Exclusive interviews with artistes of The Park's THE OTHER FESTIVAL
Constanza Macras & Dorky Park (Germany)
'Back to the Present' - Contemporary Dance on Dec 5, 2004
A Goethe Institute-Max Mueller Bhavan-Daimler Chrysler Collaboration
November 17, 2004
Constanza Macras was born in Buenos Aires / Argentina. While studying fashion design at the University of Buenos Aires, she got her dance training at the Margarita Bali School of Dance. She continued her training at the New York Merce Cunningham Studio, working later in Amsterdam where she offered her first choreographies. Since 1995, she has been living and working as a performer, director and choreographer in Berlin, which has a very distinct energy mix, never ceasing to surprise a spectator. She founded her own dance company Tamagotchi Y2K in 1997 (called Dorky Park today). Constanza Macras has been making waves with her productions, in both creation and the process. These shows are constantly recreated around the world sometimes with different names and all they have in common is that they only exist in the present, in the flatness of everyday struggles. Macras was in Bangalore earlier this year, conducting creative workshops.
Some of the strange settings she has used for her performances are a butcher shop, canteen, even toilets. In her site-specific performance 'Back to the Present', which was performed in June and September 2003 in Kaufhaus Jandorf, a former department store in the centre of Berlin, Constanza Macras goes for a journey into the past. Memory as looped feedback, live performances, dance, music and videos form a space installation, wherein the audience moves around. There was also a tea-salon run by the ladies from the Ground Control and a bar hidden somewhere in the labyrinth of abandoned rooms. Where do you go when you don't want to deal with the past or the future? The performers of Back to the Present find themselves in a common space; a casting for a reality show like Big Brother, Survivor or Miss Right.
After its success, Constanza Macras, in collaboration with the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz Berlin created a stage version of Back to the Present. In her 2004 tour of Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi, Constanza presents this version of Back to the Present, which has been specially adapted for India with the participation of Indian guest artistes.
Back to the Present lives in a sort of limbo between the layers of its own history, leaving behind medals, uniforms and costumes, old props and programs, video recordings, broken and useless pieces of the set. Extend this further, the debris of past self destructive relationships: Torn cinema tickets, old phone numbers, love letters, cards from Valentine's Day. All of these build the ruins that are the context and physical setting for Back to the Present.
With your new style of work, did you have to struggle much in the early part of your career?
Yes, I did struggle, the struggle goes on in different ways, even now I struggle, for other things or on a different level. Working as a free company within big structures and without "belonging" to any production house but producing with them can get quite complicated. There are a lot of political fights in the cultural scene in Berlin that I refuse to make my world. Before, I did not have any structure behind me, or subventions but I kept on working. It took a while for the critics, the producers and the jury that gives subventions to take the work seriously, that had more to do with me than the work itself. If I was a man with glasses doing the same thing, I would have to struggle much less.
Where it made a difference was conforming to a company of people that decided to make a commitment to me themselves and the kind of work we do. That gives me a lot more energy to face a system that still is male dominated - which one is not?!
Also, thank god the 90's are over. The kind of work that ruled in Europe then, was about commending performances about the self absorption of the European artistes watching himself - mostly, sometimes herself - performing.
When you conceive a piece, you evolve it over the years. Don't you get tired of it?
There are subjects that interest me for years, I need to make as many pieces as I find necessary to get to the point that I feel I really got somewhere. I think that work has phases, a whole period of 3 years was one big piece that I made a trilogy: 'MIR - a Love Story' that used the ex-Soviet space station MIR as a metaphor for love relations. 'Back to the Present,' the piece I will present in India is the last one of that period. It does not belong to the Trilogy but is closing the subject for me, for a while at least. 'Back to the Present' deals with the break ups and the sorrow of everyday life though the perspective of experiencing a loss.
Now we are starting a new period, a new piece... I work for long periods of time to develop a piece, and during a long period I accumulate information related to the subject of the piece. I have many works running parallel, we have ideas with the dancers that we know that they belong to different works.
Alongside improvising on your old work, when do you feel it's time to develop new work? Is it a group effort?
Right now we improvise little, our pieces became really set and we are performing them a lot. We are working on a new piece and at the same time we tour 3 others ...the whole thing is a group effort. We rehearse for long periods of time and very intensively. The way a work develops is through starting points - I propose the performers, but they create their parts. It is very demanding for the company, because they have to stay creative and face challenges in every work.
There is a lot of freedom in the work and each of them is very important. I work with people experiences and characters that make each of them impossible to replace.
In your productions, you use dancers and actors. How do you strike a balance between them?
The company consists of people that has a specific formation but is very versatile. The actors and dancers are perfectly integrated because the way we work does not make differences - all the dancers act and sing, and the actors dance and sing as well; they have the music as common ground and since they improvise together, the differences in formation bring results that are less predictable than the results a group coming from the same background would bring.
You are known to pick unusual themes (Beatles!) and settings (supermarket). What do you look for in such instances and how do you know if it will work?
The themes and the settings are a consequence of the idea that triggers the work. If there is a Beatles song in a cover version from a Cuban singer (La Lupe) that sounds older than the original Beatles song and when that song happens to be 'Yesterday' and the subject matter we are dealing is emotional residues and lost memories, that ends up making a lot of sense...
About the setting is the same thing - that supermarket was a department store in 1930 and belonged to a Jew family. The Nazis took possession of it; then after the war, it was a fashion institute in the Democratic Republic; after the wall came down, it was a bank, and now it is empty. The building had a lot to do with the subject of the piece I was presenting there.
Because of the themes you choose, do you feel stressed every time you premiere a new work?
I'm always stressed... when we show our work for the first time in a new place, even if is the 70th performance of that piece, I still get nervous. It is always a mystery how the piece is going to run.