BWW Interviews: Antonia Katrandjieva
Antonia Katrandjieva, a native of Bulgaria, is an internationally acclaimed scholar, director, writer and choreographers, exploring the realms of dance and theatre. Her works are informed by her extensive studies: she holds a B.A. in Physical Theatre Acting, MFA in Theatre Directing, Ph.D. and D.Sc. in Theatre from the National Academy of Theatre and Film Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria, and is a graduate of Zurich Tanz Theater Schule in Switzerland. Antonia has traveled, lectured and researched dance and theatre traditions in Asia, South America, Europe and the U.S. and has presented over 40 cutting-edge works at dance and theatre festivals across the globe. She is the NY correspondent for the Bulgarian magazine Teatar and has authored a manual for contemporary actors and dancers, as well as a doctoral thesis entitled Contemporary Trends in Physical Theatre, along with numerous articles on theater, philosophy and dance for Bugarian, Swiss and American journals. In addition to founding and directing Overground Physical Theatre Company, Antonia is creator of Yogea Artflow, an innovative yoga style.
Broadwayworld Dance recently sat down to interview Ms. Katrandjieva:
Q. First, I have to say your academic achievements are truly astonishing. It may sound strange, but why did you pursue these academic achievements
A. My academic research is mostly focused on holistic approaches for cultivating the contemporary performing artist and on bridging art, culture and spirituality. As a grad student at the National Academy of Theatre, I was mainly exposed to method acting, and felt it somewhat insufficient in training the hyper-media actor of the digital age. So for the past 18 years, I have been exploring various trends, ideologies and systems of contemporary experimental theatre in an effort to nurture the somatic intelligence of the artist and view dance theatre as a state of communing, rather than communicating, of offering rather than displaying. My academic research has also fueled by my pedagogic insight and love for experimentation, and has helped me integrate the practitioner with the theoretician.
Q. I've been in Bulgaria myself, but never saw any theatrical performances. What is the performing scene like in Bulgaria?
A. Bulgaria, and especially the capital city Sofia, is a vibrant theatrical hub. Most of the theatres are still state owned, and the repertoire ranges from the Bard to Chekhov, from Sartre to Lorca. The dance theatre world, which was ballet-ridden during the communist regime, is now rapidly picking up, too. The quality of all the productions is top notch, as the renowned Bulgarian Academy of Theatre and Film Arts has nurtured some of the finest actors, directors and performing artists in Eastern Europe. Despite the current political upheavals in the city of Sofia, most performances are sold out and people flock to their favorite theatres to fill up the political void and share their humanness.
Q. When you left Bulgaria for Switzerland, was it your plan then to expand yourself and not go back to Bulgaria?
A. I actually left Bulgaria after completing my first dissertation in Physical Theatre. I felt I needed to expand my practical knowledge in dance theatre, but the only technique available in Bulgaria at that time was "Graham." There were no opportunities for pursuing a contemporary dance education, so I went to the Zurich Tanz Theater Schule, where I obtained an extensive training in contemporary dance and choreography. I never really wanted to leave Bulgaria, where my whole family still lives, but I guess my quest for knowledge helped me forge new frontiers, gain new experience.
Q. Has your extensive background in Europe influenced you in any way?
A. Yes, I would say the work that I do has a certain European flavor in it, in the sense that I am not so form-driven. When I approach a new work, I don't worry about the movement, but rather the motivation, the concept that births everything. I have been mostly influenced by the German expressionistic dance of Wigman, Laban, Jooss and Bausch. When I lived in Switzerland, I would often visit the cradle of the avant-garde European movement, "Monte Verita," where the first attempts to revolutionize the codify art forms were forged. It really fascinated me to see where the entire "Ausdruckstanz" movement was actually sparked. I feel my work falls more in the unexplored niche of urgent theatre, as I write all the scripts based on current issues or personal experiences.
Q. Can you explain Yogea Artflow?
A. Yogea Artflow is a signature Yoga style that I have developed over the past 20 years. As a form of engaged spirituality, YOGEA reinterprets spiritual traditions and mediation practices from all over the world for the needs of the modern individual. It is basically a flow-based yoga, giving reverence to all corners of the Earth. Translated from Sanskrit "Yogea" means: "gifting back to Yoga what Yoga has given you". This is my way of being grateful every moment and reminding others to thrive in abundance and gratitude. It is an "arflow", as I regard every purposeful action as conscious beauty that heals and enlightens. I am currently conducting the third Yogea Artflow Teacher Training in New York, and acquainting my yoga teachers with all existing forms of ancient and modern spirituality all over the world. Yogea Artflow has a video channel with targeted routines and home practice. To view the channel on YouTube, visit www.yogea.blogspot.com
Q. Could you describe the difference between American and European productions. Or would you say they are more similar than people think?
A. I enjoy the lines of the body, the geometry of the form, the virtuosity of the technique and the physical power of American Productions. The European performances take me "elsewhere," to a place of introspection, of self-inquiry. They shake me out of the comfort zone. They challenge me to think out of the box. But I love watching both Alvin Ailey and Pina Bausch with the same fervor and love to exuberate in the richness of both idioms. I am a great fan of Anne Bogart's "Siti Company," and see how the European and the American traditions weld beautifully in most of her productions.
Q. What was the impetus for creating Overground Arts Alliance.
A. Overground Arts Alliance was initially sparked in Sofia Bulgaria as part of the Experimental Wing of the National Academy of theatre and Film Arts, where I studied and later lectured. The whole idea behind it was to create a counter inter-disciplinary echo to the somewhat cryptic "underground" aesthetic. Its philosophy is rooted in the fascinating way through which bees see the world, capturing the vibrancy of the image through multiple lenses, focusing on the energetic radiance, not particularly the detail. The idea is to cultivate this "kaleidoscopic vision quest" by integrating all art forms and to be able to view the multiple realities through the different facets of the self.
Q. How would you describe your method of choreography?
A. The method is founded on an innovative contemporary dance approach that I teach called "Cohera Move". I train the performing artists to use corporal and vocal energy states to reveal a largely untapped reservoir of knowledge, spirit and perceptive awareness. The method focuses on authenticity, rather than originality, and traces how raw movement grows out of vulnerability and transforms into distilled neutrality - a sophisticated way of making the intangible tangible. The choreographic style that comes from Cohera Move is eclectic, hyper-mediate and based on contact improvisation. If I were to describe it I would say "kaleidoscopic", where different energy states are painted with the body and soul, and from these images new forms ensue.
Q. What can we expect from you in the future?
A. The next project in the works is the third eco drama entitled "IdenDEFY". It is the last part of a trilogy that tests Overground's holistic method "Ecorporeailty" that re-examines and nurtures the performer's relationship with nature, society, and self. Please follow me on yogea.blogspot.com
Photo: Kenneth Ivanov