It was a fascinating meeting: SNDO performances being part of the ITS Festival program. After years the dialogue between the two is restored. The editors of its time to talk visited performances by SNDO graduates Johhan Rosenberg and Jette Loona Hermanis.
After leaving the theatre those two nights, the performances went on in our minds: questions kept coming up, along with a growing urge to grasp the performances and the tradition of SNDO.
These encounters asked for an aftertalk. This text is an excerpt of the conversation between theatre makers from different traditions.
When we saw your work, it was quite different from anything I ever saw before. How do you position SNDO and yourself in the theatre landscape?
JOHHAN: It’s my point of interest to break the sort of ‘tradition’ in theatre and also comfort-zones in a play or a theatre house.
And how do you do that?
JOHHAN: The first thing that’s important is definitely the relationship with the audience. How comfortable the audience is feeling. My work T.R.A.P.S. is built to have a direct interaction (also physically) with the audience. I really wanted to trap everyone with this work. To make a whole trap house out of the theatre. The study program is also called ‘School for new dance development’. The name already says that we are all trying to find new ways to invent dance.
JETTE: And SNDO for sure rejects the conventional theatre setting. I feel like a neutrality as a performer is implied, which I never really wanted to surrender to – because I’m still very much interested in characters and building a very theatrical figure.
Are you trained to be a performer or more of a ‘concept maker’?
JETTE: Since it’s a choreography school I really perceive it now as becoming a performance artist, maker, choreographer. But definitely I don’t exclude the possibility of still wanting to perform and wanting to perform in my own works as well.
JOHHAN: It’s the same for me. I guess in the programme itself you can really choose what you are interested in. Do you rather want to focus on becoming a maker or a performer? Because both are possible.
So the development itself is part of the course?
JETTE: I think it really has a focus on letting everyone do their own individual work on how they managed to get to a point. There is no certain technique or method how to do so, it really comes from your package and background and your path that you choose. The students also come from such different backgrounds. There are some people that have no previous experience or connection with dance or stage crafting. So the study program is really open for every student to decide upon.
For many students of the Dutch theatre educations, the ITS Festival is a very clear point on the horizon; a given moment in which they’re sure that they’ll be able to show their work to an audience outside their school bubble. A guaranteed stage to present themselves on.Is that in any way felt at SNDO as well, you think?
JETTE: You mean: that after you graduate it is inevitable to end up at ITS Festival?
JETTE: No, it’s up to the SNDO-graduate to choose if they want to make use of this platform. For me it seemed very logical to join; I was very happy to perform in another city. I’m starting to see that SNDO has a very set and fixed audience, who always know what the works are about.
JOHHAN: It’s a very small bubble.
JETTE: I guess we can even say that we got tired of having the same audience – I could see my work only being seen by a very limited group of people; so to have fresh audience come and see my show was exciting.
What’s the relationship between the process and the performance itself? Is one more important than the other?
JOHHAN: I think when I’m performing a work, the actual performance only starts after it’s finished. Because I feel that only then I’m able to fully understand and reflect on what I’ve put into it. So in that way, the relationship between process and performance is that they fully go together! But in performance, the live audience is there. The eyes of the spectators are there to take it in – so it gives a greater responsibility to me and the audience to decide in the moment what they take from it.
What are you working on and where are you working right now?
JETTE: We are making a piece in Estonia now, which is a big thing for us, because it is our debut in our home country in the professional field. We are very ambitious, and time to time it is a bit overwhelming. There is a very strong link between Estonia and SNDO; somehow each time Estonian people enter SNDO, and the theatre field of Estonia has kind of an eagle eye on the graduates of SNDO. Like they are waiting for us to freshen things up in the field. That is a big opportunity: it makes us ambitious, but it also brings pressure.
How does a place influence your work?
JOHHAN:The places where you work are very important for the work you create, for us it is very common to work via residency. A lot of SNDO graduates want to be in sort of an interdisciplinary place: visual arts meets theatre and dance. So the places we are looking for are different from the theatre field. We also look for places like galleries. Some galleries want to get more movement into their space, so there are a lot of possibilities.”
We want to thank Jette and Johhan for speaking with us, and giving us an insight in their method of creating a piece!
We believe that the ideas and voices of these two makers are very important for the Dutch theatre field in general, but mostly for the ITS Festival. Since the ‘international’ aspect in latter is particularly represented by SNDO.