Wild Card residency for Imola Nagy
Nominated by the network partner Uferstudios Berlin, Ultima Vez invited the artist Imola Nagy for a week participation in the context of the TeachBack research in the Ultima Vez studios in Brussels from May 14 till 18, 2018.
Imola Nagy is a Berlin – based Hungarian dancer and creator. Following her graduation from the Budapest Contemporary Dance Academy in 2013, she received a scholarship and studied in the Greek National School of Dance in Athens. She taught improvisation-based movement practices for actors at the 10th International Festival of Making Theater in Athens. From 2015 on she lived in Amsterdam and collaborated with artists from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, as well as from the SNDO – School for New Dance development, besides creating her own work and dancing in a production of The Dutch National Opera and Ballet. From 2018 on, she is working as a freelancer in Berlin.
She is curious and aiming for very different forms of movement, often bridging between art forms or different external fields. Her dancing is strongly influenced by the research-based practices of her studies, as well as the technical training of mainly contemporary and modern dance techniques. She is interested in ways of moving that are simple and can be in some way torn down to their core. She likes creating works on abstract movement that are usually lacking concrete narrative aspects.
Report on the Wild Card Residency program at Ultima Vez by Imola Nagy
I was participating at the Wild Card residency program in Brussels, hosted and organized by Ultima Vez in the frame of Teachback within the period of 14th May –18th May 2018. In this residency we discussed and questioned tools and methods of education, research and creation in general, as well as when focusing on diverse groups of participants.
It was a new realization for me to understand how versatile the work of Ultima Vez really is. Besides being a leading and particularly interesting dance company for decades, they are also pledged to social work and they work on building – in my opinion – very special bonds to their neighbourhood. They maintain connections with many organizations and schools. This way they can reach out to varied target groups, bring them together by inviting their members on participatory events, or even open the possibility for them to participate in an artistic creation with a diverse group of people. One of the main figures of the work of Ultima Vez from this participative kind is Seppe Baeyens, the moderator of our residency. He is the choreographer of Tornar (2015) and Invited (2018), two pieces that are performed by groups of people from a variety of backgrounds and ages. The core of their social and artistic work is the Participatory Laboratory held in the dance studio in Molenbeek every Saturday, where all are welcome to share space and time together: Atelier Quartier. We could also get a taste of it on this residency.
The structure of the program and our days could be separated into two parts. Working both in theory and practice was the main strength of this residency for me. In the first four hours of the day we were on average eight invited artists brainstorming mainly about methods and ways of teaching, creating, and about the relation of these two in our work.
Here are some of the topics that we touched:
What are the differences between research, education and artistic creation?
Can a creation start from workshop? If yes, how does it build up?
What is more important: the process or the result?
How to find the adequate formula, method for the creation of each piece?
How can creative processes differ, when working with a homogenous group or a diverse group?
Is dance an universal common language?
What does diversity mean and what is the value of it?
What does participatory process mean?
How to get from individual imagination to collective imagination, when guiding an improvisation for a group?
This was very interesting, because we were also a quite diverse group in terms of age, interests, experience, views and beliefs and the field we work on. Still, in our conversations we were all interested and open, and it was instructive for me to be able to share ideas in an atmosphere like that. Besides discussing methods and ideas in the above-mentioned topics, all the participants gave an overview about their artistic work, particular interests and experiences. It was also very inspiring, that within these personal and artistic introductions we had to name inspirations for our work, so I learned a lot from the knowledge of others. In our sessions we also prepared workshops for the afternoon in groups of three, so each day of the residency one of the trios gave a participatory workshop in the afternoon.
These afternoon workshops formed the second section of our days. The idea of the workshops was, that it can be anything that allows everyone to participate. By everyone, I mean everyone. Young or old; from the neighbourhood or from far; speaking one language or another; having visible physical or mental disabilities or not so much; being a dancer or someone, who never danced before. In general, we aimed to experience the uniting power of movement in every workshop and I am happy to be able to say, that we definitely found it in some brilliantly simple tasks. It was enlightening to see, that when we found ways to make dance accessible to everyone, by being open in the shared space and time, we were able to respond to the challenges of diversity. From what I have seen I think, that what happens on the regular Saturday meetings in that studio, continues in the everyday lives of the participants outside the studio walls. It allows people – who could otherwise easily define themselves only by the group they are surrounded with – to be alert and open for the needs of others, and ready to spend quality time with each other. As this method contributes to making connections between those, who otherwise most probably wouldn’t come close to each other, in a way it works against discrimination and inequality. This matter is unquestionably one of the most important matters in these times, so I believe that what Ultima Vez does should be studied and applied by other organizations. We talked about the background work and all the logistics around the whole organization as well. It demands a lot of work and time, takes a lot of patience and needs close contact with many organizations all the time. Still, the impact that movement-based quality time can have on people in such a diverse group is amazing.
To make it easier to imagine what happened on these workshops exactly, I am going to mention some of the tasks that worked.
1. We clear the space by coming to the edges of the studio. We walk in one by one and chose a spot in a way, that our relation to the others, who are already standing in the space would keep the image “on stage” balanced. When everyone is in space, we apply the rule, that one person at a time can change position. This task directs the attention of the participants to the whole group, which is the key element here. When the attention is there, we create more rules or make the already existing rules one step more difficult. For example: 2,3 or more people can change spot in the same time, or if someone is changing spot and passes by someone, then that person is allowed to join in to the moving person’s path.
2. We played with imagination, allowing free interpretation in movement for words like: tree, snow, wind, stone… In the allowing atmosphere, that Seppe is very good in creating every way of being “snow” was valid, there was no right or wrong, everyone was the same important and we were all just becoming “snow” together.
3. Some participants – including me – didn’t speak either Dutch or French, which were the habitual languages of the group. I found the language barrier bothering, as I was giving my part of our workshop in English. So another workshop giver experimented with a silent “workshop”. It was interesting to see, how non-verbal quality time created another kind of attention between us.
4. We played with creating a big sculpture in the space by putting found objects “on stage” one by one and then taking place in relation to the object and to each other in space. Then we gradually led the task towards free improvisation with objects.
We had many tasks and ideas for these afternoon workshop meetings. In my understanding those tasks worked the best with a diverse group of people, which:
Were simple, but had the possibility to gradually become more complex
Didn’t use too much verbal explanation
Asked for the attention of the whole group in the same time
Worked with rhythm. Because rhythm is already a very unifying tool
Were open and allowing, to support diversity with their freedom
What I learned from giving a workshop to a diverse group:
Explain as we go, not in advance
It is good to have tasks, where the group is split and one half is observing the other
Have a plan and a general idea of what to explore with them, but be ready to give it up and alter it according to the needs of the group
Offer a frame and let the content be filled by what the participants bring
It feels good to jump back to tasks, that we have done a bit before
Remind the group of the rules of the games again and again
“Find the youth where they are.” – approach the youth in their place, don’t expect them to move out of their comfort zone by themselves. Implement their trending interests in the tasks of the workshops
Use objects, material to trigger fantasy
Gently grab back the attention of those who are losing it by a touch, personal contact
Motivate with my speech as we go with the task
Always come together in the end to conclude the day
The residency gave me a lot of new experiences that I am very grateful for. Some moments on the afternoon workshops were worth working in the field of arts for, and meeting some of the (views of) participants put some of the practices I use in a new light. Ultima Vez studio was an amazing host and very helpful in every matter. They gave me great ideas on where to see art in Brussels and helped me to get to see one of the last performances of “In Spite of Wishing and Wanting” on tour, which was amazing.
Lastly, I would like to answer some of the questions I received from Ultima Vez regarding my residency:
What did you think of the duration?
I think it could be ideally a few days longer, so we could return to exercises, alter the same things and try them again and go deeper in some of the methods, we could only mention and touch in this period of time.
What are your positive/negative experiences?
I have only positive experiences, but I would like to mention here, that it could be important and interesting in similar occasions to work with diverse groups in terms of spoken languages as well. This was something we tried, but didn’t quite have time for.
Do you see opportunities/threats in the social artistic/community work Ultima Vez is developing? I don’t see any threats, I see the necessity of similar works all over the World.
Do you feel satisfied after this week?
Yes, I had the chance to take part in and learn about a way of working I didn’t know much about. I had great experiences, I got feedback and I met interesting artist, who were all keen to share.
Thank you very much for this opportunity!
Imola Nagy, 31.05.2018, Berlin
14.05.17 - 18.05.17