Interview with Flemish choreographer Koen Augustijnen
During the meeting with Latvian masterclasse participants, you talked about inspiration sources. What inspires you?
My own emotional state is one of those inspiration sources. Though I use it very often, there are times I find this important. I remember producing a show „bache”, back then, fear was my stating point. There were, indeed, several scenes about this state of mind, bet the show itself reflects on someting else. The second inspiration source are the themes that are so far away from me that I start to be intrigued by it.
For example, the last two shows I did in Australia and Palestine. In Australia, I was offered to produce a show together with an Aboriginal dancer and acrobat, back then, suicide was the main theme. In general, it’s about the society that faces challenges, the society that is threatened by global development and culture. The show made in Palestine tells practically the same, the identity issues, the place fo an individual in the local society and global culture. My third inspiration source is a human, a personality. For instance, the film „Ernesto” I produced with my brother, it’s about this Chilean-French hiphop dancer who is a hulking guy not quite suited to be a hiphop performer, and I got interested in this man’s life. To produce the show was like guessing a puzzle in order to understand why he intrigued me.
Are there any other challenges while you work in other countries?
It’s easier to work abroad, in a way. There are less outside influences in Australia and Palestine, in there, people are open and inquisitive. In Brussels, it’s getting harder. People have seen a lot, they are more critical, very specialized in one field, including artists. In Latvia, I clearly see that you are not far from us. Dancers are more educated, experienced, the environment is more developed.
What are the things you notice first while traveling to a new city?
The first thing I get to find is whether there is close distance to water. A river or a lake is like the main city artery, it gives me a sense of space in a city. I always appreciate a vitality of the city. In Ramallah, Palestine, it was striking especially when you arrive from Israel side, the city is like this big market, people are so lively though their daily life is even harder than in Israel.
Climate has a great role here, in Riga. But now, it’s cold outside, and the streets are empty.
There is a lot of space, many parks, and there are great distances between the houses. I enjoyed Riga Port from the side of Vecmīlgrāvis.
You will return in Riga next year in order to make a show. What will it be about?
It depends on whether we choose a specific theme related to this city and the location we work (Ziemeļblāzma surroundings in Vecmīlgrāvis). In that case, we will collect documumentary facts about this place in order to use the material in our show. The second way is to create a specific new Latvian dance version where the traditional dance is mixed with influences from popular and contemporary culture. It was a new discovery for me to find out that the traditional dance is still lively in here. In any case, the show will be produced in cooperation with Latvian dancers. The choice depends on them because they will be the ones who are gonna do this. It has to be something that is important for them, so that they can hold on to it.
This interview was made in close cooperation with Laura Stašāne, representative of The New Theatre Institute.