An Interview With Georgia Tegou, ahead of UnderTone being performed at The Place, London, February 7th 2014

An Interview with Georgia Tegou

Last time we spoke, you were gearing up to present Yet Another Day at The Place/ Resolution! 2013. How did that turn out? 

It was a very good experience for me. Resolution! is introducing emerging choreographers’ work and has been running for 25 five years now. It gave me the opportunity to show my work in one of the UK’s most respected contemporary dance theatres and get some very valuable feedback and reviews.

I learned many things in the workshops The Place offers. While preparing to show our works, we were offered several workshops about technical, lighting and production planning, about marketing and promoting, writing applications for funding, as well as more inclusive workshops with artists like Jackie Shemesh (lighting designer for Lost, Dog, Protein Dance, Nordans Company).

We also had the opportunity to meet collaborators for our work as The Place organises meetings with the choreographers and lighting or set and costume designers, sound designers and composers, photographers and administrators. This is great because as a beginner in the professional dance world, the whole process gives you a good sense of how things work, how you can organize a whole production and how you can take your work further.

You then went to work developing your MFA Final Thesis concert: what was that work about and how did the performance go? 

The work I prepared for my thesis is part of what you are about to see in Resolution! this time. It is called UnderTone and it’s about subtle communication  - about the little things, the movements we make in our everyday life to communicate or negotiate something; to suggest an action without using words. Preparing this thesis concert was quite a challenge as I had to make a one hour performance and I had to do a lot of research to be able to present something that I would think is interesting enough. The final result was quite playful, exploring the balance between set and improvised movement material, trying to integrate formal dance training with more improvisational ways of working. The performers at that time were Corina Tsipoura, Ingrid Hatleskog, Shaun Dillon, Justyna Janiszewska and Georgia Leigh Godfrey. It went really well, the theatre was full, I received very good feedback and finished my MFA (with Distinction).

What qualities do you look for in a dancer? For example, Ohad Naharin told me he always looks for the rebel in the audition room.  

It depends on each work but usually the personality is a very strong element; also imagination, kindness, strong presence, humour and intelligence are some of the things I would notice and be interested in. I guess choosing collaborators is not very different from choosing friends, people that you feel you can trust and communicate with, without necessarily having to agree in everything.

I know you worked with different dancers for Yet Another Day and the MFA performance: do you always need different dancers for different works? 

No, not always; again it depends on the work and on the circumstances each time. I’m not yet in a position to be able to afford to pay the dancers so we are all in a level where we help each other in projects. Two of the dancers are the same as in Yet Another Day and you will now get to meet three new ones!

How is that MFA UnderTone piece now being adapted for Resolution! 2014? And who will be dancing for you? 

It is a reworking, a revision of the material. As I mentioned before the first showing was for my MFA thesis presentation and it was a one hour work. Now I’m trying to get it one step further, transform it into a 25 minute piece, keeping only what I believe is essential; what the piece cannot do without, with the intention to make it clearer and more solid. As a lot of the material was based on improvisation tasks, some scenes had to be reworked from the beginning as the new cast had to adapt with what was there and add their own input into the work.

For this performance, I am collaborating with HAL, which is a new collaborative dance company formed by Thomas Hands and Matt Lackford alongside Corina Tsipoura. The performers this time will be Antonia Ptohides and Ingrid Hatleskog who were dancing in Yet Another Day and HAL. The music this time, an original composition, was written especially for UnderTone by composer/ sound designer Costas Verigas, a friend and collaborator, based in Athens. And Tanja Beer is on board as our set and costume designer. Tanja is a scenographer and researcher investigating ecological design for performance and has been working with theatre and festivals in Australia for more than 12 years.

I saw you are also now teaching sometimes at the University of Roehampton. How does that feed into your work?

I’m working as a technique lecturer in Roehampton’s Dance Department. I enjoy teaching very much and I get very inspirational feedback from my students, which definitely feeds back into my choreographic work. It is a challenging experience and I feel lucky as I am also learning with them while exploring things again and finding solutions that have never occurred to me before, as well as getting inspired by their passion trying for the best.

Which choreographers do you respect?         

That’s a difficult one now. There are many! I guess if I have to say what first comes to my mind very quickly: I definitely respect Pina Bausch’s work for her honesty, her generosity and her deeper insightful view on dance as a visual art; Sasha Waltz for her amazing movement and directing choices; William Forsythe for his intelligence and playfulness; Anne Teresa de Keersmaker for her brave choices and risks; Ohad Naharin who you mentioned earlier; Jonathan Burrows whose advice I always like to follow; Lloyd Newson, Nigel Charnock and Wendy Houston for their imagination, anarchy and intelligence. I’m afraid they are many and I’m sure I’m forgetting many of my favourite ones. Lately I started watching mime as well and I have seen some very interesting performances at the London Mime Festival such as Jakop Ahlbom’s Lebensraum and Gecko Theatre in the Edinburgh Fringe last summer.

What inspires your work - you mentioned Albert Camus partly inspiring Yet Another Day. And you mentioned music being important too.

I guess anything can inspire the work; an idea, an image, a book, a music piece, a film, a character, I can’t really say. I am interested in people, in emotions and behaviours as well as in stories, dreams and memories. I am also interested in the freedom and the versatility the theatre gives for creating unreal imaginary worlds in which the stories happen. The music or the sound is an important element as it sets the tone of the atmosphere you want to create.

What do you have in mind for future ambitions beyond this Place performance? 

I would like to have the opportunity to show work elsewhere; maybe tour in other venues inside and outside London. Another idea is to create workshops and educational material for dance and choreography students, out of the movement research that was done from the first showing of UnderTone and the reworking with the new people. I would like to be at some point in a position to actually pay my dancers and create a project with a full time focus. Another thing that I would like to keep trying for, as a maker but also as a performer, is working with people whose work I admire and I can learn something from.

For more information about Georgia’s work click here. And to buy tickets to see UnderTone on Friday 7th February 2014, at The Place, 17 Duke's Road, London WC1H 9PY, click here.


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