otb: diana szeinblum’s alaska

Re-Visiting “Alaska”: Fifteen Minutes with Diana Szeinblum & Dancers

By Leslie Holleran

photo courtesy of On the Boards
Last Friday evening, Diana Szeinblum’s four dancers—Lucas Condro, Pablo Lugones Alejandra Ferreyra Ortiz and Letitia Mazur—presented Szeinblum’s latest work, “Alaska” to a packed house at On the Boards. The program notes describe “Alaska” as “a supposed interior space, the existence of a last room . . . A place where experiences, sensations, emotions, memories are lodged in a chaotic way.” It is the kinetic translation of those sensations, emotions, and memories by Szeinblum and her dancers and Szeinblum’s arrangement of them that create the piece’s movement and structure.

Following the show, OtB Artistic Director Lane Czaplinski moderated a brief Q&A with Szeinblum and her dancers. But, I still had questions and wanted to learn more. I had found “Alaska” to be extremely engaging and thought-provoking in a way I had not found with work by Szeinblum’s tanztheatre predecessors, including Pina Bausch, with whom Szeinblum had danced, and Susanne Linke. So, Szeinblum graciously agreed to meet with me with two of her dancers, Condro and Mazur, prior to Saturday night’s performance in order that I could to probe a little further.

Leslie Holleran: What inspired you to create Alaska?
Diana Szeinblum: “34 meters,” an earlier work dealing with architectural space, finished with an image of the inside of the dancer. “Alaska” comes from the idea that space is inside of us as well.

Holleran:
How long did it take to create the piece? You referred to a long process of searching (at last night’s Q&A).
Szeinblum: A year and a half. We searched a lot for one and a half years.

Holleran: Is each dancer translating his/her own experience of desperation?
Letitia Mazur: We dance our experience through her (Szeinblum’s) point of view. Everyone helps to create the experience of the other one.

Holleran: Were any of the experiences too painful and had to be abandoned for that reason?
Szeinblum: No. (Nevertheless) we were looking for strong things – hate, love – the important things for human beings.

Holleran:
This sounds like a very collaborative process.
Szeinblum: I need this. Without this, I am not enough.

Holleran: Last night, you (Letitia) mentioned that Diana is very obsessive with the details, which allows you to come to know your body and its possibilities better. Could you say a little more?
Mazur: When you discover it (the movement) in your body, you are giving it (back) to the piece.

If you missed last weekend’s performance at On the Boards, you’ve still got another chance to see “Alaska.” The company will perform it in 2010…in Buenos Aires.