Raimund Hoghe is certainly one of the most intriguing dancer and choreographer in contemporary dance these days. I had an opportunity to interview him in May, during Queer Zagreb Festival, where his company performed ‘Boléro Variations’.
Raimund Hoghe always pushes the boundaries of dance perception through profound and minimalist way of analyzing thingz. The public and dance experts from Ballettanz Magazine obviously recognized this by giving him The Dancer of the Year Award in male competition for the season 2008.
Raimund Hoghe, photos by Rosa Frank (c)
I really have to mark here that in female competition the same award was given to ex-ballerina Sylvie Guillem. They are both completely different in bodily physics and kinetics, but the result is actually the same. The result is strong and authentic.
I already blogged about ‘Boléro Variations’ I saw back at Queer Festival, so I’m letting you to Mr. Raimund Hoghe and his ways of seeing thingz on the stage and in life…
Raimund Hoghe, photo by Rosa Frank (c)
While I was watching your performance ‘Bolero Variations’, I constantly thought about the line: tinny little thingz… You like to ‘dig’ through those hidden moments in our lives… exploring society and its reflection on your own inner landscape… What was the initial trigger that has brought you to this?
RH: It’s different from each piece, but I don’t make pieces with big effects, for example. I’m not interested in virtuosity or how people can jump or do incredible things. I’m interested in simplicity, so very simple and the personality of dance. To share with audience the quality of dancers, and there are these very little things; and sometimes maybe you are wondering why it’s interesting?
For some people, of course, it’s not interesting, but for many it’s interesting. Like for me, last time when I was here in Zagreb, three years ago in 2006 with ‘Swan Lake, 4 Acts ‘, there was a 3-year old child in the performance. And this child didn’t want to leave the performance in the break, because it was so interested. The child wanted to see the whole story. The mother wrote to me a letter and this child had very interesting comments. It was also a long piece. So, for some adults it’s very boring, for a 3-year child is different. It’s different for each person.
Lorenzo De Brabandere and Raimund Hoghe
Photo from Tanzgeschichten by Rosa Frank (c)
You have spent many years working with Pina Bausch … her pieces have a specific dramaturgy… and the set of dancers in your piece reminded me on some performances you did with Pina… having a strong female character on the stage… Ornella Balestra’s character reminded me on Mechtild Grossman…
RH: Yeah, but it’s very different from Pina’s work now, because it’s much more entertain and light, not too long; all dancers are more or less young. So, I’m interested just in strong personality. And now, my works could be compared with early works by Pina, not with her works from today. Because she is working a lot with video now, and older pieces were used in films, too. I don’t use this kind of technology.
And, the roads are different, like in Pina’s dance pieces women are women, and man are man. So, women have long hairs, very beautiful colourful dresses moving like women. Man wear white shirts with trousers, like this classical image of man and woman. I’m not really interested in this.
Ornella Balestra, photo by Rosa Frank (c)
People tend to stuck when they try to use canons of classical dramaturgy in contemporary dance… As dramaturge how do you make this distinction, because your field is dance dramaturgy? You are directly connected with the scene that coined the term Tanz theater…
RH: For me, in dramaturgy you have to come from one point to the other and you have to know why. That’s something everybody has to find out. There is no recipe or so. For me it has to be clear how you come from one point to the other, and that you can repeat it easily… this outthinking. The dramaturgy has to be so clear, that you can just jump into the piece.
We don’t have long rehearsals before performances. It’s just one day, but people do different things… Maybe one piece is for one night play and then you have one rehearsal. And it is possible, because for me, and also for dancers, the dramaturgy is very clear. You don’t have to think about it. In many dance pieces you see today, they have to sing or think a lot what is coming next. In my work you have to know why you are here.
Photo by Patrick Mounoud (c) taken from fipa
How would you describe your work with Pina Baush?
RH: It was very interesting to work with her. People talk about her and her work in terms of personality and strong person. This is very personal related, but it could be said also for her art form. It was not that sort of work where you present only the feelings.
Could you be so kind to describe a little bit your working process… from the beginning till the end…
RH: I’m very inspired by music. So, this is the point, when I’m listening the music! I made a piece on Maria Callas, and she sang about all that: If you really listen to the music, the music tells you how to move. And this is what I’m also trying. Then this dramaturgy is coming together, I feel it. I just have to do ‘this next – this next – this next’…
In this piece about Callas ’36, Avenue Georges Mandel’, she wasn’t visible in the first performance. But I had a feeling I missed something and had to think why is this happening and then I put this motif in it as a scene or an aria or something.
Emmanuel Eggermont and Raimund Hoghe, photo by R. Frank (c)
How do your dancers react to these processes because they are all very physical, but seems like there is always a layer of trust?
RH: Yeah, the trust. So, that everyone can be exactly what they are. For me, it’s also important that there is no competition between dancers. Everyone is so different, you can’t compare them, each has its own quality. For example Lorenzo (De Brabandere), who was also in ‘Swan Lake, 4 Acts’; and Emmanuel (Eggermont) have really big part in this piece. They cannot be compared. They have very different backgrounds, from education and so. This is important, that there is no competition.
It’s interesting how they are bringing different experiences…
RH: Yeah, different experiences … like Lorenzo, who wanted to become a football player, and he was underway to football player; and Emmanuel not at all. And Yutaka (Takei), the Japanese dancer – he did also martial arts and he have this background. Nabil (Yahia-Aissa) is a medical doctor and dancer. They all have these different backgrounds.
Charlotte Engelkes and Raimund Hoghe, photo by R. Frank (c)
Yeah, they enriched the performance…
RH: Yeah! This is something you might feel when you’re in the audience – different personalities. And it’s important that they respect one another. This is also not so often on the stage.
I got the impression that their bodies are not talking differently, not in a sense of different languages, but it’s something in their way of presentation, some thin line that makes them different…
RH: Yes. I’m interested in which way they are different, and also to keep this diversity. This is one main point, you have this diversity – not one body, the ideal body.
Raimund Hoghe, photo by Rosa Frank (c)
One of your main drive is music, too. When did you discover this, or was it the sound itself that attracted you, or rhythm, or classic music…
RH: …also popular music. It’s very simple. I grew up surrounded mostly by popular music.
Which artists inspired you?
RH: Oh, there are so many of them. So many movies… For example, Maria Callas inspires me, because she was so aware of the movement. She talked a lot about it. And also Japanese dance, Butoh dancers like Kazuo Ohno, Sankai Juku… I know them well, and this is something I’m very interesting in… I was also very interested in this concept of Bauhaus. This combination of fine arts, dance, theatre…
Raimund Hoghe, photo by Luca Giacomo Schulte (c)
I can relate your work with Butoh, because seems like you have similar aesthetic ground and this ‘less is more’ approach….
I know you like Pasolini…
RH: …and Pasolini, of course. So, there are many, many artists… from music and literature… I like German and Russian authors. I like a lot Anton Chekhov. But there are also some pieces by Maxim Gorki. In German literature I like Johann Gottfried von Herder, Heinrich von Kleist… Many, many artists…
Mr. Hoghe, Thank You Very Much!