Julyen Hamilton at ImproEvents Prague 2015

Julyen Hamilton at ImproEvents Prague 2015

Julyen Hamilton at ImproEvents Prague 2015

At the beginning of March 2015 Julyen Hamilton taught, lectured and performed in Prague. Needless to say, the ImproEvents Prague festival once again proved to be no disappointment. This year (the sixth overall in the history of the festival) was marked by several changes. First of all, instead of taking place in late spring it was held from March 2nd to March 8th. Secondly, unlike previous guests, the visiting lecturer and performer was not an American. What remained, however – or if it has slightly changed, then only in a positive way ​​– is the quality and experience that ImproEvents provide. English-born globetrotter Julyen Hamilton, who is now mostly living in Spain is – just as all the guests of previous years – no stranger to improvisational techniques. Many years of dance, theatre and of course the overall life experience are reflected in both his pedagogical work and performances. I would summarize my impression of him as: "He does not need to pretend anything."
Through Detail, Exploring (almost) the Whole World
Julyen Hamilton indulges in a research of presence in our physical reality. He goes in-depth and into detail, explores and anatomizes various principles and through them gets to a more general context. During the workshop we studied the way our bodies behave in a reality where gravity and verticality meet, in the Cartesian view straight and perpendicular to horizontality, which is manifested in a much more complex way in a living human body. We discovered the natutal relations of the way our skeletons are composed and how the body touches the floor. Only now do I realize Julyen Hamilton's mastery of putting seemingly incompatible things into perspective (one of my dance teachers told me once that this was one of the main characteristics of an artist and I do agree with her). The tasks that Julyen gave addressed the fundamental principles in their naked simplicity. At the same time he associated them with his interpretation of laws of the universe (from those formulated by scientists such as Galileo and Einstein that are nowadays officially scientifically recognized to his references to theories that are – maybe not for long – considered scientifically unproven hypotheses). In his interpretation physics and biology smoothly and casually merged with philosophical examples, references to the art of all genres and various social events.

But the whole thing was first and foremost about "making some dances", and so we did. If someone finds all that was mentioned above irrelevant, it is because they have not experienced the workshop. In the group of twenty-eight participants, we were moving in the hall of Studio Alta with great attentiveness to both ourselves and to the others (what a work with space that for the whole week I had never felt that we would get in each other's way!). We created physical compositions from solos to performances for twelve people. We worked with the composition as it was created in that particular moment. We worked with phrasing of the movement. We explored states of mind and body, which communicates with the audience. I can honestly say that all compositions that we created one by one were to me, both from the perspective of a performer and of the theatregoer, a unique, powerful experience. (I follow Julyen’s deliberate avoidance of the word "improvisation", because according to him, it can lead to negligence or underestimation of the meticulous work that is behind every composition created in a particular moment of time.

by the Master of Composition of Every Moment

This year of the ImproEvents festival included a lecture and screening (which took place as early as Monday, March 2nd) and an instructor performance as well. A brand new space of Studio Alta was crowded to the roof that evening and Julyen Hamilton came and filled it with his presence.

Of course I cannot write about my impression of the performance of Play, disregarding the hours that I had spent with the performer at the workshop both before and after the event. In Play, I watched Hamilton's ease and precision of his movement and voice (in the sense of ease and effortlessness with which everything was performed, not in the sense of the dynamic quality in his performance that is often very sharp). I felt the overall structure of the production, which was compact, following some intrinsic logic, yet surprising at the same time, I felt great openness and clarity of his intentions. I saw a live demonstration of what "dynamic" (instead of static) image means, which is not related to the amount of movement or sound, but rather to the state in which the performer creates it. I saw an overwhelming presence in the physical reality of the body, which gives rise to "open metaphors". I started to comprehend why Julyen claimed that a pure physical presence does not create abstraction and why he mentioned the possibility of its understanding from the social and political perspective...
Apparently, everyone in the audience found his or her own interpretation of Play as much as the openness of metaphors allows. To me, the show was very topical and political without imposing any opinions, in the words of Julyen Hamilton "it left some open wounds" (which certainly does not mean that I was harmed in any way). I understood what it means when someone is able to deal with objects on the stage meaningfully, and there was a good deal of them  (a long rod, chairs, buckets full of metal cylinders...). I felt the way a presence in the reality of space made it malleable, which in this case was further intensified by the distinctive lighting design (at one point the soloist with props evoked a crowd of thousands).
Anyway, Play was much more than a mere demonstration of the elements of Julyen Hamilton's work, some of which he shared with workshop participants. To me personally, it was an unforgettable, multi-layered, yet clear experience. Inexpressible by words. So, what else to say? If you have the opportunity to see Julyen Hamilton in person (or at least on screen), do not miss it.
Review of the ImproEvents Prague festival, held from March 1st to March 8th, 2015 and of the performance that took place on March 5th at Studio Alta.

Translation: Tomáš Valníček

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