Time Settles in the Body

Interview with Kasia Wolinska & Agata Siniarska
Edited by Nicole Bradbury

#pola #nireńska #archive #holocaust #tetralogy #war #people #modern #ausdrucktans #body #polish #jewish #garden #grave #witness #refuge #rewriting #history #nonhuman #future #censorship

What is your archive of inquiry? And do you have a personal relationship to the material? Or to the artists from the archives?

So maybe just to give an introduction, we were working with a performance; the life and work of Pola Nireńska. She was a Polish Jewish choreographer and dancer who studied in Mary Wigman's school in Dresden. She escaped the war. She emigrated first to Great Britain, and then to the United States where she stayed to her death. Mostly her biography is depicted through the experience of the Holocaust, and maybe not necessarily the experience of the Holocaust, but the lack of this experience, to a certain degree. Because the majority of her family died during the war, and were exterminated. But she herself managed to escape. So she was not the witness of what was happening in Poland during the Second World War. But somehow, the ghost, the images, the stories were something that apparently she was trying to avoid talking about. And then her second husband was a correspondent, and he brought what was happening in Europe to the United States. So after the war, he was the one who was invited to talk about the genocide. And she was the one who experienced this but she didn't have language to tell the facts. She actually avoided talking about that, she refused to talk with him. And apparently, that was an agreement they made when they were getting married, that they would not talk about it. And then later on, he took part in a documentary movie where he talked about what he experienced and what he saw. He was speaking but she was the one driven by this history.
And then another very interesting aspect is that she danced first in Germany, so she knew very well the expressive dance. Then later on, she moved to the United States where modern dance was the prominent dance. So, she managed to intertwine these two styles. She was very much influenced by the American modern dance. But, her husband asked her to stop dancing to take care of the house. And she stopped for 10 years if I'm not mistaken, and she was in and out of a psychiatric hospital. So somehow, we could also say that this was exactly: "I need to dance in order to live. I need to move in order to be,". And then after 10 years, she came back, though she got extremely sick. She had arthritis. And then she made the last piece when she was in a wheelchair, and she choreographed from the wheelchair the Holocaust Tetralogy. And this is the piece that we were facing during our process.
First of all, I think that when I was writing the concept. I was really not interested in the biography. I didn't want to make a performance about Pola Nireńska. I didn't want to make a piece about the Holocaust, because I didn’t want to even try to understand what that means. I think that for my generation, and for even generations later, we don't know it. We live while this history is constantly rewritten, according to the political agenda of our country. It is very much manipulated... but we don't know what it is. But of course, the Holocaust is also

I didn't want to make a piece about the Holocaust, because <...> we don't know it. We live while this history is constantly rewritten, according to the political agenda of our country.

 something that is extremely difficult to talk about in Poland, because there also many stories. The history is not black and white. It's not that Polish people were only the saviors. We know that Polish people were collaborating. It's extremely difficult to face this, and to be mature enough to say, "Yes, we can face it as a society, we can face this as a country and embrace this''. It was another very heavy bag that I had to carry or take in.

... for me, this link between humans and nonhumans is so important because there are so many humans that actually can't say "I'm human" because it's taken away from them.

So I was thinking, how this biography or how this story can help me to see what is now, and what's going to happen. And for me, the fact that we live in very critical times, we live in a time when there's actually lots of war in the world. Right now, we have to think globally. It's not only European problems, or Polish problems, or German problems. We live in a global world, and whatever is happening in this sphere of the world, of course, it has an impact on other parts of the world. So that's the first thing. The second thing is, that we can't think only through human aspects. And I think that the fact that we live in the great sixth mass extinction is a big tragedy. And it touches our companions, nonhuman companions. And the other thing is that not everybody in this contemporary world has the right to say: "I am, or I am a human, or I am a citizen" because there are so many people that have no rights. And that's why for me, this link between humans and nonhumans is so important because there are so many humans that actually can't say "I'm human" because it's taken away from them. So, there were all these kinds of things that were circulating and I wanted to use more of Pola Nireńska as a certain trampoline to talk about what is here. Because I think we can’t talk about the future without re-talking the past: who is in our history and who is not? Because what is not in our history has an impact on what is not going to be in our future.

I remember that this Holocaust Tetralogy was not available anywhere. So to get the video material we got in touch with a woman that, at the year that we were doing the piece, was writing a book about Pola Nireńska. And then she gave us a contact to a dancer, Rima Faber, who was in an original cast in the 80s of the Holocaust Tetralogy. And then Agata had to inquire to get the video and then we received the video. And I remember that big moment, we're gonna watch it, finally. And then.... (laughing) I mean, you know, already modern dances, Agata said, were something that we have to negotiate a lot, and Ausdrucktanz is even more theatrical. And I remember that Agata, when we watched it, completely rejected it at first. It was a very interesting process for us all. I had already gone through this sort of personal resistance with my previous work, so I could understand why it felt old school and inaccessible, and completely unattractive. We spent some time even debating the value of this, as an aesthetic proposal, not as a historic material, and how to work with it. This is such a foreign language, and this is so old school, maybe even a pretentious way of expressing feelings. And this goes back to Wigman, and to the Holocaust, because as Agata was saying, "Who has the legitimacy to speak about the Holocaust?". And what is the experience of it? What does it mean to experience Holocaust? If you have a person that was a Polish Jewish dancer, that went to Wigman’s school and was one of the best dancers there, she toured with her in the United States in the 1930s. And then, when she came back with the company, she was expelled from it, because she
was Jewish and she had to go back to Poland. So there’s this question of the Holocaust as a phenomenon connected to extermination, but also the scope of repressions. And Pola Nireńska’s whole life was somehow affected by it, or destroyed, or overshadowed by the Holocaust, and by what had happened before and after that. And also, she chose to use Wigman's language. She was trained in Ausdruckstanz, and modern dance. And then in the 80s, she's choosing this to speak about Holocaust. While, in fact, Wigman had the history of collaboration with the Nazis. And this dance became a language that is so charged with history itself.
And, if I remember correctly, Pola was herself in complete denial when it came to Wigman and her collaboration with the Nazis until the very death of Wigman. They were still exchanging letters, and had a close connection. I think Pola was even helpingWigman, who was stuck in Germany after the war. So, I imagine this interpersonal relationship with your teacher, with the master, with your friend

… what is not in our history has an impact on what is not going to be in our future.

...your lover...

I’m not sure if it's confirmed, because I remember that some people said that they had a more sexual, romantic relationship. So, if you think about all that, this is striking. And in the ‘80s, she was able to speak and speak through this language that was related to her youth. And all of this time she spent there and all of those experiences that came out of it.... just to give you a sense of knowledge and to share, that, for me, this opening of somebody's story, the thickness of it is so overwhelming... I think for both of us, it was very emotional, because I can very much myself relate to this "dancing or not living". We took from the Tetralogy some gestures and tried to extract certain meanings that came with forms, directions, compositions, and aesthetics, but we tried also to deconstruct them, to understand certain components of language, and treat the aesthetic proposal and original choreography as an archive that can be unpacked and read.

… a person that was a Polish Jewish dancer, that went to Wigman school and was one of the best dancers there, she toured in the United States in the 1930s, then, when she came back with the company and was expelled from it, because she was Jewish...

In terms of archives, it deals with the personal or physical, or psychosomatic... I remember, every time I went to print stuff, people were looking at me weirdly, because we were printing a lot of photos of dead bodies. And this is also the archive that we worked with. The last part of the work is actually the collection of dead bodies, and an attempt to bring the resolution to the tragic death. We had that pool of images, and it was on the wall, and on the floor - animal and human bodies that either died in genocide, or on the side of the roads, and paintings of victims of wars... Even if it's impersonal and those people don't have names... We were trying to acquire some knowledge about a story that can be set off by a photo... and it is also a challenge, because it was simply sickening knowledge. I had some moments when I violently vomited... What does it mean to take in some of the archives? The whole process was difficult because the Holocaust is so charged.

… animal and human bodies that either died in the genocide, or on the side of the roads, and paintings of victims of wars.

There's another archive in the garden. The garden that we were building, every time we were going somewhere, we were building it from scratch. It is made with plants that carry a history of violence. For example, we had pines that were used by Nazis in order to cover the mass graves, because they get rooted very easily in almost every soil. So it's very easy to cover up something with them. There was a lot of environmental forensic work in search of forgotten mass graves, especially on the eastern side; it's also happening in many other countries, through the plants. Another thing was Lupinus – a very ordinary flower that also loves the nitrogen that comes from dead bodies, so it was very fast growing in those places. So each of them has an information board, like you have in the Botanical garden and this little story was written there. Plants are all sorted- through systematics, similar to animals. This is already a violent thing, calling some plants 'native', some 'exotic', some of them 'weedage'. This is our human classification.
Could you track the moment when you felt the demand to work on this topic? It feels like very profound work, and I believe it's not easy to trace it, but maybe you can remember what triggered you to start to work on this?

I think quite often, the situation to work on something is a very pragmatic one: you get the financial opportunity. You have things in your head, you work constantly, constantly gather things, your urgencies. In a moment when something appears, those urgencies will find a way to articulate themselves in a project that's going to be about cups or about chairs, or whatever. It always needs to be something that drives me, not only a fascination, not only my entire personal love towards this, but it's something that I believe is important to be shared. This is the difficult part, because how to share something that it's not didactic? It doesn't show me: "I know, you don't know that I'm going to scream in your face, that you should know this stuff". I think especially with any political message, that's also a problem for me. How to bring it to somebody's attention? Or how to ask people for attention to something that I believe demands attention? Without pushing people toward those. Without, I wouldn't say not to manipulate, because I think to a certain degree, we do this kind of soft manipulation. Or to give this kind 

of direction and give at the same time and space for people to question, to disagree, to bring completely different perspectives. How to construct the world that gives air? Gives space to the conversation, even for disagreement or for  

This is already a violent thing, calling some plants 'native', some 'exotic', some of them 'weedage'. This is our human classification.

changing the given trajectory? Sometimes the urgencies are so strong that they can make me blind. That's why it is always good to work with other people that can put you in question and let you step out for a moment and look at something in perspective. With this specific project, at a certain moment, it was difficult to get a certain perspective, I think we got very close to the material, there was something very touching about this and very caring and very intimate. 

I believe it is maybe interesting that this work was commissioned through an open call. The open call was to create a piece about Pola Nireńska. This is the initiative that has been developed for several years in Poland through Mickiewicz Institute and Dance Institute, which attempts to uncover and rediscover Polish avant-garde dance artists.

Did you feel any pressure from these institutions who established this open call through the work? And is this institution independent from the state? In terms of politics, and artistic freedom, how did you feel working on this heritage? 


I think that we were pretty much independent in terms of, we got the funding, and no one was dropping by and checking how things were going.
we have a very specific government that even changes all the systems of education in order for children to learn history. So there's constant erasure of certain people from history and bringing others... heroes, so we have now new heroes... so soon probably they are going to change the names of the streets. When the communists fell down, they were kicking out all the names of the communists even though some of them died during the war fighting for Poland, or they died even before, but still, they were communists, so they were bad. This is actually really black and white historical movements nowadays.

… how to share something that it's not didactic?

I would speculate that in Poland, or elsewhere, maybe in Berlin also, dance is not seen as a threat. Nobody takes it seriously. I don't think those politicians can even imagine that we could do something that would be disruptive.

Absolutely. Dance is many times an abstract hermetic form of art. So what can happen? But in this specific situation, of course, we had this topic, and it was commissioned. There was Pola Nireńska... surprisingly, someone in the Ministry of Culture agreed to give money for a woman and Jewish – this is pretty incredible! I think it shows that they have some chaos in their way of doing politics.

How to construct the world that gives air? Gives space to the conversation, even for disagreement or for changing given trajectory?

I was in a very interesting meeting in Israel at International Exposure (2019), and there was someone from one of the big biennales for dance and they were saying, "dance and politics have nothing to do with one another". And I think Arkadi Zaides was in public speaking about his work titled Archive, and he described how the embassy wanted to censor his work that deals with the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in Singapore because that week there was a weapon deal taking place between Israel and Singapore. In so many places in the world right now, dance is forbidden during the pandemic, but going to the mosque is allowed. We should look at dance together with the arts and obviously, the arts are a threat, because they are very political these days.

One more thing, dance is not happening in the void. It's happening in the political context. We are getting money from a certain political context. And who we are, from where we come? We are bringing politics to this, and which bodies we can see on stage. This is already a political choice.

Yeah. We are living in a part of the world where we are getting money from the government to do our thing, and other places like the US don't even get money from the government. What happens then? I would argue that actually there is even more censorship, because they don't get money from the government. They're even self-censoring themselves. 

Speaking of self-censoring, I think my personal curiosity in archives started after we had been censored. We had been commissioned to make a piece for the exhibition about WWII that we titled Escalation of Heroism, because it was about Soviet propaganda. Then the curator who invited us renamed it to Ballet Performance, and never did anything with the content. We did whatever we wanted, they just renamed it without even asking us about it. This is why I'm interested to what extent in different places in the world this censorship is happening. Because it exists everywhere, it just takes different forms.
So, you worked with the biography, but you didn't want to make the piece based on the biography. What is the archival material that you worked with? And how did you feel that it was talking to you?

We were thinking a lot about the space of the performance as a mass grave. Thus, we were working with the soil. Our idea of bringing these images of dead bodies was not about reproducing them, but we were more thinking how we could channel them, and give them a moment of visibility, and the space to rest. We were thinking, “What's the difference between a dead body and a sleeping body?” And we were also looking at the tradition, here in a European context, how we put dead bodies into sleep. We put the hands usually like this (showing), we close the eyes, we put the body in a horizontal position. So we were thinking, how can we go through all these images or these bodies that are unknown, and they're both humans and nonhumans, and we don't know their names? How can we at least, bring them for a moment, put them to sleep, and go to another one and another one? That was the practice that we were doing for a long time. 

… dance is not seen as a threat.
Nobody takes it seriously. I don't think those politicians can even imagine that we could do something that would be disruptive.

It sounds like the definition of empathy, being able to be with the stranger, this dream or not even understanding it, but still spending time, or even working.

In English, there are words "empathy" and "compassion". And I would say more "compassion", because I think compassion goes together with companion and companionship and accompanying somebody. So, it was more like how we could accompany this language or accompany this dance with our dance.

For me, to understand Ausdrucktanz, or modern dance, dancing helps. Because, then you take it into the body, and then you feel there is a tonus, there is a position, and it informs you about the emotional load of it. It can be read from the outside, but then from the inside you start to understand. But understanding is a tricky word, because it means something more intellectual, and I'm talking more about the cognitive process of the body. Once you approach it, then things become clearer, because an intention becomes revealed. She is tormented, and this is her expression of it. And if I do it, I also start to be affected by it, and something comes up as information. We also took the very composition of Tetralogy as a material. In the piece, there are four parts, even if they are not very analogical to the original. It was interesting to think of a reconstruction as taking somebody's compositional idea for the show, and trying to work through your own means with that. Because Pola herself was not dancing in the piece, so we can only speculate on what her body was. On the video you see people with a very particular training and history of work with the body, and we had a very different background. So how to take it in and do it with your means, and through your own history? Then, of course, it produces something else – you cannot be so exact.

Do you feel that this work, that you have done with this particular project and archive, enriches your practice? Do you pass it through to other projects? Do you consider it as a lifelong project, or as a short occasion that probably will be repeated?

I didn't think about archives before. But now for me, I am really interested in how the archive can move. And by this, I mean that many times for me archives are stuck. They catch the moment, they record something and it is there, it's classified, it has its number, it sits on the shelf. And what if we have some qualities that need to go away? That want to fade out? How can they be archiving? How can we understand archives to accompany something? How can we go with this movement we are archiving, even if it disappears? It is vivid to me, because I took a part of this choreography to one of the performances, and I danced short parts of it. And I danced imagining that I was dancing as Kasia. It helped me to understand what that is.

I feel like you both are speaking about this magic becoming. And also of transferring, because it seems like Pola was transferring to her dancers, and you were transferring to Kashia. And then you took this from Kashia and transferred it. So, there is kind of this constant transferring, and also transferring of belief of something that's not yours. It's not your education, or medium, or time. And by doing that, the magic of becoming maybe allows you trust?

… dance is not happening in the void. It's happening in the political context.

That's the way we were towards the audience. I think we are transferring. Last year, we both started to take part in Kung Fu classes. And I asked our teacher about the book, because I always want to have a book, or a video, and he said "no, no, no, no, no, it can't be like this. I need to teach you because when I teach you my master teaches you, and the master of my Masters teaches you". In all Eastern martial arts, it is extremely present that this needs time. That's why maybe this piece has such a low pace, but it demands time. It can't be given like a fast course on a weekend. It needs time in order to settle in your body.

Also maybe something now as you speak, I'm thinking about this alter cannon. In classical music or in theatre, they have a cannon. And in dance, we usually have ballet. So what is this alter cannon that dancers are still able to transfer? And of course, it's a lot thanks to the video. Kasia, could you continue from here, because you have other archives that you also worked through?

I engaged with dance history when I was trying to create myself anew as a dancer. I wanted to open a new chapter, to do something that I haven't done, or start fresh. And that's how I actually got interested in Duncan, and especially her Russian period. I had no idea that she was proclaiming herself as a Bolshevik at some point. I was trained in modern dance since I was a kid. There were a lot of elements that have changed, but come from modern dance tradition: the fact that we do swings on the floor, we do contractions, all forms have their history. I was interested in discovering and excavating all of that for myself, but also just learning from the videos, from YouTube, of Martha Graham, Isadora Duncan... face, figures... I don't want to sound pathetic, but I really had a moment when I needed that as a dancer. I needed to go back and touch base with myself and be allowed.... It could sound a bit
paradoxical, because we receive modern dancing as a very artificial form of very studied ways of expressing emotions. But for me, when I got into work with Duncan, I could feel stuff. After studying through years, and many phases of my dance development, my face was always so dead... without any sort of expression. Because I was so controlled, so focused on executing movements, and being an amazing dancer. At some point it came up: how about me, loving dance? This is why I dance. So for me going to the old school stuff felt very fresh and revelatory, compared to studying. But in Berlin, this kind of "after conceptual turn": dance that is an intellectual endeavour. It was always an intellectual endeavour! There's no question about that in history, but also what it meant, how it created certain divisions, and how it could value aesthetics. So for me, modern dance was very much about expression, and articulation, and finding pleasure... because I felt that I can enjoy myself and I can teach myself to feel.

I can follow that. We are so used to this definition of dance, that is movement managed in space, but is it only this? It feels like our contemporary conceptual vision has lost a lot of the sense of dance itself. At least I feel so. As I know, you are based in Berlin. What is the position of your archive that you are working with? What space does it take on this international stage, that, as we said, mostly represents Western European and North American stages? How do you feel about working on this topic in this context?

… to understand Ausdrucktanz, or modern dance, dancing helps. <...> But understanding is a tricky word, it means something more intellectual, and I'm talking about the cognitive process of the body.

For myself, I work within Western European context. This is where I was educated. I can't refuse that five, or even seven years of my education in Western European dance context. Of course, I feel on the verge of East and West, and there is a problem that is connected with understanding Europe through the European Union. There is a difference. There are different positions, and traditions, and understandings of history from the Eastern belt. And this Eastern belt is also not the only belt. At the moment, I wonder how to bring a perspective of Eastern Europe, but without proclaiming certain weird patriotism that is very present at the moment with this way of understanding Western Europe as bad. I think it's just: "Eastern Europe also has things to offer". And for a long time, or still, there is a certain complex of Eastern 
Europe towards Western Europe. We always have to catch up. I have lived abroad for 11 years, and it was very difficult at the beginning to tell that I was from Poland. I got lots of negative comments around that, or feeling that I'm not educated enough. I think there are still certain things that need to be reworked, but because of the global perspective, sometimes it is forgotten. Especially in a dance context, we are talking as one: one multicultural, that's actually not true. And now we are more and more approaching gender difference and race... but class discourse is not there yet. And I think class is something that we need to talk about more, especially in the dance field.

… what if we have some qualities that need to go away? That want to fade out? How can they be archiving?

Spending some years with dance history and being interested in the future, I decided to go to science fiction. I insist that there's no future without dance. I become more and more interested in looking at the very urgency of dance, and the variety of forms. What is there? Are there commonalities? Because as Agata said, to not dive into naive multiculturalism. I think the occurrence of dance is a global phenomena. And is probably as old as humans – this is what anthropology shows – we have been dancing. And we did that for a reason. What is this reason? There are many theories, but what is the function of the body, and the kind of assembling of a community that dance becomes both a practice of certain things, and maybe even transcends humans. I don't know if we interpret some movements of animals as dance, but some people do. What is this potentiality of the body? So again, after I discovered these feelings, I wanted to discover this multifunctionality of dance.

So if it could be play, and a tool of conveying some sort of physical, scientific experiments. For example, Steve Paxton and his material for the spine, but also just contact improvisation as a scientific project, taking into account some physical principles and really experimenting and going into conclusions and developing something. But also, on the other hand, what is folk dancing? And what is this function? I was interested in many different places in which dance occurs and how it changes the form. So if you would go to the meadow, how would people dance there? We're working now with Hana Umeda (Sadda Hanasaki – scenic name), who's practicing Nihon Buyō, classical Japanese dance. So I have to say that for me, the archive in dance now, I really see it more and more as touching upon something very human, and something that is really limitless. In my experience, everywhere I was I danced with people, and they taught me dance in many different locations. I was taught in a bar, or in the hostel, a guy that I met showed me some steps... The individual body contains all of those forms, can be seen, can be released, shared, read, and activated. My journey with dance is vast because I was born in the ‘90s, so there was TV, and there is YouTube now. So, when we talk about archives, and where we learned to dance, for me, this was also the internet, not only dance classes. This is also the way dance is being stored now.

I thought about how you were speaking about the survival communicative claim of dancing. I'm thinking about Rebecca Schneider, and how she speaks about caves, the hand, and of call and response with the past. And now we speak about dance archives, but we stay within the last 100 years. Whereas we could go so much further. It's just harder to kind of recap that.
I think the last 100 years are where we became so unequal in this archive. Before, there was a much more horizontal situation for all dance movements that existed, and for the last 100 years, this inequality just appeared.

I think it depends, which places we are looking at, because if we think about dance as an education, I think that there's more inclusion than what I can imagine 100 years ago.

There are changes all over the world that are constantly creating inequalities. It's always going to be imbalanced throughout history, but of course, it's imagination. And it's a making up, because history is making up. But there is something that I'm curious about: in Hebrew, when you say “masculine body”, it's a body as we know it, and in feminine, it's a “dead body”.


I’m thinking about the ethics of the body and the definition, because there is something with rest that you spoke about. And what it means to bring rest, which some people may oppose. I think resting is a kind of a dance as well. How do you deal with the word "body", because it seems like you are really interrogating this idea? I'm a Jewish person, so the whole first part of the talk we had was very much dealing with those specific bodies, and I couldn't not think about even going to a German forest or Polish forest. Maybe you could speak about what was there for you in relation to this even word "body"?

Looking at the images that Agata assembled, and Pola, and then trying to talk about all of this history through means of dance, there was a question that was interesting for us: when does the body become a corpse? And I think this is not even the moment of death. Some bodies are losing the right to live much earlier than their actual deaths and maybe this is a holocaust... But on the other hand, what would constitute the body? Can we think about the set of biological functions? But is the body really
filled with all of this kind of symbolic spirituality? This is a huge question, going back to cultural understanding. It's a difficult question. I'm thinking in relation to Pola specifically, how crazy this is: something that was giving her life was taken away from her by the insistence of her husband, asking her to stop dancing. This understanding of, who has control over one's body? Who cannot claim the agency to do something that allows you to live and sustain yourself? In her case, it was connected to mental health, because she was an institution and was treated with electroshocks.

… I need to teach you because when I teach you my master teaches you, and the master of my Masters teaches you.

This brings me to rights, and then the rights of abortion if you speak about becoming a body. And then going back to Poland... but also thinking about Nijinsky, because you're speaking about being in a mental institution. And this idea of dance as a refuge, not just as a form of expression.

Well, a refuge is an interesting word. But I would say maybe dance gives us an opportunity to actually shed all of those categories. And maybe the things that within society are seen as normal, and abnormal, in dance we can really blur such categories. This is very romantic to think about dance like this.

… there's no future without dance.

I would not even try to give a definition of the body. Because from one point, I want to stay that the body is a story carrier. On the other hand, it's a point of many relations. Because I think it's extremely difficult sometimes to give a definition of the body, and then to exclude other bodies. As you, Kasia, said, dance is this moment that takes away particular bodies, but at the same time, maybe some particular bodies want to be alive or in the light, because they were not there. There's this affirmative movement of thinking about the body and life as a matter, something that is never ending, that transforms itself constantly. And there is no moment of death, it's a matter of transformation of the matter. But at the same time, if your life was taken, or your right to live was taken away from you violently.... This is an 

Choreography <...> is a tool to make relations and also to see relations.

extremely violent way to think about the body. Who has this privilege to think about the body this way? So for me, it's a story carrier, but also this point of relations. And if we go to the end of the conversation, I would like to bring the word choreography. Choreography is not only writing down for me, it is a tool to make relations and also to see relations. And I think it's a very important tool in the global world to understand how dependent we are or how bodies are with different bodies, both humans and nonhumans.

It's important to get there. Speaking of choreography, what would Pola feel towards your work? You already started speaking about how this choreography allows us to face this very moment...

There's this beautiful anecdote. We got in touch with Rima Faber, who was the best friend of Pola, and she had to give permission for us to see Holocaust Tetralogy. Rima apparently saw my website, she saw all the links with my work. And she wrote: "I'm very happy, very pleased that someone wants to cultivate Pola Nireńska’s work. This is very important, she cannot be forgotten. And I'm very glad that Agata wants to do it. I hope she's not going to be disappointed with a conservative language that Pola Nireńska was using. But I'm also very happy that she's not going to make a full reenactment, because I think she doesn't have tools for that." I completely agree, of course, I don't have the tools to dance this. But I think with this little comment she shows many pathways that we have in dance... and when we say now "contemporary dance" we understand so many things behind that. So I think that maybe Pola would even have a problem calling me a dancer if I didn't have a proper education, or maybe we would have an extremely fantastic conversation. It's hard to say... I think we impose lots of cliches, that if someone comes from ballet they think this way, if someone comes from modern they think this way, and someone that comes from contemporary has a conceptual mind! I don't think it works this way.

I can only hope that she would feel appreciated and remembered. We all want to be remembered as artists. I hope that she would be pleased, even if she would not agree with the aesthetics. And that she would appreciate our attempt to touch this material. To the second part of the question, I can tell you from the experience of performing it, we toured in several countries of Eastern Europe, and each of them had history with Jews disappearing during the war period. I mean, we were in Bucharest, and Moldova, and Kischenew, Slovakia. We also did it in the very centre of Warsaw, which was quite a striking experience, and a lot of people cried. That choreography to some people brings a moment of peace, or maybe a moment of settling. We worked with a therapist that taught us how to work with the nervous system. Your nervous state can expand, and propose a nervous state to other people. And this is what we do as humans, and this goes back to dance.

Concept: Agata Siniarska, Karolina Grzywnowicz
Choreography: Agata Siniarska, Katarzyna Wolinska, inspired by Pola Nirenska’s Holocaust Tetralogy, Isadora Duncan’s Bacchanal, and Marcus Coates’s Extinct Animals
Installation: Karolina Grzywnowicz
Dramaturgy: Mateusz Szymanowka
Consulting: Aleksandra Jach, Aleksandra Janus, Franziska Dieterich, Jacek Małczyński, Magdalena Zamorska, Michal Guzik, Weronika Kostyrko Production: Artists Association Four Dimensions Are Not Enough for Us, Agata Siniarska, Karolina Grzywnowicz
Co-production: Hellerau European Centre for the Arts
The production has been carried out as a part of the “Choreographic Territories – new paths of the avant-garde” project, held in collaboration between the Institute of Music and Dance, Hellerau European Centre for the Arts, East European Performing Arts Platform, Art Stations Foundation by Grażyna Kulczyk and Lublin Dance Theatre. The installation was produced in co-operation with Pilecki Institute.
The project is held by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute as part of POLSKA 100, the international cultural programme accompanying the centenary of Poland regaining independence. Co-financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual programme NIEPODLEGŁA 2017–2022.

Moving Margins

                        Amelia Uzategui

- STEPPING OUT, funded by the Federal Government
Commissioner for Culture and Media with
in the
framework of the initiative NEUSTART KULTUR.
Assistance Program for Dance.

Touching Margins

Dear familiar and existing dance archive,
You are not enough, you are based on technique, masculine dominance, and narrow narratives.  We decided to break you through, to ask what did you forget about? what else is there? beyond and besides the famous and well-studied names.
We hope for your understanding and wish you to expand and multiply. As we undo your control and allow forgotten & unmentioned hi-stories to return and unveil otherwise, please join us in this unstable and exciting ride.


© 2021 All rights reserved to Sasha Portyannikova, Nitsan Margaliot and the interviewees.