"The main musical features of our trio are the broad soundscapes, the attention to the melody and the chiaroscuro harmonies"
Aliki Dourmazer on elculture.gr
"When we have watched a good performance, we feel that some buttons have been pressed inside us as an audience"
Splitting her time between Greece and Switzerland Aliki Dourmazer from Thessaloniki is an experienced physical performer and singer. She teaches her own approach to integrating vocal and physical training as well as performing with Duende Ensemble and running vocal training for the company and during workshops and residencies. She has performed in “The Shattering Man”. “Collision #1, #4 & #5” and “Performing at the Edge #1, #2 & #3”. Recently, she presented the solo performance “Medula”, based on the archetype of Medea as presented by Euripides, in Geneva, Thessaloniki and Athens.
elculture: Could you initiate us to physical theater and tell us why you chose it as a form of expression?
Alice Dourmazer: Physical Theatre is a very broad term. It is a theatrical form of expression which is distinct both in the pre-expressive process and its aesthetics. Its draws elements from dance, acrobatics, improvisation. In physical theatre narration occurs through the body, its energy, its movement dynamics, its inner intention and its ability to “speak”. I would focus on its “liveness” in the moment and its immediate communication with the audience. It creates images that communicate messages and trigger inner connections to memories, feelings, emotions or ideas of the spectator, that he is either aware of or not. Hidden or realized.
Actually in the art of physical theatre, as I practise it, as I teach it and as I prefer to work with the others, the performer/ actor becomes a medium of experience. The performer is undergoing experiences through his body and the audience as a witness connects with the performer and his/her experiences that are unfolding in front of them. It is not a psychological connection but more an energetic one, one that works from the instinctive centre of the self.
The body of the audience then echoes and carries the vibration of the body of the performer. Taken that the audience is open and willing to participate “live” too. This is what happens when we have watched a good performance and we feel that some buttons have been pressed inside us as audience. And then we change, slowly. And this is how theatre is accomplishing metamorphosis.
elc: You work in different countries, addressing to audiences of diverse cultures. Is physical theatre a medium of a universal language? Which elements of your Greek origin do you try to retain in these international projects?
A.D.: As I described earlier, Physical Theatre offers the ability to speak through a universal code, and which, I may say, carries archetypical truths. Truths that are imprinted on us as human beings, that we carry through our existence in time. And the following examples can argue this point.
The creation of “Medula”, my solo performance based on Medea, started in Greece and was completed, in its first stage, in Geneva, Switzerland in April 2014. The show premiered in Geneva and it contained parts from the ancient Greek tragedy text in Greek language. Most of the audience was French, German, and Italian speaking. From the audience’s feedback, even the ones that had no idea of the story of “Medea”, I realized that the performance’s intentions, messages, states of being were all communicated. The audience connected with the vibrating body of the performer (mine) on stage and it linked with the journey that this body went through in front of them in the “here and now” of the performance.
The show was developed further, was redirected and was staged in Thessaloniki and Athens. The audience’s reaction, mostly Greek, was very strong. Maybe the strongest I ever received in my career. The connection was intense. In one of the shows in Thessaloniki, member of the audience was Eillon Morris, one of “Duende Ensemble” Associate directors as myself, who doesn’t know Greek. His exact words were: “your sustained focus and the ways you inhabited and enliven the space were astounding. Even without understanding the Greek text the language felt alive and moving.”
As part of my MA in “Ensemble Physical Theatre: Training and Performance” was a research paper into how “Eastern Theatre communicates with Western audiences”. In this research me and a colleague discovered the multilingual ability of body communication through movement patterns as in producing symbols and transferring information that may not have been given to you through your home cultural environment, however you are able to receive and comprehend. Something like a “microcosmos” that we carry in us and we have the opportunity to look into. I have studied and practiced yoga for years, I have been trained in Kalaripayattu (an Indian martial art) as actor training and I have been close to Mexican pre-Hispanic practices as actor training method and the creation of Ritual theatre. In this multicultural exchange I was fascinated by the fact that the less intellectual impulses I received and the more the physical awareness mechanisms were initiated, the deeper the practice’s effects were able to be embodied and the translated into thought. So yes, physical theatre is a medium of universal language.
The elements of my Greek origin in the international projects are simply there, present. This kind of “inner fire”, spontaneity and the tendency to “chaos” that my culture carries within, and without which I am not so happy, is revealed in my artistic expression and I believe there will be more of it coming to the surface.
I am also very fond of the traditional singing culture and I carry it with me wherever I teach. Traditional Greek songs have been sung by English, French, Italian, Swiss, German, American, Japanese, Chinese, Canadian, Indian students in my teachings. And I love the way these songs carry their history and their emotion inside and which becomes alive in those who sing them.
I love the Greek culture for something I can describe as a “no seek for perfection” quality. If we try to impose perfection we can end up depressed and constantly falling. Perfection is an illusion because it means there is an end of change, which doesn’t exist I believe. I see this happening in northern European countries, which doesn’t match with my own idiosyncrasy.
elc: Teaching or performing? You do both. What are the challenges in each activity?
A.D.: I love teaching, when I teach I feel content. Actually the teaching hours are some of the happiest hours of my life. I love to offer to others, I love to watch them change; I love to watch them unfold their potential and bloom. I love to see them in their fragility and yet continue to work within it. I love to see physical theatre students creating amazing improvisations on the spot, that carry their own truth and authenticity.
The challenge is that you constantly want to improve your teaching or that you may be more personally involved than you should. Or even that you give so much energy that you drain yourself. And the financial aspect is a challenge. Theatre teachers, trainers and practitioners in Greece are not protected or taken care of at all by the State. Actually, the laws that exists regarding the official side of a freelance teacher that constantly searches in improving him/herself since this is the only way it can guarantee the continuance of their job, are making it hard to make a descent living and are, according to my opinion, degrading of the humanitarian nature of this work.
Regarding my work as performer, I love it too. I love to share myself with the audience, to breath with them, to listen to the silences that carry the intensity of the performance. Mainly, I enjoy the research before the performance, where I enter a space of endless potential and I pick up threads that will gradually become the knitting of the performance piece. I follow the journey, I stumble, I learn, I laugh, I cry, I learn some more and then I share.
The challenges here are many too. It involves hard and persistent physical and mental work that is constantly bringing you towards your limits – ultimately creative however. Also again, challenges have to do with the fact that the artist, the one who creates art, without whom each piece of art wouldn’t have come to life, is the last one along the line to be taken care for.
However, this also makes artists more persistent, more inventive and more passionate for what they do. It also gives a kind of satisfaction that says “I am making it against all odds.” And more importantly it allows only the ones that really feel the deep urge to connect and serve the community through art to do so.
elc: Do you have any upcoming projects?
A.D.: My upcoming projects are numerous. I am invited in Budapest to teach Ensemble Physical theatre as one of the two intensive workshops in the “14th International Improvisation Festival” organized by a wonderful CI dance teacher I worked with last year, Eszter Gàl.
Almost immediately after, I am teaching “Voice is the Body” in our Duende International 2 week Residency “Performing at the Edge #4” in a remote beach house on the island of Lesvos.
And finally there is a possibility of another residential collaborative workshop with “Esperimentoquadro” and Gianguglielmo Calvi on “Physical Theatre and Cognitive science” in Italy.
“Medula” solo performance, along with the musician Thanasis Gamarazis who is playing live in the show, is planning to tour in Cyprus, possibly in Crete and abroad in festivals. There will be a new number of shows in Thessaloniki after the audiences request and maybe in Athens again.
By autumn, the Ensemble Physical Theatre laboratory will open again in Thessaloniki with two departments, new Voice and the Body classes and a new theoretical class on physical theatre academic skills. I am always happy to create, search into and re-discover. Thank you very much for this opportunity to unfold my journey into art.