Interview with Sandra Voulgari
Interview with Sandra Voulgari for the Greek newspaper Kathimerini, 2008
Sandra Voulgari: Both Sitting Duet. Where? When? Why Both? Why sitting?
Jonathan Burrows: Matteo Fargion and I have been collaborating for almost nineteen years. It began with him writing music for dances which I choreographed, but six years ago I challenged him that we should make a piece where we shared everything equally - composition, performance, administration. This was the start of Both Sitting Duet. We decided to begin by finding something that would mediate between us in the rehearsal room, and we chose the score of a piece of music by the American composer Morton Feldman. The music is called For John Cage, for violin and piano, and we translated it, note for note and bar for bar into gestures. It's important to say, however, that although we loved the piece, we never listened to it while we were working on it - we didn't follow the atmosphere and feeling of the piece - we just read the score and borrowed the shape. We decided to sit on two chairs because I am a trained dancer and Matteo is not. If we had stood up then the subject would have been this difference, but when we sit then we could equally be two musicians: it leveled the playing field of the performance.
We have given over one hundred performances of the piece now, all over the world. A lot of people comment when they see it that they 'hear' music in the silence, so by accident there arises a strange sensory confusion. We also play with ideas to do with performance, that allow the event to be very informal, and often funny, in the midst of the formality of the idea.
Both Sitting Duet is the first of three duets which we have now made, and each continues where the last left off. Each of them takes ideas to do with rhythm, counterpoint, movement, sound and performance and pushes them a little bit further. The second piece is called The Quiet Dance and has us walking up and down, and the third one called Speaking Dance finally introduces spoken language.
SV: Music and Dance?
JB: The text we wrote for the brochure says that the work explores the boundaries between music and dance, but in truth I 'm not sure I'm so interested in that. I'm more interested in Matteo as an artist, his ideas, questions and enthusiasms. It just happens that he's a composer, so we have this meeting of two art forms.
SV: Dancer or non dancer? Can you be both?
JB: When we talk with the audience after a show, I always say that Matteo has been rehearsing and touring these pieces for six years now, which is twice the length of normal dance training, so you can't really call him untrained anymore. I think what has happened though, is that the two of us have grown new physical attitudes and habits, coming from the pieces, and it's hard to tell anymore who comes from what background.
SV: Movement or stillness?
JB: We've always been interested in the idea of stillness being just another material that you can use: sometimes the audience needs a break.
SV: Communication between performers?
JB: Our principals for performing are:
'How we feel is how we behave' - which means if we go wrong or a phone rings we can laugh, or if we feel self-conscious we don't have to pretend to be cool, or when a fly crosses the stage we can watch it.
'How the audience sits is how we sit' - which means we try to tune in with the audience, and they give us permission to perform.
'There are no mistakes' - which means it's not about perfection, which reassures both us and the audience.
'We can fake it' - which means it's not about truth, it's just about what happens.
SV: How does the audience connect?
JB: We try to make a contract with the audience that says it's ok to relax, and at the same time what we do invites them to work very hard at concentrating on what's happening. For some people this is a nice mixture.
SV: Can we all become dancers?
JB: Dancing is something we like to do, rather than watch, so if we put it on a stage we begin with a paradox: but for me it's this impossibility that leads to the power that dance has when it works. There's a lot of failure, and as audience we must accept that, but when it works it can change your life.
SV: Can we speak about dance?
JB: To speak about dance doesn't negate the other qualities it has.
© Jonathan Burrows and Sandra Voulgari, 2008