Monica Nicolaides very generously shared her time and experience with us as a guest speaker at our most recent professional development meeting about Grants for the Arts at Siobhan Davies Dance Studios. You will be able to read up on it soon. We asked her about her projects, how she works, and if she could give any final advice for those wanting to progress as choreographers.
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Could you tell us a little about your upcoming project or future plans?
I am currently working on the new work ‘Signs’, fusing contemporary dance with British Sign Language (BSL). ‘Signs’ explores the importance of body language in British Sign Language, aiming to raise awareness about the deaf community. The piece received funding from the IdeasTap Innovators Fund and we have secured some more funding to extend the work and devise a workshop to promote BSL.
[A few days after this interview Monica’s second GftA application was successful! Congratulations!]
What has been your favourite work/project thus far? What made it special?
It’s difficult to choose. ‘Nu.V.Na’ was the starting point of my choreographic career, being the first work I created and produced. It was an idea that was brewing for years before I finally took the plunge to do it. On the outside, it probably doesn’t seem like a big achievement, but your first work is the beginning of your whole artistic practice. It is the first time you become exposed to the public that way and relinquish control to your performers.
‘Hand me that Sound’ and a commission we created for the British Medical Association are also strong contenders.
What are the advantages and maybe difficulties of working in a creative team or with collaborators?
Working with other collaborators is great! You get to bounce off ideas, test them as part of developing new work. I personally love working as part of a team, because you can play on everyone’s strengths. You rely on each other to make the work great, so you have to be open to alternative perspectives and coordinating each other’s rhythms.
I think the hardest thing is scheduling time for meetings due to everyone having such busy schedules! It usually means it takes a bit longer to complete a project than expected.
How much of your work is you by yourself, you with the help of others, or you and a team?
I create work on other people and collaborate with other artists– musicians, producers, etc. For my own projects, I am the main artist and have a clear idea of what the final product will look like, but would not be able to complete them without the contribution of all the other artists. I think it is different for each choreographer. My practice is about creating work on other dancers and working closely with composers, as it allows me to see the work progress. It also helps me develop as an artist, by being exposed to different ideas and perspectives.
What is special to you about dance as a language to express themes in your work?
I think that dancing is inherent for most people; a sort of universal language as it were. It is as close as it gets to body language, which basically means it is one of the most expressive art forms. What I find amazing about dance is that you can convey ideas or thoughts or images that are sometimes very difficult to describe. But you can always show it; or show one version of it. My work is very physical and is influenced by human behaviour, which allows me to convey the theme of my work.
Do you want to address or expand on anything you did not get to talk about during our professional development meeting?
In terms of arts funding, be smart, be resourceful. I mentioned it in the meeting but I’ll say it again: Don’t rely on public funding as your main source. There are lots of companies and people who want to contribute to the arts. Find them because they will help.
Do you have any advice for emerging choreographers?
All I can say is that most choreographers go through exactly the same emotions when looking for the next opportunity to create. In terms of funding, no matter how much research you do there is a learning curve that comes from actually doing it. As long as you accept that rejection is part of the process – same as in auditions – then there isn’t that much that can go wrong. Find partners, have a clear vision and don’t be afraid to ask for things. Worst-case scenario is getting a ‘no’ as an answer, which basically is the same result as not asking.
Thank you Monica!
This post was written by Cecilia Berghäll.