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Interview with Opiyo Okach

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Let the dance itself begin to happen in the moment

Improvisation, strategy to generate multiple results

Freedom of perception

Plural reality

The danger that is coming back today is that there is only one place that is the centre of the world

The singularity of the approach

Let the dance itself begin to happen in the moment
When one is dancing, at least when I’m dancing, in my work, there is a way that a relationship between the body, a connectidness between the dancer or the performer and the environnent in such way that often I find myself interested in the way that an action resonates in the space and the way that that resonance in the space resonates back in the body such that you have a cycle of resonance, of initiating an action, that action resonating in the space and that resonance creating a reverse action in the body or in the sequence of activity.
that becomes a cycling events that produces a heightened state of reality
this state exists in the later pieces such a Shift Centre and No Man’s Gone as much as in the earlier pieces Dilo or Abila
In Dilo or Abila I think it’s driven very much by the thematique, the ritual african thematique of the piece that what was generating this cycling energy.
In Shift Centre there is an underline principle that dominates the piece that generates the movement. It’s just the simple idea of beginning from deliberately conscient moving one part of the body or shifting one part of the body. That continues to the extent where it becomes the body itself that is then shifting you, that is no longer you consciently moving the body.So it is the question of wether it is you who is moving the body or it is the body that is shifting itself in space, the body begins to works on its own to shift itself in space. That get into a cycling phenomenon of the body moving itself rather than a conscient and deliberate thinking that ok now I’m going to move left, now a micromilimiter to the right, etc, ect. And you let the dance itself begin to happen in the moment.
It’s the same idea but realised in the different way.

Improvisation, strategy to genarate multiple results
Can we achieve this state when we are working with material where the movement sequences are written. Can we get in this state when we are working in the same way in which can when we are working with instant composition and improvisation.
I think that the difference is that in improvisation, if there a place that we want to perfect it’s the strategie that produces the result. We want to be able to master the strategy that produces the movement. Whereas in written material we want to perfect the result itself.
In improvisation we have a strategy which will then is suppose to produce a possible series of results. The result can be varied.
In written work the result is already predetermined, and that is invariable.
From one night to another night will will always achieve the same result. Of course the is room for human error and human perception, that everyday we wake up different people and we don’t necesseraly execute the same movement exatly presicely the same way every night. I think there is this level of flexibility even in written material.
But the diffrence I that in improvisation we are ready that the journey of the piece will not be the same every night. The piece will rely in chance. A mobile phone will go off in the public and that will be integrated as well as a reality that’s happening within the performance.
Which is not in the same relationship with written material. That incident might happen but we’ll quikly forget it.
I think the difference is what do we write. I one instance we are writing the result, the movement, in the other instance we are writing the strategy that generates the movement.
I like working with the strategy that generates the movement. for two reasons.

Freedom of perception
In one instance I find that closer to Africain and performances from other cultures. That liberty and that way of functioning is often present. The second reason is that I find that in the most dominant ways of thinking about dance, of writing dance, of writing performance, of thinking about performance that there is way of writing performance that has settled in and has become dominant. And it’s the way of doing which is accepted of being the proper way of doing. If you don’t do that way, then your work is either less or is not as valuable. I find that there is a tyranny. This tyranny is not only linked to dance. But somewhere there is a reaction against all form of dominant thinking that force us into ways of thinking.
We all like freedom I think. All human beeins like to be free. I don’t like to be place only in one pigeon hole. So it’s at those two different levels that the tendancy towards instant composition as a way of writing that I found myself leaning towards. To be free and to accept different kinds of realities.

Plural reality
And maybe it’s also something to do with coming from Africa. Being essentially brought up in Africa. We are in a position where we are constantly expose to a multiplicity of reality and ways of being. We live the tradition in one side and we live with islam, christianity, MTV….
We speak four different langages. And that a normal thing, it’s not an extraordinary think to speak four different langages and essentially to live four different cultures in the everyday reality. And I think that somewhere that just makes that it’s natural that reality is multifaceted, that the thruth depend on where you are standing, that reality depends on where you stand. If I put on my traditional africanist hat I accept reality on a different way. When I put on my christian hat I accept also reality in a different way. And that one is able to function within thoses different ways of beeing. When I’m in Nairobi, I function as a particular way, when I go to the village I function in a different way, I come to Paris I function again in a another way. And we accept all this as being valid ways of being. How can it be then that in performance, that in our artistic practices suddenly we don’t accept that, sudddenly we give up this concept of multiple reality.

The idea of multiplicity in Shift Centre
Shift center therefore is the continuation, the evolution of this thinking of this idea of multiplicity. Of the idea that the thruth is mutifacted. Perception is subjective. The situation of being able to accept that any given object has different facets and we ourselves as human beings as characters there is always different levels of being.
Nothing exists purely as one state. Everything exists in different states and those different statres are equaly valid.
Which is what I found for exemple in the work with Abila in it’s relationship with the space. While working in the studio it was quite opened. Both in terms of structure itself, the narrative if you like that exists inside. That was quite opened to what the meaning is.
Same as which side, what do we see, do we see the videoprojector, do we see a particular performer. Are we looking at it from the point of view of one particular performer or another performer. There was a way where all that was fairly open.
And then come the last few days of rehearsal when you are preparing. Suddenly you know ok that this piece is going to be presented in a classical theatre where the audience will only be sitting on one side, the videoprojector could only be seeing as being behing the performers.
This relationship didn’t exist during the creation process.
The projector wasn’st neceseraly in front of the performers. The video screen was not necesaraly behind. We weren’t always seen all the performers from one point of view.
And I think that just the fact that during the last few days of rehearsal suddenly I have to seat in front and sort of readjusted everythink in terms of where I am sitting, that many thinks we were working with during the creation no longer made sense. The depth with which we worked during the creation no longer made sence. And I think that all of those things affect the meaning as well. It’s quite evident that perception and meaning are connected in a way that is also linked to space. The way we treat space is linked to the meaning of space. For me suddenly the work seamed less richer, put as a two dimentional object in front, as a flat screen. For me what became of the piece is that it became a flat screen in front of us.
Therefore for me, those two dimentional flat paintings in front of us that I was looking at at the end seemed so much less richer than the open performance situation with which I worked during the creation process.

An interrogation about political and social reality: The danger that is coming back today is that one of there is always one place that is the center of the world from where thruth is determined, from where what is wrong or what is wrong is determined.

Somewhere in Shift Center this questioning of the relationship between perception and space, between perception and identity becomes the hearth of the piece. To unable that thinks to be seen from different points of view, that thinks be not formated in a way that we only see it in one way because I think it’s a tyranny of perception that is imposed by thedominant conventional ways of presenting and constructing performance so that it’s not only the public that is constrained to a way of looking, of seeing, of experiencing but also the artist that is constrained to a way of constructing and a way of self perceiving.
In Shift Centre I’m trying to see to what extend can we opened. Can I still retained the freedom of perception. This is not just a question of space or a question of meer form. Of course form and meaning are always such closely intertwined that I think that there a point where it’s difficult to separate form from meaning, esthetic from meaning. All those diffrerent thinks are so closely interwined together that I wanted to take in account their connectedness.
And for me that’s also related somewhere to political reality. You are either with us or with the enemy for example. Current social situations will suggest that somewhere there is only one way of looking. The danger that is coming back today is that one of there is always one place that is the center of the world from where thruth is determined, from where what is wrong or what is wrong is determined.
For me in Shift Center this is a question as well. This is linked to the idea of space.
That there is only one way of looking. There is only one place of thruth.
In Shift Center I was hoping to question this and to live up to the idea of opening up the thruth. We only see what we see. And what we see is not necerally the all thruth. We only see one aspect. And there are other aspects that we canno’t all see at the same time. Then for me Shift center is not just an esthetic statement about space but is also a statement about political and social realty. The centre of the world is not just in one place. The centre is not just where we are. The centre is fragmented. The acceptance of reality being a fragmented phenomenon.We can only perceive one fragment of reality at the time. And that therefore we have to take into account that there are different fragments of reality and that reality is shifting all the time. That is the area of question in Shift Centre. I’d like to question that beginning with space, perception of space, perception identity.
And for me the cycle comes back. Of perception/identity, perception/identity and what we construct therefore feeds back in the way we see ourselves.
Then that means that question in terms of space, in terms of performance, in terms of when when the public come what is the relationship with the space of the presentation, with the time of the presentation, with the aspect of presentation that they are going to see. Are they going to be able to see everything. Une représentation est-elle quelquechose où nous pouvons tout voir en même temps. Is a performance something where we can see everything at the same time. Even with frontal performance where everything is unfolded in front of you we never get to see everything. Our attention is always moving from one thing to another thing and that not all the public always see the same thing at the same time. But I wanted to take that a little bit further, to take into account that when we are in any given space our perception of our presence in that space is connected not only to what is happening in front of us but also what is happening behind us, what is happening outside. There is a train passing. That’s part of what’s going on, on any given moment. How do we bring all of that into the reality of the performance. That question is also in term of the visual, in term of the image but also in term of sound as well. Sound that comes from elsewhere. Sound is not always a phenomenon that is happening to the left and the front of us. Sound is not always something that is frontal.
Zara Hadid, the architector, say an interesting statement : “why stick to one when there are 360° possible”. For me it’s an interesting social statement. That is what I wanted to take into account in term of performance.

The singularity of the approach
One might say this as been done before. It’s been done in the 1960.
What is the difference do I hope to bring by revisiting.
I do not think that I’m revisiting. This thinking is inspired by my everyday reality, by the constrains that I find myself confronted with. It’s response to my reality.
I’m simply responding to those realities. For me it’s not part of new fashionable research or reinventing old staff. It’s just a simple response to questions that I’m confronted with right now. It might be that this questioning correspond to another movement that already happened. If there is purely coincidence. Of course I’m familiar with the history of danse.
If I hope to bring anything new to this thinking, it’s just solutions to problems I’m confronted with. Whether other artists have already confronted found other solutions abondoned them later on it’s coincidence. The specificity of this is based from where I am coming from. From my history as an artist. If there is anything specific is the particular cultural background from which I’m coming into this question. I don’t know wht new results there will be. But the questions that I’m asking around this concept of multiplicity and fragmentation are coming from my particular social cultural context coming from certain african society.
The performance framework that exists in my traditional society make it unevitable that one questions the way that performance is organised and is accepted.
What would be odd if we didn’t question at all the relationship between the audience and the performance, identity and performance. If find that is a natural progression, it’s a natural path to question this relationship of space and of modes of performances. What would be unatural is not to question it. Are we bringing new thinking into it. Maybe not new, but it’s thinking that is coming from who I am. I’m born in Kenya in this century in the sixties. And I work in Kenya and in France and in the rest of the world. And this question is coming from this precise context where today artists, new choreographers in Africa are trying to create performances that seems authentic to them. They are trying to question the reality in which they exist. And this question comes out of this and is there is anything specific and particular is that it’s coming out of that context. Will there be anything specific in the result… There will always be something specific. If that something specific is new or not for me that’s irelevant. If that result has been already achieved by other artists elsewhere and after abandonned that doesn’t matter at all. For me somewhere the result doesn’t matter so much. What’s matter for me is that the process produces somethink. What that product of the process is, doesn’t matter for me if the process has already being questioned by other artists.

Gàara Projects : missions direction artistique contacts Spectacles : shift...centre no man's gone now abila dilo agenda
Tel : 33(0)870396309 (coût appel local) Mail : opiyokach@gaaraprojects.com