Another international trip of artists seeking their dance roots has just come to an end. The dancers returned from New York and recapped their US workshops.
The international and multicultural art project The Roots of Dance / Korzenie Tańca addressed to young dancers and choreographers. It strives to stimulate the imagination of artists by seeking inspiration from local cultures to help advance contemporary dance and enrich dance cultures worldwide. Scheduled through the end of 2022, the project will conclude with a documentary film.
The workshop in New York was led by Jacek Łuminski, Aleksandra Dziurosz and Sebastian Wiertelak in collaboration with Catherine Peila and Mateusz Czekaj. Scroll below for the tutors’ impressions from their joint project.
Catherine Peila, longtime American producing partner of Jacek Luminski.
– The concept of the Roots of Dance is inspiring. It’s an invitation to understand how the past influences the now. NMIT’s invitation is to better acquaint yourself with Poland’s Roots of Dance and the concept of how tradition inspires where we all exist and create in the now. The power of this project was not that it introduced artists from across the world to Poland’s Roots of Dance but it engaged individuals across the globe to inspect the deep rooted relationship between ancestry–our DNA– and of the full spectrum of the arts of one’s culture; and how this inspires, consciously or unconsciously, the dance of now.
In the United States, I witnessed a powerful challenge to the Eurocentric process hierarchy as perceived by American non-eurocentric focused artists. Founder and Artistic Director, Kevin McEwen of Kofago Dance Ensemble sponsored the Roots of Dance project in New York City; his company is a West African inspired dance company and is steeped in the understanding of one’s African roots and the connection to tradition and the deep commitment to one’s ancestry so this project connected deeply to the mission of his company. Mr. McKewin and his dance company members worked daily on finding creative, spiritual and emotional relationships with the Polish representatives Jacek Luminski, Alexandra Dziurosz, Sebastian Wiertelak and Mateusz Czekaj and the work of discovery of the meaning of embodied movement as cellular memory.
What I observed with the participants of the US/Poland Roots of Dance project is that through dance and music a deep link between seemingly disparate cultures was developed and that link created a process that allowed creative, emotional and spiritual bonding and that all came to the realization that the similarities of ancient embodied memories are much greater than perceived.
Sebastian Wiertelak, dancer:
– Working together with participants from different cultural backgrounds required developing a common understanding of various issues. Therefore, during the workshop we discussed such concepts as periphrasis, tempo rubato, syncopation, apocope, polycentrism in the body, the state of “inbetweeenness,” the liminal sphere, opposition, communication between dancer and audience, voiceless accents, and polyrhythm. It was paramount for us to toe the line while dancing, to stay out of balance, and thus unpredictable, even to ourselves. We stressed the importance of following intuition and moving away from technique and learned patterns. It was interesting to search for shared dance comparisons and metaphors such as: dance as a representation of thoughts translated into movement, one that varies in quality and dynamics, exactly like thoughts going through one’s mind. I also experienced how dance can guide me by means of emotions; how, by trusting my intuition, I am able to follow my senses and allow myself to get lost, to stray, to not know. It is precisely this un-knowing that leads me to new discoveries: my body knows exactly what to do.
Another key point is the difference between performing and actually acting on stage. The former refers to form and entails showing, using dance techniques and putting them on display. Action stands in opposition to “performance” in that it is what one feels, what emerges from within; it is built on and drawn from knowledge and cognizance of one’s traditions and roots. In order to get to true action one must forget about structure and technique, and instead return to the roots: to find an independent and original rhythmic pattern and dynamic, to build on movements rooted in my culture. One should not simply pick up these base movements but rather use them as inspiration and draw from their surroundings. This is where things get tricky, because in order to be a dancer one should not merely learn dance techniques. Everything has its own rhythm; by using the senses—for example, by cooking, i.e. studying a culture by means of a literal ‘hands-on’ experience—I am able to soak in the knowledge necessary to create an original, value-laden dance piece.
Mateusz Czekaj, project coordinator:
– Staying in New York was an amazing cultural experience! The Lower East Side, where the workshop with the Kofago Dance Ensemble took place, teemed with bakeries with kosher bagels, run by Orthodox Jews, Chinese eateries and Italian restaurants. The Kofago Dance Ensemble consisted of over than 20 dancers and percussionists of African-American and African descent (from Guyana, the Caribbean, Ghana and West African countries). Its founders were driven by a concern for the preservation of cultural heritage by the New York diaspora.
It was in this context that Polish choreographers and dancers held a workshop on corporeal memory, anthropology of dance, and the evolution of traditional culture in contemporary dance forms. The workshops lasted 6 days, packed with meetings filled with dance and conversations during which the two groups shared their experiences and learned from each other. In addition, thanks to the Kofago Dance Ensemble’s hospitality, we were able to attend their rehearsals, which were bursting with energy and passion for dance.
The show that concluded the workshop was held in a very friendly atmosphere, brilliantly hosted by Kate Peila, a presenter and producer working with the ensemble. The audience included friends and acquaintances of the ensemble, as well as the management and staff of the Polish Institute with their families. We are most grateful to all of them for their hospitality. Last but not least, we were delighted with the opportunity to sample Guyanese cuisine.
Show from New York:
Statements by participants:
Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage as part of the “Inspiring Culture” program.
Agata Szymczak (firstname.lastname@example.org, + 48 785 310 000)