Anna Maria Suykerbuyk Anna Maria Suykerbuyk

Q&A with international Dutch dancer Anna Maria Suykerbuyk

Tue, Oct. 3, 2017
CAIRO – 3 October 2017: International choreographer Anna Maria Suykerbuyk is known for designing several attractive dance routines and shows in Egypt and the Netherlands, producing a number of choreography projects through her Sine Forma Company, and participating in a number of international acts.

Egypt Today had the chance to chat with Anna Maria Suykerbuyk.


Tell me a bit about yourself; how did your passion to dance grow?

I started dancing when I was 11. My older sister was doing ballet since she had been young, and I always wanted to be like her. Finally, at the age of 11, my mom allowed me to go to dance classes.


After a year, I knew that this is what I wanted to do. In that same year, I auditioned for the pre-education of Codarts in Rotterdam and by the age of 13 I was dancing every day, and I never stopped since!


What are the qualifications that create a professional dancer?

A good dancer has a combination of skills (strong technical foundation in their field of expertise), passion and talent. What makes a good dancer a professional dancer is their perseverance, focus and determination.

A professional dancer continuously keeps on investing in their development to improve their skills. They take their profession seriously and train themselves to be critical thinkers and observers in their processes.

The journey of being or becoming a good dancer is never ending; you always need to keep on re-inventing yourself. And as in any other “normal” profession, this requires dedication and continuous practice.

Moving from the Netherlands to Egypt, how does Egypt inspire you to create new choreographies?

Egypt is the complete other end to the Netherlands. A different culture, a different social and political system, a different environment and different “goods” and “bads.”

I have learned things about myself, about my norms, values and origin that I would not have learned if I would not have left what was safe to me. These experiences on their own can fill years of new performances already.


After heading many workshops, and participating in many events, do you think of the Egyptian contemporary dance scene?

My opinion of the scene is merely based on a small period of contribution and investment. In my modest opinion, I think the Egyptian contemporary dance scene provides a lot of incredible passionate talents and strong performers.

The scene is rich of creative and innovative performers and choreographers. Unfortunately, the opportunities are not as many as the talent [that] the scene is rich of.

Like every field, it needs stimulation and opportunities. And this is rather challenging in an environment where art (and dance in particular) is not recognized for its value and therefore not supported. Places where dance is positively promoted are essential.

The scene is grateful to be able to thrive upon the experience of the figure heads of contemporary dance that are still around (i.e. Karima Mansour and Mohamed Shafik).

Having them in the current scene is essential for the new generations of dancers and it is highly inspiring when they are around to witness, encourage, build and inspire.

A place like Cairo Contemporary Dance Centre (CCDC), which offers (the only!) full-time professional dance education in the Middle East, is of extreme high value for the development and professionalization of the contemporary dance scene and are essential in their existence to create a sustainable field of dance.


Contemporary Dance is still somehow a new type of performance in Egypt or in the Middle East in general; in your opinion, how would you assess the Egyptian audience’s reactions towards Contemporary Dance?

As new as the contemporary dance scene is, the audience that is coming to watch it is just as new. In an environment where dance is not yet recognized for its value and potential, and where it is not a key stone in the culture, there are still many challenges ahead.

Training_and_Leadership_Collaborations_-_Sine_Forma_Facebook_page
Training and Leadership Collaborations - Sine Forma Facebook page

The current audience is mixed, but is an audience that appreciates arts: open minded thinkers, artists, and social and cultural innovators that appreciate the value of dance and, every now and then, brave people new to dance follow their curiosity based on a picture, name or topic.

I believe it’s important to keep on trying to reach those curious minds (potential audience). To do this it is essential that contemporary dance gets the chance to establish and gain more ground within the culture.

Offering diversity within the contemporary dance scene will help trigger different type of audiences.

You have choreographed many performances around the world; what does the Egyptian scene lack to be able to meet international standards in contemporary dance?

I wish my work had covered that much of the world, but life is still continuing! The Egyptian contemporary dance scene is still young and building.

When solving a theoretical task for example, can you expect the same answer, result or process from a toddler than a teenager or middle aged person?

On a individual level, there has definitely been Egyptian dancers as part of the international scene, and therefore meeting those standards and bringing them back to Egypt.

Currently there are individuals whether outside or inside that are a part of “the big game.”

Focusing solemnly on the “scene” in Egypt, I think I would fall into repetition regarding what is needed to build a sustainable contemporary dance scene that can play along on the international field.


In 2013, you established Sine Forma; could you tell me a bit about that experience?

In 2012, I was asked by a Dutch media platform to join a new television format.

They were in search of a group that could contribute something new. With that in mind and the already established need to start a platform for myself, I created “Sine Forma.”

It started as a dance company, but as I grew, so did my work, and Sine Forma became an art performance company over the developing years.

How would you evaluate the Breaking Walls Festival; were there obstacles in organization? And what was the most special performance to you that took place in that festival?

With any first time festival and organizing big scale events, there are obstacles.

Training_on_Leadership_and_Collaborations_during_the_creation_process_of_So_Far_So_Good_project_-_Sine_Forma_Facebook_page
Training on Leadership and Collaborations during the creation process of So Far So Good project - Sine Forma Facebook page

What we do is reflect and evaluate so we can grow in the process. I think the most special result of the festival is the result of shared experiences that bring a positive response towards dance, because it has been placed out of the normal context of theater in a more social environment.

Tell us a bit more about your inspirations?

My inspirations come from all around me. But people would be the most distinguished answer.


Often I get triggered by social-cultural events that trigger my self reflection or leave me with questions upon my environment. How? What? Why? My need to answer them comes from my need to understand myself and my environment better.


Mixing music, paintings and photography with choreography, what makes your performances different than other contemporary artists?

I am not unique in working inter- or multi-disciplinary. Many have been doing this before me and many will follow.

It is simply part of my artistic signature. Combining, merging and/or connecting different disciplines is a necessity for me, as I believe collaboration is key to development.

As a human being, I get often too inspired and enthusiastic by different art forms or talents that can deliver something that I can’t, to be completely satisfied and fulfilled with sticking to one outlet only. I always want to build bridges through art.

How do you think contemporary dance can smoothly be merged with a theater play?

A theater play provides a script and therefore content. Based on this, you already have several perspectives to choose from and a dramaturgical direction to determine through movement.

Dance can tell through movement where language reaches the ceiling of the intellect at times.

Combined with music, it is a strong triangle of disciplines that each can transcend in their own unique way. Combined, it is magic!

Tell me a bit about “Ignorance is Bliss” performance.

“Ignorance is Bliss” is a movement manifestation rather than a performance. You could almost experience it as a movement installation, free of form.

Facilitated by two visual artists, three dancers and two musicians, we manifested different scenes designed for and at Darb1718 specifically, with the support of the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

These scenes are based on messages [that] over 600 Dutch audience members have left behind for each other.

In 2016, I started the project #watnietweetwatnietdeert in the
Netherlands: an art performance installation presented during “Over het IJ festival 2016”.

In a period of 10 days, over 600 people gathered in a shipping container (13 every session) and answered the question “What do you leave behind for the other?”

Over 600 answers where passed through and found a more established shape and conclusion during “Ignorance is Bliss.”

Two visual artists have established artwork specifically created for this performance and based on the audience messages.

What do you think are the main characteristics of contemporary dance?

In today’s world, contemporary dance has developed to include a lot of different styles and interpretations.

I think it’s a wonderful diverse world of expression through movement where all established boundaries are being questioned, stretched or overstepped.

It’s an environment that encourages reflection and observation, release, critical thinking, aesthetics, and inspiration, all based on expression and communication through movement (whether resulting in inter- or multi-disciplinary performances or not) to establish one of the above in it’s fullest form.

Tell us more about the dancing techniques you apply in your
performances?


Based on each concept, I try to challenge myself in working with different body types and dancers with different skills.

For “Ignorance is Bliss” for example, I worked with two break dancers (Ahmed el Shamy “b-boy Heat” and Ahmed Abd el Monaaem “b-boy Cheetos”).

Most important stays for me, regardless of the technical ability, their personality, authenticity, ability to improvise and to be vulnerable.

In all my work, I mix choreography (set movement steps) with
improvisation.

This also goes for the music by the way; it’s a mixture of
a set score and improvisation, where the timing of scenes is always dependent and subject to the performance situation.

The movement improvisations are often based on their own movement language, but with a clear window of reference related to the dramaturgical development and structure of the performance.

We include practicing and training on how to develop either new movement languages based with their own as a starting point to, in the end, develop a scene.
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