Each semester our physical theatre and dance students go on a four to five day study tour to Ljubljana, Slovenia. At Španski Borci Cultural Center they take intensive workshops with En Knap Dance Company working with company founder Iztok Kovač and dance company members throughout the day. They also have a chance to see theatre, dance and, music performances at night, and a bit of time for sightseeing as well.
En Knap Company members Luke Thomas Dunne and Ana Štefa led the students in morning pilates and yoga warm ups, taught choreographic phrases, introduced key principles of the EnKnap Dance methodology and choreographic system, and guided everyone in their own individual and group dance movement creations. We sat down with Luke to hear his perspective on leading these intensive workshops.
What is the most exciting part about this process for you?
LUKE: For me as a dancer, I don’t do much teaching myself within the context of the company, and so for me personally being able to pass on what I think I know, as in all the experience that I’ve been through and what it’s given me, to be able to pass that on to people that have had no contact with it before is super valuable. It makes me, also as a performer and as a physical body, understand the principles and everything even better and it’s so valuable to see people hungry for that information.
What do you hope the students take away from this process?
LUKE: As much as possible. Specifically well, I think there are maybe things that they haven’t heard or maybe thought about in terms of the use of center and the ground, there are so many things, but generally to take away a new way of thinking about their bodies that maybe they didn’t have before in relation to the center moving in space. Also a new way of approaching choreography through the Q system and chance, and how actually, from my perspective, dance can be so many things but in its essence it’s the center moving through space, so there’s a simplicity about it. Hopefully this comes through through the work that we’re doing in this workshop. The cleaner and the more simple you can be with your clarity of intention and movement the more powerful what you do on stage can become.
You mentioned the use of the center and the system of chance as principle concepts in this work. What do the words and ideas of center and chance mean to you?
LUKE: I started from a balletic background, so center for me was much higher in my body. When I talk about center I’m talking about center of gravity and my center moved from my chest down to my pelvis, a little bit above the pelvis, between your belly button and privates. The pelvis is really the home of your house, you know, where you would punch from, when you sit you drop your pelvis down. When I feel my center moving through space I feel like I can fly. Everything else for me more or less just feels like decoration. And decoration is pretty, it’s helpful to add variety, but what’s exciting is when you see a human move, when you see a runner running you feel the power of the body moving through space. So for me when I think “center” when I think “dancing” I think center moving through space.
So chance is more just, when we talk about the 3Q system and what it does it’s really just a tool, but when I think about my experience like chance within improvisation for example, it’s one of the most exciting things. If your awareness is heightened by using your peripheral vision, by being in tune with the other bodies in the space and the chance of them having together moments or knowing what the other person might to do to be able to contrast their action this is where the chance in an improvisational state can be super exciting. Everything’s an improvisation, this conversation’s an improvisation. There’s chance in everything.
After their two days of intensive movement and dance workshops with EnKnap we asked physical theatre students Maggie, Meghan, and Mose and dance students Kayleigh and Avery to share their impressions and thoughts about the work they experienced.
Describe the work you’ve been doing over the last two days.
AVERY: I didn’t know what to expect coming into this, not knowing if we were going to be doing more dance theatre work or physical theatre work or choreographic process. Over the last days we’ve been doing a lot of creating and making work and experimenting with different scores. Specifically chance scores and it’s just been really interesting to work with Iztok’s company and the way that he approaches design in terms of making pieces and creating a platform for his dancers to have a voice in the work rather than dominating that as the head choreographer of the company. It’s been nice to work with a company who consider themselves collaborative and equals in terms of process and especially the concept of process over product and I think that’s been one of the most influential things in the last couple days.
What are you going to take away from this process and bring back with you into your future work and artistry?
“The way that they approach everything with a certain element of kindness is really lovely and the work ethic that they have taught us of learning one thing and then doing a variation on a theme and really trying to make it our own.. I think i’m going to try to bring that to my other work in theatre and in music. I’m sort of trying to put myself into things more and try and be fearless. If you want to do something do it.” -Maggie Capone, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
“I think specifically Q method is very specific and I think you can take that score specifically for what it is or you can evolve it and I think i would love to experiment as a choreographer with his score and see if I could develop my own based off of similar concepts. Thinking about the different hierarchies of having a chief phrase and then counterpoint phrases and pauses and seeing what ways you can morph that hierarchy and possibly create my own methodology influenced by the way that he makes his own work.”- Avery Gerhardt, Boston Conservatory (Spring 2019 Dance Program)
“I think the most exciting part of this experience has been that I’ve been really excited to work with the theatre kids because we don’t normally get to work together in a creative setting. I sometimes forget that dance comes in so many shapes and forms and working with people who haven’t spent their whole life studying dance is a really great way of reminding myself that dance is really so diverse.” -Kayleigh Scott, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Dance Program)
“I think the aspects of using the body in theatre are definitely something I will take and use after this program and using the body in ways I’ve never thought about before. In physical theatre because I feel like I can’t define it but I feel it’s pushing the boundaries of what theatre is.”-Meghan Coyle, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
What is it like working in a collaborative space with people who have skills that are different than yours?
“I think it’s difficult in some senses that a lot of things that come naturally to me, come naturally because I’ve been working at it for so many years and it doesn’t come naturally to everyone else. It’s also really fun because the diversity of different people who have studied dance in different ways or haven’t studied dance at all allows for a lot of different types of movement and that’s something that’s really cool to adapt onto your own body.” –Kayleigh Scott, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Dance Program)
Are there elements of theatricality that are coming into the work as well?
“I’ve been focusing a lot on different ways of moving. I’m really interested in the ways that voice and sounds interact with movement. I’ve never tried using voice or spoken word in any of my work and I think that would be really interesting to bring in. I think it just adds a different layer to the movement. A lot of times when you’re watching movement you project your own meaning onto it because it is very symbolic and words while they’re also symbolic are also a lot more literal and so I think it can be interesting to give an audience direction using spoken words.” –Kayleigh Scott, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Dance Program)
What has been the most exciting part of this experience?
“Well first of all I think people sleep on Slovenia, Slovenia’s awesome. The whole environment is awesome with Spanski Borci and the way that people are creating art and art is centered here in this cultural center. It’s similar in some ways to the U.S. but in other ways very different, so it’s been cool to work in this environment first and foremost. The work has also been incredibly engaging specially what we’re doing today with the chance operations. It’s something I’ve learned about and seen but it’s something I’ve never actually done. I think the level of ownership that you have over the material chances knowing that it couldn’t have been done any other way that it was created solely from you or at least the dice that you rolled, but it’s coming from the elements that you’ve created and that you don’t have to generate anything more creative or less creative or something new or interesting other than what the dice is telling you to do.”- Mose Kane, Boston University (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
What have you found to be the difference between previously seeing things created from chance operations and actually creating something by chance yourself?
“I think it’s completely different because I haven’t been doing a lot of physical theatre on my own, and I love how it’s being generated from the individual as well as the collective and knowing that what you’re doing is unique and couldn’t be done any other way, as opposed to some things where maybe you get a script or a stage direction and that’s all fine and good and well, but having it coming specifically from you and the ensemble is a completely different ball park than at least I know I’m used to.” – Mose Kane, Boston University (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
During the week the students saw two different performances. On our first night they saw an experimental music concert by Tomaž Grom, and on the second they saw an original play called Hero 2.0- The Show of all Shows written and performed by Uroš Kaurin and Vito Weis. We asked physical theatre students Jess and Julie to share some reactions to the performances they saw.
Do you feel like these performances are things you would have been able to see at home or at your home university?
“That’s an interesting question because I feel like I’ve seen, well the second show gave me “Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind” vibes by the Neofuturists in Chicago, but it was also so European contemporary theatre with a lot of what I think of as American existentialism mixed together. I definitely don’t think I would have seen Tomaz’s concert just because I don’t seek out that of thing very often and I haven’t heard of a lot of that experimental of music making especially not on a base. I think maybe I’ve seen something similar like Phillip Glass sort of thing on a piano, but definitely not on a base, it was really really interesting.” -Jess Le-McKeown, Emory College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
“That’s really interesting coming from a place [Muhlenberg College] where we’re so involved in going to see experimental theatre and experimental art, however they were both very new and exciting for me. I think with the music concert we saw it was really interesting to see how he used the base in many different ways from the instrument itself but also using the sounds around it and I think that was a new innovative way that you don’t usually see because it’s such a classical instrument that you see in classical forms. As for the Hero 2.0, I thought that was really intersting. I think because of the nudity and how Europeans see nudity versus how Americans see nudity, that’s something you wouldn’t see in the United States in that sense however I think that the idea of two guys trying to break free of institutionalized theatre and create their own experimental show definitely could be seen there and I would love to see more of that and see what can happen when you just put two guys on a stage and let them go at it because that was really entertaining, and I think as theatre students watching theatre about theatre was really a great experience.” -Julie Weikart, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
What kinds of conversations did these performances spark afterwards?
JESS: So the Tomaz concert really it sparked a lot of us being like “what the hell just happened” and a little bit “why the hell did that just happen?” but in a way that was really interesting and intriguing but like what? It was so confusing. So that was really cool because we’ve been having a lot of conversations in our philosophy class about what is art. And kind of having arguments about who gets to decide what is art, and I think that it was a challenging moment of, is this guy playing a bow against the bottom of his base, is that music? And of course we all experienced it as music and I couldn’t pinpoint why. That was really interesting, it was really challenging what my notions of what music and art are “supposed” to be. And the second show, I loved. I was fully invested the whole time and to me it was a conversation that I’ve been having a lot off stage but not really bringing to the stage a lot. If you know who Jordan Tannahill is he wrote this book called the Theatre of the Unimpressed, which is basically like “I hate all theatre, but I also love all theatre, this is why I love all theatre, and here’s the kind of theatre that I think is cool.” And he’s just this Canadian guy who loves theatre but also hates it. That’s how I feel, like I’ve seen so many plays recently where I’m like, I’m so bored by this, this is supposed to be cool and interesting and everyone’s raving about it and I don’t’ like it, I’m bored by it, and I feel that way about a lot of theatre, even though I love theatre. I thoroughly enjoyed the entirety of that performance, and also the conversation they were having about like “theatre just can’t be the same thing over and over again can it?” And they’re like “well I mean it has so far.” It’s made me think a lot about how to bring my integrity of those morals that I have and beliefs that I have about what theatre is or isn’t and what it should or shouldn’t be and try to bring that into my art practices right now. It was very intellectually stimulating and hysterical.” -Jess Le-McKeown, Emory College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
“I think for the music show especially, the conversation was where can our boundaries go with music in terms of, like I said before, using the instrument to create, so what other sounds can we get from the base or what other sounds could we get from a clarinet besides a basic sounds we’re used to hearing from those instruments. For Hero 2.0 I think one of the things I find interesting is the idea of being fully self produced and being fully involved in every aspect of it because Uroš and Vito they self produced, directed, they did everything, they wanted to sell tickets, they wanted to greet you at the door, and I think that’s very indicative of where theatre is going because we’re seeing a lot of people wanting to be more involved and be hands on and making it interactive, so it was a really great way from them to be with their guests. They said that their spectators are their biggest motivation for continuing what they do. And that’s something that I’d like to see more of seeing the actors beforehand or afterwards. With Muhlenberg we saw a show called India Pale Ale and at the end to bring that sense of community in the show they talked about how after a service you would have smosas with one another and at the end they all came together and gave us smosas, so I think finding ways to incorporate being able to make that interactive feeling would be cool to see more.” -Julie Weikart, Muhlenberg College (Spring 2019 Physical Theatre Program)
*Check out our instagram @accademiadellarte for a highlighted story from our trip*