In 2014, I was invited by the Austrian Embassy, to work with the Kosovo National Ballet. Upon arrival in Pristina, and after speaking to some of the dancers, I realised that I had to change course, and use the war-time survival stories from their childhood, and created “YOUR STORIES, MY STORY”. There was no choice.
This was the beginning of a new chapter in my artistic and personal life: – the development of
Approaching the various themes relating to war, in particular gender-based violence, I wondered about the children resulting from war time rape, but here my queries were met with stony silence. The very people who had taken me into their hearts and shared their stories of survival, about being witnesses to the atrocities of the war, were neither ready nor able to enter this territory with me – to discuss children whose existence dare not be acknowledged.
I realized that although there are a lot of books, films, features and other publications directly focused on the women who suffered, there was almost nothing concerning the children born to these women, and who survived infancy. The literature which I found was coloured predominantly by feminism, and humanitarianism concerns for the violated women
– the existence of babies conceived through rape given little or no attention – violating in turn their rights as human beings. I found
blank pages – unwritten stories
…until I found the first of a series of Articles and a YouTube clip of Alen Muhic in 2016. Suddenly the curtains parted, and I could visualize the rest: one man walks onstage and breaks through the fourth wall … asking burning questions about his parents … the absent father … in end-effect about himself … he is joined by others … the disappearing act of a magician takes on a life of its own and instead reveals the invisible … we hear their voices … they refuse to remain hidden…
I understand anyone who needs to ask any question in the name of their Father, in the quest for understanding identity.
We all need to understand where we have come from, who our parents are and what lives they have led. This gives us a comprehension of our identity. It is only by understanding the bigger picture, explaining our sense of purpose, that we can truly be free as individuals.
to break the silence
Alen Muhic states: “There are many like me in Bosnia, but we don’t talk about it”. Sabine Lee writes about the “silence that is only tentatively broken” which still surrounds these children, and R. Charli Carpenter refers to them as “invisible children”.
In answer to an appeal to break the wall of secrecy and conspiracy of silence, I am convinced that “IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER” has the potential to create a channel for multi-national communication, and bridge the gap between art, academia and the society at large.
This production will create a platform for the children born of war, in the form of a choreographed work for performance. At the core of the final artistic form, the subject(s) will transcend barriers of language and cultural differences. The chosen treatment of staging which will break the fourth wall.
The moment of Performance in the Theatre has somewhat maybe mystical quality. I believe in the duty of theatre as being to educate and entertain, holding up a mirror to the society, and handling contemporary themes.
to break the silence
The commitment of an observer to the performer cannot be underestimated as it draws on deeply-engraved connections within us all, allowing for communication on conscious and subconscious levels. The perennial story teller and the listener.
Transformation of the individuals working towards the performance manifests itself in body language, and growth of personality. Self-confidence, and personal growth can make a positive change in the society at large and the communities where we (should) celebrate the joy of every new day being alive.
using the biographies of the people I work with to create non-fictional pieces to tell their stories
1. consisting of or based on official documents.
Synonyme: recorded, documented, registered, written, chronicled, archived, archive, on-record, in writing, on paper
2. using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.
Synonyme: factual, non-fictional, real-life, true to life, fact-based. “the event will be the subject of a documentary film”
1. a film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject.
2. A work, such as a film or television program, presenting political, social or historical subject matter in a factual and informative manner, and often consisting of actual news, films, or interviews accompanied by narration.
3. Also: documental, consisting of, derived from, or relating to documents
4. Presenting factual material with little or no fictional additions:
5. (Broadcasting) a factual film or television programme about an event, person, etc presenting the facts with little or no fiction
6. Supported with evidence, backed up by academic and scientific research
Genesis of Docu-Dance-Theater
I have often used existing literature to create dance pieces: e.g William Shakespeare’s plays, an Oscar Wilde novella; and Per Olov Enquist’s novel “Livläkarens Besök” which inspired “The Lover of the Queen”. Produced at Opera Graz between 2002 and 2015, these large-scale productions involved extensive study of the original text, providing the dancers with the original scripts and subsequently other secondary reading material, to better understand and internalize the existential conflict of the characters, situations and locations, as well as the historical/contemporary parentheses.
With the dancers of Kosovo National Ballet however, I realized however that there was a wealth of Libretti more intensely etched in their memories than any world-class writer could have construed. No need for secondary, literature!
Fascinated by Documentary Films, Radio and Television Features, where factual episodes of the past, either presented as flash-backs from news-reels or re-enacted by means of actors, are juxtaposed with the voices recorded during interviews at some time future to these events, it seemed like the only justifiable solution for me to present the stories I had heard from these survivors of the Kosovo War, was to create a dance piece with similar documentary character – using the voices recorded in interviews as part of the sound track.
In recent years, Contemporary Performance Practice encourages the dancers to also speak directly to the audience either before, after or during their time of action onstage. What I seek is a different level of interaction between the voice of the dancer, and the dance being performed – indeed I am looking for the incongruence of presence (=Anwesenheit).
Juxtaposing passionate and physical body-in-motion engaged in movement of great complexity, dynamic and poetry, underscored with the reflective and un-rehearsed (=authentic) voice of the person trapped within the body of the dancer.
I have been developing this technique since YOUR STORIES, MY STORY, via THROUGH THE OPEN DOOR (2015), working with political refugees from Afghanistan, Ruanda, Gambia, Bhutan and Somalia who recounted the Boat-passage from Libya to Italy, or described atrocities witnessed first-hand in their countries of birth, or their long tedious walks over several other borders by air, land and sea to arrive finally in Graz.
These were non-dancers, who had worked intensively with me to discover a physical expression that would be performed in tandem with their voices.
They needed to tell their stories.