Interview with Ivana Jozic, part 2: Opening the channels of nonconformity…

August 16, 2010

This is the second part of the interview with Ivana Jozic. Read the first part titled Opening the channels of expressiveness…

Photo: Theatre Troubleyn (c)

Let’s go back now to you and your technique. You are known as an uncompromising performer… constantly playing at the edges of physical endurance… basically, you are crossing these borders very often, which is quite fair from you…

IJ: Well, frankly, I had these ‘building processes’ and the accumulation of my knowledge. For instance, I know exactly that, when I came to work with Jan, I had a feeling that I want to, as a performer, completely run out of my body, but not in a negative sense. This is exactly what you saw at the stage.

A year ago something happened, a kind of a reverse of forces, when I started sort of to ‘keep off’ myself and my body. If you are constantly overworking yourself, in my case it was intensively during 7 years without stopping (group performances, two solos, lots of guest appearances and tours), it happens that during these processes you begin to repeat yourself and this overwork becomes cheap and nonsensical.


Photo: Theatre Troubleyn (c)

That’s why I drew the line now, in order to enable this ‘body use’ in the future. I will see what kind of approach I will use in the future projects. I’m 35 and it hurts (laughs). But in any case, I wouldn’t like to lose extremity on the stage.

That’s the reason why I really have to be smart now, to make it possible to keep this skill in the future, this crossing boundaries, this extremity. But at the same time to keep my body in a good shape so I can use it for years, because I don’t want to stop working, you know.

Yeah, you just need to find some new form… This is going to give you a new layer to other skills you have…

IJ: Yeah, that’s right. I don’t know how this will work, I’m thinking now about studying acting or yoga. I don’t know.


Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, Theatre Troubleyn (c)

What is your relation to the space? Let’s clear it from all media and stage sets, but pure space…

IJ: For me as performer, there are two spaces. One space is within my body, and the other space is outside my body. When moving, I make decisions which space will be used, depending on the topic or what ever I have to express through this movement or task. For instance, in the Angel of Death I’ve mainly used this space within my body, the inner space. Why? Because I was surrounded by small space, a small stage. As for other performances…

Firstly, I find very important when you are on the stage not to think ‘flat’, but to perceive the space as something that surrounds you, something that’s up and down. I think that dancer has to have an enormous amount of the space, circular space, but not a flat space. I also find important, when I’m dancing, that the space doesn’t stop within the boundaries of the walls.

For instance, if I stretch out my hand, I imagine that my hand stretches outside of this hall or outside of the theatre. I think you can get with this completely different energy in the movements, especially when you move. You simply enlarge the space around you.

In fact, the space is very important in dance, and very few people are talking about it. Everybody are talking about dance, dance, dance; but the body in space is unbelievably important, especially for choreography. When somebody is choreographing, that person can’t deal only with the body, you have to deal with the space and the position of the body in the space. For me as a performer, there are these two segments I’ve mentioned earlier.

I’m interested in your relation to the media, like the video and the music… especially in the context of your work with Jan, who is a visual artist and sculptor…

IJ: Actually, I perceive ‘The Angel of Death’ as a moving sculpture. This is not a theatre piece for me, but more as sort of movable visual art. As you mentioned video, lots of people talk about this performance as a multimedia performance. Well, it’s not, because Jan isn’t a multimedia artist. It’s very simple, he had the idea of using the video for this piece and that’s what he did.

Because of that the company has been very often invited to video festivals and so, but in fact this is not the case. I really had a problem when we were introduced with the label ‘multimedia performance’, because this reminded me on ‘trendy’ things, and I hate it. You said before that Jan is a renaissance artist, not a multimedia artist.

Let’s go back directly to your question, to the visual aspects of the performance. This visuality gave to me  a tremendous amount of inspiration for the performance. These video screens bounded me in a sense and it gave me a feeling like being in somebody’s brain, in Jan’s brain. For me as a performer, it was an enormous compact world.


Photo: Theatre Troubleyn (c)

But sometimes video really gets on my nerves, because without video I would have my own rhythm. In this case, video gave me incredible sharp sense of timing. Everything in the performance is improvised regarding my movements, but the tempo of the performance is bounded by the video.

Duration of anything what I do on the stage is not free, but as a performer I always had this feeling that I can’t be 100% free, because the video is here to conduct the time of my movements.

So, from one side it was irritating because I didn’t have a freedom to follow my own move, but at the other hand, all these images had a tremendous impact on my imagination and inspiration for the improvisation of the movements within the structure of the performance. Bill’s body (William Forsythe) have been, very often, my inspiration on the stage. I never thought like ‘this is the work of an ARTIST’, no, I made it my own.


William Forsythe video in the Angel of Death by Jan Fabre
Photo taken from (c)

I remember quite clearly (laughs) when I gave the name for Bill, and it’s Gigi (laughs)… and on this way I wanted to make it more on the human level so I could work more with it… It happened in Italy during rehearsals. If I would think in a sense: Oh, this is William Forsythe, and this is really a BIG ARTWORK! Oh, forget it; I could never manage to make something out of this approach. I had to make it more close to myself, and it happened right at the first rehearsal.

Could you describe me a little bit your working processes…

IJ: Well, first in the line are the physical preparations in the morning: yoga, ballet, kendo or some class, we have lots of things in Troubleyn Theatre. Sometimes Jan is giving lessons of his biological acting. Jan’s processes are based on improvisation, improvising to infinity, everyday per 8 hours.

We get different topics, and we improvise 8 hours on the same topics; or he selects us in few groups and we have to make out something in 10 minutes, and then drill for several hours.

In some moment he starts to ‘build’ something from this material. During that period we talk a lot about this subject and all aspects. Then he can build the skeleton of the performance, form direction… then we fill it… the performance develops through playing, and that’s the most beautiful thing when you work with Jan.

What happens when you work with him is that the performance grows as we continue to play it. It’s not like in the most cases, when the climax happens for the premier.


Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, Theatre Troubleyn (c)

With Jan it’s different, the premier is like a goal, but afterwards the performance starts to grow. His goal is to keep this high level till the end of the tour. He never allows for the performance to fall down.

You have to re-invent every time when you enter the stage. No repetitions from yesterday, and that’s the reason his performances are so hard, especially solos. You have to re-invent yourself every time for 50 minutes. I had situations like to play 14 performances in 7 days, and in such cases it becomes a hard work. But, at the same time this is the charm of such theatre, right?! It never becomes boring.

What was your drive in dance and art? Who influenced or inspired you the most? Maybe Pina Bausch or somebody else…

IJ: Pina Bausch was the first. This physical theatre inspired me while I was still in the ballet school. There has been a phase in the London; I always liked this physical theatre, DV8, of course. Then I liked a lot Win, Wim van de Keybus. I liked him even more then Therese (Therese de Keersmaeker). That was during my student phase, these people are not interesting to me today.


The Orgy of  Tolerance, photo: Jean-Pierre Stoop (c)

Naturally, that was the poetic from the end of 80’s… I mean, they are all still strong authors… but what about LaLaLa Human Steps?

IJ: Yeah, exactly. Oh, LaLaLa Human Steps were too acrobatic for me, although Wim also used to be rather acrobatic (laughs). But in his performances everything looked more organic, and I liked his movement deprived of technique. I liked that a lot, I couldn’t do this because of my ballet technique.

He has used very often people without technique and then managed to ‘turn them to his notes’. Let me think more, I can’t remember… I never liked drama theatre, that’s interesting; I was totally into physical theatre. When you have bad dance piece, it’s simply bad. But when you have bad drama piece, that’s really unbearable…

I completely agree with you… I want to jump out of my body when I watch bad drama theatre…

IJ: Because it looks like an enormous fakery. It’s really hard to make a good drama theatre based on a good play. Far, far away from the reality… Even today, I really like theatre that has strong physical elements. It doesn’t have to be only visual, as Castelluci. I like Gisèle Vienne, she has her own world.

I like people who aren’t repeating themselves, but doing everything from themselves. Somebody might see it as autistic, but I think this is simply an author’s world. That kind of theatre directors interests me the most at the moment. I’m not interested in repertory theatre.


Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, Theatre Troubleyn (c)

I think it’s a mutual torture, and I don’t get who is torturing who in this ‘relationship’ (laughs)?

IJ: Yeah, exactly (laughs). But I have to admit I worked with actor and director Senka Bulic in Zagreb. But, you know, she’s to me a rock n’ roll director.

But you have worked with her Yukio Michima’s artwork… that’s definitely not a repertory theatre…

IJ: Yeah; I just wanted to say that. Firstly, she’s as a person pure rock n’ roll. I have great respect for her acting. And she doesn’t fit into the system. She’s a one man band. I mean, by picking up Michima, although it’s a classical and poetic text, the performance hasn’t been such.

With this kind of people I can enter to the drama theatre easily, because she works from her inner self. Some people might not like it, that’s the other issue.

What about your pedagogical work you have started recently? If I understood it correctly, between choreographing and pedagogy, you are more likely to do pedagogy…

IJ: I’m fonder to pedagogy, because I’ve solved with myself this dilemma, because I realized that I’m not an author. I don’t want to do this because it’s modern and trendy. Because the public thinks authors are smarter then performers, that’s especially the case in Croatia. Then performers get complexes and trying to be smart in their work, and they stop being performers (laughs)…

You mean, they become more conceptual and hermetically closed…

IJ: Yeah. I have never saw a performance and said afterwards: Oh, see how smart this dancer is! No, you should say after the performance: See how good this performer is! Look his stage intelligence. There is something like the stage intelligence; there is something like the author’s intelligence. It does not necessarily mean that one of these is better then the other one. This movement is pretty strong now.

Performers, who didn’t manage to express themselves on the stage, enter the fields for authors and choreographers. But those reasons are not the right ones, you know. You should be the author or the choreographer in cases when you really have something to say, because the content is ‘leaking’ out from you.


Another Sleepy Dusty Delta Day, photo taken from

Rare are those that have really this ‘leaking’ situation. For instance, there is no content leaking from me, so I really don’t see any reason to start choreographing now. I have a need to be on the stage. I think that is my intention; I will try to stay on the stage till the moment I can contribute it for good.

As for my pedagogical work, I think it’s time that I share my knowledge I have accumulated over the years of education and working. I’m only hoping that I will open the appetite for good things in these people who are attending my classes. Workshops last only for few days, so I can’t teach them a lot, but I can show them a fragment to open their appetites to become curios.

You have to be curios to yourself in order to see what you are capable to do. They have to open their channels. Of course, I also have a lot to learn, because it’s not easy to guide people. It’s very responsible!

Thanks a lot, Ivana!

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