Dancer and choreographer born in 1982, author of his own original performances, founder and director of Maat Projekt Theatre.
Dancer and choreographer born in 1982. Founder and director of Maat Projekt Theatre.
Table of contents:
Background | Maat Projekt Theatre | Oriental inspirations | Inderdisciplinarity | Solo practice
Tomasz Bazan is one of the versatile, extraordinarily active performative artists of the young generation. He combines an intense mastery of various movement techniques with literary erudition and theoretical awareness, which makes him not only a recognizable figure in the theatre and dance milieu, but also an influential animator of various artistic events.
He graduated in Cultural Studies at the Maria Skłodowska Curie University in Lublin (specialization: critique and animation of visual arts events). For a year, he has been a student of Jean Marco, French painter and stage designer. He studied dance and movement techniques under renowned dancers and martial art masters, like Nam Hai Bui Ngoc, Yuri Pstrovski, Witold Jurewicz, Monika Tachman, Shizamitu Tienn, Łukasz Maziarczyk, Gabriell Daris, Atsushi Takenouchi, Sylwia Hanff. For years, he has studied and practices Asian martial-arts styles; he specializes in Lang and Vietnam Dao styles. His experience in theatre spans years - he collaborated with the Gardzienice Centre For Theatre Practices, Chorea Theatre Association, International Theatre Art of Now, Compagne le Sablier, Les Kurbas Theatre in Lviv, Dance Art Now in London and the Great Theatre in Warsaw. Aside from his own performances, he collaborates with distinguished theatre directors and actors - but it is widely understood that dance remains the main current of his activity.
Maat Projekt Theatre: Dance in flux
Since 2004, he has been directing the Maat Projekt Theatre, which is considered one of the most significant dance collectives in Poland. From 2009 Bazan has been the founder and curator of the International Experimental Dance and Movement Festival MAAT FESTIVAL which is to present the newest performances by the exceptional dancers. In the theatre he applies his own programme of physical training and cultural pursuits. The aim of the group's activities is "an attempt at finding pure body language and its limits through a syntesis of many qualities from the borderland of visual and performative arts, but applied to theatre," write group members.
We work with the human body and in it, we search an answer to questions asked in our actions and performances, using its entire complexity and all its limitations. We look for energies which move the bodily tissue - we distill and observe them; techniques becomes as important as secondary. While constellations of our group change, our performances emerge from a common experience of presence and closeness.
The artistic phenomenon of Bazan's theatre stems from a special combination of physical techniques with a pursuit of individual emotional expression. In group's performances, "intuitive dance" coexists with "searching an European context for Japanese butoh". The Maat Theatre, present at international festivals, continues an interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue: as its creator says, the theatre's formula is based on group meetings and collaborations with people of culture, science and art.
Over the years, the formation created a number of projects including plays, happenings, collective installations, performances presented in prestigious venues in Poland and abroad, eg. in Germany, USA, Norway, France, Slovenia, UK, Belgium and Israel.
Bazan declares that, despite his fascination with Eastern philosophy, he is aware of its inevitable foreignness to someone who was brought up in this part of the world.
This fascination is caused by a certain need to pause. It's an idyllic hideaway from everything our civilization brings and more of a dream than a settled adoption of a philosophy. Adopting Eastern philosophy fully is impossible in our culture. There, the space of artist's activity expands beyond the limits of art itself: aesthetics alone are empty. In my opinion, considering art from an aesthetic point of view is pointless. Form for its own sake doesn't bring anything new. I value everything which is true and fair, what emerges directly from the dancer's heart, and finds its form thanks to dancer's technique.
Eastern fascinations led him to an interest in Japanese theatre. The shortest definition of butoh dance includes everything that we can find in dance in general: remodeling oneself and turning one's own body into a metamorphosis. As Jadwiga Majewska wrote in Teatr magazine:
Possibilities and consequences of Polish-Asian inspirations are not an exception on the Polish scene; quite on the contrary, they seem to fit in the main current of the 'Polish theatre of metamorphosis' (according to Dariusz Kosiński) in which actions of the artist-performer cross the aesthetic horizon towards the human psyche, or even an intervention into its metaphysical root. The motif of death appears in butoh as often as in Słowacki's or Kantor's theatre. Death is a natural part of individual life as well as of the nation's historical memory. The Japanese have their wartime humiliation, the hecatomb of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Poles celebrate failed uprisings, enslavement and bloodshed of war. Tomasz Bazan seems, through his practice of 'Japanese theatre' and Eastern 'carnal meditations' , to extract them from the deepest layers of Polish Romanticism, not paradoxically at all. Polish butoh dwells in the slightly abstract zone of a suffering spirit, in search of unity between body and mind (as consistently done by Sylwia Hanff), sometimes referring to Buddhist and Orthodox meditational practices (Tomasz Bazan), and through this, it somewhat instinctively approaches the Romantic roots of Polish theatre" . (Jadwiga Majewska, "Between the Rebellion of Reason and the Humility of Existence", Teatr, 12/2010).
Bodily expression's leading role is usually balanced in Bazan's works with erudite literary inspiration. Plays he created were based on themes from the works of Goethe, Beckett, Pinter, Kane, Białoszewski. Apart from that, one can notice an inspiration with Russian folklore and Orthodox spirituality, as well as returning echoes of the Holocaust and contemporary philosophy and popular culture references.
INDUCTIONS / videoart / 2011 from Fopa Film Family on Vimeo.
Inductions is one of the most recent works by the Maat Projekt Theatre. According to Bartłomiej Oleszek, it's an alternative hybrid: a performer acts alongside an actor, we watch a naked body and faces mediated via multimedia presentations; the viewer sits in the audience together with the camera operator, who wanders through theatrical actions, dance collides with word, movement with lack thereof. All these elements, despite escaping straightforwardness, created a homogenous and consistent performance. It eludes commentators - even those in possession of knowledge about Greek hesychia, which inspired the choreographic concept. Brian Raczynski adds that the performance breaks the limits of the classic dance theatre concept, finding a place between dance play, drama theatre and perfrormance art, happening here and now, with our involvement.
The characters in the play are two men - fictional figures as well as real performers; the fascinating personalities of Bazan the dancer and Jacek Poniedziałek, the dramatic actor, become involved a game of meanings taking place onstage. It soon emerges that both men represent two levels of the same personality. The former communicates with the viewer using words: he says his more or less important lines in a chaotic manner - he represents the 'outside'. The latter uses body language, expressing his tiredness, maladjustment, attempts at liberating himself from the conventional. He does it through dance, movement and complex, but perfectly mastered body position and hand gestures (even the fingers). He refers to the 'inside'. Marian Milczarewski in his review wrote about the performance:
This choreography constrained to minimal scope of movement compiled with a moving body focused in a process and crossing in the physical way, was an effect of a meeting of Tomasz Bazan and Honzu Takamoru. The artists spent several days improvising on the streets of Berlin and creating outline of a choreography focusing on observations: looking at what comes to live from the inside and what comes from the outside. A compilation of movement sequences has been established, resulting directly from the municipal space. By his re-adaptation, Tomasz Bazan (Hoznu Takamoru after and injury and long rehabilitation has not come back to dancing) creates a movement lab, which, by using conceptual model of choreography, touches issues of emptiness, loneliness, and identity. In the spectacle one can find influences from both classical ballet and butoh dance.
An earlier work of Bazan (as choreographer and dancer) developed a similar idea. In a play directed by Ewa Wyskoczyl, two actors represent two theatrical aesthetics: dramatic theatre (Piotr Trojan) and dance theatre (Bazan). Two texts, as different as Goethe's Romantic ballad The Elf King and Miron Białoszewski's prose Szumy, zlepy, ciągi (Rustlings, Lumps and Pathways). Literature works here as an inspiration, a reason to show how a human being can be enslaved by language, how little speech can matter and how devoid of meaning it can be - emptying also interpersonal relationships. These relationships, as shown in the play, become a competition for power and limits of one's own territory, creation of which makes it impossible to know another person. Relations emerging in such conditions are based on supremacy, and strength becomes the law.
Geometrical forms, symmetrical compositions, minimalism and continuous tension between the cool aesthetic and boiling emotion allow one to call Bazan's works classicist. In his The Idiot or Trance, based on a Russian Orthodox of a "yurodivy", confirms it; so does the cold Wake Up, inspired by the opposite end of European culture. As Kamila Dworniczak wrote about the performance, "it consists of three parts. An arbitrary prologue involves three dancers, while the following parts belong to particular actors. The dancers' movements are agile and dexterous like ones of an animal, flowing and soft as in classic ballet or desperate, impetuous, emerging from rebellion and resistance. Each part of the performance provokes different associations, refers to different attitudes and facets of emotions. Wildness, subtlety or despair are mere signs, symptoms, situating the individual in a wider context, against reality and changes happening within it".
Us, a performance inspired by Francis Bacon's paintings and the aesthetics (or perhaps emotics) of butoh, shows almost constantly shivering bodies, which - according to Julia Hoczyk - "escape their owners (in the first part of the play, these are three dancers wearing short dresses); they're located in a rectangular space filled with soil. This landscape resembles not only a plowed field, fertile ground or a strange sandbox (as the authors refer to childhood in the play's motto), but also a cemetary or barren ground (…) characters' bodies exist in a similar isolation, their movements are never stable, their legs - constantly bent, feet - twisted, hardly touching the floor. And yet, the characters surprise with their determination, passion and power, provided by the energy and dynamics of their movements as well as community of action. As if, regardless of consequences, they wanted to reach the memory of a body, recall memories almost gone".
The play is a monumental show about transgressing one's body and its deepest, most spiritual structure. A laboratory of movement, total and astonishing in its true expression.
Bazan creates also solo works, based on a direct contact between the artist and the viewer - a witness of dancer's scenic presence. In his Lang etude, Julia Hoczyk sees intertwining inspirations with a Chinese martial arts style and butoh dance.
The dancer's movement is completely different than in the contemporary technique, the energy seems condensed inside the body which slowly, attentively raises single gestures. (…) The most important thing is the body's plasticity and the fact that movement becomes apparent even before it emerges on the outside - through tensions and microtensions in the muscles, sharp oppositions of directions, precise impulse flow and balancing on the border of maintaining poise and losing it. All these distinctions are exquisitely used by Bazan, who perfectly operates small gestures, movement and its detail, as well as short and longer pauses.
The same critic wrote about Jiu, an homage to the choreographer's butoh masters:
The movement of a flawlessly sculpted body impresses as well: perfect, mutable like various states performed onstage - simultaneously flowing and mild as well as strong and sudden; this obviously isn't the full extent of its possibilities. Bazan excellently uses all means of expression available, also those located between the aforementioned poles. They soften an impression of excess, which can sometimes appear in the viewer. Perhaps certain scenes could be reduced to the strongest and most impactful elements, but such necessity will be possible to be judged in retrospective. Jiu offers the viewer a lot - if only they decide to leave his customary habits and a tendency to fictionalize viewed images aside.
Bazan as a dancer and choreographer was a resident of the Art Stations Kulczyk Foundation (2008). He also received a lifetime achievement award from the President of the City of Lublin and Żuraw 2009 in the Baltic Movement Contest and the Golden Mask in 2012 for directing I Ifigenia at Nowy Theatre in Łódź.
Since 2012, Bazan has benn one of the closest of Krzysztof Garbaczewski's co-workers, and he performed eg. In Garbaczwski's Stone Heaven instead of Stars made as a co-production of the Museum of Warsaw Uprising and Nowy Theatre in Warsaw.
Recently, he has been working on projects merging theatre and dance, such as Wake Up in the Evening included in the Polish Dance Platform 2010 and Hermeneia (premiered in May 2010) with the independent dancer Anita Wach. He is a member of an interdisciplinary Kunst Gillian Gallery in Berlin, who granted him an award in 2010 for an outstanding stage personality. Since 2013 he has also been a member of the board of curators of the interdisciplinary project Context bodies in Tel Aviv.
Some of the most renowned and popular of projects directed and choreographed by Bazan are: Short Life Tasting (International Theatre Festival 'Confrontations', 2007), MY(REQIEM) (Centralny Theatre in Lublin, 2008), Eveline (Les Kurbas Theatre in Lviv, 2009), The King of Alters (Centralny Theatre in Lublin, 2010), Hsucia (2010), Orlando (Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, 2013), and Whatever (Cultural Centre in Lublin, 2013).
The dancer's artistic credo says:
I believe that madness matters the most. Truly madly deeply, as they say. A total sacrifice and devotion to current creative work. I don't think that there exist an art which is safe, pretty, nicely made, neat and correct in itself - these are simply products. I think that there's nothing worse in art than works which are 'proper', appealing to the 'masses'. This is mass production, far removed from art, even though it seems to pretend to be art. One of the most important things in art for me is a need to discover things which aren't accessible by other means. An attempt at conveying the 'unconveyable'.
Author: Jadwiga Majewska, August 2011
Translated by: Olga Drenda, updated April 2016.