to work on a project that will premier on the 16th of august.
What is your favorite part about being at Villa Godiola and a part of the ADA community?
HÉNI: Well, the support. People are really supportive and it’s so important that the mechanism is working that way. For me it’s also not that there are the supporters and protagonist but that what everyone is doing from the administration to the teachers to the students that it’s functioning all together. I have a feeling that it’s really a very well thought out common work. This makes me feel quite calm.
DÉNES: This is my second time here and it’s nice that I can come back and it’s like visiting my family because I already know the people working here, the students are new and that’s a new experience, but the house and the school, I feel like it’s part of my life. I already know the relationships and what happens here and it’s a nice feeling to come back to a place where I already have a friendship with the people. This year it is especially interesting to me to meet Dragana and Dejan and we met also Nhandan and it’s many years since we last met, so it’s a special moment in my life to see old friends. It’s not just the school but the relationships that start to be open outside the school.