Conocí a Angie en Barcelona. Yo andaba buscando una clase de danza con un enfoque diferente, que en lugar de centrarse en "seguir pasos", se centrara en explorar las posibilidades expresivas del movimiento. Nada de estilos en especial, sino verdaderamente sumergirse en la emoción creadora de movimiento. Angie daba clases bajo el titulo de "Creative Movement".Y fué perfecto.
Dos años pasaron de esto, y además encontrar el tipo de experiencia que esperaba, encontré en ella y en Kevin, su esposo, dos grandes personas que me alegra poder llamar amigos.
Ambos tienen estudios en literatura y curiosamente trabajan con el movimiento. En él encontraron un lenguaje que admitía un espectro mayor de expresión que las palabras y con esto experimentan actualmente.
Al compartir con ellos dos bellos años de encuentros, y tomando como punto de partida su último proyecto Esokapi Mystika*, decidí hacerles una entrevista para poder compartir su método de trabajo y filosofía. Encuentro en ellos la mejor expresión de la creación artística, lejos del mercadeo o marketing, lejos de públicos objetivos, de las etiquetas y de lo nombrable o contabilizable... y muy cerca del amor, la exploración, la conexión (con los sentimientos, la observación del mundo, de la vida, de los sentimientos) ¡y la acción por la acción!.
Por otro lado, además de que con la entrevista se logra condensar los temas que rondaban nuestras largas y caóticas conversaciones sobre todo tipo de temas lingüísticos y de movimiento, consideré valioso dejar por escrito los profundos e intrincados pensamientos, sentimientos y decisiones que conllevan un hecho artístico, que nace de la necesidad genuina de expresarse. Que no busca agradar, sino existir, que es muy distinto. Y como algo tan básico y profundo en el ser humano, también necesita de trabajo, de esfuerzo y de dedicación**, para poder cobrar forma y nacer.
Te invito así, al encuentro con un nivel más profundo, con eso que subyace y conecta. Con eso que no se puede evitar, que es necesario y básico, y que en los tiempos que corren simplemente pareciera no existir, pero que ahí está. Que te espera cuando estés listo. A ese lugar donde yo considero que está la felicidad de, realmente, lanzarse y crear. Vivir.
*Esokapi Mystika es una danza de curación, una danza mística y un poema creador por la Cia. Lake Angela, dedicado a Mama Prayerwalker.
** Valores en los que coincidimos con nuestro proyecto con David en Entusiasta Gallery.
La entrevista a continuación fue realizada en inglés, ya que es la lengua madre de Angie y Kevin (USA).
The story behind Esokapi Mystika
- Definition -
How would you define “Esokapi Mystika”?
“Esokapi Mystica” is a conglomeration of terms from two seemingly very different traditions, but which I understand to intertwine both in practice and purpose. The term, “Esokapi,” is Siksika (or Blackfeet) and mystika is a variation of the term, “mystica,” from the medieval mystical ideal of “unio mystica,” or union with the divine—usually as a result of intense emoting and suffering in women’s practices. An elder of our Blackfeet family, Silverhawk, describes Esokapi as a way of connoting that “all is one, all is good.” Esokapi is the “unio mystica” of all creatures, to my comprehension. In this way, our piece is a kind of positive creation from apophatic knowledge made possible by an active, intuitive process of thinking with the whole body—the body that continues changing shape and transforming with the “other” creatures and ideas we meet in movement.
We made a primary part of our dance around the graffiti-covered wall in Sant Marti, Barcelona, in the spirit of walking the medicine wheel, and therein communing with and becoming the four critters on the wheel: bison, eagle, coyote, bear. However, we felt the need to dance the wheel in reverse, or “hayoki”—beginning with bear and moving “backwards” around the wheel. We intended this reversal in direction and our dance around the wheel as a prayer for healing for many reasons….
- Inspiration -
How did Esokapi Mystika begin?
The film began with the development of choreographies for two different dances that I realized had powerful, harmonious intentions. One choreography builds upon the transformative medicine wheel dance described above, and the other began as a dialogue with the poetry of the medieval beguine, Angela of Foligno, and my own chronic and violent “Love Poem,” among my multiple (also mystical) variations on the Love Poem. In the process of translating Angela of Foligno’s poetry and Lake Angela’s poetry (into English and into movement), I found that the words she invokes to describe her suffering are nearly the same as those that make my poems. Perhaps most interestingly, I felt that the process of transforming into Angela through the actions of her words correlated with that of invoking in dance the bear, coyote, bird, and bison we call as we move around the medicine wheel. Because dance as a language is active in creating what it “names,” we can reach across time and experience and across species and identity when “performing.” I place the term “performing” in quotations because in the dance—a way of knowing that involves thinking and becoming with the whole body— “Esokapi” or “unio Mystica” becomes the transforming reality rather than a performance.
In the beginning, though, we started this project with the intention of giving something to Mama Prayerwalker, our Blackfeet mother who was diagnosed with breast cancer about the same time we left for Barcelona. Because we were so far and could not visit like we were used to, we decided to make a dance for Prayerwalker to send her our love, and when I danced the wheel I danced for her, and we listened for her calling in the spirits with her ocarina.
- Working process -
What is the Cia Lake Angela's working process? (How do you start a project? Who did what? How did you choose the parts that make it into the film?)
You are a part of Cia. Lake Angela, too (as our resident illustrator-dancer)! In most of our projects so far, we have started with the melding of poetry and choreography. I have developed a method of turning my poetry to movement. Kevin and I discuss the concept and leave ample room for our thinking to develop and change because transformation is always an aim as well as a way of working for us. I begin choreographing the meanings I feel most strongly and what seem to be the crucial moments for the piece. Kevin tells me if any movements seem like they have not been imbued with real meaning. We do not want any movement that is not meaningful, so sometimes more aesthetically or technically lovely parts are thrown out in favor of rougher and more evocative or more functional, necessary movements for the particular moment; for example, we cut out much of my dance based on Angela of Foligno in favor of filming me dragging myself, simply but excruciatingly, up the steps of the Grec in the rain and up the stones and hills over the city. Kevin films and refilms all of this on an iPad. We often run out of space and must delete a lot of information. He decides what to keep, how many takes to shoot, and from where and when and how to film, because he is a good director, and if I am left in charge I will become obsessive and never want to stop.
In the editing process for Esokapi Mystika, Kevin cut together the two dance films where they inherently seemed to intersect toward the same purpose. Both have journeys, and the choreographies express these trajectories with moments of travel in clear directions. What I find especially interesting about these parallel journeys is that “esokapi” forms a wheel; the nonhuman animals dance a cycle which is, of course, horizontal and continuous: a naturally reconciling circle. The creature who is a woman conveys the same purposes as the critters, but her trajectory must overcome the human (androcentric) propensity toward verticality and hierarchy. Because she starts at the “lowest” point, as a “woman” or “worm” in the texts, the mystical portion of the choreography is a vertical climb from a “cage” or grotto. So, the goals of both parts are parallel, but the “floor patterns” of the choreography actually are perpendicular. Planning and executing details like this pleases me.
- Background -
You both come from literature studies. How did you get involved with dance?
I began with translating poetry from German into English and found that I could translate one poem hundreds of different ways, and all were “correct,” yet the range of prospective meanings was immense. I find this concept of language’s mobility as fascinating as it is intuitive in the thinking process, before language becomes “fixed” by verbalization. Eventually I found myself seeking a more ambiguous language for my translations than human verbal language, and I found it in dance. For my doctoral degree, I translated the work of Georg Trakl into dance under the supervision of my dance mentor, Michele Hanlon. I am enthusiastic about trying every kind of dance to which I come close, in order to learn different ways of moving and increase my body’s ability for creating or effecting multiple meanings, preferably simultaneously.
Kevin may not have intended to become a dancer, but he was hooked after I asked him to take a part temporarily in my choreography for Silence Spoken… at The University of Texas at Dallas. We had a deal that he would participate until I could find a dancer for the part. The role required a dancer who could perform the movement of the color black in Trakl’s poems. In the end, Kevin was invested in the movement we made on him and did not want to be replaced; he performed in the whole, feature-length performance. I was very happy with this decision because I had intended the part for him from the outset. We work well together because we share a language in poetry. Kevin comprehends the meanings I describe in the choreography because he also is a writer and an actor, so it is particularly interesting to describe movement and see it manifest in him. We also have the same philosophy that a performance should not stop with performance but should effect a transforming. This conviction, a mutually poetic language, and a relative fearlessness make him a good dancer for me!
- Mystic women writings -
How did your relationship with the women mystics begin?
Before naming myself after my birthplace, the Lake, I was Angela of Foligno. I have spent a lot of time with medieval women mystics across spiritual traditions, but I am drawn to the particularly violent and unusual practices of medieval beguines. More rationally, I spent time immersing myself in mystical creative work as a performer in Hildegard of Bingen’s opera, Ordo Virtutum, and I have translated the work of Mechthild of Magdeburg and Elizabeth of Spalbeek into English and dance. I am interested in medieval women’s creative, “religious” practices because it seems to me that they become God within and despite the androcentric confines of their contexts—contexts that I believe are not much different today, but which perhaps simply are expressed in different subtleties. I understand the way Angela understands, and my poems also seem to emerge from a space that converges.
- Blackfeet -
What is your relationship with the Blackfeet community?
We moved to Texas for my doctoral work, and a community of Blackfeet, or Siksika, living there took us into their family, The Many Faces People. We have learned a lot from them, including the practices and ceremonies and our roles in the family. Happily, the members of our family are also artists who encourage and support each other. In the family are singers and storytellers. Prayerwalker and Silverhawk are multimedia artists as well. Their home is filled with artwork, and some of Silverhawk’s can be seen at The Four Feathers Trading Post. (https://www.facebook.com/FourFeathersTradingPost)
- Choreography -
Can you describe the elements you mixed to give form to the choreographies in Esokapi Mystica?
We included the medicine wheel, four directions and critters, and danced hayoki. We also included my translation of my own Love Poem, healing, and suffering. In the moments in the film where the two intersecting trajectories—the “esokapi” and the “mystika”—merge most clearly, I choreographed a rhythm made by striking myself in the dance of my Love Poem. I heard that rhythm turn into the beat of the drum when I began to move around the wheel (in this case, the graffiti wall). The most important element through the choreography, of course, is that of active transforming. I believe that to communicate this kind of material, an actual embodiment of the meaning is necessary—in other words, not a performance but a transformation into an “other” that is also us: esokapi: mystica.
- Graffiti, mural art and neighborhood life -
In the video we can see graffiti, mural art and neighborhood life, not just as a background but as an active element. How important was it for you to have this in the film?
The neighborhood was an important concept for us, and we filmed the neighborhood portions of the project first. This was the foundation upon which the “vertical,” less stable portions of the project are built. We wanted the neighborhood to be an actual participant in the film, an actor that also changes and transforms. If you notice where I return to the bear part of the wheel at the end of the dance around the wall, the graffiti has changed almost entirely. Living in this neighborhood was like that: the neighbors were gypsies whose kids we played with and who were kicked out of the homes they occupied and their houses demolished. That was shown briefly in the footage of demolition in the beginning of our film.
We watched these refugees working on the street to collect other people’s garbage only to have to evacuate and live on the street again. In a parallel way, all kinds of people came from all over the world to paint on the wall. The wall was always changing. We wanted the neighborhood to be a co-actor in the film because of “esokapi” and because this was a dance for healing—a dance for Mama Prayerwalker, but also for the neighborhood, our neighbors, the abused trees, and the cat colonies all surviving and living there.
It was important to me that the neighbors could watch what we were doing and filming and have the chance to join in, to comment and participate if they wanted to change or impact this work in a more overt way. Of course, their influence is there regardless. The horse at the beginning of the film is a remnant that has survived among the rubble from the demolished houses. We wanted our whole neighborhood to have a chance to speak with us, preferably in ways they chose.
- Filmography, direction -
Barcelona offers great scenarios, but you took them and transform them with your particular
vision. What made you make those decisions regarding location and use of camera?
We chose places that fit the choreography’s intentions, but more importantly, we chose places with which we had spent a lot of time and felt we knew very well. We chose places we had lived and with whose inhabitants and environments we had conversed. Despite all the passersby, these still felt like spaces somewhat isolated from human people and alive with evidence of other inhabitants. I like to work with ruins; I am extremely attracted to places ancient and crumbling with death and decay, where you can see evidence of minute weeds creeping through the shards to reclaim their homes and worn stone faces described by wind and sun.
It also happened that we filmed on several rainy days, which are unusual in Barcelona. But I love to dance in dirt and soil, and we decided that I dance best in those conditions, as in the pit of the Grec amid the broken glass, stone, and rain.
- Music -
Please tell us about the music and sound work you chose and made for Esokapi Mystika.
Our ideas about music for dance correlate with our ideas on editing. We try to choose the clips that convey the most interesting and genuine characters and meanings, not necessarily those with the best execution of the dances or technique. Normally, Kevin makes the music himself to complement his cinematography and my choreography and interpret our performance in another voice. For example, Kevin created the music for one of my dance-poems as a sound collage using forks and knives as instruments and specific bird calls he felt communicated the meanings. As with our video equipment (an iPad), we use what is available, and Kevin creates interesting work with the limitations. The sound also depends on the needs of the piece in terms of how much is choreographed and how much is improvised. In the clip I described above, I danced to memories of Mama Prayerwalker’s ocarina, ambient sound, and inspirations because I never choreograph to music and rarely dance to music. We find or Kevin makes and adds all the music afterwards. That is the last part of our process.
At the same time, I appreciate the transformation that occurs when the music is added. During our filming in Barcelona, there usually were spectators. We almost always work in public spaces, and people are free to watch, join, comment, interact. However, we also take the risk that people will yell crude things and heckle us. That can be difficult for me when presenting my own work on my body—this is a vulnerable situation. Especially in this respect, it is interesting to observe the difference between the “actual” environment during performance and the “other” reality the dance becomes when Kevin adds the music that conveys how we intend the work to feel.
Some music just seems to work perfectly. For example, we chose Sofia Jannok’s song for a climbing scene over the city of Barcelona in which the wind is particularly active. The song is actually not a song but a yoik, which is a mystic concept in itself—a yoik is a traditional Sami way of expression that invokes that which is being called in the yoik. In this case, the artist, Sofia Jannok, actually is singing the wind. In a similar way, in this footage, the wind seems to be speaking still more vividly than the woman dragging herself up the hill.
- Dancing, living and surviving in Barcelona -
You two lived in Barcelona for at least two years. How was your experience? How was the
dance panorama according to your experiences?
I like the image of a dance panorama. The dance styles being taught and practiced in Barcelona are very different from those I studied in Texas. The dance classes in the states seem much more technically focused and sound, while those in Barcelona seem aimed toward developing a different dance language that begins with the premise of “unlearning” certain techniques. There is a playfully floppy, almost puppy-like quality prized in a lot of the contemporary classes in which I participated in Barcelona. I really appreciate the attitude toward experimentation, development, play, and physical contact in Europe, perhaps because I love to play and experiment and mix media myself. I enjoy lifting the restrictions in these ways. One of my favorite parts of the dance scene in Barcelona is the constant access to interesting performances, at the Grec all summer for example, and the variety of dance genres at close access. Our neighborhood had such good quality, local flamenco artists, and I had the opportunity to practice capoeira with a fantastic group nearby, Capoeira Matumbé Barcelona with CM Felipe Fofinho. I also appreciated how people of all ages and backgrounds attended dance classes and events; dance is not focused on kids only in Barcelona and attracts a wider audience. I enjoyed working with the variety of participants in the creative movement classes we held in Eixample as well and everyone’s willingness to experiment and move outside of their spaces of comfort. I consider all kinds of intentional movement languages to be high quality dance, and I appreciate any opportunity to learn new forms—to keep expanding the range of possibilities for Cia Lake Angela’s movement language.
- Now and the future -
Recently, I participated in a collaboration for a project by the Swedish artist, Tanne Uddén, on varying ideas of femininity and what that term might even mean. Cia Lake Angela just recorded a short dance-capoeira tribute for CM Fofinho’s birthday celebration. I am still developing my four-part contribution to “Chaos” and beginning the choreography for part one, “Women,” which will combine video with live dance. I am sure that we will perform this work with Jésica Cichero and David Pugliese when the time is right and most chaotic!
- BONUS -
Is there anything you want to add that I could not think of before making you this interview?
Thank you, Jésica and David, for your dedication to artwork, including dance. We love you.