Stephanie Skura, a guest of ImproEvents Prague: “Performances are like compost...”

The fifth year of the ImproEvents Prague will take place in June 2014. Thanks to this festival the Czech scene could meet some of the legends of the first generations of American postmodernism. The organizers invited them to give workshops, make video-presentations and to perform in Prague. Czech performers, dancers and other people interested in the art of improvisation will also have the opportunity this year. A guest of this year’s festival is a famous personality of American improvisational dance and performing arts Stephanie Skura, called “a major American experimentalist”. We asked her for an interview before the Czechs will have the opportunity to meet her in person.  Is it your first time in Prague? I taught in Prague for two weeks in, I believe, 1996, in a program sponsored by the National Performance Network. I also taught in Brno, both at the National Ballet School and for the National Ballet Company.  You are going to teach and perform within the ImproEvents Prague festival. What are your expectations for this event?
I’m happy the event is focused on Improvisation as an important aspect of dance, & am enthusiastic that participants will be seriously interested in improvisation as something into which one can go more & more deeply. Do you know any Czech dancers, performers or artists in general? Is there something you imagine about Czech contemporary performing arts?
I’m not currently in touch with many Czech artists, but have wonderful memories, from my last visit in the 90’s, of participants in my workshops who were rigorous, wildly imaginative, & committed to innovation & depth.  In Prague, you are going to give the workshop in your system called Open Source Forms. Could you shortly explain the aim of this approach?
Fluidly expanded from Skinner Releasing Technique (SRT), Open Source Forms (OSF) is about cross-fertilizations and deep commonalities of SRT and creative process. It is guided by the philosophy that the source of creativity and wisdom is available in each of us. OSF offers methods to access depth, specificity, courage, rigor, integration and freedom in movement, vocal practice and performance. This practice includes shedding outer layers, finding primal energy, agility navigating subconscious realms, and imagery as powerful tool for transformation. This work celebrates diversity, collaboration, and individual creative empowerment: free of inhibition, accessing intuitive knowing, and inviting the mind to collaborate. A remarkably effective and revolutionary way of learning, the OSF approach can catalyze learning and transformation in many kinds of practices, in movement as well as healing, therapy, voice, acting, and other fields of learning and creation. How did you come to create this method? What are your primary sources?
After 12 years working closely with Skinner Releasing creator Joan Skinner -- as teacher, teacher-trainer , and program developer --  I created Open Source Forms and OSF Teacher Certification Program. OSF draws deeply from the beating heart & conceptual complexity of Skinner Releasing Technique, integrated with my own research and practice during three decades of radical innovation in dance & performance. 
Since I instigated OSF in 2009, two groups of trainees have been certified to teach and customize OSF to support their own research or other practices.  
What is the principal skill or knowledge that you want to present to the participants of your workshops?
OSF is remarkably effective in catalyzing learning and healing of all kinds. A key mission is individual creative empowerment as an instigator of positive change on the planet. Also, the work tends to radically enliven our dancing & performing presence.  In previous years of ImproEvents Prague some great personalities of the first decades of American postmodern dance came to teach (Lisa Nelson, Daniel Lepkoff…). What is your relation to the postmodern dance from its beginning until nowadays?
I’ve worked with Lisa Nelson & Danny Lepkoff, who are both important colleagues. I came of age as an artist during the 70’s & 80’s in New York City, where I worked with & studied with many boundary-breaking artists, both in collaborations, me performing in their work, and they performing in my work.  While majoring in dance at New York University Tisch School of the Arts, I watched interdisciplinary boundary-breaking performances by courageous artists such as The Grand Union, Yvonne Rainier, Robert Wilson, the Wooster Group, & many innovative composers.  I performed with Meredith Monk, whom I consider an important mentor. I am a post-Judson artist, and was enormously inspired by the innovations going on during the 70’s & early 80’s. What is your opinion about today’s´ “contemporary” dance or performing arts? Do you see it as postmodern? Or post-postmodern? (Or how would you call the present situation?)
I now live in the US Pacific Northwest, though I travel half the year. I don’t see as much work as I used to when living in New York City. From what I do see, I feel that the seminal innovations that happened in dance & related disciplines during the 60’s and 70’s are still being processed and absorbed. What HAS changed, more recently, is that more different kinds of movement – other than balletic or know modern dance styles – are now being accepted as legitimate dance, which I think is a great thing. Improvisation is finally beginning to be accepted as a form that can be practiced with a high degree of mastery. How dances are made, however -- in terms of the empowerment of dancers to be expressive creative artists rather than interpreters of other artists – still, in my opinion, has a long way to go. I believe this is in part due to the nature of dance training as it has been done for hundreds of years. You are coming to ImproEvents as a teacher as well as a famous performer. Are you performing totally improvised, structured-improvised or set pieces at present? What are you going to perform in Prague?
I’m performing a solo called “Sacrilege is Needed. Competency is Hell.” It’s about 10 minutes long, integrating densely imagistic spoken text with movement that is structured improvisation. I created it, in its first iteration, for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Judson Dance, sponsored by Movement Research in December 2012. It was performed in New York City at Danspace Project, in Seattle at the Seattle Festival of Dance Improvisation in 2013, & at La Caldera in Barcelona in 2013. You are also well-known as choreographer. Could you shortly present your current activities in this field?  
My current work integrates a radically visceral approach to language and voice, & explores boundaries, intersections and interactions of movement, words and voice. In recent years, I’ve written three full-length scripts, moving into the territory where dance & theater become one. I continue, as always, to experiment with unusual movement concepts, and with exploring specific qualities in both movement and words. And finally, is it possible to present in few words your philosophy for creating and living in general?
These days, when not involved in performance or teaching, I spend a lot of time gardening, involving myself in sustainability and organic processes as these concepts manifest in many dimensions. My desire to perform and teach in a way that inspires creativity in others remains a deeply-held motivation and foundation. This is, I feel, how sustainability can manifest in performance work. Performances and workshops are like compost – fertilizing the ground for everyone’s growth and creativity.

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