Please introduce with yourself, tell the very essence of what kind of stage artist in dance you are?
In few words, I could define myself as a passionate but extreme meticulous lover and artisan of dance … once a kid after a show asked me what I was feeling while I was dancing. I answered her: a desperate happiness… She smiled! Yes for me in dance the fragility and strength meet… In dance, I found all the colours of life
How you got to know about Your grandmother, primabalerina Mirdza Kalniņš in Latvia? (As we know, many family and culture contacts were broken during more than 50 years of soviet times, if people lived in different sides of so called “iron wall”and in the both sides was no any information.).
I grew up among her beautiful pictures and articles that were written about her. She died in Rome where she spent her life from the 1934, so I was able to get in touch with some amazing materials she left about her career as dancer in Riga as in Rome. Unfortunately, my father lost any contacts with any members of her family. I knew she had a sister (Erika) and finally next week when I will be in Riga I will be able to bring a flower in her grave because I find out where it is. Her mother (Emilia) followed Mirdza in Rome, her father Martino died shortly after she left. My father (now he is 80) remember that Mirdza was talking about some relatives in Australia, but unfortunately, I do not know more than that.
How you started looking, digging for your roots here, in Latvia. Please tell also, what you have learned here about the country and people, where Your Grandmother lived? And how it became possible to get oriented in archives documents or old newspapers, what are written in Latvian?
I always felt very attracted by Latvia, and from my grandmother Mirdza. She died in the 1974, I born in the 1973 so we crossed each other life just for 11 months, but I always felt very closed to her, maybe because I wanted to dance since when I have memories, maybe because looking to her pictures I always thought she was a proud and gorgeous woman and dancer. But of course, when I was a kid and later on an Italian teenager, everything that was beyond the “iron wall” seemed so mysterious and inaccessible. Then I moved in United States for several years dancing in NY and finally just two years ago I was able to come in Riga and to start to get to know this wonderful, romantic, poetic, and fervent country. I think that life brings the solution when it is time. I got in contact through internet with the generous, accurate and sweet Astra Šmite of the National Library of Latvia that was preparing an article about Mirdza for the newsletter of the Historical and artistic Non Catholic Cemetery in Rome where she is buried, then I met four young Latvian dancers that where studying with Erasmus Program at the National Academy of Dance in Riga: Liva, Inga, Madara, Marta. One of their teacher was my composition teacher when I was student in the Academy and she knew I had the dream to do a project on my grandmother, and she put me in contact with them. And they lead me as angels in my trip in Riga. So I felt right away welcomed, helped, and supported in my research. I am so happy that next week I will meet them again. They are so dear to my heart and I feel so grateful. Astra is still helping me to go through documents. With “Saknes” my research on my roots is not ended, and I am planning to come in Latvia again and again… even with my sisters and nephews!
What inspired You most from Mirdza Kalniņš art and life?
Her Passion, generosity, beauty, lightness and artistry but even a deep discretion and almost a childish way to see life and people… pure and sincere eyes. I think that we live in what we leave to others. And I think she left a lot in what she accomplished artistically and humanly, and of course she left a lot even genetically!… but I always felt, maybe for the reasons she died suffering a lot for a cancer, that she missed something … of course her country, her language, and maybe a last dance… I tried with this work to give her an opportunity to dance again in her city, for her loves, another dance, another again. As I wrote in the synopsis of this choreography: ” Between shadows and lights, we meet our past and our contemporaneity. It is like travelling in parallel worlds, living them, and dancing between them. The images emerge from nothing. Like fragments of a puzzle, I would love to find their place, but instead they place me in a space and in a time … of my memory … of her memory. I don’t create anything but I do let flow through me these dances like in a celebration, the insights, fragilities of our recent past although separated by years, interlace We live in our contradictions. We live in what we leave to others.”
And what inspires You in General for Your creative work and simply as a human being?
I love to explore the body in its infinite dynamic possibilities inside the small space created by its own limitations; I want to embrace the poetry of human fragility, its sacredness and the urgency of its passions. For me dance can become a meditation, an act of self-transformation. The body has its own story, its own memories, and a dancer just through the movement bring us in contact with a story. Yoga influenced me a lot in this vision of dance and art. Through dance we refine the borders of our body-mind, and through dance we can transform the space in which we live like a ritual… It will never be the same.
What do you wish to reveal and show us in your performance Saknes? (By the way, will we see images of Mirdza Kalniņš in video?) What kind of performance it is? One dancer mono-performance? I suppose, it is already premiered in some other places, before coming to Latvia? How audiences reacted?
It is a solo performance, a 40 minutes piece, and yes, you will see her… definilly! I did in Italy a video research on her. This research is not actually ended, because there is so much more material but I am still not be able to get in touch with, for authorizations and licences. But in the performance that you will see on sunday there will be video, pictures and …. even a Mirdza’s stage dress! It is a costume she used at the Opera in Rome and that she gave to a dear student of her, Marinella Santini. Marinella last year decided to give it to me as a gift. I feel very emotional to have it in stage.
I wish I will be able to reveal the authentich respect I have for her, for her story, for her life, for her country. I wish I will be able to trasmit the passion and love she and I have for dance and life. This piece for me is a journey, a research on sounds, on movement, on time, and everytime I danced Saknes, it revealed new colours, new truths to myself as well. I debuted the full version last week in Rome, but I presented almost the whole work in New York and in Buffalo last autumn (the video was still in progress and I did some music change). The reviews were good, but I was even more happy that the audience was touched emotionally from it.
How the music (by Vittorino Naso, Karol Shimanovsky, A. Plisevska) what you chose for Saknes correspond with your idea?
I know Vittorino Naso since almost 20 years and we worked together several times. He knows a lot about my dance and we are very similar because we come from a very strong classic background and it is from there that we move, starting to deconstruct and play with movements and sounds … searching for purity and essenciality… he knows which world I want to create right away. I took off the beautiful piece of Karol Shimanovsky in the last and final version of the choreography, because I needed to hear more silence. And the silence that is interrupted by the sounds of the breathes, of the clothes and of the pictures…. you will hear a voice as well … you will hear a lot of gongs … to reveal at the end the music, a tango that I found out that it was written for my grandmother…. The Tango is played and recorded by the Armenian pianist Irma Toudjian. The dance piece is a journey through sounds as well…. and everything needs to bring us closer to Mirdza and just call her.
Often people are more inherited and much more resembling their grandparents than parents. How do you feel something from Your grandmother in Your own human and artists face? Is that feeling strong and obvious?
A lot of people always told me that I look like her. Her pupil Marinella Santini, a great dance teacher now, she told me that when I teach and dance or even when I just talk I have movements and attitude she used to have. But Mirdza had beautiful green eyes and instead I am more Mediterranean as colours. I met an old dancer (she is in her 90) that started her career at the Opera in Rome when my grandmother was still there and she said that I look like her but I am taller! But I think that is the passion, love and dedication for dance and life that is bringing us together. While I was working on this piece, I had this strong feeling. Sometimes I felt I am finishing somehing that she left undone.
Please tell about your family – are your parents also dancers? How you made choice of your profession and how you found your own way in dance world?
No one of my parents are dancers. They always supported me but never pushed me either. I always danced, even before to start studying ballet. I started in the Accademia Nazionale di Danza in Rome doing ballet, but since when I was teenager I felt that I was interested more in contemporary dance and that was what I wanted to pursue. And so dance it become my life. I am 43 now, I start to study when I was 6, I started my professional career in Rome when I was 19. When I was 22 I moved in New York city, now I am back in Italy and it’s from the 2008 that I mostly work in my own choreographic projects or collaborations. When I was a younger dancer, I always preferred to work as freelancer to have opportunity to experiment dance and theatre in different directions and perspectives, more than to be in a repertory company. I choose mostly of the time to work with choreographers and directors that can create on me and that could give me space to bring out my own personality.
How you felt in love with Yoga and how it changed your life?
I felt in love with Yoga in 1996 when I moved in NY city. I was going to take class in all the main dance studios at that time from ballet to all kind of contemporary and modern technique and at the Trisha Brown studio I tried a Yoga class as well and I just discovered a new world and a new love! Sometimes people ask me if I prefere Dance or Yoga. They are both part of my life, and they are so conneceted to each other but it’s like if God give me Yoga to allow me to live my dance and my art more freely and in a more balanced and peacefull attitude!
I also see, that You are leading retreats and You are Reiki practicioner. Please, tell about that! Do everybody can learn to do that or there needs very rare talent?
Yes I love to lead yoga retreats, we all need space to recharge, to heal our lives. To do Yoga you don’t need any special talent, you are right like you are. The big revelation for me when I started to practice it was that for the first time in my life I was moving my body like It really was, not working in what I was missing (often in dance is like that). And I love to teach yoga because I find it is a very democratic discipline: in class you can have at the same time a dancer, an older man or woman, an office worker, a journalist, a nurse, people that maybe otherwise could never meet, and there is always a beautiful exchange. It is not really about what you do but the quality of attention and intention you give at what you are doing. It is not really about doing but more undoing, to give us different perspectives and possibilities.
I saw, between three Your favourite figures in art You have mentioned world wide famous visual artist Mark Rotko, who also came from Latvia. Please, comment Your special interest of his art and opinions.
It was summer 2004 and I was dancing and teaching in Buffalo. Once I went to the Albright Knox Art Gallery and I was walking among Jaspere Johns and Pollock’s works when I turned to my right side and I Found my self in front to a Rothko painting. “Orange and yellow”… I started to cry… It was the first time I was crying in front to a painting… And I couldn’t stop myself … it was like if I was looking at my self in a mirror or recognizing something very subtle that I couldn’t described … His work just hit my heart, actually my whole body. So I started to search more for his work, and in New York I was able to see a lot of him, and to read his memories. Great sensitivity and great intellect… in his work there is so much life, so much heart, so much head, so much spirit… “Art to me is an anecdote of the spirit, and the only means of making concrete the purpose of its varied quickness and stilness”. These Mark Rothko’s words are guidelines for my research on dance. I would love to go in Daugavpils, next time I will come in Latvia.
Also would be nice to hear about Your passion with Pasolini and Beethoven.
I toured till last year with my own choreography “Danze Rotte, Broken dances” dedicated to Pasolini and to the Rome that has been described by him. I feel the intensity of his words, of his choices, and actually for that piece I used some Beethoven Music as well! What I love of these two artist is their intensity, generousity, the great humanity that transpire by their work. They were honest, they were living for what they believed, like a vocation. Beethoven was the first free lancer composer of the Music History. I think that is great!
And what about music styles and composers of today? Do You like, if new music is written specially for You, for Your performances?
I do love contemporary music of course and I feel really blessed when I can have music written for my piece. I adore to work even with live music in performance of improvisation, in site specific work or even in concert. Music and dance are for me like time and space, inseparable. Among composers that I really enjoy and that inspire me are John Luther Adams and Arvo Part. Their music for me is sublime.
Do You publish or use in Your performances Your own poetry? Do You often write a poetry?
I published years ago some of my poetry and I used them in New York in more than a choreography. Lately I am writing less than when I was living in NY because I think that there I felt the need to keep nurturing my own language and I was pushing myself to write everyday at least three pages of whatever I was thinking just to keep in touch with the rhytm of italian. Now I don’t feel this need anymore but poetry is part of my choreographic process. Before starting to choreographe infact I write down thoughts, imagines, feelings, and often it is from there that I start to take the rhytm of the dance. It’s like if thorugh words I can create the worlds in which I can dance. Poetry makes clear the directions of my work I think. But often it is even the opposite, because when I dance I get in contact with some visions, like a meditation and from there words comes out. Even Yoga practice suggested me some writing too.
How do You feel here in Latvia? Do You feel somehow at home?
Till now I have been only in Riga and in Sigulda, but I hope year after year to discover more of Latvia. I like to get lost in Riga, to sit and just allowed voices, colours penetrating my skin and my heart. I am sorry that I can’t speak the language that it sounds so incredible sweet. I am like a cat that little by little take his space in the place. I felt so welcomed from the beginning, and I love the clear and crystalline light I perceive. I feel a sense of verticality, a sense of elevation while I am there, and I love that!