photo: Eric Richmond, choreography: Aletta Collins "Awakenings", Rambert Dance Company
To open our Summer of Dance Campaign, we have chosen to meet with the talented Rambert Dancer Malgorzata 'Gosia' Dzierzon. Malgorzata was born in Poland and trained in Classical Ballet at the Bytom National Ballet School. Upon graduation, she joined Malaika Kusumi Ballet Theatre in Frankfurt before moving on to dance with the Royal Danish Ballet, Peter Schaufuss Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre, Gothenburg ballet and eventually in 2006 Rambert. There she created many roles such as the main duet in Scribbilings by Doug Varone, Carnival of the Animals by Sue Davis, Tread Softly by Henri Oguike and Awakenings by Aletta Collins. She has also made guest appearances with Wayne McGregor/Random Dance Company at the Brighton Festival and alongside the Ballet Boyz in Christopher Wheeldon’s Mesmerics.
Malgorzata is also a member of “New Movement Collective”, a group of new generation choreographers with a long collaborative working history, both as dancers and dance-makers with Europe's leading ballet and contemporary companies.
Today we’re talking to her about her approach to choreographing, life at Rambert and New Movement Collective’s latest project, Casting Traces that she is producing, co- choreographing and dancing in.
Hi Malgorzata, thank you so much for taking the time to answer our questions. We’ve noticed you seem to be more and more into the choreographic side of dance, as opposed to delivering other people’s choreographies. What is it that moves you in choreographing ?
MD: I think it is the same force which brought me over from classical to contemporary dance- greater freedom of movement and interpretation; the quest to find your own vocabulary and form of expression. The choreographers I have worked with often challenged their dancers in their creative process and I discovered that I like that.
I had also suffered from a hip injury for the last season and underwent surgery in February. This prevented me from dancing for several months but my head went into a bit of over-time! As soon as I was off my crutches I had to let it all out and this spring I have created pieces for CAT students in Manchester, re-created an existing piece for Edinburgh Choreographic Project, worked with a couple of incredibly talented dancers from Compania Nacional de Danza and helped to mount a new collaboration with Architectural Association at Matadero in Madrid.
Wow you’ve been very productive! Tell us more about how you approach the creation of a new choreography.
MD: I like to work on movement phrases on my own; I am a bit shy in the early stages of creation. Once I feel I had "found" the core elements of the piece the next stage is real fun- I love working with groups of people, getting them into patterns, like flocks of birds or kettle of fish. I find myself on the verge between creatively re-designing the space with movement and being mathematically precise- a bit like an architect, I would imagine.
Now this must be a tough question but of all your creations so far, which one is your favourite?
MD: I loved the process every time but "For P." had the longest journey. It was premièred as a "work in progress" in Santander, Spain, then shown in its full length at Linbury Studio and will soon be re-created in its "chamber" version by the dancers of Edinburgh Choreographic Project. In both versions I had worked with pre-existing music by Polish composers Szymon Brzoska and Mikolaj Gorecki. I find there is certain nostalgia in Polish music, passed on through generations of composers, which really suited the movement language of this work. While I enjoy collaboration, on this occasion having the music earlier had allowed me to merge the choreography and composition with greater sensitivity.
I also had a lot of fun working with composer Mark Bowden on "Lines written a few miles below"- much more theatrical creation about the life on London underground, premièred at The Place last October.
You joined Rambert Dance Company in 2006. Any reason why you chose Rambert in particular?
MD: I had always heard of Rambert's high artistic standard. I had visited London many times and thought it had a lot to offer to curious types like myself. The tipping point was when my boyfriend was offered a job with Rambert- I would visit on my free weekend from Sweden, watch performances, take classes and get to know the dancers. Gradually it became like a second home and when a female contract became available I moved to England.
That’s fantastic and especially since choreography is at the heart of Rambert. It’s a perfect fit! What has been the highlight of your time there so far?
MD: I really enjoyed all the creations, in particular Garry Stewart's Infinity and Doug Varone's Scribblings. Working with Christopher Bruce on the role of older daughter in Hush has also been a highlight; Christopher has a real gift for getting the best out of his dancers.
It felt really special being noticed in the Critics' Circle 2008 and 2009 Awards- I had not been with Rambert for very long at the time, so it was re-assuring that people liked what I had to offer to the company.
You are also currently involved with the group New Movement Collective. Tell us more about NMC and how it all started.
MD: New Movement Collective is a group of "like-minded" choreographers, with particular interest in blending boundaries between dance and architecture. This is a direct quote from our website but I can't think of a better way to summarise it.
It started as a group of friends searching for platforms to showcase our choreographic work and hoping to extend the life of many beautiful friendships, often formed while working and touring together with a company.
Many of us are Rambert dancers- Patricia, Robin and me, but we also have Anthony Missen and Kevin Turner from Company Chameleon, Joe Walkling from New Adventures, Alex Whitley now with Random and our free lance ex-Ramberians- Gemma Nixon, Jonathan Goddard, Renaud Wiser and Clara Barbera.
While searching for performance opportunities one of our members got talking with a relative who was then enrolled in a course at Architectural Association Interprofessional Studio. The aim of the course is to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration and in 2009 New Movement found itself dancing in a derelict building in the heart of Covent Garden. Such "raw" spaces have their challenges but also a lot of atmosphere and creative potential- we were hooked.
This sounds very exciting. Tell us more about the reasons that motivated you to get involved in the collective.
MD: An opportunity to work creatively with friends and incredible dancers. Also a chance to develop professionally beyond dancing and choreographing-we do not have any regular financial or administrative support and relay on our own skills to run the company.
I am studying towards a degree in Leadership and Management, so it was a good opportunity to learn how to start up a business and test an alternative way of running a company- as a Collective all decisions are taken democratically through majority of votes.
What is your role more precisely within the group?
MD: Dancing and choreographing is a "given" in the Collective. Depending on a project we have different "leaders", but I generally tend to coordinate activities between us and collaborators and do most of the administration- write applications, reports, formulate policies and do some basic accounting. For our next project Casting Traces I would best describe my role as a "Producer".
This must be very time consuming. How do you manage your time between NMC and Rambert?
MD: Ha! I think since starting up the company I have became a rather anti-social person and fallen into a "work-sleep- food- a bit of CSI- work-sleep-food" loop. Some of the work for NMC can be done "virtually", on my iPad when I'm on tour; lunch break and evening rehearsals have become a norm.
Tell us more about Casting Traces, the new project you’re working on at the moment with NMC?
MD: Casting Traces is our first fully independent production and it brings together dance, architecture, film and newly commissioned music. It unfolds within a giant paper labyrinth built in a 650 sq meter ex-dairy warehouse in Battersea. This 45 minutes promenade performance features 8 of our dancers/choreographers and a solo violinist.
Dancer: Gemma Nixon; Photo: Renaud Wiser
What is the inspiration behind the production?
MD: First- the space, it is large, raw and one could say- a bit hunted. We wanted to create a world of illusion and played with ideas of pareidolia- brain misinterpreting shadows and its audio equivalent EVP.
The paper maze was a way for us to re-design this vast open space, enable us to project images, create silhouettes and shadows. As choreographers working from remote location we also needed a “glue", starting point for the creation. I am a big fan of Paul Auster's work and the ambiguous world and characters of his "New York Trilogy" seemed to us like a perfect place to start.
Dancer: Joe Walking; Photo: Renaud Wiser
Can you tell us more about what audiences can expect to see?
MD: We would love for Casting Traces to be an engaging experience for all senses- the audience will be encouraged to take an active role in the show, blending with the set and performers as they discover the pockets of our maze, "meet themselves" projected onto screens around the corner, take a drink at the bar, listen to the violin or take on a “detective” role, following our dancers through the labyrinth.
Dancers: Patricia Okenwa & Joe Walking; Photo: Renaud Wiser
Speaking of violin, tell us more about the soundrack.
MD: The music is created by Szymon Brzoska, young Polish composer based in Antwerp. You may have heard some of his music in Sutra-collaboration with Sidi Larbi, Antony Gormley and Shaolin Monks or Dunas, featuring Maria Pages. Similar to shadow play, the score explores ideas of Electronic Voice Phenomenon - whispers, sound of steps, echoes- are they real or imagined? The electronic element is complemented by live violin- very poetic and powerful.
Dancer: Jonathan Goddard; Photo: Renaud Wiser
It seems to be a very unique piece. If you could describe Casting Traces by comparing it to other works, how would you describe it?
MD: Like nothing you have seen before!!! For the more cautious readers I would describe it as an immersive theatre performance.
The show will end in July (13.07), what are your plans for the rest of the summer?
MD: Casting Traces will be on for another day at Testbed as an installation- the space can also be visited during the day 10-14 of July if you just want to have a wonder around the maze, see some of the projections or chat to one of our dancers "on duty". Monday is the "get out"- yes, we are doing that too! Then submit the reports and probably just sleep for a week! My partner and I are going to spend 2 weeks in France this summer, by the Atlantic Ocean and have invited some of our friends scattered around the world for a holiday re-union. This is most likely to involve beach ball games, bathing, crayfish fishing, trips to the market place, cooking and wine drinking. Can't wait!
Thank you Malgorzata for taking the time to share your story with us.
Useful links and resources:
Malgorzata Dzierzon’s website
Rambert Dance Company
New Movement Collective
Casting Traces trailer