11 Sep 2020
VE 04 Sep 2020
Dance artist Alesandra Seutin appears in Dear Winnie at Het Theaterfestival. But first, she will deliver a workshop for the shortlisted candidates for the Roel Verniers Prize. Here she gives an insight into her practice and shares her observations from her career in the UK and Belgium.
How do you describe yourself and your practice?
Alesandra Seutin:’ I’m a dance artist, independent choreographer, and artistic director of my company, Vocab Dance. Most of my career is in London but I grew up in Brussels and I work internationally in Europe and Africa. I create work mostly for theatres, sometimes site specific work, some film. My work is an intersection of dance, voice, spoken word (but not always spoken), social issues and politics.’
What question did you ask yourself the most while creating?
‘It’s always: why? I don’t create out of the luxury of creating but because something is stirring me or disturbing me and there’s a question: why? Why is this happening? What’s the purpose? There’s nothing without a purpose for me. What have I got to say? What am I bringing onstage? I go really deep into issues that make people uncomfortable, like race, especially in the UK, and I drop it on stage and leave the audience with it. They have the choice to leave it or have a debate or research further but they can’t ignore it because it’s been thrown at them.’
Is there a piece that you’re particularly proud of?
‘Definitely Dear Winnie because it’s very unapologetic. Doing the première and singing ‘Kill the Boer’ has shown that it’s alright to be in your face. I brought movement and physicality to the play . There’s a scene where Winnie Mandela is in a cell and she starts speaking to mice and the director asked: how do we become these rats? It was how to become rather than imitate. The body becomes a text. Working with dance as a dramaturg is about asking questions, what is the intention? I’m pushing them to change their state of mind and body rather than just following steps, go there, move there, just shapes. It’s very different from just choreographing. It’s actually becoming a human onstage rather than just a dancer because sometimes there’s a separation in the dance world with the human and the body.’
How does music fit into your work?
‘I love film music, it creates atmosphere, and it guides you, it’s an orchestration, it tells a story. For me the body is an instrument and the dancer has to become another instrument that’s part of that composition. The music has to stand on its own – if you have a deaf person in the audience they should be engaged by the body. It should have it’s own musicality so that it’s not a slave to the music either. They’re separate but they communicate and complement each other.’
What are your observations from working internationally?
‘The luxury of travelling so much, before all this, is I’m like a sponge. In the UK it’s about the aesthetic, it’s not so much about what are you saying but what are you showing? The luxury here in Belgium is the length of rehearsal. I love getting to play and research in the studio with no boundaries. The ‘European approach’ pushes me to something more intellectual. It’s about having more layers to the work, there’s so much more than the body, it’s about everyday living, philosophy, other art forms.’
What does your workshop at het TheaterFestival deal with?
‘First and foremost it’s about how you present yourself as an artist in a very Anglo-Saxon way. In the UK there’s the artist but also the business of the artist, which is really useful once you have your work and need to sell yourself. So this workshop is all about: how do you speak about yourself, a lot of us are really humble, and we need to acknowledge the things that we are and what we do. It’s to push you to think: who are you, what do you do, and why? It’s also about: how do you, at a work-in-progress, control the room when there’s feedback and benefit from it rather than allowing people to just spit out feedback? How will it develop my work? Those are the tools I’m giving the participants.’