Last week, I had the pleasure of having a conversation with Maria Kefirova, creator of “Why are dogs so successful on stage?” which was performed in the OFFTA last Tuesday and Wednesday. Most recently, Maria nested the piece through the “Third Floor Project”, a residency hosted by Usine C.
Born in Bulgaria, Maria’s family immigrated to dance capital Montreal in 1992. After graduating from LADMMI, she worked freelance in the local dance scene with various choreographers and companies. For the past seven years,however, most of her energy has been put into creating her own interesting hybrids of dance-video-theater-performance.
What baggage did you come with as a dancer before you began your career?
From Bulgaria, I had explored many forms of dance technique; ballet, modern, theatre, mime… and then in Montreal, I studied at Ladmmi.
You have spent a good portion of your career working as a dancer for other choreographers. Was there a dissatisfaction with doing someone else’s work?
It’s not like there was ever a big distinction between “dancer” and “creator”, I mostly worked with people that I could work with in collaboration through improvisation, etc. But there was clearly a lack of something. It was more like the search of the full potential of my own resources that lead me to creation.
So you did not find it daunting to walk into an empty studio for the first time?
No, it was not totally new, rather, an amplification to do my own work.
I see that you are still working as a dancer, such as in this OFFTA edition of DORS by Jacques Poulin-Denis. Do you work differently now as an interpreter since spending so many years developing your work?
It’s all about where i can give 100% intellectually, physically and emotionally. I am currently replacing someone in DORS and I admit that it’s hard to execute a reprise. Maybe if it was a creation, it would be more obvious. I find it beautiful and I try to do it but I am in the habit of being more involved and to giving input. However, it’s nourishing to switch, it takes less energy than my own work. It’s restful.
I don’t think it corresponds with everyone’s version “restful”, but I think I know what you mean… So on the subject of “rest”, does your work stay with you, follow you? Haunt you? Is there a break between from Maria, creator in the studio, and the Maria that goes about her regular life?
No. There’s always a big fascination in my life and I resolve my problems and big existential questions through my work. It’s through the work that I have the key to dive in. I also get hooked to my artistic practices.
Practices such as…?
An important one is called Next To Focus. It works on shifts of attention. Its a very visual practice which deconstructs preconceived notions.
Like an intentional way to break away from automatism?
Yes, shifting attention opens things and allows us to explore the coexistence of multiple realities which surrounds us. Much of my work is about shifting focus, changing perspectives, questioning what seems to be reality.
Interesting. And how did (what we formally call) “dance” lead you to this form of dance-theater-video-performance?
Dance is all related to this shift of presence. These other mediums allow me to work with these shifts, the link between movement and body. What became important in dance was the entity of the body. From body, the presence, and this stupid thing that everybody’s searching for, which is what makes the body move. So video, for example, helps me to get out of the body a little bit to dissect and articulate it.
There seems to be a mystery in your work, as if what you wish to say is delivered in hints of the message. Can you talk about this?
The way i function is not in a straight line. I believe that to reveal something, we have to aim not there but around it.
What do you find fascinating about secrets?
Secrets are like the amplified potential of something. If there is something that encloses a secret then what is behind it is extraordinary. It’s like un noyau (a core) where i am able to know desire, expectations, magic, curiosity. It’s a promise of something.
In your piece, Why are dogs so successful on stage, the viewer becomes the viewed. What initially drew your attention to the audience member?
Even as a performer, I’ve been very interested in what we share onstage. I wanted to investigate this exchange. I found the formal way we arrange a performance very general, and I wanted to make it more personal. Specifically, working with the gaze of the other (the spectator). Once again, it came from the desire to shift something.
Why are dogs so successful on stage?
Because they don’t participate in the same agreements or conditions in an artificial situation; they are not aware of their role. They are somehow in between the human and the wild so it is a strange sort of presence, of creature.
If you had no limits in time or money, how would your work be different?
…I think I need limits.
What’s next for you?
A residency at Circuit Est for a new piece called The Nutcracker.
Where can we follow you?
Tangente January 2014