They are a generation of twenty and thirty-year-olds who did not feel at home at either the traditional ballet school, or in dance-theatre companies. They all studied abroad, setting out into the world to experiment, improvise, search for new dance forms and mix different genres.
Back in Poland, they shared a common address - the Stary Browar dance centre in Poznań, curated by Joanna Leśnierowska. This is where the Solo Generation began to grow.
Solo Generation. Choreographers talk to Anna Królica is a long-awaited series of 25 interviews which was recently released by Cricoteka. Królica talks to artists about the beginnings of their careers, their daily quest for perfection, and their pursuit of a style and philosophy of their own. She also traces the names of teachers that the young dancers learned from. The masters they shared are Henryk Tomaszewski, Jan Fabre, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Iwona Olszowska, Leszek Bzdyl and Witold Jurewicz.
Królica, a curator, art critic and author of dance documentaries traces the influence that these young dancers had on the world of contemporary art in Poland. The talks that Królica conducted – always “on the run” – make up a 500 page portrait of the artists’ battle for a place of their own.
Do the swing on rollerblades with Weronika Pelczyńska
Weronika Pelczyńska, photo: Marta Ankiersztejn
She’s 29 and has two degrees: one from the SEAD Experimental Contemporary Dance Academy in Salzburg, and another from the Production Engineering Department of the Warsaw Polytechnic. Weronika Pelczyńska has collaborated with numerous international dance companies, such as Bodhi Project from Salzburg, Mouvoir from Koln, Johannes Wieland Company from Kassel, Cocoon Dance from Bonn, and Random Scream from Brussels.
In a talk with culture.pl, Pelczyńska says that in spite of this international experience, she always wanted to work in Poland. She has collaborated with theatre director Agnieszka Glińska, blending choreography into her stage adaptations. In the talk with Królica, she says
I work with whomever I want to. I feel satisfied, but I always give myself new challenges and destinations. I have worked in Austria, Croatia, I dance a lot in Germany and in Poland, and I began to try myself in France. I would like to make a piece of my own, something bigger, where I would take care of choreography and also direct. I am slowly growing ready for that.
Kaya Kołodziejczyk: Breakdance with Carpathian thugs
Kaya Kołodziejczyk, photo: Marta Ankiersztejn
Kaya Kołodziejczyk has participated in a vast variety of projects. Adapting Karol Szymanowski’s ballet-opera Harnasie, Kołodziejczyk choreographed dozens of dancers in an open-air performance right in the heart of the Tatra mountains. She also danced in the rain during the performance of the Flying Dutchman at the Warsaw Opera, and collaborated with the Belgian legend Rosas.
The young artist is a performer, a dancer and a choreographer with a strong interdisciplinary inclination. In her talk with culture.pl, Kołodziejczyk reveals that although she is independent, she also likes to work with collectives. She calls her work performative dance and a theatre of movement. Kołodzieyczyk claims, “For me, everything begins right there, from the fascination with movement.”
She made her debut at the Ciało/Umysł festival in 2013, with a performance called SOL. While working on the project, Kołodziejczyk’s research led her to study at the Mad Brook Farm with Steve Paxton and Lisa Nelson, pioneers of contact improvisation. For SOL, she also worked with Bread and Puppet Theatre, a legendary, 50-year old, politically radical American group . In the piece, Kołodziejczyk decided to take a critical stance towards contemporary dance while summing up her own career.
Anita Wach dances Sarah Kane
Anita Wach, photo: courtesy of the artist
Some consider her the best independent dancer in Poland. She was the very first resident of the Solo Projekt initative at the Stary Browar in Poznań. She dances in performances across Poland as well as in international projects. Wach is also an author of her own pieces and an excellent improviser. She is best known in Poland for her collaboration with Teatr Bretoncaffe.
According to Jadwiga Majewska, Anita Wach is an extraordinary dance personality.
She is not the type of an artist that strives to create something new at any price, but the hallmark of her stage personality, when combined with a particular body (…) is something that persists in the memory even for those who have only seen one of her performances. In a sense it’s a fulfilment of what a dance-artist should be.
The dangerous art of Tomasz Bazan
Tomasz Bazan combines an excellent mastery of various movement techniques with great theoretical knowledge and a literary awareness. All these qualities make him not only a recognised figure, but also someone who animates and influences the whole of the young Polish theatre and dance scene.
Bazan creates his own performances, he is the founder of Maat Projekt and an organiser of the annual Maat Festival. Bazan reveals what is essential to him in dance:
I think madness is the most important thing. A complete, “to die for” kind of attitude, so to speak. Sacrificing yourself completely and giving yourself to creative work. I don’t think that safe art exists, pretty art, one nicely made, groomed and correct in its essence. I think that is just a product. I suppose there is nothing worse in the field of art than ‘correct’ creativity, made for the so-called masses. It’s mass production in that case, which has nothing to do with art, in spite of trying to disguise itself in an artsy costume. One of the most significant things for me in art is the need to discover something that could not be discovered in any other way. An attempt at capturing what is “unspeakable”.
Jadwiga Majewska adds: "Geometric forms, symmetrical arrangements, minimalism and the constant tension between a cool aesthetic and hot emotions. These are the elements that allow us to describe Tomasz Bazan’s work with the term 'classicism'”.
Iza Szostak: instinct, impulse, improvisation
Iza Szostak in her "Ciało. Dziecko. Obiekt." (Body.Child.Object), produced by Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk, photo: Jakub Wittchen
Iza Szostak has collaborated with dancers from William Forsythe’s company and with the eccentric Dutch artist Jan Fabre. Apart from contemporary dance, she has also trained in ballet, jazz and classics such as the waltz, rumba, jive and cha-cha. Szostak, a graduate of the Warsaw-based Roman Turczynowicz Ballet School has also studied at Codarts, the Rotterdam Dance Academy.
She has a meticulous and experimental approach to movement, employing contact improvisation and methods related to a somatic technique, the so-called authentic movement. In an interview with Izabela Szymańska, she talks about her way of working
I note down my associations, points of reference and it’s helpful when I send in applications to take part in various programmes and competitions. And once I enter the stage, I begin with the authentic movement method. You close your eyes and for thirty minutes you can do whatever you want, you have a witness that observes you. The point is to refrain from judging and analysing yourself, and to let instinct and impulse guide you. (…) This method gives me the feeling of being between a state of sleep and awakening. (…)
Ramona Nagabczyńska dances at the gallery
A scene from the "New(dis)Order" performance choreographed by Ramona Nagabczyńska, photo: courtesy of the artist
The Polish-Canadian artist dances in London and in Warsaw. She has choreographed projects with other dancers and also authored her own performances. Nagabczyńska collaborates with Clod Ensemble, a visual theatre group with whom she has performed at the Tate Modern.
Ramona Nagabczyńska studied ballet in Warsaw and set off to study contemporary dance at the Hochschule Hochschule fur Musik und Darstellende Kunst in Frankfurt, at The Place and at the London Contemporary Dance School. The Ciało/Umysł festival co-produced her experimental project entitled Turao/Dziw in which she addressed the audience with a question of who is entitled to call themselves an artist. Nagabczyńska reveals, “I am interested in entertainment dance. I don’t see the reason why one would separate the kind of dance that gives you pleasure from the kind that is allowed a place on the stage.”
Janusz Orlik: Music, above all
A scene from "The Rite of Spring", Janusz Orlik, photo: © Marek Degórski
Born in 1981, Orlik is a graduate of the Warsaw Ballet School and the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz in Austria. For over a decade, he has been collaborating with the British Vincent Dance Theatre and splits his time between the UK and Poland, where he performs as a solo dancer. In an interview published by the taniecpolska.pl website, Orlik comments
I don’t have an established style, I am interested in new means of expression that I can find and use. Music is what matters the most, and I begin working on my performances from the music material. I would like to work, to provoke a discussion, to meet with the audience, to entertain, and to stir laughter as well as tears.
Orlik has also performed in performances by Olga Cobos, Peter Mika and Nigel Charnock.
Maria Stokłosa's pleasure of the intellectual
A scene from "Intercontinental", photo: Katarzyna Szugajew
Stokłosa experiments, improvises and challenges. She has collaborated with artist from across the world, and performed in New York, Montevideo, Buenos Aires, Berlin, Bruxelles and London. Marysia Stokłosa is a graduate of two prestigious European schools: the School for New Dance Development (SNDO) of the Hogeschool voor de Kunsten in Amsterdam, and the contemporary dance department of the London Contemporary Dance School at The Place. In a talk with Królica, Marysia Stokłosa says:
One of my most important finds in Holland was the discovery that dancing can be a pleasure, and not some kind of a quest for perfection. And this is still a very pertinent source of dance for me - pleasure. Thanks to this, I created a completely different relation with this profession. I am very happy that it’s no longer about tackling perfection. I find a purely physical pleasure in dancing and also the space for transforming emotions and difficult experiences from my life. I think that if I hadn’t discovered this, I would no longer occupy myself with dance (…) When the body relaxes, you can do incredible things. A lot of anxiety goes away as well as other limitations, you dance without effort, and become more and more creative. You can sing in a full voice, even if you don’t know how to sing.
Marysia Stokłosa has also founded the Burdąd Foundation and Creative Work Centre and called to life the association of independent choreographers called Centrum w Ruchu.
Aleksandra Borys in Wonderland
Aleksandra Borys, photo: Jakub Wittchen
Borys is a dancer and choreographer who is fascinated with Australia and also one of the residents of Solo Projekt at Poznań’s Stary Browar. She has created a performance entitled lost in details, in which she undertakes a personal journey into the magic world of Alice in Wonderland. Aleksandra Borys is a co-founder of the Centrum w Ruchu. In a talk with Anna Królica, she reveals that each of her pieces is an attempt at defining dance for herself:
I am very much interested how my dance is received by the audience, and how they read it. I am interested in the relation between body, space, objects, and sound. I asked myself, to what extent is it possible for the viewer to concentrate only on what the dancer shows with movement (…) I would like my choreographies to take on the form of an action that invites the viewer to experience his own adventure. At the same time, it’s important to me to open up a space of discussion about dance. Maybe it’s not important how we call a movement, but to ask what it tries to evoke?
Joanna Leśnierowska: First of all, the head
A colourful personality, and a very energetic and optimistic figure. Leśnierowska is a recognised dance curator, and creator of the most active Polish institution devoted to dance: the Nowy Taniec (New Dance) programme at the Stary Browar in Poznań.
Jadwiga Majewska writes about Joanna Leśnierowska in an article for Culture.pl:
"Browar is her whole life and she is devoted to it with the respect and love it deserves, with the professional preparation of a programme-creator and the openness of a true admirer. She was capable of gathering a devout and faithful audience around the Browar in no time. The audience is always full, or even packed. (…)"
The talk with Joanna Leśnierowska opens Anna Królica’s book. This is how the curator remembers the beginnings of her career:
I wanted to instigate a deeper awareness in the artists as well as the viewers and to ensure a rich variety of contemporary dance phenomena. With the beginning of a discussion about these phenomena, I wanted to prepare a ground for the dynamic development of choreography in Poland. The dreams that I spoke of almost on “one breath” were a result of my following the dance scene in Poland and abroad from the position of a writer-observer. Because the path of my career began from being a dance critic.
The motto of Leśnierowska’s work is borrowed from the acclaimed British choreographer, Jonathan Burrows: “To make dance, you need two legs, two arms, and first of all - a head”. And it was the head that always interested Leśnierowska. Solo Projekt was thought of as a lab, where emphasis would be placed on the process of creating a piece, on the experimental search for new thresholds and original forms of performance. The programme demands independence and the readiness to take risks as well as the ability to discuss ideas with others. It also invites being open to experiments and failures, which often turn out to be more creative experiences that many a success.
Apart from the artists described in the article, other residents of the Solo Projekt endeavour have included: Dominika Knapik, Wojtek Klilmczyk, Renata Piotrowska, Barbara Bujakowska, Karol Tymiński, Małgorzata Haduch, Magdalena Przybysz, Rafał Urbacki, Anna Nowicka, Irena Lipińska, Aleksandra Ścibor, and Iza Chlewińska.
Author: Anna Legierska
sources: Culture.pl, taniecpolska.pl, dwutygodnik.com, "Pokolenie solo"
translated with edits by Paulina Schlosser, 10/03/2014