Dramatic Fields held its kick off seminar in October, 2021. After a successful event, we asked some participants about their experience and thoughts about the workshop! The following interview was held with Elena Kosovec, a circus artist from Lithuania.
What has been your experience with Dramatic Fields so far?
For me the Dramatic Fields workshop was a very welcoming space to talk about a topic I’m very passionate about: circus dramaturgy. I feel that the workshop was curated in a way that gave us a lot of freedom to express ourselves. We would have discussions, catch different topics and continue with them. It was a sandbox for people who want to talk about dramaturgy and learn more. I really enjoyed it because in my everyday life and circus community i don’t always find this space. It made me realize that I want to do these kinds of things more, and I want to continue talking about it. That’s the overall feeling I had after the workshop.
Why do you think Dramatic Fields is important for circus now?
I would say because contemporary circus as an art form is developing more and more and we face more questions about what the work is about, what we want to say, and we want to say things as well. I feel like learning more about dramaturgy, whatever that means in a circus context, because it’s not the same as theatre dramaturgy. We [circus artists] are thinking more about the meaning of what we do so we have to explain it better. The audience is also adapting along with us, wanting more meaning in what we do. So I think it’s very important for circus artists to get familiar with dramaturgy as a tool.
Is it fair to say that circus is at a point where it needs to develop its own understanding of dramaturgy? That you are taking influences from multiple spaces, and these types of meetings play a role in creating an understanding of what is dramaturgy in circus?
Yes and No. There is this overall understanding of what dramaturgy is within circus that stems from traditional circus. It’s been around for quite a while, but I believe that now more and more circus artists themselves are getting interested in it. Before it used to be specific to dramaturgs or researchers. Now I hear more interest within the circus community between artists. I wouldn’t say we are defining circus dramaturgy during these meetings, but rather finding a common understanding of why we need it and what the essential tools are that we can take from it. I don’t think that every circus artist has to be an expert in dramaturgy, but the tools we can find in this field can be very beneficial for us.
When it comes to your own artwork, what are you looking for in dramaturgy? Why is it important for your creations?
I really like the process of giving hints and receiving hints when I see a show or create a show. Assuming that what I see on stage is there on purpose is a very fun game. I would love to create shows that make people wonder and open up their imagination. To do that I need to know how to create these images that they see and make them think, create associations.
This is also stepping outside of circus as a physical form, looking at it as a production or show.
Yes, I would say so. I think that lately the shows I enjoy the most are where the creators use all of their tools, not just their physicality. Like, if you write poetry, using that text on stage, if their visual arts are incorporated. This is what shows the soul of this person, this creator the most. And I really enjoy it. I don’t believe in limiting yourself to one discipline in order to express yourself. If you have more tools, then please use them. That’s what makes you cool, that’s what makes you unique as an artist.
What are the next steps for you, what do you want to develop in this area: the next tool you want to learn as an artist?
Actually I would love to simply have more practice. I’ve been thinking about dramaturgy for so long, and I’ve done a course on it some years ago. During the Dramatic Fields workshop it was so good to just be able to talk about it and have it in my real life, not just in my head. I talk about it as much as I can, but now I want more practice. To implement it, experiment, discuss. Yes, discussions are important. To watch shows with people and analyse the tools we see and ways creations are approached. Basically to flex this dramaturgical muscle.
Is this also what you think is important in Dramatic Fields as a concept and an event? Having an opportunity to discuss and share without judgement or the expectations of a creation.
Yes definitely. And it is a judgement free space. It’s so nice to have this open space and the way it’s managed. I really appreciate how Jarkko [Lehmus] manages the whole process. It really feels like we are all equals. He is great at catching the ideas and tries to dig into why it is being said. And the dramaturgy of the workshop itself is very interesting. I find it very important to have this open space with like-minded people.
Do you think it can lead to a bigger development? Is it something that will stay in these discussions which are very important. But do you think it will develop further?
I hope it does. At least in a sense that it won’t just be a one-time thing. Maybe a recurring meeting. Also incorporating more practice, like showing our own works, which sounds a bit scary to me right now, but I think it could be very valuable. Because I feel like there is an illusion around dramaturgy, like it’s a big word. As if you have to be a dramaturg. No, dramaturgy is there to make sense of what you are doing. In a way that other people would understand. I think it would be really beneficial to practice it more.
What are some standout moments from the discussions that you’ve had within Dramatic Fields?
We had a discussion about what always happens in circus. So essentially cliches. When you discuss something that is always being said, that is perceived as a widely acknowledged truth or concept, it is an exciting place to explore. It was amazing, because when you boil it down and try to find the things that really always happen, I found that there weren’t that many. It shows that each work has a really strong meaning. it’s rare to be able to be a nerd about words and meanings. That was such a pleasant experience for me.
What do you think are the main points that Dramatic Fields is trying to achieve?
The first thing that comes to my mind is just making circus artists more familiar with the topic of dramaturgy and making them more comfortable with it. But this is a very subjective opinion of mine and is not necessarily the main goal for the organizers.
As someone who’s experienced a lot of different approaches to teaching circus, do you think that generally conversations about dramaturgy are missing?
Oh yeah. Which was weird for me, and not weird at the same time. Because circus is a very physical discipline, we concentrate a lot on the physical, the trick. It’s almost like the next step is something that you as an artist have to develop later on your own, or later in life. At least in my experience the concept of expressing yourself is being taught in a very simplified way. I believe in some schools this is very deeply discussed. But in general I think it’s a bit simplified, and if circus would be taught as other art forms, there would be more focus on that. But I also think that circus is still in transition between a craft and an art. And maybe not even in transition, but it’s a combination and that’s why it’s hard to understand what is necessary. You can approach it in so many different ways. .. Contemporary circus dramaturgy is anyway based a little on traditional circus dramaturgy. You can’t get away from the fact that we are doing the same thing. This is also an interesting part to accept, to accept the tools that traditional circus proposes.
Is there anything else you would like to share about this experience?
I am thankful. I am thankful to have the space for this and I’m looking forward to more of it. I jumped on this train really fast and didn’t think too much when applying. But I’m really glad I did. I would encourage more people to do the same. They will be surprised at how good it feels to be here.
Elena Kosovec is a contemporary circus artist from Vilnius, Lithuania. Her main discipline – aerial rope. She started practicing aerials in 2015, learned rope technique in various courses and schools in Barcelona, Turin and through continuous individual practice and research. In 2016 together with a couple of other circus artists, she created Taigi Cirkas company. Since 2018 Elena has been the head and co-founder of the Contemporary Circus Association of Lithuania. In 2019 she obtained a circus dramaturgy certificate from ESAC (Belgium) and CNAC (France) circus schools. Elena has a strong passion for raising awareness of mental health and breaking the stigma around it, this topic has a huge influence on her creative work.
Dramatic fields is a project that, together with the participants from Baltic and Nordic countries, explores the structures and practices of meaning making in circus, ie. circus dramaturgy.