Interview with Dymitry Szypura

Bildschirmfoto 2015-07-25 um 21.07.23

I met Dymitry in the WASP cafeteria in an early evening, only the second day of rehearsals for his new show “Steinmantel” in Bucharest, a Wild Card residency offered by 4Culture Association and Ultima Vez/Wim Vandekeybus,  in the framework of the European Dance  Network Life Long Burning. We took the chance to have a chat about the creation of his first own show “Steinmantel” and the work-in-progress at the WASP studios.

We talked about acrobatics and the deconstruction of its clichés, brutality and laughter, filthiness and dirt and how hand-crafts balance  the connection of the mind and the body. Dymitry shared how he first got into contact with performance (in an US TV-show!), why he is fascinated by the Eastern countries (dirt! cables!), what it’s like to work with Wim Vandekeybus and how all these influences formed the concept of “Motchok”. Find out why the motorcycle suit is so important for Motchok and what the new show “Stein Mantel” (German for Stone Suit)  may be about!

Dymitry, you have been in Bucharest and at WASP before, at eXplore Festival 2012 – so how did you like the place and the city?

Dymitry: When you pass by venues so quickly you don’t really get an impression. It was a pity, because we had the best performances here. Great venue, very small, we were used to play in big venues. We all have great memories in this venue because of its familiar atmosphere.

You studied in Berlin, Toulouse, Paris, you have been working in Belgium with Ultima Vez and Wim Vandekeybus for the last 4 years, but you are travelling around a lot, so where do you feel home?

Dymitry: Now it’s my fifth year in Belgium, this is my home-base. I moved there to work with Ultima Vez and last year I spent a lot of time in Budapest, so I was not so much in Belgium and I was travelling around a bit. I never really left Belgium though, but I wasn’t there for like a year. But now I’m settled back there and want to stay there.

So how is Budapest connected to your recent work and your new group “Motchok”?

Dymitry: “Motchok” was created because I want to create under my name but give space to other artists. I didn’t like the idea to call a group only after my name. Actually not the city is connected to my work, but the name, the word “„mocsok” it’s Hungarian. I overheard it in a conversation and it became my favourite word in the Hungarian language, because of its sound and its expressiveness. It means dirty, filthy and it fits! I like dirty, filthy cities, I like dirty filthy places, it’s something I like very much, the rough environment. That’s why I like it also here, in Bucharest! I am completely in love with all the cables hanging around. Every time when I’m in a city which is more to the East, let’s say from Germany on, I like it and I get inspired. Maybe it’s because I’m half-polish – my mother is polish, so I have this “research” towards the East.

So you learned some Hungarian?:

Dymitry: No, too difficult, incredibly difficult. Only some words, some bad words.Now they said Budapest is the second Berlin, Bucharest may be the second Budapest and all these three cities are in the same line. a lot of people go to Budapest with start-up companies, because it’s still cheap, but still something is happening, it’s a bit fashion, I see it a bit in the same line. I lived in Berlin for 2 years and a half and really at some corners it looks exactly the same.

Where did you get the inspiration for your latest ideas and creation around Motchok?

Dymitry: I had played around with the motor suit for a long time. Actually I’m very inspired by Jackass. I was a huge fan since I was young. It was my first contact with performance actually, with people who are taking their body and are working with it, who are using it as an object or a platform of doing something. This was the first moment when I wanted to represent myself by redoing all this stuff with my friends. So it was my first initiation to representing what you do, to film it, to record it. You know people say the Jackass guys are just some quite fucked-up guys, partying and taking drugs. But the capacity of laughing about something so painful and so horrible actually is fascinating for me. I never saw it after or before. I find it quite genius how they use the protection of laughing and joke, to transform something very heavy into something very light!

Tell me more about the shock and the laughter in your work.

It origins from the Jackass thing, to refresh what should be there. You can laugh about things that are really unreasonable, which are maybe not logic or not morally or politically correct, you should not forbid yourself to laugh out something because of the world around you. The pain and the stupid things. I have this image of a little kid laughing about a car accident, you know, it’s morally incorrect but for the kid it’s just an image, it’s just something incredible happening. This contradiction of the little kid and the car accident creates a huge distance. We would have a shock reaction to the car accident. Seeing this kid laughing seems correct for me, because it is innocent, you would not think of punishing a kid for laughing. I would like to have a very heavy base of the piece which can be transformed very easily to a childlike laughter.

Why do you use the motor suit?

I use the motor suit as a protection, as to create anonymity, cover of your person, once you have the suit on,  you ask yourself, what is it? Who is it? Who is the character under it? You can do things with it which you can’t do without.

Are circus and acrobatics rather exotic and unusual in the contemporary dance scene?

Dimitry: Recently there are a lot of Belgium choreographers, who invited people from different backgrounds, more acrobatic and circus background. It’s a big tendency, definitely, this mixing of contemporary dance and circus and acrobatics, especially in Belgium it happens a lot. For me it is a bit difficult, that circus becomes more and more popular –  very easily accessible and very entertaining. But people were doing great things in circuses, very few people, but very great things. But I’m sort of…

…over it? not over it, I’m going back actually, but in a different way! The problem is that I have to be very careful with how to say it. Because the image of what happens in people when you say “circus”, it’s still very different than the reality. Big, big difference!

How does acrobatics influence your own style and recent creations?

Dymitry: Well, I’m a very acrobatic dancer in general.

So in the big picture of nowadays dance, you see acrobatics and circus influences as a general trend, not only in Belgium?

Dyimitry: Yeah, it is. I have some friends who work with big companies and come from acrobatics. Because people are interesting in this full way of moving with your body, let’s say. When I’m doing workshops to people who are from acrobatics – dance workshops I mean – ,  I teach them how to do one thing after the other (how to connect the movements) because everyone is usually very specified on one movement, like a somersault with a very complicated in one split-of-a-second-movement, which has a very clear beginning and a very clear end. I try to teach them how to “slow down” the somersault, that’s what I’m interested in.

You mentioned this mesh-up of different disciplines also in the description of your new show “Stein Mantel” . Your creations seem inspired by other arts, crafts and hand-crafts.  

Dymitry: I was just wondering what happens if you just call a film choreography and a hand-crafter a dancer? I’d like to say: this is like this. In the last residencies I had access to a studio and it was very important for me to create and build things besides dancing and besides moving.

In what way crafts have an influence on your creative practice?

Dymitry: The thing of constructing and building things with my hands is very important to me in general, I love it. And I also see that, here, at WASP, it’s very difficult to not be able to do it, to not have an atelier. For example in the project itself there will be a lot of objects on stage involved in the beginning and these I usually build myself. I have a close relation between this sort of “virtual” world, which is more untouchable and the tangible world of building material things and destroying them, rebuilding them maybe. I need both, when I don’t have one, it’s very difficult to create. When it’s too concrete I feel stupid, I feel I’m only working, like putting one stone from one place to the other, and when I’m only in the studio and only moving my body and think, it’s too untouchable.

For the presentation here at WASP I want to focus more on the untouchable world, I want to create only some little objects. I never asked to have a hand-crafter on stage, but I have a second performance in this series, where I actually play out the theme of handcrafting much more. Steinmantel is more about protection in general.

Please explain to us your way of working in residencies, you mentioned you like to invite people from other disciplines and arts.

Dymitry: My idea was to invite for each show or for each show series different people to be with me on stage. I play with an idea of inviting each time a person from extreme sports, a gymnast or a weightlifter. I’m fascinated by people who are doing only one sort of thing for their whole life. It’s incredible! A weightlifter is doing all the time year by year the same thing, going further, further and further. And I am very unable to do this. I’m very bad at doing one thing for very long.  And in circus it is a bit like this. You have this notion of doing one specific thing over and over again, especially when it’s a very complex figure. My idea for Steinmantel is to invite for every performance one person, who represents this maximum of progression in one thing. But you know, also, this is just an idea. The concept for the piece is changing, these are just the third and fourth week of actual work on this project so if I’ll ever take it or not, I don’t know yet.

While I was researching on Motchok I found another station, where you worked on Steinmantel just before you got to Bucharest.

Dymitry: Yes it was the theatre of Les Migrateurs, in Strasbourg, France.

When will we see SteinMantel on premiere?

Dymitry: I see the premiere at the end of next year. Of course it depends on how intense you work on something, but it should also  take time. This is actually the first time when i create something on my own!

So how did working and creating with Wim Vandekeybus prepare you for creating your own choreography?

Dymitry: Of course working with Wim Vandekeybus’ is very inspiring. In his pieces he gives you quite a big freedom and counts on your creativity and your character and what you bring in there. He is not somebody to tell you to put your arms like this or like that. He gives a very strong direction where it should go and works with you on what you bring and pushes all this in his way further.  

Good luck in realising what you wish in Steinmantel!

an interview by Susanne Hessmann