Q&A with Hagit about ‘Free Falling’

Tell us a bit about your background, where you are from, how you got in to dance.

I have been living in the UK now for the last 12 years but I am originally from Jerusalem, Israel. I also spent many years living in Tel Aviv which I loved!

I think I always loved dancing, and I always danced apparently – even though I started walking very late my parents often tell me that since I was 4 I just wanted to dance. Though I think that it got really serious for me when I was a teenager, and then really really serious in my mid 30s. I think that before that I couldn’t commit to it, only when I understood that this is the only thing I truly want to dedicate myself to could I claim my place and space and voice, and this is when I truly went for it.

I have to say that my relationship to dance was never a straight forward one. In my early twenties, after dancing and teaching for a while I realised that I need to do something for society; dance felt too self-observed, too self-centred, and I wanted to do something with my love to dance, I wanted to help people with this, and this is why I went to study dance movement therapy. However after my studies I soon realised that in fact I wanted to choreograph. Whilst I was studying an MA at Trinity – Laban, I had to create something for my final exam and it was there that I realised that this is it! Though from that moment until I actually really had the courage to pursue this a few years went by… courage, I realised, is something that changes with age…

My work and my background as a dance movement therapist informs very much my journey into choreography and my journey as a choreographer since then. In a sense, the social aspect of dance and choreography and more than that the emotional aspect of it are very intriguing for me. Not in the way of an emotional expression but rather in the way of how art and emotions combine into an artistry and aesthetics. I look at life as emotional journeys, I understand the world through my emotions first of all, and this of course feeds my work completely.

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How did you create these works, Air Hunger and Free Falling? What processes did you use? Do you always go through a similar process?

For many years now I wanted to create a piece that somehow presents different anxieties I became familiar with while studying and working as a dance movement therapist. Some of the stories I heard in the therapy room (or studio) touched me very deeply, and I felt I needed to somehow share them. Of course not revealing any details but rather trying to create an experience that somehow provokes the feelings these people shared with me.

Air Hunger started by looking at anxiety attacks. It had been named like this because when there is an anxiety attack the body experiences lack of air – it is of course a psychological feeling rather than a physical one – and it is a real shock to the system because the person believes he/she is experiencing a heart attack and they feel they are going to die.

Free Falling initially started by exploring the fear of falling. Something, which I believe we can all experience sometimes, but when in a severe scenario this fear can prevent people from walking, from leaving their houses, every step they make feels as a risk which might end in a fall which will have no recover. This of course links to a psychological fear of failing.

My creative process starts with me offering a subject matter to the dancers. I introduce the subject matter by leading different improvisation tasks and exploration. It always starts with the body, with the physical. From these long improvisation tasks I start to pick the things, images, physical landscapes, dynamics and different group dynamics that are relevant, that touch me as a human and as an observer and that stir my imagination. I then start to delve deeply into them, I explore them further, and I combine them slowly together until I shape a structure and a meaning. It is a never ending story though, because as long as we perform the piece I keep changing it.

This means that I look for very specific dancers/performers. And besides having dancers that master their body and physicality (rather than mastering a technique) they also need to be quite unusual human beings. The rehearsal process is very exposing, the level of exhaustion – both physically and mentally – is often very challenging, which means that the group dynamic is so crucial. I need to feel that I can trust them and that they can trust each other and me. We all share quite a lot during the rehearsal –because I believe this creates a real bond between all of us; a bond that is very much needed during the performances as well.

My work is a delicate balance between improvisations and set material or set moments, though the improvisation tasks are very strict. This gives the dancers quite a lot of freedom, or a kind of freedom during the performances to make decisions and to hold a very interesting ownership of what they do.

I work collaboratively with all the artists involved, and through a long dialogue we find something that matches our aesthetics.

Where did the idea for the music come from? Why Sabio Janiak?

The music in this piece was very important to me and I needed a very special composer and person for that. Sabio was the perfect choice.

Sabio and I have been working together for quite a while. He accompanies my dance classes around London and I collaborated with him for the community project On Falling and Recovering.

I think that Sabio and I have something really quite similar in our approach. Sabio comes with quite a vast holistic background. He looks at music as a source of healing, there is something very fresh and intuitive about his music and these things really suit my way of working. This collaboration led to such a fascinating and emotional journey for both of us.

Tell us about your community work and the work you’re doing alongside this tour i.e. the site responsive performance in the foyer / building to open the show.

I always had a great passion to engage dance in the community. I didn’t want to distinguish my choreographic practice from the people. I want my work to be created with them, through them; I want the work to talk to them. I love of course the artistic side of dance but also its social and humanistic possibilities. How dance can help us meet others and ourselves from a raw and emotional place, how the moving body can help us communicate, take risks and embrace vulnerability, the sensitivity it can develop, the ability to listen; the ability to own an ownership over our body, and the sense of grounding and a centre it can help us develop.

Therefore alongside my work with professional dancers and with my company I also work with the community with those who might not have so much experience in dance but that just want to move.

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Community project On Falling and Recovering

I started by doing a very big community project about 3 years ago called Air Hunger. That was probably the first time I decided to really pursue community and professional work together. They didn’t perform together on that project but the topic I used in my community and professional work was the same. Then when I came to create Free Falling, the second piece in the Double Bill we are touring, I decided that I wanted to somehow try to find a way (my way) to combine the community into my professional work (this of course isn’t a new thing – though it is for me).

It started by researching with 30 non professional dancers over a period of six months in which we met once a month for a lengthy rehearsal in which we looked at the notion of falling and recovering. Though very soon the notion of falling became a need for help, a need for support. In July 2015 we invited an audience to see what we had created, this performance or shall I say interactive experience was so successful that we decided to extend the project into a much larger one. And when I say ‘we’ I mean the participants and myself. The project was then commissioned by The Place with 60 participants and was performed in July 2016. I have to say that the 3 performances, which were basically improvised, an interactive promenade for over 300 people in total, were quite outstanding and overwhelming. I haven’t experienced such a warm atmosphere in a performance before, people were hugging, people who didn’t know each other were hugging and kissing, old people, disabled people, babies, were all part of the interactive jam we created. The idea is to take this community project to venues where we will be performing Free Falling, where it will then be performed prior to the show.

Where next? Any future projects in the pipeline?
Oh yes – a big project that combines the professional company with the community. I wouldn’t like to reveal the topic right now, even though it is very present in my head, heart and research. I will also be starting to work on a solo.

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Photo by Camilla Greenwell
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