Last touches – szakmai beszámoló LÁZ főpróbahetéről

Decemberben a londoni Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Danceből érkezett hozzánk szakmai gyakorlatra Telek Linda. Az ő szakmai beszámolóját olvashatjátok angol nyelven a Láz főpróbahetéről.

Professionalism and amateurism. What distinguishes the two from each other? What are the boundaries? Where is the point when movements or performances becomes professional and qualitative? I want to find my own answers for these questions, because this is also relative, like everything else in life.
Nichelle Strzepek think the followings:
„When I think of someone that displays ultimate professionalism, I see a person who is generous with their gifts, generous with their time, and generous in spirit.  This person is easy to collaborate with because he/she communicates with kindness.  This professional wants everyone around them to be their best and helps them to do so by being supportive and encouraging…”.
I completely agree with this statement and I managed to experience this kind of professionalism during my placement. I chose to take part in a Hungary based company and its working process. Primarily I wanted to see how is their working environment and how dancers and choreographers can cooperate on a high qualitative level.
The Eva Duda Dance Company, formed in the year 2009, has been very successful, as they had received some prestigious awards for their works. With a strong sense of character, their performances are distinguished by strong physicality, partnering work, intensive usage of contact elements, and sensitivity and drastic reactions. Moreover, with a touch of acrid humor, that mostly focuses on people and community relationships, adds an interesting perspective in the company’s work. In addition, the Eva Duda Dance Company are guest of hungarian and international events, performing frequently in festivals and they often work with international artists.
During my participation, the company has been working with three international dancer-choreographers on a new piece with the title: Fever. For this two one-act dance work the company members were divided into two different groups.
Gregor Lustek and Rosana Hribar are well-known dance artists from Slovenia. The trio they made: „Does it start with a kiss?” explores the changes of relationships using witty and precise movement solutions with accurate dynamics.
Máté Mészáros is the choreographer of the second piece: „Unknown Kingdom”. He is a hungarian dancer, who has achieved international dance success, came home to create a new piece for the company. He examines the idea of generation gap through personal experiences, as well as exploring internal restlessness with the dancers, by working on fresh and acrobatic material.
I had the opportunity to observe the dress rehearsals, as it could be considered to be the last steps of the creative process. I took full advantage of this. I choose to explore the nature of the dress rehearsals and noticed how communications and connections between the artists are formed and how each artists behaves and acts differently before the premiere. I attended three days of rehearsals with the dancers and they had to perform every night to a selected crowd of audience. However, only on the third day the performance was open to the public. Personally, I consider that as the „final result” of the process.

Nature of the dress rehearsals
The choreographer was responsible to give directions to the light designer and the property master in advance before the rehearsals. My observation informed me how important it is to have a lights „plotting-session” with someone on the stage, because the lights reacts differently on a moving body. I consider it luxurious, if the dance artists could have rehearsals on the actual stage. This allows them to feel the atmosphere and to set the lights correctly before performing.
During my time with the company I understood how important it is to have a clear concept as a choreographer. It is not enough to focus on mere movements, visuals or special effects. The point is to see the performance as a whole. The creator; choreographer should be aware of the possibilities offered by the stage and technology. It is also necessary to be aware of the choreography and rehearse the „not-sure” parts thoroughly with the dancers.
It is essential for the dancers to warm-up properly before every rehearsal (stretching, muscle and joint activating, and pulse increasing movements). A dancer must be aware of his/her needs as well as the dance requirements of the day.

Presence of the choreographers
It was exciting to observe as I was impressed by the persence of the choreographers. I found each choreographer was actively involved during every rehearsal. Knowing exactly what they wanted, the choreographers were never contented with anything less than the ideas and vision that was in their mind. As a result, they were constantly giving constructive feedbacks and instructions to the dancers. However, they were never close minded and were always opened to new and interesting solutions. Rosana Hribar once said to the dancers: „If you need to change something, just change!”. Of course, this allows the dancers to feel free and change some details without changing the main choreography.
I experienced the importance of having an assistant as an „outside eye”. It makes it easier to decide, what works well or what does not. The choreographer must stay open for modifications, until the performance reaches its best level; until valuable movement is born.

Presence of the dancers, energy usage
In my opinion and observation, attention, awareness, confidence, and self-confidence are the ingredients needed of a professional dancer. Even as they were marking through choreography, the dancers were always energised. I saw that they used 80-90% of their energy level, so it was very physical. I think they must use this much energy at this stage of the process, because without this much force it would not be possible to materialize such physical actions. One of the dancers told me: „There are only two options. If you are marking it (movements) small while you are thinking about it, or you can fully do it. There are no middle path. This is necessary to reach our confidence and this means a greater preparedness mentally and physically on stage…”. Improving the performance value is both the dancer’s responsibility, as much as the choreographer’s. The choreographer can’t correct anything, if a dancer is not working fully.
However, the last rehearsal before the premiere was not so physical (60%), but it was more about the mental preparation.

The dancers had a subordinate role compared to the choreographer. They related to him/her with humility. They also had their free will: everyone was able to decide about when they can work fully or not (for example: in case of an injury).

Corrections, instructions
On the first day only slight modifications happened in terms of the movement material,but to reach the best result on the performance, it was inevitable to clarify movements, check them qualitatively and energetically. However, there was possible to delete parts, because the pieces were relatively long. It became clear to the choreographers (while seeing the pieces on stage) that how certain parts relates to each other, therefore they made the transitions smoother by leaving out tiny happenings or by making small transformations. Other changes occured from the aspects of light, costume and space.
On the second day there were a few corrections related to the timing: they checked the length of the transitions and pauses and the rhythm of the motion. The dancers often get instructions regarding to their feelings and not the form of the movements. After the rehearsals it was important to clarify and list the new changes, and also to talk over the performance last night.

The performances

Efficiency, correction usage (in the light of the rehearsals)
The rehearsal process was very effective because the dancers embodied the corrections almost every time. At first I disagreed that the company should have long rehearsals on the same day with the performance. However, because the dancers are strong and well-trained, therefore it is not become a problem. It was special to see how the performances changed compared to the rehearsals. Except that the precision has gone at the expense of the excitement, the adrenalin and momentary emotions had raised the pieces to a new level.
On the second day I was more aware of the „tiny mistakes”, just as much as the artists, however, I also observed how naturally each dancer reacted to different situations (which is part of their professionalism). While being part of the insiders, I noticed the risk-factor of such physical work: there were numerous dangerous situations. The success and safety of the movements were not always guaranteed. This is why the dancers had to be well-prepared and had to really concentrate at every moment.
On the one hand I discovered how variable is the achievement of a dancer. It is not changing in a large extent, but it depends on many factors: energy level, possible injuries, concentration, or only on the given moment. On the other hand I also discovered that hard work pays off: moments that were constantly rehearsed has been well realized every time.

Conclusion, additional discoveries

I found it interesting every day and it was useful to see what the company focuses on and how active is it at this last period for a professional company.
If I watch a performance more than once, I realized my ways of seeing of the dance changes. The movements were mainly the same, but the intricate moments were slightly different, so the same motion does not always gave me the same emotions, as a spectator.
Finally I learned something else during the time of my placement. I realized that the shape of a movement is important, but it is only formality. Nice movements will never be memorable for the audience if there is nothing more in the movement or in the dancer.
A motion need to have an internal filling. It needs soul, it needs mind and it needs emotion. Both are essential to reach high quality and professionalism in dance.

Nichelle, Strzepek, Dance advantage, How to Conduct Oneself as a Professional, part II, (2008)