24 July 2020

The premiere of “Burning Water”, prepared for the CNT Ivan pl. Zajc Ballet by a Greek creative team led by choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, is scheduled for July 27 at 9 PM in the Rijeka Theatre. The play is part of the Times of Power segment within the Rijeka 2020 – European Capital of Culture program.

The Greeks are in port and leading you to the center of the storm on the open sea!

The first impression after viewing one of the rehearsals can best be summarized as follows:

The atmosphere truly burns! It pushes the boundaries of endurance and feasibility! It was so tense that I held my breath, not even realizing that I had until I had to release it to breathe. Congratulations to the dancers! Their very bodies seemed on the verge of tearing apart from the choreography. It’s wild, intense, supernatural, alien… There is no moment of calm or pause; instead, every minute is filled with constant motion, movement, explosions of every atom and muscle in the body, dancers swimming with the choreography, each of them a torpedo of energy. It’s an electrified high-voltage ballet!


Ahead of the premiere, we present an interview with the choreographer:

When we spoke last time, it was on the occasion of “4 Boleros,” an evening in which you both surprised and amazed with your “Bolero” on trampolines.
I surprised myself, too. You don’t do “Bolero” every day. There are so many different dance interpretations of Ravelov’s “Bolero,” and I wanted to give a new meaning to such well-known music. I liked the experience, and the result.

When we see “Bolero” and “Burning Water,” it seems that you put stamina in first place, and constant intellectual effort, strong focus. Can we draw a parallel?
“Bolero” seems harder to me in that sense. Although it is a smaller work, the dancers are not on stable ground, but rather on an elevated trampoline. Everything depends on precision, mathematics and memory, and the dancers have to work simultaneously, they have to be synchronized and in harmony with the music. “Burning Water” is more organic, more natural for the brain. The gestures follow each other in a very instinctive way, as action and reaction.

In “Bolero,” the dances, each within the circle of their own trampoline, had no physical contact. But now…?
Exactly. In “Burning Water,” it’s the complete opposite. It’s more free, in terms of how the bodies move on the stage.

But even now, the sloping stage does not make it easier. It is again a challenge before, or under the dancers.
Yes, we can say that it is equally challenging. Again it’s a lot of control, a lot of energy, again facing the challenge of not falling off the stage. Still, I would say that “Burning Water” frees the dancer’s body, as well as the eye of the spectators. In “Bolero,” you had to watch a specific, centered point, whereas in “Burning Water,” you are able to choose which part to observe.
I love the challenge of the set obstacle, both physical and mental, which is why the stage is sloping. I am inspired by the idea that not everything is normal—although I do not prefer that word, because what really is normal and who determines it?—but you understand, I am sure. We could all dance on a flat stage. But this is my way.

Where did the inspiration and ideas for “Burning Water” come from?
I took elements from what I feel and think about water, about the sea. I come from an island; I was raised next to the sea. In the choreography I am not describing or creating images of the sea. But in general, there is a constant idea of images of the sea translated into physical movement. There are no human relationships or stories connected to the real life of anyone in particular. However, we certainly worked on the natural, very real need for one another, for connecting to each other, since we are all from water. I “describe” the elements of water, a “story” that I tell in my own way. Organic, as it is in nature. I’ve seen a lot of tempests myself, and from that I draw the high energetic volume I use in this choreography. It connects the superpower of the ocean. The idea may seem simple, but behind everything you see, we have explored pictures and ideas related to the water from my observations and memories. But not to explain things. One part you may relate to myths and mythical creatures. You may also be able to picture completely abandoned people in the middle of the sea after a shipwreck or some similar catastrophe, subsequently their instinct for survival as they try to compose themselves and start over… The elements are very fragmented. I can enumerate many more things connected with the real, but the point is that it is not necessary. It is important to note that events, feelings and emotions are very open to interpretation, compassion and identification.

It seems to me that the images in front of us are flowing very fast.
There is something fluid in this piece, yes. The images come one after the other, alternating like waves.
It is dynamic, extremely rhythmic, likes waves hitting the shore, the harbor.
The water element is fast. It never takes a final form, but is always subject to transformation. It is under the constant influence of currents. One breath of wind is enough to make it react.
It was not my task, nor my desire, to tell a story about water that everyone knows.

Is that why you created a work about burning water, which in itself is contradictory?
Of course. A lot can be philosophized about this title; it is a mental challenge. But let’s not do too much. I grabbed that notion as a paradox that was my key to putting the contrast on stage. People associate fire with danger, which is why the title can cause anxiety on the subconscious level. However, water can also be dangerous. On the other hand, in the midst of something very chaotic, one can find complete peace. Your city Rijeka, inseparable from water, I experienced in moments when it was a completely quiet, peaceful city, which then suddenly went crazy. “The city that flows,” “Burning Water” – a point of observation and a point of constant transformation.

What further enhances the electric, powerful energy of the dancers performing your choreography is the music of Julien Tarride. It seems to me that this is progressive ambient electro techno.
In the original music for “Burning Water” we find something repetitive, pulsing. There is something hypnotic about it. As you often observe, the river, sea, and ocean can hypnotize. Perpetual repetition. It takes different forms, but once established, you notice how they recur. I think the music is powerful and that it best underscores what I imagined. And it sounds like a heartbeat. This is the reason why we considered this direction in music to be the best.

It’s very atmospheric.
It is. There are two big contrasts in the piece; one is almost trippy, unidentified, as the techno pulse of the technological era in which we live, and the other contains elements we can recognize and connect with. I like to give people space in their work for their own process of understanding, finding directions, ideas, etc. Techno music is very clear and easy to understand.

All the same, many people find that kind of music difficult to listen to. They don’t like it and it’s not on their playlists.
We are not meant to like everything. We can appreciate, see, ask questions and then accept or not. The issue is not whether someone likes it or not. You need to give yourself time to process the information and then decide your own point of view. Are you mesmerized by something? Fascinated? It’s a part of the experience. The experience is not about acceptance – if it were, there would be nothing to disturb us or make us think. The moment you accept everything, it’s very nice and comfortable, but there is nothing to consider. The audience is Rijeka is wonderful; they have seen many different shows and I don’t think they will be surprised in that sense.

After Ravel, techno. Maybe it will be a surprise, after all.
For me as an artist, it’s very important to be able to give different, unique and original solutions, to offer different ways of seeing dance art.
I can’t know what the audience who watched my “Bolero” expects, but I doubt that they think that someone who has afforded dancing on trampolines will provide work according to the same or a similar recipe. I don’t like treading the same path. I didn’t even want a sound as familiar to everyone as Ravel’s “Bolero.”

You chose the dancers for your new work of art yourself; how did that process go with them considering the set goal?
The dancers are excellent; they worked a lot, they progressed a lot every day. An interesting and not at all easy process. They had to understand and feel a lot. I admit that I don’t make life easy for the dancers. I put many challenges to them. I consider it a good experience for artists to get to know each other. Instinctively, I treat them as someone who was once also a dancer. I carry that energy within me. Dancers suffer on stage by dancing demanding choreography, and it’s important to me that they understand what it’s like with good, justifiable reason. I don’t ask myself or them for the beauty of entertainment, for any kind of entertainment on stage. I want to highlight the agony of survival. How important we are to each other in order to survive. How much we depend on each other and on nature.

For many reasons, your work requires top concentration; the brain cannot relax for even a moment. Dancers cannot “catch” a certain part of the music when, for example, they have to dance part of the choreography at the same time.
Definitely, that’s right. But in the end, it all requires concentrating and involving the brain. There are different ways in which we insist on intelligence, which again has its levels. When I imagine something in my head and transform it into movement, it becomes something natural. Human. Full of emotions. It’s a very weird process. Basically, it’s my mathematical base – in which a certain movement goes with a certain number, and I don’t want to deny intellect, but I love when we strive for something more organic.

What would you like everyone in the audience to know about “Burning Water?”
I would love for everyone to take a little time to think about what water can do, whether we can survive without it, whether we can survive in it? It can be devastating.
I would like the audience to feel and imagine that we are all together at that moment in the open ocean. As if they could sink at any moment. In that I find both hope and strength. I think this work shows both the beauty and the danger of being surrounded by water, because it gives us life but can also kill us.
I would like them to just relax and indulge in a reflection in which they realize how fragile we are in the face of nature. Even though they came to a dance show, I wish for them to understand how important we are to each other and how much more important than us are all the elements that surround us. We can learn to live with them and survive, or we can destroy them and be destroyed by them. Technology is used to rule over nature, and somehow we have to learn to leave nature alone, to preserve it. It is stronger than us. The dancers on stage are swimmers within that fragility, dancing as if fighting for survival. There is no pleasant, careless, easy-going ease of movement; it is not a fairy tale. Something real and powerful is happening. And when we really want something to work, that’s the feeling. In this world, you have to fight for everything. So you also need to respect and be thankful for all the elements that surround you. Do not abuse them, but let them inspire you. Live a life of harmony. It is not easy to find in today’s world; it seems easy to talk about, it seems like a great idea, but that’s what I’d like the audience to keep in mind.


Interviewed by Andrea Labik