“IDI, where is the movement coming from and where can we take it?!” An interview with Valentina Temussi. Italy.

What do you appreciate and enjoy about the work with Harriet, and how is your experience working for IDI?

I really liked the combination of being quite strict, Harriet likes things to be well done, and she is very dedicated. But at the same time, she gives us the freedom to experiment and create. She is curious about the person that everyone can be.

What do you enjoy the most about working with young performers and dancers at IDI? 

In the past 20 years, I have been teaching a lot so I have met and worked with many students and young performers, I like it a lot. You can see how very open they are to understand and take in different things. While, perhaps, a more professional dancer will be interested in showing the potential and the capacities they have. Of course, it is not always the case, for example Sylvie Guillem was always open, despite the fact she was the first ballerina, she was open to different styles and directors. With young performers or students, what is the most beautiful is also the capacity for technology. Many times I think only if I could and then they come up with a solution with this light, with this music, with this sound and this capacity of projection. Once we worked with shadows, I knew how I wanted to do it and I knew the basic way to say it. But the young students and performers were very capable of developing the technological capacities behind it and it became very interesting. 

Do you want to tell us about your fondest memory of working with IDI?

It was a moment last year (October 2020), when Harriet asked one of the dancers to perform a movement interpreting a lion. She was moving a lot and moving very well and at some point we asked her “Who are you?” and she said “I am a lion, Roar!”. Harriet would laugh her head off and ask her to perform it again. Then I thought how nice it was not to just ask to do forms and movements but to be curious about where the movement is coming from. This is what IDI is for me: where is the movement coming from and where can we take it. 

How did your journey towards dramaturgy start?

The two things that go together in my journey towards dramaturgy and my interest in movement is that I was fascinated by how the body can tell a story and through movement, I analysed a way of writing that is different. My journey started when I was 17, so 30  years ago! I don’t know why, but it attracted my attention and I had different studies at university,  theatre and dramaturgy on one side and movement with physical theatre schools on the other side. I worked in a physical theatre school that toured internationally, and I could experience how it is almost to be used to tell a story as a physical movement actress and what it means to write a story with your own body by bringing to life someone else’s idea, of the director. Slowly I got more fascinated with the part of the director and I started to create my own performances, then I became a teacher. But my work always started from the body.

Can you tell us about the effect that Covid had on your work, particularly within the project with IDI, and if it made you rethink certain things about your job? 

I talked about this with Harriet which is why I came up with the idea for a choreography that I proposed. During the lockdown, many people were just sitting by the window and I realised that the only thing we could share was how the weather is and how the light is, and it kinda became our word, our language. We realise how much the weather affects our mood and how the climate is crucial to our lives. We know it through culture and the newspapers that we have to be aware of the weather and the global warning, but there I just felt it, that we are part of the same thing and part of this world. Physically, I felt the need to go out and just run and to move in order to think and to be myself. I think we need to walk and move.

In your opinion, what is necessary for dance and performance nowadays? Are new technologies and multimedia a crucial point for its future? 

I think that dance needs a revolution, a change to happen. In theatre, it was determined by  Peter Brook that the stage and the magical tricks of the light have to be visible to the public. It is not about creating an illusion, but about believing and trusting the illusion of theatre to talk about different things. Now the same is happening with dance and technology is helping this. In dance, we rely on the virtuosity of the body, but at some point, there is a limit. Somehow we are getting used to seeing bodies fly or doing pirouettes, but what we want to see is how this can become a story and why we should use the body on stage to tell a story. Technology can help us to bring this possibility forward and find a different way to see reality by showing even more different points of view.

In your experience as a teacher and performer yourself, what are the biggest benefits and positive effects of corporal expression? What power do you think dance has? 

I think it is important because what we want to do is connect with the audience or transmit something to the audience. I believe that what we share with all human beings is the body, so whatever we see that is happening through the body, corporally on the stage, we can understand what is going on. All the emotions or feelings, even ideas we want to transmit, if we find a way that comes through movement, through the body, through the traces that the body can leave on stage, through the sound the body can make, the kind of different textures or pressures the body can give to another body or to the floor or to the space surrounding… that is immediately perceived by the audience, and it can become a story. The audience can feel what we want to tell them. For me, that is the most interesting thing we can do on stage. 

How did you decide to pursue corporeal mime and how was your experience working with this particular genre? 

I think the name is tricky because it is corporeal mime and the part everybody notices is the “mime” part and everyone thinks of Marcel Marceau or the white face. But it has nothing to do with that. What I was interested in was the technique of combination of theatre and dance. The founder Étienne Decroux was a man of the theatre but was also very fascinated with dance. He was looking for something that was as expressive as dance but could really convey a story in a way. The story was a story of a human being, so for him the story of the body. He really analysed that we can move the body in an expressive way and convey different energies, different textures of movement that can express different states and moves. 

I don’t know why I started this journey, it is this thing when you feel you want to do something and you research. I remember watching a video that really stayed in my mind, of a particular piece called the Factory by Theatre de l’Ange Fou. They kept developing the pieces from the repertoire of Étienne Decroux and made them contemporary. I got in contact with them and decided to ask to work with them and then entered the company. O was just fascinated with moving and moving being expressive as poetry in a way or drama itself. 

What is your professional process? 

The road to my creative process is what came after corporeal mime, after Étienne Decroux. So I take a little bit from the work with this company I was with and also what is called postmodern mime which is another assistant of Étienne Decroux, who is called Thomas Leabhart and other people that came after, the next generation. Most particularly the generation of the 70s which explored how we can use this movement and other movement techniques and actually be abstract in a way. Abstract doesn’t mean we are not telling the story but telling more than one story at once. It is like a Picasso painting where you can see at the same time different points of view. They were using the body for expressing what’s happening outside but also what we are feeling inside and what we remember. It is like poetry, painting and this idea going back and forth in time and interception. This is what really fascinated me and then there were other practitioners like for example Rudolph von Laban who also very much used dance and was also influencing more than dance with his idea of connecting what we do with what we say and what we think. Now movement can become a reflection of words but not in the sense it is codified movement but it has the essence of thought. 

Valentina Temussi, IDI professor, collaborator, choreographer 2021


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