Eesti: Myths & Machines

Halifax’s Live Art Dance jump-starts its season with a ‘visceral, physical, and emotional experience’ this weekend with Eesti: Myths & Machines, Peter Trostzmer’s voyage of self-discovery that reveals the resiliency of the human spirit and the ravages time exerts on our collective memory. Recently we spoke with the performer about the production.

When and why did you first become interested in dance?
I guess I became interested when I was in 1st year University. My roomate danced and a friend at work danced. I think before this I did not know it was something one could do. It was not for a few more years before I began to study it myself. I took a movement class for actors in my last year of studies at Concordia University - it was after this that I began to study and train full time. Before this I took movement classes (some martial arts and ballroom classes mainly)

Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
No - completely different I think. There is still a passion for the body, physicality, and movement - however I think my understanding of what the responsibility and position of an artist is has formed into something completely different. I guess I just had no idea what spending the rest of my life as an artist would mean. Some of the same reasons continue to drive me - training, body, movement yes however my idea of myself as a performer has utterly changed. When I began I had no really concept of what it was going to be like to be an art maker and performer.  

What are the challenges of the vocation?
I would say there are a range of challenges. It is exciting and a challenge to create work and research artistic idea's and balance a life, family, and friends. Dance - maybe art in general can be all consuming. I think we as dancers give so much of ourselves in rehearsals, bodies, soul, thoughts, emotions. As a leader of a project - the work continues often past the hrs of the day - contemplating, planing, communications, applications, - it can be a work sometimes just to insure that you don' t work all the time. On top of this when a project gains momentum it can be difficult to not have it in your head all the time. Really the biggest challenge is finding a balance between work, family, research, training, politics, market place, artistic integrity and the soul. 

What are the rewards?   
Incredible experiences with wonderful people in studios, theatres, performances, all over the world. I feel as artists get and access to the self. We develop tools for affecting people, audience, co-workers. We attain a deep understanding of our bodies, an intimate relationship with its frailty and vulnerability. We get to dig deep sometimes into politics, philosophy sociology .  

Is your creative process more 'inspirational' or 'perspiration'?
Inspriational, but I do do manage to sweat in most of the work I do. 

How has your work evolved over the years?
It has become rooted n research, bigger experiences of the mind, soul and body - with a deeper understanding of my relationship too. Politics have remained an in important aspect of the work. Lately I have gravitated towards instillation based work and I am searching for a new contexts for performance altogether. I feel I am trying to experience dance performance art making, process as event. Teaching and community engagement is becoming more important to me.  

What inspired Myths & Machines?
The work really had 2 inspirations. Jeremy Gordaneer and I have a facilitation with machines. We discussed and began jamming over a Wallis and Gromit world. Jeremy built what we affectionately refer to as the cyclophone and has become the "Machine" in the piece. At the same time I had a fascination with my families roots and WWII, migration, stories of displacement and Trauma. I began to try to understand where I came from and the circumstances around this. I was drawn to stories of my Grandfather - for who and what I am. This is where the idea of "Myths" comes from. Most of the stories I have gathered (about 100 pgs) were passed to me through speech. I tried to gather as many 1st hand accounts as I could - even going back to Estonia 2 times during the 3 yrs of research on the piece. We camped the coastline where people the small boats left in the night. I spoke to anyone who remembered my Grandfather or were alive at the time. Unfortunately the stories of the Loosers are often not accurately described in History books. This has been and is being rectified since 1990 with the singing revolution. So the stories were passed on in an ora tradition (essentially myths). The sculpture - the "Machine" - for me is the Unstoppable force of War, Machine of Migration, Industry - where immigrants worked when coming over). But also Machines are a metaphor for the unstoppable resilience of the Human Spirit. 

What can audiences expect to experience?
The work is a visceral, physical, and emotional experience. The visual aesthetic is simple and beautiful. The sound is connected directly to the movement of the performance as 60% of the sound is generated from the performance itself. The work is dense and integrated carefully thought out and rehearsed w rigger and performed with abandon.  

What has the response been like so far to the production?
Reviews have been nicely complimentary. But what I think I take most from the performances are some of the conversations after. I believe the work is a North American experience in so many ways. I think offers reflection to those of us who have organs in other places - and I think this represents most of us.  

What are your thoughts on the current state of dance?
Dance has always been the most heartbreaking of the performing arts for me. Tragic and beautiful, the body becomes the sacrificial lamb - freely given up. At least we still have a public funding body to help support free work - without corporate - or private agenda. Our current system of public fusing is still problematic at themes. A jury of the peers can become a popularity or political competition.  on the interesting side - there is amazing, creative work still coming out - art is being expressed by the body in very exciting ways and the form continues to grow. Idea's of what process and dance making and dance presenting are still being put on the table for debate and I think that is a great thing. I think it is important that we continue to try to expand the form.

What can we be doing better?
I think we could and are making inroads in the are of education - in dance schools for dancers - more like that of a visual arts program, looking at history of cinema, visual art movements philosophy etc. But I think that this kind of education would be amazing for everyone - just as we all need courses in business - as all the world is commerce. It could be a whole lot more grounded and human if we all need a solid background in the histories of the fine arts.

What's next on your creative agenda?
The game has changed for me in many ways. I am currently artist in residence with Jeremy Gordaneer (visuals and sculpture) and Thea Patterson (dramaturge) at Teckno Lyth (Harvey Lev) in Montreal - so we have access to 3 amazing spaces in a 200 yrs old building near Old Montreal. I am starting to look to the future in terms of integrating this space into my community and indeed thinking about international collaborations in the space. There is limitless potential in the building. But the spaces have given my work a new perspective. I now have an incredible work / venue space. I am able to work instillations and leave them in place - create dances for the space - and now this has began to branch out into dances for other spaces. My work has become industrial, architectural, post industrial, community environment, perception, event … I can set up what what I want in the space and invite people to come see it. But the experience of working in the space has lead me to reach out to other unique spaces to create and work. I will be looking at some spaces with Paul when I come into town for some instillation performance work. I feel in many ways within our current social, political, and economic environment it is important to question our current presentation environments. It is a responsibility to question and challenge - systems. I am investigation the ecology of theatre, community, building, growth, and structure. We will set up the sound sculpture element of the piece at Parenthesis Gallery space on 2168 Gottingen on Sunday after the shows. I feel that in this way the piece can be experiences from within - as people will be invited to play the cyclophone. All the artists working on the piece - Lois Brown (Dramaturgical and Directorial support, Jeremy Gordaneer (visual artist), Jean Sebastian Durocher (Sound Artist), Rasmus Sylvest  (lighting designer) are essential to the research, and creation of the work, and now the continued performances of the work are only really feasible with the hard work of TD Paul Chambers.  

Eesti: Myths & Machines
Thursday, Sept 25 - Saturday, Sept 27, 8pm
Sir James Dunn Theatre, Halifax
www.liveartdance.ca