Artistic Research Documentation
Investigating Parranda by discussing syncretism, moving identities and collective joy
During these sessions/workshops, dancers and dance teachers connected and discussed the methods and concepts such as moving identity, collective joy, cultural syncretism and its relation and its relation to the body in movement under a decolonial mindset. These sessions happened in a Pop Up residency at Mousonturm supported by Tanzplattform Rhein-Main and a residency at Werkstatt.
Part of these reflections contributed to writing a commentary about this experience in an article called Unboxing Pearls in the Rough (2021). [See the complete article below]
INTERVIEW TO iOULIA kOKKOKIOU
"...we are people with roots, we are people with suitcases..."
Interview to Ioulia Kokkokiou
Juan Urbina: After our session together, how would you describe your moving identity?
Ioulia Kokkokiou: What was a revelation for me in the workshop was this constant change of moving identity. One has his or her own moving patterns. Mine personally come from ballet, modern and contemporary. But then, from the moment that you enter the space with people and you start dancing with them, you get inspired by them. You start copying, for example, their movements. Their identity goes into your identity. And that's why I think one cannot define or conclude that there are one or two moving identities. Maybe in some moments some moving identities are more present but in general how I understand is that it’s something that changes all the time. It is something that is very fluid and relevant. So it’s contextualized according to the people, the space, to the date, to the mood, to the body, etc etc.
Juan Urbina: I would like to know a bit more about how your moving identity connects to your culture.
Ioulia Kokkokiou: I would say that my first dancing memories were at the age of 3. And I cultivated those memories through narration and pictures. I doubt I would have a memory of my 3 years old. And the first dance that I performed was in my village and it was a folk dance. And that stays till now with me. So many times for example when I teach jumps I incorporate, not only for raising the heartbeat and doing a bit of cardio, but also giving more folk-inspired movement patterns. Or for example, I use a lot of folk music which is kind of amalgamated with contemporary Greek music. They still really use traditional music. So it is very much inscribed in my body.
Juan Urbina: You already answered my next question. It is how you would include these moving identities in your teaching. You already mentioned it with the jumps. But also, that memory of you dancing a folk dance from the Greek culture, how does the feeling and sensations of this dance remain and are passed through your teaching practice?
Ioulia Kokkokiou: When I perform folk dances regarding the age, purpose or context I feel very happy and free. I think I take that spirit with me, that sensation and feeling. And I experience it again when I am teaching in a very different form, in a very different context with no Greek people. Those folk dances, those elements of folk dances.
Juan Urbina: That day we also spoke a little bit about this concept of decolonization. And do you consider that there is something decolonial in your practice. And if so, what is decolonial about it?
Ioulia Kokkokiou: I wouldn’t label or define it like this. But maybe what can answer your question and I find important is that we are people with roots, we are people with suitcases, so I personally find it very respectful and very meaningful for my development to carry those rituals, and to transform them into a contemporary, society, time. Maybe it is very disrespectful if I turn my back towards the traditions. I have the critical mind to decide when a tradition doesn’t suit my values and I don't want to be involved in that. But I would say cultural rituals are connected to the genesis of people and their development and to avoid them and to not show respect. Is like not to respect your elders, somehow.
Juan Urbina: I like that analogy. The way we pay respect to these ancestral dances is the same way we pay respect to our elders.
Ioulia Kokkokiou: Exactly, this is how I see it. What would we be without history? History defines us, history is like the basis from which we can jump and step out, so I find it very important.
Juan Urbina: For me, it is very validating that the message passed through and that there is a discourse that is going on.
Ioulia Kokkokiou: I knew that I have many moving identities but to put awareness on that made me realize that ‘yeah, it 's true’. It’s something that changes constantly. It was like a moment of revelation. Like an Ah! it’s true. That’s why the workshop for me was amazing and also very informative because it was the first time experiencing something like this. So it was a very important tool for my development as a performer and also as a dance instructor.
iNTERVIEW TO aDAM Shpira
"...that the culture is still producing these colonial patterns..."
Interview with Adam Shpira
Juan Urbina: How would you define your moving identity as a dancer based on the Parranda workshop?
Adam Shpira: I remember you mentioned also allowing the disciplines or practices I knew, to visit them. I did a bit of Karate movement and then some floor movements, classical ballet exercising (stretching tendús). In a more general way, first that comes into my mind is Contact Improvisation. When I am improvising I am taking some of the things that I’ve done in these classes.
Juan Urbina: How do you include them in your teaching practice?
Adam Shpira: My class on Monday is about sharing weight. I somehow take aspects from Contact Improvisation. I don't think I necessarily can draw a direct link to everything. It is inspired by Counter Technique, the idea that all cells are moving away from each other so you maintain a kind of suspension. When you shift your weight to one side, you also think of the other side simultaneously.
Juan Urbina: How does your culture influence your moving identity, your cultural upbringing, the things that more in a collective way influence your body in movement.
Adam Shpira: I feel very much belonging to the Western culture. It is important in the Western culture to be analytical and to have very clearly formulated reasons. This is very strong in my teaching right now. I am trying to find meaning and reasoning and create certain logic that is linear.
Juan Urbina: That day we talked about the concept of decolonization. If you relate to this word, how would you incorporate the ideas of decoloniality in your teaching practice.
Adam Shpira: I relate a lot actually. It is something that I am trying to acknowledge, that the culture is still producing these colonial patterns and somehow to find ways to resist them with the class. Somehow this is the main purpose.
Juan Urbina: It’s like by acknowledging that uniqueness you also allow diversity in the room. Multiple selves enter the room.
Adam Shpira: I am just thinking that I also sometimes teach phrases, it’s not always improvisation. There is always trying to be more efficient, soft or gradual, no noise. So I am not sure exactly how this is resisting colonialism. But I still enjoy teaching this so I need to think about why I am teaching it, a combination/set material.
Juan Urbina: As long as the participant is allowed to bring themselves into the material, I would say it’s ok under this philosophy.
Adam Shpira: There’s this idea that when one technique becomes problematic is when one style is worth more. So ballet is “the technique” instead of one of “the techniques” or when others are not considered the basis of dance, like ballet. Maybe to acknowledge that is just another combination, it’s not “the combination”.
Juan Urbina: In an universe of stars, this is one little light. Thanks Adam for your time, I will put this together, to generate a form of knowledge.
iNTERVIEW TO cAMILLA FUIMARA
"...for the first time I rationally thought about my movement Identity..."
Interview to Camilla Fiumara
Juan Urbina: How would you describe your moving identities as a dancer, based on your experience.
Camilla Fiumara: First of all, when we started with you in the residency in Mousonturm and in Werkstatt. I think, for the first time I rationally thought about my movement Identity because it is something that somehow never crossed my mind. When I think of my path as a dancer, the first thing is ballet. But it somehow does not represent so much who I am as a dancer. Even if it is a big part of my path as a dancer. For a long time I tried to walk away from this background because maybe I found it was a boundary for me and not something I could use in my everyday dancing practice. but on the days with you, I thought, why not if this is part of me as a dancer. I thought why should I degrade it? So it was an interesting experience to think about where we come from.
Juan Urbina: I think it’s interesting this question you post of why do we degrade it, I can also relate to repressing your moving identities in order to fit a certain standard of how your body should move. And this is so present in the life of a dancer, you constantly have to get naked and put on another costume.
Camilla Fiumara: especially because I think there’s a kind of judgment around this, it's not cool. If you want to be a contemporary dancer you can’t take ballet.
Juan Urbina: and then all this time you spent sweating at the bar embodying this technique becomes what you least want in your body. so it’s so contratictory. I experienced it with ballet but I also expereienced it with those that are called folk or social dances. So my question is why do we neglect dances or forms of movement. if you have included your movement identity in your artistic practice.
Camilla Fiumara: I think it is always there. My basic technique is the fundamental of who I am as a dancer. I think it is there also when it is not there. Ballet brings you up all the time and I wanted to be more grounded, but of course it is there because it teaches me also in this way to differentiate and do something in the opposite way.
Juan Urbina: It’s like the negative space
Camilla Fiumara: It’s always the root. It's where I can go back when I don't know what I am doing. For example, during the pandemic it was the moment when I came back to the ballet bar almost every day. It was almost like a safe space somehow. And then I could include other things I took from people, from jobs, from other practices that I found different. For example I did Capoeira for some time and I brought that into and it has become a part of my movement identity.
Juan Urbina: During this time we also talk about the concept of decoloniality, in what ways do you think the acknowledgment of these movement identities relates to the concept of decoloniality?
Camilla Fiumara: I saw in the days that we practiced together things that I hadn’t experienced. But I could see it in other people like Marialejandra and you. It is very important to bring these practices back and share them. There are so many elements that bring people together. The fact that you come from the same place and share a dance, I found it amazing and I never experienced anything like this from where I come from.
Unboxing Pearls in the Rough
Cultural Syncretism, epistemicide and the Dancing Identities of South America and the Caribbean
This paper is the reflection of a process that aimed to identify and embody amalgamated modes of physicality that mirror/defy the colonial oppressive hierarchies still present in dance education today in terms of standardised dance practice and training. The text deals with the concept of cultural syncretism as an amalgamation of social organisms that produce a new cultural form. This fenomena has a strong presence in the cultural embodiment of Latin American and Caribbean peoples. The analysis of such, hybridizes spiritual beliefs with the personal experience of professional dancers. The text references the epistemicide (of dancing traditions) derived from what Ramón Grosfoguel calls ‘the civilization of death’ in association to the multiplicity of ‘moving identities’ present in a contemporary dancer that scholar Jenny Roche exposed in 2015. With the research support of Barbara Ehrenreich, it historically connects secularisation and practices of ecstatic ritual, possessions and trance. It proposes awareness of forms of cultural syncretism that confront how contrasting moving identities merge even in their apparent difference. And questions how it is possible to encourage access to multiple forms of embodiment and dance traditions that extend political borders and promote decolonial thought.
During Uncertain Unities in September 2021, a performance was developed from this research, in collaboration with artists Jorge Bascuñan, Clive Tanner, Fitgirl and resident artists of Ponderosa.
The research examines the traditional linear deconstruction of time by the interaction of video and performance as an attempt to capture the in/determinant dynamics of a contemporary corporeality. We question the neutrality of the term extinction, related to the death of species, epistemologies, dying languages, dances and civilizations. As a dramaturgical line, we have our lenses on the fragile construction of masculinity. We draw on the syncretism of movement identities, with the focus on the cultural-political context where the loss of contact with nature and rituals is historically related to the rise of Western Civilization, Christianity, Patriarchy, and Capitalism, The epistemicide of Afro-diaspora practices, the extinction of languages and culture, and the Anthropo-climate crisis.
Gefördert im Rahmen des „Kulturpaket II: Perspektiven öffnen, Vielfalt sichern“
Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media in the NEUSTART KULTUR program, relief program DIS-TANZEN of the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland.