Departures and Arrivals

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TALKING ABOUT VOLCANOS - interview with Liz Kinoshita
INTERVIEW WITH LIZ KINOSHITA

Liz Kinoshita is a Canadian artist based in Brussels. Since graduating from PARTS she has worked with various Belgian companies such as ZOO/Thomas Hauert, tg STAN and also with the choreographer Eleanor Bauer/GoodMove. VOLCANO is her new creation with support from DNA partners’s MDT and VOORUIT where fresh self-composed songs and dances inspired from the “musical” genre the 30’s 40’s and 50’s wave for a universe of velocity, hectic lives and globetrotting lifestyles of today. The electric intertwining of tap dance, contemporary dance and lyrics accentuates the feeling of acceleration, the vertigo of endless travels around the globe. Behind the scene, we can imagine that the worst has already happened, we picture a world from which we all suddenly vanished. Dance and mechanisms of the “musical” are what was left for us to enter the momentum.

 

 

TALKING ABOUT VOLCANOS
(after a Skype Conversation with Liz Kinoshita)

 

RITA NATALIO: Liz, I was really impressed with VOLCANO and your boldness in combining the musical universe of the 30’s and 40’s with issues like Eyjafjallajökull’s eruption and globetrotting lifestyles of today. Taken to a literal sense, certain lyrics make us get delirious about speed, the contemporary climate crisis, and even the “end of the world”.

LIZ KINOSHITA: When I was working on the libretto of VOLCANO, Florian Malzacher who was helping me in the early stages with the project, sent me some texts about an artists’ strike in terms of taking things to an extreme of “stopping” but, it wasn’t directly connected with the theme of ecology or the end of the world. In terms of ecology, I realized we do repeat this sentence a lot - Got to get out of the air! - during the performance. And it’s true that in the past 3 years, Salka, Justin and I (Salka and Justin are two of the performers) have been working with Tino Sehgal who never flies and this experience, to take the ferry or the train instead of an airplane, helped us reflect on that issue of stopping, of taking a pause. Clinton (another one of the performers) also has fantastic baggage from years of touring. Also, back in 2010 I was performing in Oslo when I was confronted with the eruption of Eyjafjallajökul’ s volcano, and then I had to take a ferry to eventually get to Brussels and this memorable feeling of travelling in a different speed was really strong. In that sense there is a connection with my interest for suspension on a sense of timing.

RITA NATALIO: This feeling of suspension is really present in VOLCANO. Maybe that’s why the dances of VOLCANO, instead of being spectacular, are put alone on stage on a dim light, the roaring dances of the 30’s and 40’s transformed in fragments of collective games and no real grandiosity is evoked, only the gentle call for “being propelled”. Dance nearly becomes an instrument to appease a feeling of dismantlement, it suspends time. But why did you choose this universe of the “musical” genre of the 30’s, the 40’s and the 50’s to work with?

LIZ KINOSHITA: Well, around that time, as people were moving from theatre stage to Hollywood, there is a lot of attention towards delivery. Also regarding how quickly the performers can get something done. In the filming industry, one is more valuable if one does something quickly. You had to learn how to act for a camera rather than for a full theatre. There is also the accessibility, the know-how and the playfulness of this so-called “show people” that interested me, because it is similar to today’s culture. In VOLCANO, the way we do the tap dance, for instance: none of us really masters it but we can do it well enough. So we can as performers develop a new skill and optimize this skill. Most of us have already more that one career and skills, and this takes us to the same feeling of the 30’s 40’s where performers often charmed their way along, although they mostly were refined experts in their skills.
And speaking about the performance and delivery of that period, there is also a certain dryness to it. Even if most people think that musicals carry a certain naiveté, the truth is that some of them deal with very complicated situations and the way they are acted out is not innocent, there is a lot of “wink-wink” going on. I wanted to create this kind of universe in VOLCANO, adjusted to today’s lifestyle.

RITA NATALIO: It is true that delicacy is the key, and spectacle comes after it. Due to the subtleness of the dance, we get closer to the songs and it brings us to the stories of your hectic lives as performers: travels, timezones, volcano eruptions. This made me think of the film “Melancholia” by Lars Von Trier where families stayed at home waiting for the world to end, and one of the characters at a certain point lays down outdoors totally naked waiting for the “Melancholia” planet to hit the planet Earth. Even if the world is ending, there is a sense of playfulness and sensuality.

LIZ KINOSHITA: Well, this takes us to another aspect of the 40’s. There are some musicals that were still being done between 1939 and 1945 and they were not necessarily about the World War II, even if there were a lot of soldiers and sailors in those films... And, of course, this doesn’t mean they didn’t know what was happening. We have a feeling that these musicals try to celebrate the fact that these people are alive. Or were period pieces set in earlier decades to escape the present. It seems there wasn’t a need to spell it out, politically speaking, because the war was in their faces either way.

RITA NATALIO: Also on your faces we can grasp the feeling of an epoch ("esprit du temps"). Somehow the global acceleration of today's lifestyles is the ground where these figures of the "musicals" are set-up. Figure and ground often reverse, letting us observe different realities, be it the accelerated reality of the XXI century, be it the reality of these musicals in times of War, Hollywood and Delivery. Why do you think these two realities meet so well?

LIZ KINOSHITA: These days we are confronted with how much we are able to squeeze into a day with the help of evolving technology. It can be almost addictive to want to get more out the hours: to work more, to earn more, to learn more. It can be exciting to feel like the world is at your fingertips. I think there was a new excitement during those decades as travel became more wide spread, more accessible in itself. For ages you could be a wandering performing artist, cast away or adventurous; however in the early XX century many people were being sent all over the world for different reasons. The American musical is about the question: "Who is an American?" People were finding new identities. Today we work on self-optimization and feel we can "be who we want to be" with all the tools available to us. I think it is important to reflect on the agency we have in developing our own trajectories and not to fall victim to being caught up in the whirlwind of a rate of change that's out of our grasp. VOLCANO is focused literally on the rhythms in both of the realities you refer to, and is a reflection on what tempos we employ to get through our trials and tribulations as they keep erupting.