cooperation / execution: Paweł Sakowicz
dramaturgy: Anka Herbut
set: Łukasz Kwietniewski
music: Kuba Słomkowski
lights: Michał Głaszczka
expeditor: Dominik Skrzypkowski
partner: Bergerat Monnoyeur
The performance was produced as part Anna Królica’s curatorial project “Choreographic Machine”.
Performance in Polish with English subtitles
The starting point for writing Excavator Ballet was the work of Oskar Schlemmer – Bauhaus professor, painter, esthetician and dance reformer. Fascinated with the automatism of ballet dancers’ moves, Schlemmer saw their bodies as solids and figures inscribed in a geometrized space. He paid great attention to costumes, composition and the dynamics of lines and colors and the trajectory of moves. Iza Szostak translates Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballet into the language of construction machines. Referring to particular parts of the original choreography from 1923, she creates interdisciplinary action shared by two bodies and two machines; a dance combined with visual arts and sound performance.
The key element of working on the performance was an excavator operator course, during which Szostak and Sakowicz were learning how to professionally operate an excavator and were getting to know its motor possibilities little by little. That process allowed the performers to get real tools to explore the subject of the man’s power over the machine and the machine’s power over man.
Dancers’ bodies are both research subjects and a source of inspiration in Excavator Ballet, for which excavators become costumes: three-dimensional and rescaled, growing out of the bodies, with their own quality and motor functions, making characteristic sounds. Costumes impose a particular behavior and a way of moving, and on the other hand – they change their shapes depending on the performers’ actions. In a reality designed in such way, man’s movement, which becomes a hybrid while interacting with machines, is subjected to revision. The division between the body and the object disappears.
Iza Szostak, dancer, choreographer, graduate of the Ballet School in Warsaw and Codarts/Rotterdam Dance Academy in the Netherlands. She is currently a student of the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology of The University of Warsaw. She interned in Belgium in Jan Fabre’s Trobleyn. Author of spectacles such as Ciało. Dziecko. Obiekt., Wizytatorki, Europa. Śledztwo, Excavator Ballet. She collaborated with Bartek Frąckowiak on Borders in Teatr Polski in Bydgoszcz. In her choreography practice she invokes authentic movement, choreologies and improvisation. She’s interested in self-agency of bodies and objects, anthropology, visual arts, movies, working with memory, senses, imagination and biographies. She views choreography as a tool to create a new order and a new reality considering various factors that compose it. In her works she tests various strategies of embodying, inspired by, among others, a child’s motor function, the mechanical character of construction machines or the texture of objects and tools in a joinery workshop. She hosts regular dance classes for seniors in Wawer in Warsaw. She contributes to running Centrum w Ruchu. During the Festival of New Dramaturgies 2015 the audience in Bydgoszcz could see Europa. Śledztwo.
After finding the producer you signed up for an excavator operating course. What turned out to be the biggest problem in the clash with the materiality of these machines?
I think the most interesting thing was getting to know the possibilities and limitations of excavators – their turning abilities, joystick operation, using all the buttons, the brake and gas pedals. We learned practically everything in two days. What was most difficult was to coordinate myself with the machine. It’s not that easy. It took us a dozen or so days to be able to get into the excavator and do what we wanted to do with it. We would give each other different assignments, such us retightening the bucket, placing it on the ground and raising the cabin (using tracks), or assignments connected with precision, like grabbing a spare tire with the bucket. To do that, you need to keep your distance and catch it at a proper angle. We knew excavators turn around their own axis and it’s a repetitive action that can last. So we tried to drive straight while turning around and operating the bucket. Total multitasking. Noticing new elements – wipers, horns, ventilation – was like a huge discovery for us. And what happens if we open the window? What if we open the door and the window? All of a sudden you start deconstructing your vision of the machine and you find completely impractical ways of using it.
An excerpt from an interview with Iza Szostak carried out by Mateusz Szymanówka as part of Think Thank Choreograficzny, 2016
Meanwhile, “Excavator Ballet” seduces with its visual beauty of moves, composition and unconventional motor activity, making the whole audience’s jaws drop like buckets, although the excavators are humanized only for a moment and – for that matter – by humans themselves.
Grzegorz Stępniak, Dwutygodnik.com
With such strong emphasis on visuals of the performance, questions about the post-humanist aspect of human-machine relations become tangential. It’s not a disadvantage of the performance, though. Its authors explore the corporeality from Schlemmer’s perspective of organicism and mechanics, proving that the dancer (Tänzermensch) reports to both body rights (mental, sensual, organic) and space – moves are conditioned consciously and mechanically and taking into consideration the existing spatial relations.
Katarzyna Lemańska, taniecPOLSKA.pl
Do people dance using machines, or do machines dance using people? We’re watching two operators, so we can read human emotions translated into the moves of machines. Sometimes it seems that machines move by themselves, as if they were alive.
Joanna Targoń, Gazeta Wyborcza – Kraków