ImproEvents Prague 2013 - Few Questions for Iva Bittová, David Zambrano and K. J. Holmes

In May 2013, the fourth year of the festival ImproEvents Prague took place. As the name suggests, it is a week full of improvisation, all in the form of intensive day-long workshops, performances and screenings with commentaries. The word "event" may refer to well-known events in early American postmodern dance and even this link is not completely wrong either. Leading personalities in the field of improvisation from overseas come to Prague to take part in the festival, in recent years, these included performers associated with the 1970s and 80s, especially with the beginnings of contact improvisation, such as Lisa Nelson and Daniel Lepkoff.

The personalities that came to run improvisation workshops this year were of a somewhat younger generation, nevertheless, of no less renowned names. Between June 3rd and June June 7th, dancers, dramatists, philosophers and other improvisers got together on the morning workshops led by David Zambrano, performer and teacher coming from Venezuela, whose name has gained a significant reputation in European contemporary dance scene over the past years. In the afternoon, participants improvised and became immersed in research under the guidance by K. J. Holmes, an American improviser, who became recently devoted to Yoga and Body-Mind Centering.

On May 5th and 6th, both instructors met on the stage after many years in two – naturally improvised – performances. Moreover, a famous Czech improviser Iva Bittová, known for her improvisations with voice, violin and other instruments was invited to perform too. Collaboration with David Zambrano was nothing new for her as both artists had known each other from several joint projects already. However, as for K. J. Holmes, she met her for the first time.

On the first evening of improvisation called TRI-O the audiences heard the voice of Iva Bittová from beneath the stage, David Zambrano and K. J. Holmes entered the rugged space of Studio ALTA – Hall 30, illuminated by spotlights lying on the floor, from both sides. In the beginning, some might have believed that they would see the performance of two dancers and a musician. However, who but these three improvisers would use both their vocal chords and movement. I asked each of the artists about the difference between vocal and movement improvisation and their feelings about the unique meeting in TRI-O. David Zambrano How did the idea of you, K. J. Holmes and Iva Bittová performing together arise? Did the organisators of ImproEvents come up with it?
No, it came from me. I performed with Iva Bittová before and I liked it very much. And then for the last maybe 10 years I‘ve been trying to combine workshops with performances. Since I was coming back to Prague (David Zambrano performed in October 2012 in Studio ALTA, author’s note) I thought it would be nice to invite Iva for a duet so I proposed it to the festival if it was be possible. And then they also asked me with whom I would like to share the week. They proposed different people and I selected K. J. and I thought maybe K. J also wants to perform with us. So it started from me but then the organisation made it possible for the three of us. How was it for you to perform for the first time in this constellation?
It was a nice suprise. I haven´t performed with K. J. for I think 20 years and with Iva I performed only with her, the two of us. So the combination helped me to see other ways of K. J. and also Iva and including myself. It was nice, challenging and inspiring. Is there any difference between improvisation with voice and with body movement for you?
I have never seen it like that. Since I started dance whatever comes through my body is possible to use. And sound and movements go through each other, they are interconnected with each other. They come through my body so I have to let them go and transmit them. So everything that comes through I can play with spontaneously. Are you planning some other performances with musicians in next months?
I have many projects especially the upcoming two years.
Next year I do the performance of my composition Passing through in the Biennale di Venezia with a life drummer from Belgium. K. J. Holmes How was it for you to perform for the first time in this constellation? Was it suprising?
Yes, I think so. It has been very nice to be taking David´s class and then David taking mine so we had exchange. I think we share the world of improvisation and performance even if we haven´t performed together.
The suprising thing was how much we met each other in many ways: Iva was moving, me and David were singing, and then dramas came up, and the interaction with the audience.
There was also to let something larger happen and then you can take it or let it go. That´s what was very interesting. That´s something which was out of my control and you can note that you can either go into it or let it change. I think there was suprise in that way and how we were composing.

What is for you the difference between improvisation with the voice and with the body movement?
I think in this point, when I am bringing different interests together, it is really hard for me not to use my voice. But I also sometimes don´t move and I use my voice. I really sing songs and that´s very different to learn piece of music and work with other musicians. And there is other time when I am really moving and the body is doing the singing. So I think it depends on situation but last night there was an invitation because of the music. And I love that kind of music, the Moravian music, and the quality of the violin and Iva´s voice and there is also something stimulating in this country too. I think there is something that gets revealed. Are you planning now some other performance with a singer or a musician?
In New York I am developping a new piece that I have been working on for almost a year, but very slowly because I am an artist in residence in the organisation called Movement research. I am bringing together my voice, the movement, some text. In the next couple of months I don´t really have any performances. I had one in New York just a few weeks ago showing where I am in the development of this new piece. This summer I will be just in rehearsal and I have other residency to just develop. My idea is to perform it in the fall of 2014.
It is a group performance. There are two other dancers and myself and a cellist right now. But I am interested to work with a violinist as well. It is an idea that it is a solo but we are all the parts of the same solo. It is like in Body Mind Centering, we are looking at different systems. So within this dance we are all parts of the same person but we are not the same. It is not about relationship between us, it is a relationship of us. Iva Bittová What was it like for you to work with David Zambrano and for the first time with K.J. Holmes? Was it somehow surprising?
Surprising was the fact that we did not have a single problem. As if the three of us already knew each other for many years and worked together for a long time. There was no obstacle. So it was really nice.
K.J. is an incredible creature that is youthful, she is just open. I think for her it was new too as it was the first time she heard me live. And actually, thanks to this improvisation and collaboration that was completely random, we became very close. Basically, you do not even have to say anything and you know about each other. It's just a very powerful and good experience. What is the difference for you between improvisation with voice and improvisation with movement?
I think it's all related. Unfortunately I do not have a trained body, in terms of dance. I grew up with ballet, so I am close to it, only in my second half of life I devote more hours to exercise on my instrument. I just consider all components - voice and theater, acting, movement involved, very important. My opinion is that if you want to present yourself in front of an audience, you should be able to do all these things and do them well. It is important to me in what condition I am physically because it affects the mental condition. And because KJ and David are so natural and also in modern dance there is a possibility that I can get involved, I like the collaboration and I have more experience with dancers around the world. Are you preparing a project with dancers in future?
With the theater Farm in the Cave I'm doing a huge Stravinsky project next year. So there are also dancers. We will sing, we will move, we will do crazy things.
Foto: Vojtěch Brtnický

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