Day 2 begins relatively early, at 8:30 am in the studio. We have Leonie with us, another wonderful dancer from Carinthia, who presently lives and works in Vienna. Maria leads us through a rigorous 1.5 hour long warm up, and then I get to watch Andrea in action with her dancers.
Before I get to that, here is a short description of the space. The performance space is divided into 2 rooms. 1. An airy spacious “white room” with white flooring and translucent drapes falling from the ceiling, almost giving the feeling of a king’s court. 2. A dark room, fashioned after a Greek “Adytos”, designed like a labyrinth at the centre of which is the sanctum sanctorum. Here Roman, the digital master of the modern Adytos, would be stationed. The audiences are invited to freely move from one space to another, as will the performers. In the dark room, one can find digital projections of images compiled by Andrea and Roman. In the white room, the “real dance” shall take place.
Coming back to the rehearsal process, there’s so much one can tell from the way a choreographer works with her dancers. Both my blogposts invariably keep coming back to the awe I experienced acquainting myself with Andrea and her works. Such has been her impression on me and I wonder if that will actually ever change. Andrea works with a clear understanding of what she wants while being very observant of her dancer’s strengths and weaknesses. After the initial warm up, Andrea leads her dancers into a very specific mood and body state through a meticulous set of tasks. To someone as obsessed with details as me, it is a pleasure to watch her at work. She leads a voice-guided movement session, wherein the dancers are getting into a certain state of lightness and open-attention, acutely tuned into the needs of the body. The focus is soft but not dull, for it is hard to be dull for anyone that works with Andrea, it seems to me. As I watch her wildly dart across the space, blurting out her instructions, I see a woman with fire inside, turned outward and yet contemplative. A lot of what she has spoken about to me the previous day begins to make sense as I watch the rehearsal session – how she visualizes her art and how she brings it to life.
The dancers are extremely conducive. They are attentive to the tasks at hand, are as precise as AKS in tuning themselves in. They eventually begin rehearsing the movement material that they have been researching upon. Maria moves languidly across the white floor with her wine glass and her crown, as Leonie swaps her glasses and watches her move, trying to imitate. “You must watch her intently, as if trying to make sense of the strange world she is in,” explains Andrea to Leonie, speaking of the physical intention of Leonie’s dance. “When you take that turn, it must be deliberate. Not a smooth flowing move but a planned, artificial turn.” AKS’s directions and objectives are exact. A mystical soundtrack plays on. “Is this the finalized track?” I ask Andrea, “It is so mystical!” I am hypnotized. “I hope so,” she says emphatically, “but the music is still a mystery to me.” She means she is yet to decide. After an hour of rigorous work, the team takes a 10-minute break, while I lurk around the office to get some more insights about the “dark room”.
Brigitte is the creator of the dark space, and has extensively worked with Andrea to bring her idea into reality. “I have known Andrea for 30 years now. We had crossed our paths in work earlier, and tried to be in each other’s worlds; tried to understand the rules of each other’s worlds sometimes successfully but mostly sometimes in vain. It took me 30 years to be able to simply follow her,” jokes Brigitte. “I admire her way of working with people, it is touching. I would really like to support and it doesn’t matter how,” says Brigitte, when asked about her collaboration with Andrea. “What does the darkness mean to you?” I ask. “I created that world. It was bright before!” replies Brigitte, this time laughing hard. She goes on to explain, “In there, one can smell the plastic. It is dominant, and gives a taste of the darkness. Even though it feels like a cave, the smell reminds you that it is not. “
Roman, the digital artiste that works on the image compilation brings in his perspective about his role. “In today’s world of excessive images, we don’t really see many images anymore. What information value do images have when there are simply so many of them?” ponders Roman, while speaking about how they are working with images in the project. As I ask him about the dark room, he raises an interesting and a valid point. “Darkness fascinates me. I am looking for darkness in the world (literally), where real darkness has vanished. So when I am in a dark room, it is disturbing to me as I am not used to it! Darkness has an impact on our perception,” he observes.
Maria, who has worked the longest with Andrea on this project, has an entirely different perspective to bring. Being a dancer, she works a lot in relation with the space. To her darkness means sensation, something fluid, a possibility. “Moving in the darkness forces me to feel the space around me. It is a feeling of being unprotected, of fragility. The body is affected by the temperature, by the people walking around,” she feels.
It is like the pieces of a big jigsaw puzzle are slowly fitting in. I am quite overwhelmed with all the angles of the story. I wind up for the day and slowly prepare myself for a welcome dinner at Andrea’s home for the newest team member from South Korea.
As we dine together, I realize to my surprise that I have lost all inhibitions with the team. I am making jokes, being loud and enjoying inspite of myself. How long has it been since I know them, I wonder. That was probably the fastest I have ever warmed up to any group I have ever worked with! The sun goes down in Millstätter See, and we are laughing and chatting away about various topics.
I wake up to a pleasant, rainy morning the next day. A kind Brigitte drives me to the train station. I am flowing, and in thought. I was cast away for 2 days in an island, it seems to me, where there are zillions of ideas floating and a fierce current called Andrea, and a space that holds it all together. I cannot wait to come back two weeks later to watch the premiere, and witness how these ideas look embodied.
- by Nayana Bhat
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