Interview with Michaela Cisarikova of MCDC
On the weekend of the first May Bank Holiday Breakin’ Convention took place once again at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London.
Founded by Jonzi D. “Breakin’ Convention is the award-winning and critically acclaimed organisation that represents the origins and evolution of hip hop culture from around the world and around the corner. Working with the most respected, innovative and inspirational artists, Breakin’ Convention seeks to position hip hop dance alongside more historically established art forms, through our world-renowned international festivals, professional development, youth projects and educational programme.” ~ http://breakinconvention.com/about-us
This year, Michaela Cisarikova, artistic director and choreographer of Michaela Cisarikova Dance Company, was invited to showcase her work ‘aLove Story’ and we joined the festival to see her work and experience the excitement, thoughtfulness and excellence of hip hop dance theatre.
We were struck by the beauty of Michaela’s work and we were curious to learn more about her work and her movement language.
Q: What gave you the idea to create aLove story?
A: The simple answer is, a poem.
It started as a response to a recorded spoken work by Malin Smedhagen. The poem is current and creatively written with an unexpected ending. I loved that about the poem and I responded to the words and their rhythm. It started as a three minute piece and later on with the collaboration of Malin, we developed and changed the structure of the poem to match the arc into a fourteen minute piece.
Q: You have created several group works for your company dancers. This is a solo you’re dancing yourself. Did the process feel different? What are your thoughts on creating group and solo work and on creating work for others and for yourself?
A: The process itself in my choreographic practise did not change that much. What did feel different was the motivation and establishing time for creative thinking. As soon as another person is involved, such as a spoken word artist or a rehearsal director, it makes you think out loud about the outcome or where the piece is heading and suddenly you begin to look at things with a different perspective. As a result, the process usually speeds up.
The experience is certainly different and there are pros and cons in both. As this piece was created by myself, I knew how the movement language was going to look. I knew the intentions and did not have to find ways of explaining how I wanted things to look to others.
With group pieces, it is beautiful and intricate to work with so many bodies but also sometimes tricky to pass on what is very often only an idea in my head. Also working with multiple dancers/artists brings variety and lots of choice as they can interpret my ideas in ways I could never have imagined, or give me new ideas, which move the piece in a new and interesting direction.
I think group pieces are more complex and I have to give more time to thinking about details like positions, transitions, the way I communicate my ideas to the dancers, or the use of a space and props.
When choreographing a solo for myself, most things come naturally to me, so I sometimes expect everyone to think like me, which of course they can’t and that is where, as a choreographer/maker, I sometimes struggle to translate my vision into words.
I also find myself more critical and self-aware/controlled in group-pieces and am never fully satisfied. With solo work, I am more strict, take more risks and I’m not afraid of changes and last minute adaptations, which would be much more difficult to do in a group piece.
Q: You have a background in urban dance styles and create choreography using urban and contemporary dance techniques. Why do you fuse these two movement languages? Is it a challenge or does it come naturally? How does your audience react to this choice?
A: Style is just mimicking something that was once original enough times for it to become repetitive and unoriginal. To quote Bruce Lee, “Styles tend to not only separate men – because they have their own doctrines and then the doctrine became the gospel truth that you cannot change. But if you do not have a style, if you just say: Well, here I am as a human being, how can I express myself totally and completely? Now, that way you won’t create a style, because style is a crystallization. That way, it’s a process of continuing growth.”
I have always been interested in dance, regardless of style and that is where my training started, learning any styles and techniques that were available to me at the time.
I look at dance as a movement rather than a style and if I were more knowledgeable of other styles I would mix them together too.
For me, what is more important is how the style or movement is executed and used in the choreography within an intention. That is why I collaboratively work with other artists. The more I continue to create, the more I use my own movement language and learn what kind of dancers I am looking for in my pieces.
What became challenging was using dancers with specific backgrounds and understanding and figuring out how to use their language to create a new language.
I don’t think I’ve established the use of contemporary and urban styles enough with their specific audiences. With ‘aLove Story’, I also used physical theatre methods and made it site-specific to a performed location. Even when using a theatre stage, ‘aLove Story’ transformed the space into a site-specific piece. Feedback has been really positive and different kinds of audiences seem to find this piece interesting, current and thought provoking. The piece attracts dancers and non-dancers alike who do not question what style of techniques I used to create it.
With this piece I feel like I achieved what I was aiming for, which was for the audience to look at the work as a whole, rather than think about what the movement language was or why it was used.
Q: You have created your own work for several years now. How do you feel about finding your style and movement language and your way of expressing your choreographic ideas?
A: I find it difficult to express my work with artists using my movement language.
The more I create, the more comfortable I am with my own movement language and it becomes easier for others to follow, the more we practice and train together. It is just a mixture of techniques put together so sometimes it is hard for people, who have not worked with me before, to understand what techniques I am drawing from, to create my movement language.
This is something I am still learning and shaping as I go. I am becoming more aware of what I am looking for in dancers/movers, how to learn more about them as individuals and ways to invest in them in order to help them grow for themselves as well as for the company.
My big inspirations as makers are Botis Seva, Tony Adigen and Jasmin Vardimon as I believe we share similar approaches or beliefs. They are using movement and feeling rather then style and they all use their dancers to make their vision happen.
Thank you Michaela for sharing your experience as a choreographer in the early stages of your career. We’re sure it is very helpful for others in similar positions and hope you have enjoyed the interview! We wish you the best of luck with everything and look forwards to your next projects.
The interview was led by Lucia Schweigert and Konstantina Skalionta and now we put the questions to you: What do style and movement language mean to you? How do you start working with several dancers as an emerging choreographer? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!