Today Backyard Opera presents the premiere of Olga Dobrowolska’s ‘PRINCE,' a dance choreography filmed in Poland, and edited in New York, where Dobrowolska currently resides. It is Dobrowolska's (pronounced Dob-rov-ohl-ska) debut professional production as both director, and choreographer. Despite this however, the piece features some of the finest dancers in Poland, engineers a very sophisticated fusion dance style, cites Nietzschean philosophy, and engages with dance in a new way.
I met Olga Dobrowolska in New York earlier in the year. She'd just flown in from Poland and was ready to begin her new life, dramatically different from her transient life, always in between her hometown Starachowice, Poland, and some exotic location around the world. We met in a café in Brooklyn to discuss PRINCE, review her film rushes, and discuss the best way to edit the video. I'd seen all of Dobrowolska's more famous pieces, particularly one duet that she performed on national television, but nothing was quite like this work.
I sat down with Dobrowolska, on behalf of Backyard Opera, and talked about her project, dance, and how she's going to get her generation engaging with her.
Who are you?
I am a dancer and choreographer. However, I'm an artist who's open to all forms of expression. I play with fashion, design, music and film. Dance and choreography just seems to be a 'tool' I can use best, and which using feels best for me right now.
When did you take up dance?
My dance journey started in Poland in Starachowice, when I was a little kid. The story is, my mum took my older brother for dance class, I could barely walk at the time, and he hated it. Meanwhile, I had time of my life crawling around, trying to imitate dance moves, and so forth. When I was 3 my mum signed me up.
When did it become serious?
When I was about 12, I went to my first international workshops/dance festival, which was in Kielce. There were dancers and teachers from LA, Paris, London and all over. I got to know more styles than just the jazz and show dances we learned in my hometown. Everything about those 4 days made me want to stay in that world forever. Interesting, open minded, creative choreographers who travel all over the world sharing their visions. The unique energy of the theatre; as if we were rehearsing for some big show, working so hard you cant wake up the next day because muscles that you didn't even know existed, hurt so much. Since that time, life was about collecting money and attending as many workshops as I could. I'm still not a kid whose career was decided at the age of 3. My parents are highly educated people who wanted to provide their children with a safe future. I was actually a really nerdy kid; I loved studying science, arts theory, literature and all the good stuff. I didn't give up the academic path completely until I was 19, and in the middle of a law degree. It took time, countries to visit, experiences to live, and people to meet to realise dancing and choreography is what I want to do. I don't regret it though. I wouldn't be the same artist if I didn't live that double life. If I didn’t hunger for answers about who I am, what I want to do in my life and find that path which brought me to where I am now.
You said you thought of yourself as an artist, and dance was just the tool that felt right, why does it feel so right?
I believe dancers are born with some sort of sensitivity for music, movement, and body language. So what attracts us to dance at the beginning is a need to release accumulated energy. It's the same with all other forms of natural skills, I think. If you feel the music, you sing, if you sense the angles, you take photos, if you need to tell a story, you write, if you're naturally gifted with math, as soon as you find the way to "use it", then suddenly math feels right. Then it feels even better when you find a group of people who see and feel the world the same way, who are sensitive for the same things, who's priorities are similar. That's the state I've experienced when I first went to the workshops, then again when I first went to Los Angeles. There, I found a community with mentors. It's like if you finally opened the right doors and find your real home.
How are you going to get your generation engaging in Dance?
There's a huge dance community among our generation. There's no shortage of dancers, but the dance artwork is relevant mostly to people inside the communities. There is a lot of 'creating dance art for dancers,' with new forms being so abstract that only dancers can relate to it at any level. I believe dance is a universal language, and choreography can really send a message just as using other form of arts can. They're often symbolic, sometimes some knowledge in a certain field is required to understand the message, still some of us can just stop and admire just the form of it. I say the best picture is the one that is symbolic, readable, and understandable for as many people as possible. Having that in mind, I want to use dance to create choreography ‘pictures’ which will express what I want to share with the world, which will entertain, showcase the beauty of the art form of dancing, filming, and editing but also interest with a story, send a message, a message that will be accessible for our generation. That explains also why I choose YouTube to be my theatre.
Tell me more about dance as a universal language?
Dance is a universal language, and form of sharing the message. No matter how subjective it sounds for people I believe dance is a universal language as it's based on sharing energy and communicating through body language. I think, some styles are more based on expression of energy, like 'house', while others have syntax and grammar, like 'wacking' (originally coming from Hollywood characters poses, gestures and facial expressions, used in clubs to express and communicate). I try to mediate between the two forms of communication. I enjoy creating, sharing through choreography, my feelings, points of view, my analyses, and observations. Then watching how people of all nationalities can relate to it makes for a really nice experience.
Tell me about ‘PRINCE'?
The scene seeks to demonstrate how humans in the modern world are controlled by the ‘image of perfection.’ The ‘image of perfection’ is represented by the couple with crown masks, the dancers who perform this role were actually idols of mine growing up. The idea of perfection infiltrates our perception of our appearance and physicality, our image of a good life path, our career, ideals of family, partners, and relationships. As a modern society with easy access to media we are constantly fed pictures of ideal looks, bodies, certain fashion designs and trends, materialistic goods which determinants how well we're doing in life. ‘Images of perfection’ may be built by our parents, and our partners, who expect us to be different, do different, and choose differently. Living in such reality we're trying to achieve, often subconsciously, that perfection. As a result, we're creating alter egos, images of the perfect me that I want to become. At this point, our life becomes a constant fight or just constant confusion between the person that we are and who we want to become. The alien looking creature in the film is a guest from another planet. Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince inspired the idea of the character. The character of Prince refuses to take part in the battle with the image of perfection and eventually set himself free. He’s role in a film is to unmask the problem. Prince is able to subjectively observe and spot the worrying process as it’s an alien. Alien character is used on purpose to point out that we as humans will always be in this fight at some point.
“The project isn't about suggesting that we shouldn't be better,” Dobrowolska tells me, “it suggests personal discovery.” Although we joked that the film fits as a dramatic retelling of Dobrowolska's departure from law school, it only fits because the message is universal. It could really be applicable to anybody who aims for a life beyond the traditional boundaries, outside of the norm. "Don't think that just because you don't look a certain way," says Dobrowolska, "or don't posses certain talents you can't achieve what you truly want in life. Don't be afraid of your individuality and take your time to discover it."
The premiered video is just one scene of the big project that PRINCE is, more to come soon.
By AL KALYK
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