Investing in the process

Iris Karayan

6 November 2011



Could you briefly introduce yourselves?

Dance artist, choreographer, dancer, and teacher. I am based in Athens, I choreograph for Zita Dance Company and I teach choreography at the State School of Dance. I create projects.

What do you want to question with your current project?

I wanted to create something that referred to the idea of Heroism, on the transcendental nature of humans. Using these notions as my starting point, I am trying to find out how I/we experience these notions in the present moment. It has to do with the here and now. The title of the project is “Mothers”. Going back to your question I don’t know if I actually want to question things or if I just want to present my point of view, how I experience certain things in this particular moment- within this particular sociocultural context. There is a personal interest, while at the same time, it has to do with the human being per se.


This idea came to me as a desire, as a necessity in this particular moment in my life. I was more interested in how I wanted this idea to be represented. I want this project to have certain characteristics and while the project develops, it is these characteristics, that define what the project is about.

Is questioning actually the process?

A question is a process. This happens irrespectively of the staring point or the end product. You put into it your idea, your instinct, your desire and you give it a form. The real question is how to make it work. How is this choreography, this live performance of 30 minutes or 50 or an hour-how do you make this become a piece/work of art/concrete work?

Do you think audiences are looking for a message?

Yes. Audiences are always looking for whatever they can get- for a message, an aesthetic, a story, a feeling, a sensation. They are looking for something they can relate to. They are looking for a way of ‘reading’ this, of ‘translating’ what they are watching through a cerebral/intellectual process. They are watching through their senses, their eyes, /ears ,but they still try to understand it through a conscious- analytical pathway, through their brain.

Are you interested in the individual?

Yes. Of course. Very much so. Of course I am also interested in dynamic, form, chemistry, physics, the body- but still it is always about the individual. My interests always have to do with the individual-they stem from human, existential questions. It is existential questions this is what we know, we know ourselves, or have experiences of.




Do you have a specific method?

Yes. Either I try to listen to my needs and desires; either I put out something that interests me. It can be an idea, a word, an image, a prop, an action, etc-these are all materials I work with. Part of this process is conscious, intellect driven, but there are things that come by instinct or by something I don’t know of. For example: I decide I want to work on a piece with a table. Why? Why chose a table, I don’t know, certain choices like that come to me and they cannot be explained or justified.

So, in the beginning there is a process one could call research, or reflection on what I intend to do. During this phase, I need to be open, receptive, allow myself to be influenced by external stimuli.  Then I go into the studio and start working with the dancers and collaborators. This is the time I go fishing! I try out things, things that come from an idea or a task. I try to sense things then, get feedback from the dancers, how they feel, how or  what they translate this task we are trying out into. On the one hand  is my own ideas and the other is how the dancers position themselves in what we are doing- and at this particular moment in time. I am really interested in what the dancers bring to my idea. I am fully conscious and aware, that if I work with this particular group of dancers on this idea, I will get this piece, while if I work with a different group of dancers and the same idea it will be another piece. I have come to realize, in this past year, that despite following my own process, method, methodology (call it what you may) I actually co create the work with the dancers. In fact I make the work FOR these particular dancers.

During the fishing phase, if it gets too chaotic- I choose one thing ( a movement , an idea, a state) and I try to analyze it and go as deep with it, as I can. This is the time when  I start working on the form. And while working on the form, the structure of the piece is developed gradually. Once the form and structure are all in place, I watch it and I try to understand the piece:  If it makes sense to me. In a way, I do things the other way round.

So you are you using the principle of improvisation?

Yes. Always. I don’t create improvisational pieces though. The final product is not an improvisation. Details in movement can change from performance to performance but the movement principles are the same. Certain sections of the works are set- either gradually by the process or by the dancers themselves- while other sections are more open to the performativity of each dancer.

So once you have the form/ the structure do you set precise goals? Do you have specific expectations?

Once I select the form-since there is always the premiere deadline- it is time to create a product out of this process. This is when I place my next challenge –my goal. This clear choice of the goal of  the work is a choice I make on my own –within my microcosm- the dancers don’t need to know, it is not necessary. I just work towards my goal.

When it comes to expectations… my expectation is to like the piece, if I like the piece maybe there are other people similar to me that are going to like it. I use ‘like’ here as in enjoy, laugh, cry, relate to, follow it through, think it is clear with no gaps in it. So the expectation is for the work to be true and sincere to myself and to find the final product convincing, to accept it fully as a means of expression.

Are you interested in text or sound in your work?

Yes. I am interested in everything. Not that I use it much. So far text has not been a formal element in my work. I am really interested on sound though both from the dancers and the soundscape, the music.

What does it mean to produce work?

Good question. It means sharing: with yourself, collaborators, the audience (there is a lot of noise on the latter…) Yes it is about creating, you put your efforts, your whole self, or your whole whatever you want to put in the making. Like preparing a meal for your friends…

Are you an artist?


Are you a good artist?

What does good or bad artist mean? I don’t know. I think being an artist is always a good artist. It is the work that is bad according to someone or good according to someone else, or proper, or appropriate, or a masterpiece….

Do you like your work?

Yes! I think if I didn’t like it, it would be a problem…

Do others like your work?

I think a minority, yes. Some people might like it…

Are you happy with how you do things?

It depends on where I have set my goals and expectations. It depends on if want less, or more, if am being greedy, how much I succeed on a goal I’ve set, how I deal with a problem, what kind of challenge I am setting myself. Sometimes I ‘ m not happy I want to have done more, to be better, feel I am being lazy, feel this could be deeper, or more intellectual…..

Do you believe in less is more?

I don’t know if less is more generically, but it can work. It can function.




How would you be happy?

I can still be happy being unhappy. I don’t think it is necessary to always be happy. But I can be happy if something resolves easily- you see, I am used to having problems and dealing with them. But it could work the other way round that I am unhappy if it is easy.

To work within a good environment, freely and sincerely is always nice. It has to do with the resources one has, also.

Do you have a daily practice?

Personally I practice Aikido, when it comes to rehearsals it is always different. In this work of 2 dancers there is an individual warm up, in a piece for 6 dancers, I did in the past, I was coaching a daily warm up.

Do you create scores?

I keep notes. In certain cases there is a score. It is always different in each work, sometimes I write, or make a story board.

Would you say your work is dance theater?

No. Not at all.

Are you influenced by other art forms or sciences?

By film, dance, theatre, fine arts, literature everything! Sciences also, human sciences, philosophy… everything that I can grasp and understand ( no nuclear physics….) Sometimes I choose one thing,  for (fictional) example Hamlet and create a dance on Hamlet. Most of the times though,  it is a collage of images, of ideas I bring to the work. I prefer to use several sources as material.

A few quick questions on:


Starting point, necessity, trigger point, the birth.


Hand in hand with time. Again necessity, challenge. Time and space are the motivation. Space /time/ body a broad notion of these, a philosophical notion of these, yet I treat them differently. The way I deal with the problematic of these is different for each work.


An add-on. Artificial. Theatrical. I use it artificially ( on top)  to create images, or an atmosphere.


Will always be related to space. A set you bring into this theatre, the theatre space itself is a set. I haven’t worked much with set, I’ve worked with props.


Problem! I don’t know about costumes, it is difficult. I think it has to do with the artificiality of the theatrical representation.

How do you treat the body in your work?

I love the body. I treat the body in space and time. It is the most important asset in my work.

Do you feel you have sometimes failed?


How has that affected you?

It has added to my experiences, my consciousness/awareness, and knowledge. Acknowledging the failure helps you question and reflect on how things could be done, in order for them to work. You find new ways you can potentially succeed.

When you started your company, were you dissatisfied with the kind of dance that was on offer at the time?

I started the company together with a group of dancers and friends in 2002. We worked together for some time and gradually each followed their own path. We still relate and share common views some of us. No I was not dissatisfied, the opposite, I was enthusiastic and eager for more.

Why does your company or companies like yours matter?  Why does this particular kind of dance matter?

They matter as everything that takes action, a position in our societies. They matter because they exist and define the greek dance scene. As a whole they construct a system which is alive and transforming.

What do you wish for?

I wish for courage, boldness, aggressiveness, fearlessness. I wish for more crazy things! Believing in your gut. To go for it. I also wish for the state to invest in artistic expression, in general (ok! that’s wishful thinking). I wish for the state to invest in education,  in the beauty of the uniqueness of the individuals, invest in empowering individuality within the educational system. In fact, I wish for the educational system to change completely- to turn upside down. To treat the body equally to the mind.  To invest in training our senses and abilities that are left unused, kept in the closet. Invest not only in the intellectual but also in the corporeal.