Tzeni Argyriou studied dance and choreography. For more than 10 years she has been generating choreographic work that focuses on integrating the performing arts with other artistic genres. After exploring the merging of media constructs with performance, she has currently returned to the analogue body and the empowering qualities of collective physical experiences. This year, she is presenting her show ANΩNYMO at SPRING.
What drives your creativity?
I observe what is happening around me, especially human behaviour under different socio- political conditions. The observation awakens certain needs, desires, thoughts or questions. When something jumps out and “locks” in my mind, then this becomes the topic, the magnetic centre of ideas and imagination. So, in a way, this is about the content.
When rehearsals start, things might change, and my creativity then is driven by the work itself. Which means that my ideas and directions, together with the people taking part (performers/collaborators), plus time and space, transform the work to a living organism that triggers other layers of my creativity.
What do you think about the role of theatre and dance in society?
I guess they can play many roles, depending on the times. They can predict, warn, or remind, and they can transfer knowledge. They can also awaken people’s desire for things, internal elevation, critical view, and also emotions. Furthermore, it highlights different perspectives that we tend to forget because our everyday lives are so busy. Somehow art needs to function as a modern oracle…
Who or what is your biggest inspiration?
I cannot isolate a single biggest inspiration; it’s a combination of many. I grew up in a beautiful small town named Kavala where both the sea and the mountains were close, in a carefree time, always playing in the neighbourhood with other kids, so teamwork. Greece in general is a big inspiration for me. I was also inspired by some of my teachers who transferred their love, passion and dedication to dance and art in generous and gentle ways. I was lucky to travel a lot, to meet and talk to different people from different origins, ages, backgrounds.
What role did dance play in your childhood?
It was very important during my childhood. It made me feel like I belonged. I remember attending a dance school in my hometown and being unable to wait for the next class or to stop dancing at home. It gave me such joy, power and freedom. And it was truly important since it provided me with other tools to express myself (bodily instead of verbally). It was a place to learn, to try, to share and not a career-oriented training. This came after. I also belong to this generation that watched ‘Fame’ and ‘Dirty Dancing’ on TV.
What was the starting point to create this show?
The starting point was my observation on how technology has not only entered our lives, but also shaped and defined our bodies and relationships. There is a proportional relation between the increase of online digital interaction and the decrease in social physical connection. How do we share experiences with others? And what do we share with others? I also look towards a technological understanding of anonymity, a digital arena where privacy is under threat. All of these factors have intrigued me for many years, and just after I had had my first child I was asking questions like ‘where are we headed to’, and ‘what kind of experiences, memories and life are my kids going to have’. In the end I felt an urgent need to go beyond digital communication and redefine the ways people connect while they are physically present.
Why did you want to make this show?
I wanted to rediscover dance, specifically the necessity for dance and its connective power, of being and sharing physically together inside our social frame. This led us to pre-choreographic forms of collective actions and expressions which were based on human contact, grip, group cohesion, shared joy. So, the project explores different ways of traditional dancing, singing, rhythms and patterns and other anonymous forms of ‘art’, also found in architecture or even in agriculture, that have been binding us as cultural beings for centuries. Connecting with others, with yourself, with the universe; all these different connections are somehow therapeutic; physical expressions and purifications that can make you feel better and build a better society. My intention was to find bridges to connect bodies in an age dominated by physical detachment, and to reflect upon the possibilities that collective cultural values can offer in an era marked by digital individualism.
What was your personal highlight during the making of this performance?
It was actually the first day of rehearsing after a long time of planning. I wanted to start with the digital communication section, and I had asked the performers to make a new Facebook profile, a digital persona they would like to have in Anonymo. The plan for the first rehearsal was to create a Facebook group, without knowing who is who, and my partner and I would digitally give the dancers all the scores, tasks, and directions in the group. So communicating digitally while being physically present, all in the same space, but not knowing who is who. We logged in and within 15 minutes Facebook blocked all our profiles, one after another! And at that very moment a big man entered the studio; we all thought he was police or FBI! Turned out he was just a delivery guy!
What are you working on right now?
I have new concepts that I would like to start working on, so at the moment I am working on the conditions, applications, meetings etc. that will make these works possible. Being a freelance artist living off this work is not an easy thing…
You can catch ANΩNYMO di 21 en wo 22 mei in Theater Kikker.