Part of the Invisible Diaries series
Week 2 / Day 2
This post is dedicated to my friends, dramaturgs and cultural operators
who have worked fastidiously on MMDD:
Guy, Gerarda, Maja, Anne-Marije, Cristina, Alessia,
Alessandra, Velia, Alexis, Heleen, Wim, Annelie,
Yvona, Zuzana, Markéta, Júlia,
Katja and Andrea.
Until recently, I knew what I would be doing today. In fact, I have been thinking about it, planning and preparing it meticulously with all those colleagues mentioned in the dedication for about a year.
According to this plan, today I would have gotten up early, taken the tube then a fast train to the airport, boarded a plane, interchanged to another train, then I would have been picked up by my Italian colleagues at the train station, and after about an hour’s journey in a minibus, we would have arrived in Anghiari in Tuscany. The host of the project, Gerarda, would have given me a warm welcome, and soon after, on the terrace of the local restaurant, over a plate of pasta and a jug of local red wine, Guy and I would have exchanged notes. He would have been serene, I would have been energetic, and both of us would have been excited to launch the first 10-day-long residency of a two-year-long, Creative Europe funded project: Micro and Macro Dramaturgies in Dance (MMDD).
The scientific team of the MMDD project in February in Prague (from L-R):
Katalin Trencsényi, Guy Cools, Maja Hriešik and Anne-Marije van den Bersselaar.
(Photography: Anne-Marije van den Bersselaar.)
I could tell you what we planned to happen in this pioneering project, day by day, hour by hour! We were weaving it together or rather beating it with the precision of a lace-maker from the wisdom and experience of colleagues of the scientific team, and the expertise and knowledge of our local partners and hosts of the six participating European organisations.
The aim of this international project was two-fold: to explore macro-dramaturgy in dance – i.e. using contemporary dance as a socio-critical tool, responding to and working with the needs and desires of local communities; as well as teaching dance dramaturgy, and disseminating ideas about it in a wider circle. Everything we had planned was the result of a collaboration between the participating organisations (involving painstaking and sometimes frustrating work of negotiations and preparation). We were responding to the requests and perceived interests of various and diverse communities in those towns – from a small, once agricultural community to a metropolitan city – and working with their local artists to create this beautiful project. In a few months’ time, we would have shared with you a video, documenting the first Italian atelier: the workshops, the lectures, the community events etc., whilst preparing for the next stage of the project, the second residency in the Netherlands, and so on and so forth. Two years from now, I would have been inviting you to participate online or in person in our sharing and project closing festival in Prague.
Although I have never been to Anghiari (or for that matter, Polverigi, where the second half of the atelier would have continued later this month), through our detailed preparatory work, the research, the meetings and Skype meetings, and correspondence, I felt I developed an affection and perhaps an intimate knowledge of those places. I wonder, how the elders of Anghiari (those men in their eighties) are doing now, from whom we were about to hear and try with them together the practice of ‘medieval slam poetry’ over dinner, the ottava rima, a living tradition of improvised stanzas in the region that has been practised there since Boccaccio used them in the 14th century? I wonder how that entrepreneur café- and restaurant-owner chef is doing, who moved his business from the nearby big town to the much smaller Polverigi, in order to support and sustain the declining local community through food, music and dance? Will the artists, dancers, choreographers, dramaturgs, performance and visual artists survive health-wise and financially until next year? Will our request pass the various bureaucratic hoops of the EU, and will we be granted permission to postpone our project and restart the residencies the same time next year? Will the EU itself survive this blow and the fact that they failed to respond quickly or show leadership and display unity and solidarity in this crisis?
Will those communities we wanted to engage and work with survive? Young people and old, migrants and socially marginalised men and women, artists and civilians with whom and for whom this project was set up in the hope that what we begin is only an impetus, and its influence will spiral out and instigate positive change.
I think of these people. People I came to know during this year of preparatory work and people I was about to meet. I feel a friendship was developing between us, and now I feel a growing desire and yearning to reconnect with them physically. The handshakes, the smiles, the gestures, the hugs we were meant to share. The experience of the physicality of the other person in a shared space. The beautifully agile bodies of those dancers, and their expressivity when moving in the dance studio and in the public spaces of these towns. The curiosity, playfulness, and physical joy of exploring a new place together, relishing its surprises and making it a little bit familiar. The footsteps and gestures that we would leave behind.
The pleasure of connecting to each other emotionally and physically, the thrill of letting an experience resonate with our bodies and creating a (cor)responding movement. The sensual power of movement and gestures – how they can reach out to people without words and connect with them deeply. ‘The Need to Keep Moving’ (to cheekily recall here the title of an inspirational essay on 21st-century dramaturgy by Duška Radosavljević): to create dance for playfulness, beauty, communication, connection, survival, relief, grieving, celebrating, healing – for sharing in a universal language what it means to be a human. I feel we need this more than ever.
Until it is possible again, take care, my dear friends – andrá tutto bene!
 As a playful gesture coming from my desire to reconnect with the discourse offered by these eminent thinkers, I decided to choose for each title of my journal entries the title of an essay on dramaturgy I found inspiring. I hope their authors won’t mind me recalling their work this way. Today’s title is borrowed from an essay by Duška Radosavljević.
Image courtesy of Katalin Trencsényi.
Katalin Trencsényi is a dramaturg and researcher of Hungarian origin, living and working in London. Before Covid (BC), her areas of interest were contemporary theatre and performance, dance dramaturgy, collaborative processes, and multi-modal play development. Now she is more interested in thinking about epidemic and theatre. As an independent dramaturg, Katalin has worked with the National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre, Corali Dance Company, Company of Angels, amongst others. Katalin has taught dramaturgy internationally: including Australia, Belgium, Canada, Russia, and the US, and from 2015 to 2019 worked as a tutor at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Katalin is the author of Dramaturgy in the Making. A User’s Guide for Theatre Practitioners (2015), editor of Bandoneon: Working with Pina Bausch (2016), co-editor of New Dramaturgy: International Perspectives on Theory and Practice (2014), and editor of the dramaturgy section of the global theatre portal, TheTheatreTimes.com.
Until the pandemic outbreak, Katalin was working as part of the Scientific Team (with Guy Cools, Maja Hriešik, and Anne-Marije van den Bersselaar), coordinating a two-year research and training project supported by a Creative Europe grant: Micro and Macro Dramaturgies in Dance. Now, the project’s future – just as the future of many projects in Europe and beyond – is uncertain.