Rabbitfield.com, a zita swoon fansite

Breaking the line between musician and dancer – an interview with Simon Mayer by Marc
February 12, 2009, 23:47 pm
Filed under: Interviews, Zita Swoon | Tags: , ,

Zita Swoon’s current tour combines music and dance.
What do I know about dance? I’ve heard of The swanlake, yes – the dance with the dying tutu’s, and even Rosas and Anne Teresa De Keersmaecker rang a bell… a silent one. So we had to call for help… and found Simon Mayer: an Austrian dancer, musician, member of Rosas, touring with Zita Swoon, and willing to answer our questions.
A rabbit field interview:

– Is this show different to the performances you did in the past?

Simon Mayer: The dance in the show is contemporary dance. That’s the education I had. Contemporary dance is a very wide field so it’s rather hard to explain what style it is. It can contain every dance style and every style of music. What I use as material for the Zita Swoon show has influences from several techniques and styles I’ve learned and as I’m improvising a lot I cannot really tell you specifically what style I’ll come up with in the performance. I’m very much influenced by afro, hip hop, ballet, release technique, different kinds of floorwork etc…..
I guess you‘ll find out more if you come to see the show.
Not everything I do in the show is improvised though. There are some dances with clear structures and movement patterns. All of the dances are structured in some way. Sometimes I only define where on stage I’ll be standing to do my dance or from which end to which end I’m moving … but there are also pieces where I set the space, the movement and the time.
What I try to make very clear is the relation to the music. In some pieces I move very strict to the music (to the rhythm, the melody, the puls, or simply to one instrument) and other songs I use more as an atmospheric impulse – which means I don’t dance inside a rhythmic or melodic structure but rather inside or with the general atmosphere/the feeling of the music. The 3rd strategy I use is to be the extra instrument/musician of the band – as a dancer. Which means I make up my own melody and dance/improvise this melody or rhythm to the music of the band, just like a guitar solo over a basic groove – going in and out of the rhythm and harmony.

– Is it common to work with live music in dance performances, and if so: is this music rather classic, jazzy or mainstream?

Simon: I worked a lot already with live music and I’m a musician myself… not a professional one but I played in a heavy metal/fusion band for years and studied several instruments (piano, violin, bas, singing,…). Therefore the project with Zita Swoon is very interesting for me.
I’m working together a lot with my brothers who are musicians as well and I always try to make musicians move 🙂 – it’s kind of an addiction – breaking the line between musician and dancer.

– Do you have any artistic influence to the show?

Simon: We are rehearsing together since december. The band prepared some of the music before and some of it we finished during those rehearsals. Sometimes we change the music for the dance in order to get a closer connection between the two and a rounder image. Sometimes the dance changes or adapts to the music. Those changes are proposed either by the band or by me so in the end we influence each other with our ideas and make the whole picture richer by that I guess.

– To what extent is there an interaction between you as a dancer and the band or the audience.

Simon: There is quite a lot of interaction between eva, kapinga and me. There are some dances that we do together and also the musicians are involved in the dance in some songs. The thing is that the musicians are moving naturally to their songs anyway so in fact we are all dancing/moving all the time – in one way or another. The only distinction you could make is that there are songs where the movements of the musicians and singers are choreographed and in others not. There are a few songs where I’m playing an instrument or singing, which is another kind of connection with the band.
There is always a connection between dance and music or dancer and musician and of course with the audience — they are the ones we are dancing and playing for.

– Were you familiar to the music of Zita Swoon? 

Simon: Before this project I didn’t know much about Zita Swoon. There were two songs of them which where my favourite songs for about 2 years – “Thinking about you all the time” and another one that I forgot the title of now – i’m bad with names  –  but I didn’t know that they were from Zita Swoon until I got introduced to Stef by Anne Teresa. After that I listened a lot to their music and watched some of the videos.

– It’s clear dance is a combination of performance art and sport. Can you tell something about the phisical training, both artistic and conditional.

Simon: For condition I try to keep myself in shape by running, taking different kinds of dance technique (ballet, release technique,….) and yoga, … but the actual condition work is done by rehearsing the dances for DWTSH on my own and with the band and by performing. That’s where I get most stamina from I guess. After the first 2 shows I was completely exhausted – my condition was down the toilet. Now that’s not a problem anymore. It’s good to be back in shape.
The artistic and the conditional training mostly go hand in hand. especially when I work on my own on the dance pieces or with the band. Because then I don’t only repeat movements or patterns of impro tasks but I also try out new things that might work better. 
It becomes an ongoing creative process. This kind of developement of material, keeping some of the old stuff, adding a new movement, a little change here and there – is sometimes a bit exhausting because it’s not always easy to take decissions wether to kill your darlings or keep them alive… but still it’s the most attractive way of working to me and a good way to keep up the artistic condition.

– Through the show we see you in three or four outfits. Some of them also have a function in the performance or dance. Was it planned like that or is that something you improvise on the spot.

Simon: I always thought I don’t really have a feeling or taste or imagination what concerns costumes or cloths. until I got this opportunity from Stef to think about what I want to wear and eventually design a costume.
When stef and I went to the tailor in Gent to get the costumes fixed I discovered that I was actually wrong about not having an imagination for cloths… I think we spent about 2 hours or something at Lut’s place just because so many ideas came up in my mind – how to manipulate the costumes by the movements I can do in them or by the movements and shapes the costumes make and allow.
In the end I only really made one design of a shirt – which I didn’t like anymore afterwards so you don’t see it in the show. The costumes I’m wearing in the shows are designed by Stef – although we don t always agree on the costumes tastewise I think he has a very good eye for cloths and the designs he chose for the show make lots of sence, also dramaturgicly.
The “choreography” of the costumes – the way I manipulate their form and function developed from that tailor session. so it’s partly from that impro at the tailor’s house and partly still developing further on stage. It’s a never ending and endlessly developing story – just like the whole piece.


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