Creative Forces in Berlin: An Interview with Choreographer Constanza Macras

Constanza Macras is one of the creative souls of Berlin, who enriches our favorite city through her ideas and impulses. Born in Buenos Aires, she studied dance and fashion design before a good mix of coincidence and purpose led her to Amsterdam, New York and, finally, to Berlin. In 2003 she founded the DorkyPark Company, an interdisciplinary ensemble that works with dance, text, live music, and film. In their latest piece DRAMA, which celebrated its premiere in January, a group of performers explores the possibilities of stage space in the post-pandemic age, probing the relationship between real stage space and virtual networks. 

I had the chance to ask Constanza a few questions for iHeartBerlin about her new piece, her life, and her perspectives on the arts scene.

This week you can watch both DRAMA and their previous production The Future at Volksbühne on June 22 and 23.

Constanza, you started dancing in Argentina and New York before bringing your talent to Berlin. Since then, you’ve achieved an impressive career as a dancer and choreographer as well as the founder and creative mind behind the DorkyPark Company. The obvious question is: What inspired you to become a dancer in the first place?

Well, this is actually a funny one because I always say that I decided to be a dancer when I was eight years old – and this is an age at which you should never make decisions (laughs). Most people, when they dance, they decide. I decided and it was a bumpy road. It didn’t go straight, you know. I went to my mom and said, “Well, I want to study dance. I want to go to ballet.” And so she brought me to the local school in my neighborhood and it was really … It was like this Russian ballet from another century. It was really old-fashioned. You know, there was pain. Real pain. That’s what ballet was like at that time. But I enjoyed myself even though I was in so much pain. The turning point was when I really started to hate some steps. They were completely ridiculous. So I stopped and did field hockey for some years. When I came back to dance at the age of 13, it was already contemporary. I was discovering the pleasure of dancing again. It was the thing I wanted to do, and I kept on doing it when I came to Europe from Argentina.

 

Dorkypark: The Future, photo: Thomas Aurin

Dorkypark: The West, photo: Thomas Aurin

Dorkypark: Stages of Crisis, photo: Thomas Aurin

 

Why did you choose Berlin as your destination? 

Oh, I didn’t choose Berlin – it was an accident. Actually, it’s been a good accident. When I left Argentina, I was 21 years old and preparing for my trip. And at that time, I thought at such a young age I had to achieve everything and, of course, that I could achieve anything. I went to different embassies because I needed a Schengen visa and didn’t have a European passport. It was difficult back then to go to an embassy as a young person because they didn’t really want you. They were really quite rude. The Dutch Embassy wasn’t, they were nice. So, I was like “OK, I’m going to go to Amsterdam”. I didn’t know anybody, not one single person, and had no idea about the language. But I said “OK, that’s a great place. They have a lot of companies. I will go there”. I moved to Amsterdam. There I met a young man from New York, and we fell in love. After visiting Berlin together for his projects, we decided to move here. But I ended up moving to Berlin by myself since he went back to New York.

On Wikipedia there’s an interesting statement about you. It says: “Categorizing Constanza Macras’ work can be difficult because of the unique mix of dance, music, video, and physical humor.” That being said, what vision did you have in mind when founding the DorkyPark Company? 

Well, when I came to Europe, I thought I was going to do beautiful dance. I was really thinking I’m going to be a neo-classical dancer. But then I found out about all these different companies. I mean, my ex-partner was a visual artist, and I got a lot of input from his side, as well. So, I realized that, actually, I was very inspired. For example, I love the Wooster Group. It has nothing to do with what I do now, but the fact that there was this kind of … cross performance, you know, just felt really inspiring. I like reading, writing and film very much. I love all these different arts. So, I started to feel like I have to mix them in my work. Dance wasn’t the only thing I wanted to do, but it was one of the languages I wanted to use. Actually, I think the whole show is very choreographic. The way things are put together, it gives meaning to something. It’s not just like a decoration. It’s not like an aesthetic or stylistic tool. So that’s why I feel all these things must come together because they are really necessary. When I started to dance, one of my teachers used to tell me that the meaning of big subjects, like human rights for example, can be made by choreography. I went and did pretty much the opposite. Everything is a language for me. Maybe it’s hard to categorize DorkyPark because we’re not really a dance theater. We’re not doing theater. We’re not doing a performance. We think of choreography as a way of expression which has a language in itself but isn’t signifying the movement. 

I was wondering before: When wording my questions for you, I stumbled over the word “dance” quite a lot because I thought it’s so much more than dance. And you just described what I was struggling with. Because like you said, it’s not just dance but choreography. Like a way of connecting …

… a way of connecting dots and seeing things. Even if you just see them in your head without visualizing them or anything, you know. It’s a way of connecting dots and flowing in thoughts, as well.

 

 

Dorkypark: Chatsworth, GIFs: iHeartBerlin

 

Guide us through your creative process: How do you develop and design your performances? 

It’s always a little different. Normally, I just have an idea because we must have an idea. A project is always about many things which are coming together. And one of the things that come together is that you must have an idea because this thing is going to be shown somewhere. You know, sometimes you say “OK, I’m going to do something about … drama”. And it opens a huge world, because in that moment you don’t really know exactly what you want to do – and this is really good to admit to yourself. Because I really think one of the worst misconceptions of art and very patriarchal, too, is the idea that we always know what we’re doing. When, in reality, art is a process that you may come into with certain ideas, but this idea is going to be executed in dialogue with all these people. 

Since you mentioned it, let’s talk about DRAMA. Huh, that sounds kinda weird.

It’s a very good word, isn’t it? Works in so many other languages, too. 

It just says so much. You utter the word “drama” in a room, and everybody has some associations with it. 

 That’s what I thought when they asked me for a name for the show. Because you must find a catchy name, I think that’s important. And then I was like “Drama!”. It just made me think about the whole last two years. They were like constant drama, you know. And it was also like the drama of the non-drama because we weren’t playing so much in the theater. So there was drama everywhere. There was so much to build around things that were happening. 

How did the idea for DRAMA come about?

In DRAMA, I wanted to work on pop culture, which is really huge and wide, it’s just like so many different things together: A little bit of bodies, a little bit of choreography, there’s feathers, a comedian … so everything is like elements disconnected, which is sort of common for us. It’s actually the opposite of how you want to do storytelling. Theater from Sophocles to Shakespeare is always about families: It’s like the son killing the father, the father killing the daughter. It’s that story about kinship which is so popular because the drama is always on peak. The Cliffhangers keep people interested, just like in soaps and films and on streaming platforms. You’re always going to be hooked to watch more and this generates a very specific kind of … you know, it is much more important to be hooked than what’s happening. People really have no attention span. People don’t watch films. People don’t read books anymore. So, how can you keep the attention of people? After the pandemic people are much more hooked to their devices. DRAMA is a mix of all these thoughts. Thoughts I had for a long time, that I’ve been carrying for years and things that are happening in the moment.

 

Dorkypark: DRAMA, photos: iHeartBerlin

 

Do you think that the performing arts must reinvent themselves in order to survive in the advancing digital era we live in? 

Not in the sense of becoming completely digital. The live experience is too important. During the pandemic we had a premiere which was digital but live instead of pre-recorded, and that was kind of beautiful. But the magic of the live arts, of people going there and sitting in the theater, sharing the space with the audience and the people on the stage, is something different. Only if nobody goes into the theater anymore, it’ll disappear. But this struggle is something that has been happening for centuries – and theater always survived it.

Constanza, you are a successful female director, a talented woman in an artistic field that is still dominated by men. Personally, I sometimes get tired of the fact that gender still has to be emphasized, because it somehow makes your performance as an individual dependent on it – and isn’t this exactly the kind of toxic attitude that should be overcome?

Well, yes and no. This is a very complex question … You should not get something because of your gender. But at the same time, the only way you can generate enough visibility for the good stuff to come up is when there is enough space, you know. If there isn’t enough space, then you’re not going to see the good stuff because there won’t be people. You know how many bad male directors we have? Millions. How much crap is done by men? Endless, even like famous directors. Male intendants who make some really bad productions and have never the courage to admit that the production is a flop. If you’re a woman and you come up with a thing that turns out to be a flop, then after two days they’ll cancel your show. I’ve seen that happen a million times. And it cannot be that women have to always be great to be somewhere, and that men can fail, and nobody sees it. You know, a friend’s son put it very well once. He said something when he was six. There was only one girl playing football in his team and he was the goalkeeper. The girl was not scoring, she was not playing very well. So he said, “I did something bad.” I said, “What?” – “I let her score goals intentionally”. I said, “That’s really stupid. She can do it herself”, because I’m always like: don’t treat women as if they cannot do something. And he said, “But I think it’s important that she scores a goal because it’s important that she keeps playing. That girls play football, too.” And I was like, yeah, actually yeah, because sometimes you must bend it a little bit in order to create more space. I don’t want anyone to treat women as if they are any less than men. But sometimes, you know, if somebody doesn’t have the incentive – and it’s the same about other forms of representation – if you don’t create spaces where people can see themselves, then they will not go there. 

 

 

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