The Soul of the American Actor

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BEN VEREEN

JEANINE TESORI

PSALMAYENE 24

SYLVIA MCNAIR

MICHAEL McELROY

DEIDRE KINAHAN

BOB ARI

PAUL TAZEWELL

PATRICIA ROZARIO

NANCY RHODES

MAIA DANZIGER

EARL “PEANUTT” MONTGOMERY

WILLIE RUFF

DENNIS D’AMICO

GRACE CACHOCHA

KAREN SAILLANT

JENNIFER HORNE

JEANIE THOMPSON

ROBERT PERRY

WAYNE SIDES

JAMIE LEE McMAHAN

SPOTLIGHT ON ARTISTS

Zana Marjanovic

Dr. Ashley William Joseph

M. Safeer

Kevin Kimani Kahuro

Ilire Vinca

Avra Sidiropoulou

Sujatha Balakrishnan

Mihaela Dragan

Farah Deen

Katy Lipson

Juan Maldonado

Odile Gakire Katese

Hartmut von Lieres

Dragan Jovičić

Sachin Gupta

Jill Navarre

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BEN VEREEN

JEANINE TESORI

PSALMAYENE 24

SYLVIA MCNAIR

MICHAEL McELROY

DEIDRE KINAHAN

BOB ARI

PAUL TAZEWELL

PATRICIA ROZARIO

NANCY RHODES

MAIA DANZIGER

EARL “PEANUTT” MONTGOMERY

WILLIE RUFF

DENNIS D’AMICO

GRACE CACHOCHA

KAREN SAILLANT

JENNIFER HORNE

JEANIE THOMPSON

ROBERT PERRY

WAYNE SIDES

JAMIE LEE McMAHAN

SPOTLIGHT ON ARTISTS

Zana Marjanovic

Dr. Ashley William Joseph

M. Safeer

Kevin Kimani Kahuro

Ilire Vinca

Avra Sidiropoulou

Sujatha Balakrishnan

Mihaela Dragan

Farah Deen

Katy Lipson

Juan Maldonado

Odile Gakire Katese

Hartmut von Lieres

Dragan Jovičić

Sachin Gupta

Jill Navarre

INTERVIEWS with ARTISTS

BEN VEREEN

JEANINE TESORI

PSALMAYENE 24

SYLVIA MCNAIR

MICHAEL McELROY

DEIDRE KINAHAN

BOB ARI

PAUL TAZEWELL

PATRICIA ROZARIO

NANCY RHODES

MAIA DANZIGER

EARL “PEANUTT” MONTGOMERY

WILLIE RUFF

DENNIS D’AMICO

GRACE CACHOCHA

KAREN SAILLANT

JENNIFER HORNE

JEANIE THOMPSON

ROBERT PERRY

WAYNE SIDES

JAMIE LEE McMAHAN

“Simply think the words.”
— Goethe

“Action is the direct agent of the heart.”
— Delsarte

“The supreme goal of the theatre is truth, the ultimate truth of the soul.”
— Max Reinhardt

“Through the unity of reason and emotion, of spirituality and affection and sensation, the actor will discover his creative genius for the stage – the art of acting.”
— Erwin Piscator

“The artist-actor unveils his inner soul.”
— Eleonora Duse

“Living is a process. Acting is the act of laying oneself bare, of fearing off the mask of daily life, of exteriorizing oneself.  It is a serious and solemn act of revelation. It is like a step towards the summit of the actor’s organism in which are united consciousness and instinct.”
— Jerzy Grotowski

“Let us find our way to the unknown, the intuitive, and perhaps beyond to man’s spirit itself.. “
— Viola Spolin

“The power of art is the power of truth.”
– Julian Beck

Ronald Rand in Let It Be Art

“Cultivate an ever continuous power of observation. Above all things, see the sunlight and everything that is to be seen.” – John Singer Sargent

“So long as the human spirit thrives on this planet, music is some living form will accompany and sustain it.” – Aaron Copland

“The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves.” – Federico García Lorca

“Art is a ripening, an evolution, an uplifting which enables us to emerge from darkness into a blaze of light.” – Jerzy Grotowski

“Success has nothing to do with what you gain in life or accomplish for yourself. It's what you do for others.” – Danny Thomas

“Living consciously involves being genuine; it involves listening and  responding to others honestly and openly; it involves being in the moment.” – Sidney Poitier

“Art became the first teacher of nations.” – Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

 

by Maribee

“...Beneath the surface of an ordinary everyday normal casual conscious existence there lies a vast dynamic world of impulse and dream...”
– Robert Edmond Jones

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett

“Transform the work, yourself, and everybody around you...Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”
– Katharine Hepburn

“Being an actor is a religious calling because you've been given the ability, the gift to inspire humanity.”
– Sandy Meisner

“Whenever you are reading beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
– Alice Walker

“The only reason to write is from love.”
– Stephen Sondheim

“To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.”
– Georgia O’Keefe

“The Theater” –
painting by Maribee

 

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another... and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”
– Leonard Bernstein

“In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history's catalog. Art is a nation's most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a Nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson

“If you take the trouble to really listen (to the music) with your soul and with your ears - and I say soul and ears because the mind must work, but not too much also - you will find every gesture there. And it is all true, you know.”
– Maria Callas

“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”
– Langston Hughes

“Each of us have a gift given us freely by the universe. And each of us with every breath gives something back.”
– Kim Stanley

“Oliver” –
painting by Maribee

 

“...Beneath the surface of an ordinary everyday normal casual conscious existence there lies a vast dynamic world of impulse and dream...”
– Robert Edmond Jones

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett

“Transform the work, yourself, and everybody around you...Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”
– Katharine Hepburn

“Being an actor is a religious calling because you've been given the ability, the gift to inspire humanity.”
– Sandy Meisner

“Whenever you are reading beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
– Alice Walker

“The only reason to write is from love.”
– Stephen Sondheim

“To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.”
– Georgia O’Keefe

 

“We all bear within us the potentiality for every kind of passion, every fate, every way of life. Nothing human is alien to us. If this were not so, we could not understand other people, either in life or in art.”
– Max Reinhardt

“All kinds of art serve to the greatest of the arts - the art of living on earth.”
– Bertolt Brecht

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
– James Madison

 

“Sophisticated Ladies” – painting by Maribee

 

“You are led through your lifetime by the inner learning creature, the playful spiritual being that is your real self.”
– Richard Bach

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”
– Wilma Rudolph

“Always dream and shoot higher than you know you can do. Don’t bother just to be better than your contemporaries or predecessors. Try to be better than yourself.”
– William Faulkner

“Every day is a new day. It is better to be lucky. But I would rather be exact. Then when luck comes you are ready.”
– Ernest Hemingway

“My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet.”
– John Cage

 

painting by Maribee

 

When you feel in your gut what you are and then dynamically pursue it, don't back down and don't give up – then you're going to mystify a lot of folks.”
- Bob Dylan

“A frequent change of role, and of the lighter sort – especially such as one does not like forcing one's self to use the very utmost of his ability in the performance of – is the training requisite for a mastery of the actor’s art.”
- Edwin Booth

“But Nature cast me for the part she found me best fitted for, and I have had to play it, and must play it till the curtain falls.”
- Edwin Booth

“If the sight of the blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things in nature have a message you understand, Rejoice, for your soul is alive.”
- Eleanora Duse

"Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor."
- Thích Nhất Hạnh

 

“...Beneath the surface of an ordinary everyday normal casual conscious existence there lies a vast dynamic world of impulse and dream...”
– Robert Edmond Jones

“Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”
– Samuel Beckett

“Transform the work, yourself, and everybody around you...Kindness is one of the greatest gifts you can bestow upon another. If someone is in need, lend them a helping hand. Do not wait for a thank you. True kindness lies within the act of giving without the expectation of something in return.”
– Katharine Hepburn

“Being an actor is a religious calling because you've been given the ability, the gift to inspire humanity.”
– Sandy Meisner

“Whenever you are reading beauty around you, you are restoring your own soul.”
– Alice Walker

“The only reason to write is from love.”
– Stephen Sondheim

“To create one's world in any of the arts takes courage.”
– Georgia O’Keefe

 

 

“A word does not start as a word – it is an end product which begins as an impulse, stimulated by attitude and behavior which dictates the need for expression.”
– Peter Brook

“The power of art is the power of truth.”
– Julian Beck

“The key to the mystery of a great artist is that for reasons unknown, he will give away his energies and his life just to make sure that one note follows another... and leaves us with the feeling that something is right in the world.”
– Leonard Bernstein

“In the long history of man, countless empires and nations have come and gone. Those which created no lasting works of art are reduced today to short footnotes in history's catalog. Art is a nation's most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves, and to others, the inner vision which guides us as a Nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
– President Lyndon B. Johnson

“If you take the trouble to really listen (to the music) with your soul and with your ears - and I say soul and ears because the mind must work, but not too much also - you will find every gesture there. And it is all true, you know.”
– Maria Callas

“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he might choose.”
– Langston Hughes

“Each of us have a gift given us freely by the universe. And each of us with every breath gives something back.”
– Kim Stanley

“We all bear within us the potentiality for every kind of passion, every fate, every way of life. Nothing human is alien to us. If this were not so, we could not understand other people, either in life or in art.”
– Max Reinhardt

“All kinds of art serve to the greatest of the arts - the art of living on earth.”
– Bertolt Brecht

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”
– James Madison

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
– Martha Graham

“You have to live spherically — in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm — and things will come your way.”
– Federico Fellini

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change.”
– Michael Jackson

“Before you take a decision, consider its effect on the next seven generations.”
– Hopi proverb:

“Live! Live the wonderful life that is in you! Let nothing be lost upon you. Be always searching for new sensations. Be afraid of nothing.”
– Oscar Wilde

 

“Applause” – painting by Maribee

 

 

“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium, and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open.”
– Martha Graham

“You have to live spherically — in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm — and things will come your way.”
– Federico Fellini

“If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and make a change.”
– Michael Jackson

“The Skin of Pour Teeth” by Thornton Wilder – painting by Maribee

 

“Action is the direct agent of the heart.”
— Delsarte

INTERNATIONAL SCENE

in lobby of the New Art Theatre, Chelyabinsk, during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival - “Laboratory of Spectacles of Small Forms”

New Art Theater’s CHELoVEK TEATRA International Festival

The CHELoVEK Teatra (“Man of Theatre”) International Festival (“Laboratory of Spectacles of Small Forms”).has been presented for eight years by the New Art Theater with the support of the Chelyabinsk City Duma, Department of Culture of the Administration of the city of Chelyabinsk, Chelyabinsk regional branch of the Union of Theater Workers of the Russian Federation, and the International Theater Institute.

Ronald Rand in front of entrance to New Art Theatre, Chelyabinsk

I had the pleasure and honor of being invited by the New Art Theater, Yevgeny Gelfond Artistic Director of the Festival, Anton Tokarev, Director of New Art Theater and Maya Davidova, to come to  Chelyabinsk, Russia, to perform as Harold Clurman in my solo play, “LET IT BE ART!” in the CHELoVEK Teatra (“Man of Theatre”) International Festival (“Laboratory of Spectacles of Small Forms”) in 2018.

Ronald Rand during his performance as Harold Clurman in his play, “LET IT BE ART!” at the New Art Theatre during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand during his performance as Harold Clurman in his play, “LET IT BE ART!” at the New Art Theatre during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand being greeted by Yevgeny Gelfond, Artistic Director of the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand talking to the audience at the conclusion of his performance about his Newspaper, “The Soul of the American Actor,” with Dima Phominykh as translator New Art Theatre during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

It was a great pleasure to meet Maya Davidova who I had been in touch with, and to spend time with my guide and new friend, actor/director of the New Art Theater company, Dima Phominykh, and meet and get to know members of the esteemed New Art Theatre ompany including Alexander Mayer and Alenna Vostryakova.

Although it was bitter cold with thick snow on the ground during my visit, but we still managed to see some of their beautiful city including visiting one of Chelyabinsk’s famous sites, the Holy Trinity Church. The New Art Theater has existed for twenty-two years and during that time has managed to create a strong reputation for excellent theater performances and has firmly found its place in the theatrical life of Chelyabinsk, Russia and international theater.

Ronald Rand with Yevgeny Gelfond, Artistic Director of the Festival and Dima Phominykh on stage at the New Art Theatre during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand with Maya Davidova and Dima Phominykh during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

The company of the New Art Theatre at the curtain call of their performance during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand at the curtain call after his performance in “LET IT BE ART!” on stage at the New Art Theatre during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Theater performances by the company have received prestigious awards at international theater festivals, including the Grand Prix of the Youth Jury at the International Festival in Belarus, and a bronze diploma at the 10th International Theater Festival “Golden Night” in Moscow.

Among the works that the New Art Theatre presents in repertory include: “Remember the War,” Demons” by Dostoevsky, “Love me, Diagnosis,” “To you the Promised Land,” “Bright Souls,” “Nose in the White Night,” “Women’s Dressing Room,” Chekhov’s “Offer,”  “Money from the Blue Book,” Agatha Christie's “Mousetrap,” a solo performance by Alexander Maier about the life and work of A.S. Pushkin, “Christmas at the “Cupillo House,” “Thunderstorm by A.N. Ostrofsky and “The Rothschild Violin” by Anton Chekhov.

Ronald Rand and Dima Phominykh during the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

Ronald Rand with Alexander Mayer and Alenna Vostryakova
at the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

It was an immense delight meeting and talking with Yevgeny Gelfond, Artistic Director of the CHELoVEK Teatra (“Man of Theatre”) International Festival and the main director of the New Art Theatre since 2007. I felt I had found a kindred spirit of the great art of the theater and, with Dima translating we were able to talk together in a thoroughly engaging way. I told him how much I thoroughly enjoyed the performances by the New Art Theatre company, how alive they were in an engaging “improvisational” manner in their work.

He had graduated from the Theater Department of the Chelyabinsk State Institute of Art and Culture, with a degree in “Drama Director” in 1996.

Ronald Rand with Yevgeny Gelfond, Artistic Director of the CHELoVEK Teatra “Man of Theatre” International Festival

(During my time in Chelyabinsk, I had the good fortune to be able to share with many students at a middle school, a junior high school and the State Institute of Art and Culture, conducted my “Art of Transformation” workshops, which was a thrilling and joy-filled workshops, doing exercises together using some of the tools of Stanislavsky’s System, and sharing ideas of how much we have in common through the great art of theater.)

Ronald Rand with students of the Chelyabinsk Primary Academy of Culture and Arts, Chelyabinsk, Russia after teaching his ‘Art of Transformation’ Master Workshop

Ronald Rand with the main Drama Teacher and principal of the Chelyabinsk Secondary Academy of Culture and Arts, Chelyabinsk, Russia

Ronald Rand with students of the Chelyabinsk Secondary State Academy of Culture and Arts, Chelyabinsk, after teaching his Master Acting Workshop

Ronald Rand with the main Drama Teacher and principal of the Chelyabinsk Secondary Academy of Culture and Arts, Chelyabinsk, Russia

Ronald Rand with students of the Chelyabinsk
Secondary State Academy of Culture and Arts,
Chelyabinsk, after teaching his Master Acting Workshop

Yevgeny Gelfond entered the School of Dramatic Art in 1997 at Anatoly Vasiliev’s School of Dramatic Art, which he graduated in 2002, and he later studied with the national artist of Russia, V.I. Miloserdov.

(When I was performing in my solo play at The GIFT Festival in Tbilisi, I personally had the pleasure of meeting and talking with Anatoly Vasiliev, when he brought his production of “The Three Sisters,” which he had directed in Moscow, to The GIFT Festival in 2006.)

Among the works that the New Art Theatre presents in repertory with Mr. Gelfand as director include works include: “Remember the War,” Demons” by Dostoevsky, “Love me, Diagnosis,” Grumber’s “To you the Promised Land,” “Bright Souls,” “Nose in the White Night,” “Women’s Dressing Room,” Chekhov’s “Offer,”  “Money from the Blue Book,” Agatha Christie’s “Mousetrap,” a solo performance by Alexander Maier about the life and work of A.S. Pushkin, de Filippo’s “Christmas at the “Cupillo House,” “Thunderstorm by A.N. Ostrofsky and “The Rothschild Violin” by Anton Chekhov, O. Yuryev’s “Miriam,” V. Zherebtsov’s “Chmorik”, V. Sigarev’s “Ladybugs Returning to the Earth”, A. Artsishevsky and V. Lymarev’s “Brother Rabbit and Company.”

The New Art Theatre has received several prestigious awards including: Bronze Diploma at the X International Theater Forum Golden Knight for the play “Demons” in Moscow, 2012; Diploma for the best director and the best performance for “Demons” at the International Festival of Chamber Performances in Novgorod, 2009, 2011; Grand Prix of the Regional Theater Festival-Best Performance, Best Directing for “The Nose in the White Night”); Best acting ensemble and Director for “Bright Souls” at the V International Theater Festival, and “Spring Word” in Arkhangelsk, 2016; Special Jury Prize of the IV International Theater Festival “At the Trinity” and “Possessed,” 2017; in 2018, Grand Prix Award for “Thunderstorm” at the Slavia XVII International Festival “Slavia” in Belgrade, 2018.

During my lively conversation and interview with Mr. Gelfand, with Dima translating, he told me that, for him, “live performance is an internally dynamic structure, and that their work at the theater is a ‘laboratory in action’ with the spectators and students who come to the performance.” And that very often they meet with the artists, with the director and other theater workers after watching the performance to create a dialogue. This form is determined by the audience.

The actors and everyone of the theater receive direct communications from the audience which can be oral or written, describing their interpretation of the performance from their point of view as a professional outside of the theater. This gives those of the theater the opportunity to receive personal discoveries that can only occur because of the result of having these meetings to talk together. For everyone at the New Art Theatre, it is their ‘theater-home,’ with everyone not only working on a play, but working for the meaningful and productive life of the theater, working together as one big “family.”

Ronald Rand with students of the Chelyabinsk Primary State Academy of Culture and Arts, Chelyabinsk

He was most enthusiastic to talk about the CHELoVEK Teatra (“Man of Theatre”) International Festival, as a “laboratory of spectacles of small forms” with each person of the New Art Theater being connected to the spiritual and creative needs of those who come as theater creators from different countries and gather for their festival. That’s it’s “not about trends or awards, but more importantly about the human work itself that is being created, about what is dictated by the soul and transmitted from the heart of the artist to the heart of the viewer.”

He went on to describe “the creative moment that happens between the acting by the actor and with spectator, which is actually a ‘co-creation from heart to heart,’ which unites all of us who are very different. We may be different in style, but all those who come to the Festival were chosen because we speak the same art language, to do theater art that warms the soul. The Festival exists to create a special environment in which the artists, directors, critics and spectators all begin to understand the way the work can happen in a unique environment, created specifically in the moment.”

“We are deeply grateful that you came and joined us. Your performance was memorable, and we are grateful to experience such a great soul and a man who stood for humanity as Harold Clurman. Because both he and you speak for art for mankind, and this is what the New Art Theater stands for. At this time, it is important that, with the solid foundation of what has already come before – what will lead the future and determine it, will come, not only from the ideas of the artists but also by the people. And it all comes together to create through a great strength in art and in mankind so I'm very grateful that you had come to our Festival.”

I received warm words from Alenna Vostryakova of the New Art Theatre Company in Chelyabinsk, who wrote: “Hello, Ronald, my best wishes to you and your family. I wish you well too. We are all sitting in isolation. However, the New Art Theater managed to hold its Festival from February 26th to March 6th. I hope this all ends sometime soon today. The main thing for us is to protect our loved ones, relatives, colleagues and friends. We have become globalists now. We pray for all the people in the world. I will certainly convey your regards to my colleagues. I like your paintings; you have a great sense of color in your paintings. There is a lot of sun and vital energy. Your paintings are in tune with your poems – amazing! I hope we will see your work again soon. Thank you for your memory of us and for your friendship.”

The recent 8th CHELoVEK Teatra (“Man of Theatre”) International Festival (“Laboratory of Spectacles of Small Forms”) included 18 performances of chamber performances, duo and solo performances. Famous theaters in Russia participated from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Vologda, Kaluga, Nizhny Novgorod, Perm, Minusinsk and Vladivostok, as well as theaters from Kazakhstan, Montenegro and Norway. The performances were attended by more than two thousand spectators. For info: New Art Theater Lenin Avenue 19, Chelyabinsk, Russia, brandesovs@mail.ru, www.nht74.ru

Hungry Sharks Dance Company

The urban dance company, Hungry Sharks, in Austria was established by choreographer Valentin Alfery and producer Dušana Baltić in 2011. Expanding to nineteen team members, Hungry Sharks Dance Company aims to establish the movement vocabulary of urban dance styles in theatre, dedicated to inspiration and experimentation. The company regularly presents feature-length urban dance pieces in Austria, and has traveled to the UK, Germany, Spain, Croatia, Romania, Italy and Turkey.

Valentin Alfery and Dušana Baltić, (photo: © Leon Bernhofer)

Valentin Alfery, Artistic Director and Choreographer of Hungry Sharks discovered his passion for urban dance in 2004, when he attended workshops at ImpulsTanz. In the same year he started acting with the theater group, Daskunst, led by Director Asli Kislal, and experienced acting on stage. Alfery’s creativity and ideas began to shape the productions he was involved, as his artistic activities as a dancer and choreographer grew in Vienna, Salzburg and Klagenfur, and internationally.

Within five years, he produced his first solo piece, “Falling,” performing fourteen performances across Austria. He joined the Salzburg group, M.O.T., which successfully competes within the international ‘battle’ Hiphop scene. A year after he founded the Hungry Sharks Company r with producer Dusana Baltic, they created their first international street art project called StreetlifeMAD with more than 20 artists from all over the world.

Alfrey was also cast in the production “The Magic Flute” with the Bregenzer Festspiele during 2013 and 2014, gaining experience as a puppeteer with Mark Down of London’s Blind Summit Puppet Company. He’s created five feature-length productions with Hungry Sharks, tour internationally, and since 2017, he is the project leader and curator of the annual outdoor program “Kulturscheine” in Salburg, featuring street artists, performing arts, music and circus acts.

Dušana Baltić, Production and Tour Manager for Hungry Sharks, which she co-founded with choreographer and Artistic Director, Valentin Alfery, created her first large-scale project during 2011-2012, called “StreetlifeMAD.” Baltić won the GTT Memorial Award for ‘Projects of Exceptional Passion,’ and in 2019, she received an award for performing arts of “Land Kärnten” for the work with Hungry Sharks. For the past two years, she has worked as a freelance curator for “Kulturschiene,”and also manages international relations and production management for Dagmar Dachauer, Frantics Dance Company and Katharina Senk.

Hungry Sharks’ newest work, “Zeitgeist” is an underwater urban dance piece, exploring the potential of temporary states, asking: “How do we discover unused space and adapt to it? How do we use emerging conditions and when do we move on?”

“Zeitgeist” 2019, (photo: © Jelena Jankovic Photography) with Marco Payer, Alex Loftx Tesch, Ragnar Lodbrodski, and Joana Hormann.

From a series of pop-up performances by six dancers, “Zeitgesit” is a continuous body of work that the audience views through glass windows, in which Hungry Sharks sees itself as a reflection of the trend towards temporary use of spaces. One major focal point of the piece is the fundamental exploration of dance and choreography under water, which could be perceived as pioneering work, suspending gravity and by the dancers holding their breath holding their breath under the water.

“Zeitgeist” 2019, (photo: © Jelena Jankovic Photography)

Hungry Sharks’ work also includes: “the Sky above, the Mud Below” – a tour de force performance by hip-hop dancer Farah Deen which I experienced at the Colombo International Theatre Festival in Sri Lanka, in which she ventures into a theatrical context through urban dance on a journey through the fields of religion and femininity. During her one-hour solo piece, she challenges a dominating worldview that defines a male figure as the human norm: the Vitruvian Man. What if Leonardo da Vinci had chosen a woman to depict idealised proportions? The themes chosen and the development of this piece are based on elements from the soloist’s autobiography. Through the spectrum of her personal experience, she examines polarizing social categories and sheds a light on their boundaries and grey areas.

“Hidden in Plain Sight,” (photo:  (© Erli Gruenzweil)

Other work by Hungry Sharks includes “Hidden in Plain Sight,” “Anthropozan,”  #fomo – the fear of missing out,” and “StreetlifeMAD” most recent work of dance company.

Hungry Sharks has incorporated urban dance styles derived from ‘Breaking,’ ‘Locking,’ ‘Popping,’ ‘Hip Hop Freestyle,’ ‘House Dance,’ and ‘Krumping’ to existing formats of contemporary stage performance, developing a coherent stylistic means and narrative language, choreography and concepts that will speak to the audience. Their pieces are a combination of virtuoso and dance-dominated sequences, against strong screen images.

When I had the pleasure of performing my solo play and teaching my Master Workshop at the 2019 Colombo International Theatre Festival in Sri Lanka, Hungry Sharks also presented “the Sky above, the Mud Below with Farah Deen on one of the evenings at the Elphistone Theatre.

I had the great delight of meeting and the unique opportunity of sitting down and talking with choreographer, Valentin Alfery, producer and tour management, Dušana Baltić and Farah Deen, (you can read her interview in the International Artists in this Issue) about their work.

Ronald Rand with Farah Deen and Valentin Alfery at the Colombo International Theatre Festival in Sir Lanka, 2019

I first asked: What was their greatest need to create Hungry Sharks in 2011? 

Valentin replied, “At first, there was the impulse to create our own visions and versions of dance within the artworld. As it is hard to “read” or “receive” contemporary dance and its concepts without being familiar with it, we felt that the movement language from the world of urban dance could function as an bridge to an audience that isn’t used to watch dance in theatre.”

Are both of your backgrounds in dance? Did you grow up dancing and study dance and when did you decide that dance was your calling?

Valentin: “ I have a background in sports and judo and got introduced and immediately hooked to urban dance when I was about twenty years old. Soon, after my first years of teaching himself, I started working as a dancer and eventually became a choreographer.”

Dušana: “Originally I was a photographer and contribute though translating concepts and principles from the world of creative images to the artistic output of Hungry Sharks. I hold a Masters’ degree in media and communication studies, and I was born with a strong personality, which makes me the perfect production manager for the company.”

How do you choose the dancers you want to work with?

Valentin replied: “One of our goals is to strengthen the Austrian Hip-Hop scene. We mostly choose dancers from Austria who share an interest in deepening urban dance choreography and dance within the theatrical context. The three major qualities we need for a long term connection with a dancer is to feel the possibility that we’ll grow together artistically, the ability to be organized and, since we spend a lot of time together with Hungry Sharks – to be on an equal and harmonious social level.”

Hungry Sharks performing at the Dance & Nonverbal Theatre Festival, (photo: © Jelena Jankovic Photography)

I told them experiencing “the sky above, the mud below” was a most memorable experience at the Colombo International Theatre Festival, and asked what the rehearsal process was like? How did they decide with Farah Deen what ‘bridges’ were necessary to bring together Deen’s personal experiences which are shown in the piece?

Valentin began: “The impulse for the artistic process of “the Sky above, the Mud below” was a pragmatic thought, first and foremost. After creating and touring with twelve dancers on stage in the Hungry Sharks piece of 2016, “Hidden in Plain Sight,” we felt overwhelmed as leaders of the company. Our capacities of time and energy were exhausted.”

“The next logical step was to channel our artistic drive into a more compact format and create a solo-piece. Playing around with topics we focused on femininity, the human body and religion and decided to use elements of Farah’s personal story as a point of reference.

Valentin added: “During preparation talks, we collected experiences from her and tried out selected dance concepts, choreographic material from me. In the rehearsal process, we used these starting points to improvise, to create, transform and arrive at a dance piece that transports generally applicable values, can be objectively viewed and speaks to any public audience, that doesn’t have to know Farah personally.”

I asked about the powerful ending to the piece when a large drapery comes down around Deen?

Valentin continued: “The transformation of the curtain from the ‘papyrus of Leonardo da Vinci to the ‘veil of Mother Mary,’ came when we had the possibility to rehearse in a small theater. We were exploring quickly made-up possibilities, such as a fabric hanging from the ceiling or dancing on a carpet in the lounge of the theatre.”

“To have the curtain – that resembles a connection between ‘sky and mud’ – ripped off the ceiling was a combination of a lucky tryout-idea in the final preparations, two days before the premiere, with a 10 meter long fabric, and the unending creativity of our stage technician, Jasper Diekamp. It worked on the first try and we were happy to keep it as one of the strongest images in the piece.”

I asked about their upcoming plans and how they’re both coping with the current crisis?

Valentin told us: “Leading a dance company is a never-ending re-adjustment of the balance between a lot of aspects. The more the company evolves and grows, the more it takes hold of the people involved and the more things need to be thought of.”

“The lost opportunities and shows during the crisis are giving room for two things to appear. At first we embraced the stillness to digest and review our way so far. On the second hand, we have time to re-think and re-create our visions and goals with Hungry Sharks.”

Dušana continued: “We’re planning how to shape and formulate our artistic and social visions in the near future. One recent project is called ‘Young Sharks’ – a platform for emerging urban dancers to gather experience within the professional working field of dance on a theatre stage.”

I asked about their newest piece, “Zeitgeist” which takes place under water, how they came up with the concept and how the dancers learned to dance under water?

Valentin told us: “The idea for “Zeitgeist” was born when we saw night-divers in an underwater cave in Mexico flashing under water lamps through the dark water. The wish to work with this kind of aesthetic approach took several years of applying and failing before we could receive the funding we needed.”

“When we found a pool in Vienna that had glass windows for an audience to look through, we started with a two-day tryout period, to see if it was do-able. Later, we took Apnoe (cessation of breathing) diving lessons with the cast, to test ourselves to have a good capacity to stay and dance underwater.”

“The rehearsals took place in a public pool, directing and choreographing on the floor beneath the water with all the dancers/swimmers. We were also able to film each rehearsal to review the material. The final piece is forty-five minutes long and became the most exhausting production of Hungry Sharks so far. It was a true rollercoaster and it’s very exciting of which we are proud of.”

Hungry Sharks was awarded a special award in 2015 for performing arts by the Federal Chancellor’s Office of Austria for their non-verbal dance piece, “#fomo – the fear of missing.” In 2019, Hungry Sharks received a Performing Arts Award from the government of Carinthia, Austria. For info: www.hungrysharks.at

 


"It is a law of life that man cannot live for himself alone. Extreme individualism is insanity. The world's problems are also our personal problems. Health is achieved through maintaining our personal truth in a balanced relation of love to the rest of the world. No expression is more emblematic of this relation than the creative act which we call art. No art by its very constitution typifies the social nature of that creative act more than the theatre. The theatre, to be fully understood and appreciated, must be seen as a manifestation of this process of interchange between society and the individual. It must be judged as a continuous development of groups of individuals within society, a development which becomes richer, acquires greater force and value as it grows with the society in which it originates. Only in this way can the theatre nourish us.  - Harold Clurman

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