Interview with Hagit Yakira and Sophie Arstall
Award-Winning Israeli choreographer Hagit Yakira founded Hagit Yakira Dance Company in 2007 and has since gone on to tour the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Israel. So far she has created seven works for her company amongst many other commissioned works for other companies and students. Hagit Yakira Dance Company creates work whereby storytelling, intimacy, dance and text are uniquely interwoven into an individual interpretation of inter human relationships and emotions through dance theatre and performance.
屢獲殊榮的以色列編舞海吉特·雅琪拉在2007年創辦了海吉特·雅琪拉舞團（Hagit Yakira Dance Company），至今已多次於英國、歐洲、斯堪地那維亞地區和以色列巡迴演出。海吉特為自己的舞團創作了七部作品，同時許多其他舞團也委託她來創作。海吉特·雅琪拉舞團的作品把故事、舞蹈和文本融合在一起，再通過舞劇來表達她對人與人之間關係和情感的獨特詮釋。
ART.ZIP: Would you please give us a brief introduction of yourself?
HY: I’m Jewish, originally from Israel, and I’ve been living and working here in London for 10 years. I came here to study dance, doing an MA in European Theatre Dance at the Trinity Laban Centre. This is where I met Sophie, she’s a dancer and she danced in one of my first choreographic work. In 2007 I formed Hagit Yakira Dance Company, realising I want to work mostly as a choreographer. These days I am mostly choreographing and teaching all around the UK, Europe, Israel and Scandinavia, and I am performing less. I’m also doing a PhD in Choreography at the moment at Trinity-Laban.
When I teach within institutions, there are specific things I’m needed to teach – but what I do in my workshops results in much more freedom in deciding what I want to teach. People who are participating open workshops are normally also freer in terms of what they can do. They don’t have to feel purpose-driven, they can just come to experiment. And it is this freedom of exploration that I really enjoy teaching.
HY: 我是來自以色列的猶太人。我來倫敦已經10年了，我起初是來學習舞蹈的，在三一拉班藝術學院（Trinity Laban Centre）修讀歐洲戲劇舞蹈碩士學位。就在那我認識了舞者蘇菲，她為我最初編導的舞劇表演。2007年我創立了海吉特·雅琪拉舞團，因為我發現自己內心最想做的還是編舞。現在我表演的不多，更多的是進行編舞和教學工作，主要在英國、歐洲、以色列和斯堪地那維亞地區。現在我還在三一拉班藝術學院修讀博士學位。
ART.ZIP: What do you think of dance education in the UK?
HY: I didn’t study my BA here, and also not my first MA. I came here to do my second MA. The reason I wanted to study somewhere else, and not only in Israel is because I wanted to have different perspective on dance, on dance education and choreography. The UK is very different to Israel in all terms, there isn’t a better way or worth, but just different. I also realised that I had to really decide why is it that I study dance so deeply, is it dance for dance’s sake, for amusement’s sake, or it could be for technique’s sake – much more physical, or for more critical reasons, creative, experimental. But all of those studies help and direct oneself to look at the body and the physical in many possible ways.
SA: I studied here a BA and an MA. Some courses here train you as an athlete, so you have to be really fit and very disciplined. Maybe it is a bit less creative, and you are trained to be a dancer for someone else – in a company, for example. That’s the aspiration. I think every school is different, and has a different emphasis. In the UK, what’s great is that there are many options with a huge sector of community dance. England has a massive tradition of community art.
HY: I think dance in the UK is in a very crucial point these days, a very interesting period for dance, for many reasons. The sad thing about dance in the UK is that it is a less viewed art form; people will do it, but they won’t go and watch it. In addition due to the recession people invest less money in dance, this challenge us- the dance artists- to ‘seduce’ people into our world. I find it a very critical time for dance. We don’t know where this art form is going, where the possibilities are or how we need to re-educate our dancers to be able to communicate different things in different ways. As Sophie said, there are some schools with an emphasis on creativity, and other schools with more of an engagement with intellectual, philosophical perspectives. This is very much what I find interesting and also an important linking point to some places in Europe, which ensure that art and philosophy and the academia are all coming together – which I find really amazing, because this opens up possibilities. You can focus on becoming a dancer, which is very technical, and/or you can decide to focus on creativity and engage with dance in different ways.
SA: In terms of people coming for courses, say university courses, it’s a more academic and less vocational thing, it’s about training the body. In Surrey and Middlesex, Brighton, Northampton – these all do good courses; a lot of people go there and you are trained to be an all-round dance artist. You learn to teach. You learn to make and to create – for special communities, film, sound and lighting. It’s very complete, though maybe it’s less being a dancer, there’s lots of that. And you also have 3 to 4 vocational schools to choose from, such as Trinity Laban or London Contemporary Dance School in London and The Northern Contemporary Dance School in Leeds. They’ll retrain you to be a dancer, and maybe choreographer as well.
HY: I think those are the main ones, Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, The Place in London, and then the Northern School of Contemporary Dance in Leeds.
SA: Even between these schools, it depends on who is leading the programme. Some have very straight disciplines; less theatrical, and possibly even less creative training.
HY: 倫敦的三一拉班藝術學院、The Place舞蹈中心、利茲的北方當代舞蹈學院都是比較重要的院校。
ART.ZIP: What is your approach to teaching?
HY: Choreographing autobiography is my PhD research topic. I was also trained as a dance movement therapist many years ago, alongside forming a career as a dancer and creator. I feel that in order for dance students to be able to reach their potential, with the way we are living in the West, people want to express themselves to their maximum. However, I felt that I needed to find different ways to teach people how to use their bodies, and how to express themselves, really their own individual voice. I trained with quite strict techniques as well as trained as a Graham teacher – which is very specific modern dance technique. I realised that when I teach very strict techniques, I basically eliminated the possibilities of my students. They have to learn a language, which might not fit their bodies. Their bodies can do amazing things, however this technique might not enable them to know that. So I wanted to find a way that I can tag each student, or group of students, and give them information, to then let them explore by themselves, of course with a flavour of techniques. This way they can understand their body, and movement and understand their basic aim, the relationship with the floor, the space, the gravity – they explore by themselves, so I don’t need to give them all the answers. I think this benefits them very much, even for professional dancers that I train in this very specific way, because it gives them the responsibility to re-learn. For people who’ve never danced before, or people who are just starting to dance, it gives them the freedom to explore without the fear of doing something right or wrong.
SA: What is great about Hagit’s approach is that improvisation become accessible to everybody, either beginner dancer or professional. Because it’s up to you, you have to be more poetic in the class – it’s about experiencing what you want to achieve and how to challenge yourself. It’s being offered something, and not having something imposed on you, and somehow I think that allows everybody to maximise their potential. Schools in England are starting to realise how important this technique is, alongside Cunningham and Graham and other stylised techniques; it’s free of approach, which requires, I think, more creative and mental input from both the teacher and the students than just learning a language.
HY: You have to constantly challenge yourself, you have to constantly want to achieve something. If you want to improve, it’s your responsibility. I find it very important. Especially in the western world, it doesn’t allow you to be lazy when processing material. I also think that many people have fears of dancing. There are a lot of people who are afraid to go to dance classes because they feel they can’t dance. Or a lot of dancers who are so over-trained, they are afraid to do other techniques, it’s like they lost their own voice. I believe in challenging the dancers in a nice way, positive, I am still being very physical and challenging but in a fun way – where people can try and fail and try again. I don’t believe so much in being right or wrong. And I also don’t believe in failing.
SA: I think Hagit’s method could be related to her training in dance therapy, I think this is hugely important in understanding the psychology of a group or an individual. They are not just the bodies, they are not just one of 30 people training. Everybody is different, you need to understand how people work and behave, how to bring the best out of people. I wish more teachers would direct and train in that way, because when you are working with your body, it’s so important to understand psychology as well.
ART.ZIP: What are Open Classes？
HY: Open Classes are classes where people can just join us, there are classes for professionals and for non dancers, and I like to teach both and sometimes in the same class as I believe it creates a great energy! During production time, when we are rehearsing for a choreographic work with my company I normally close the door so people can’t be a part as it’s very private; my creative process is very autobiographically, and personal, so I prefer there will be nobody observing – so the performers don’t feel so exposed. My research into autobiographical work contains a dialogue between art and dance and philosophy. It does challenge what autobiography means, what storytelling means, how we tell stories, and it challenges and recreates essences of community and connectivity, the space in between people. For me, a lot of philosophical questions are about body and about connection with audience; about empathy, about sympathy and identification. We are in a very narcissistic time, where everybody is willing to expose themselves, for instance for their five minutes of fame on the X-Factor, or everybody on Facebook telling their stories, it’s all about me me me me me…what does this mean? Psychologically it’s very interesting. How can we challenge it, rethink it, rework it and make choreographies about it. For me it’s really interesting.
Find out more: www.hagityakira.com