Ina Christel Johannesen on choreography and dancers

These quotes are from my personal recording of a seminar at Dansens Hus in Oslo held November 4th 2006, danseren som formidler. The topic of the seminar was the dancer's role as a "mediator" between the choreographer and the audience, and how choreographers and dancers interact.

Ina Christel Johannesen is a very established Norwegian contemporary choreographer, her company is called Zero Visibility Corp.

There may be errors in the transcription or translation, any such errors are obviously entirely my fault.

The quotes

In my work there are two ways, one thing is the process and the other is how you pass on what emerged from the process in the moment of performance.
Naturally the dancer is my channel to the audience. The way I see it, the performer should both convey herself, convey the performance, and convey the intentions and wishes of the choreographer. It's a lot to ask, she has a lot to live up to.
[Camilla Eeg: traditionally the dancer was seen as the choreographer's mouthpiece, what does it imply that the dancer is not just conveying the choreographer's intentions but also him/herself?]
OK, in that case I'm very traditional because I really hope that the dancer can convey my ideas and intentions. (...) Yet, even a ballet dancer doing "Swan lake" must convey something personal.
You talked about phenomenology, what we call tacit knowledge which we like saying all dancers have, or all of us have and particularly dancers. (...) Yes, we have tacit knowledge but I work damn hard with the dancers for that consciousness. (...) Not only be in the body but also be in the head, constantly, in rehearsal and in performance. Never reaching a poin where everything is safe, where one isn't present, isn't creative. Even in performance where every little detail - music, relation to space, to scenography, light and other dancers - is under control, yet you must keep creating.
It's been a while since I and Terje [Tjøme Mossige] worked together, and the last project we did was a typical talking project. (...) I wanted all to.. not necessarily agree but at least understand what we were working on, and we talked and talked and talked. And finally I said: OK, now we have to get up, now you have to start working physically. (...) and it was like nothing emerged. (...) I put the dancers in a difficult sitation because when they got up the intuitive had sort of gotten lost.
What I have tried later is to trick the dancers a bit more. I try to work much more with their intuitive consciousness, or the consciousness as intuition. And then make more decisions I don't want them to.. at least when I'm creating I don't try to make them understand the whole.
The most important thing is working consciously with focus. It's always been important. Where you are, the performer, in what room is one, where is the audience, can you see the audience, is it closed, when do you turn, when you you face the back..?
It doesn't always succeed. Perhaps I can make it work for me or I think it works for me with that performer but then it doesn't work between the performer and the audience. Or a performer can work bloody hard and not make it even if she wants to as much as she can. Or maybe some performer does not know that he didn't make it but thinks he can convey it all, or at least that it works to a certain point but not fully. And that is of course the exciting part, to work with all these individuals, with the dancers..
I've heard other choreographers complaining: "most dancers aren't creative". What? I've never met a dancer that doesn't sort of just pour it out, so many, just like you put a penny on a machine and it starts playing and playing.
Since I work only with improvisation, with the performers' material, I have to find tasks. Give tasks, twist tasks, send them in a new direction.. When what I want doesn't happen I have to try to give the tasks in a new way, or new keywords, or sometimes maybe explain what I actually want, other times not explain but what I call trick the performer.
When you are thinking, where do you move your gaze? You can test yourself: if you try to recall something - where do you look? If you try to imagine something that hasn't happened, or a fantasy - where is your gaze? If I try to feel how I'm doing inside - where is my gaze? (...) The performer can use this in a conscious way.
Dimitri and Line for example are so similar, I can not give them the same tasks, I can not instruct them the same way.
The dancers are meant to do exactly what they want, and thus do precisely what I want. That takes collaboration and some psychology, and lots and lots of experience, and lots and lots of work.

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