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Sunday, 15 February 2015

Magda Tuka (Poland)_interview by Orsolya Bálint KÖM

photo: Marie-Louise Stentebjerg
Two bodies in wrestling hold fight and make love at the same time 
Inspired by Olympic and US-style show wrestling, the performance JE JE JE, NA NA NA – Fight, fight – That's all we can do directed by Magda Tuka (PL), choreographed and performed by Magda Tuka and Anita Wach, introduces us to the freedom found in wrestling, on the first Performing V4 – Biennial of VARP-PA Residents, in Prague on the 28th of February, at 6 p.m. in PONEC – the dance venue. Magda tells us how her fascination for this ancient adrenaline surging ritual developed, how she discovered a deep level of trust and respect for her opponent as well as images of bodies ‘making love’ during wrestling. 

As a dancer and choreographer, what inspired you to start working with wrestling?
Me and my colleague, Anita watched one nice summer evening at the Center for Contemporary Art in Ujazdów Castle, Warsaw the movie The Wrestler by Darren Aronofsky, with Mickey Rourke. The circumstances (gallery) and the film itself (the story of an old wrestler fighting to be on stage again and maybe even dying there) stroke me as a great combination of brutal/naive sport (US-wrestling) and the Art around. Then we started to research and ‘practice’ some Olympic wrestling holds and discovered that the images we created looked as if we were lovers. Two bodies in a wrestling hold fight and make love at the same time. Wrestling is very old and it was practiced everywhere. Through more research, we have found the first wrestling images from ancient Egypt and information that Nubian slaves were wrestling and dancing to entertain Egyptians. Again, the combination of slavery, entertainment and real fight was inspiring for us.

Why is watching wrestling so attractive to many people, and why are others frightened of, or even disgusted by it?
I went to watch one wrestling and one kickboxing match. In both cases it was a ‘total show’ meaning all the theatrical gestures, lights, very loud music, adrenaline surging just by being in a crowd, shouting together (whatever would come). It feels like you are in a community, you share the experience with others and some normally not accepted behaviors (like shouting as loud as you can) are allowed here. So maybe once a week, on Saturday evening, your animal side can show its face? On the other hand, seeing sweaty bodies, sometimes blood and generally this crazy scenery can be too much, too primitive and too dramatic for some people, because even if it is choreographed, there are some injuries, accidents. 

 Which other elements fascinated you in wrestling?
Simply me and Anita having fun! It’s like going back to childhood. We like the theatrical side of US wrestling, the characters, the costumes, the dialogues. The fact that everybody knows that it’s fake, but still taking it real. Strange combination, and fascinating indeed. 

How did you begin to put your ideas into action?
We watched lots of wrestling fights from different parts of the world. At the same time we started to learn some basic wrestling holds. Then we discovered that actually each scene should be about fight. Some parts of the performance are strictly fixed but there is also lots of space for improvisation, for responding to situation.

For how long have you been working with Anita?
We have been working together since Via Negativa project ‘Casablanca Therapy’ (directed by Bojan Jablanovec) in 2009.

During the act of wrestling, did you learn something new about yourself and your partner?
Definitely. Through many wrestling fights we developed a very organic level of trust and understanding for each other. And about myself, I’ve learned that taking risk and not knowing what will happen is fascinating. 

What is special about female wrestling? Is your gender important in your performance?
I rather wanted to find my perfect opponent, who I respect and because of this I want to have a fight with. The beauty of a unique encounter. If I would choose to wrestle with a man, it would be immediately about the relationship between a man and a woman. In our case it is more about a deep fascination and friendship. And of course usually physically I don’t have a chance against a man. (I’ve tried it. I was literally flying in the air).

What did the possibility mean to you to work in the framework of VARP-PA and who would you recommend the program to?
I have done two residencies so far, both as individual artistic scholarships. It is a great possibility to meet other people, fellow artists, to exchange ideas and work methods. Plus working somewhere where you don’t know anybody, starting fresh, from the begging, away from everyday life can give a great focus and enhance productivity. I know that many artists are struggling with finding venues to work and perform. The VARP-PA program is creating this possibility. So for the minimum of 3 weeks the only thing you can think of is work. It is a great opportunity to try out some ideas, for everybody who has one. I don’t think age or experience should be a problem or a limit. Additionally for me it was extremely good to meet people from Stanica (cultural centre for contemporary arts and culture in Zilina, Slovakia), and see how they function. I am going to use this experience in building a cultural centre in the future. 

What other countries or specific groups or artists do you regularly work with within V4?
Slovakia, Czech Republic.

Have you ever performed in Prague before?
Yes, with Via Negativa, performance ‘Casablanca Therapy’ directed by Bojan Jablanovec.

What do you hope to gain from participating in the Biennial?
First of all I am curious what other artists do. What kind of work they’ll bring to Prague, how they work, how they function in their countries. I am also excited about how the audience will receive our work, and I hope to develop our international network. 

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