Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Institute of Kentish Town

Kentish Town Story Tellers
(an audio archive of stories created by visitors)
Tuesday 14th of December, 13:00-17:00

Concept/Development: Milka Panayotova
Marketing/Design: Blanca Garay and InĂªs Silva

Visitors are invited to write a short story of three things or places they like about Kentish Town and share why they have an impact on them. Their stories get recited by other visitors so that each participant gets to write their own story and read somebody else's for the voice recording. An audio archive of short stories about Kentish Town is created, which will be used for a sound installation within the exhibition space for the duration of the show.
Come and tell us your story!

For more info click here.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hemline at Somerset House

Recently I danced for a video that was to become part of an interactive installation  at the Somerset House, produced by Jason Bruges Studio (London). The work took inspiration from Loie Fuller and her skirt dances, so I enjoyed moving in a butterfly costume for a day. 
Apart from the fun, the new experience and all the package that comes with new collaborations and meeting new people, I find the piece of subtle elegance and a careful study of light and space. 
You can see it at the Somerset House by the 12th of December.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

I am back, rolling

I have officially graduated from my MA degree in Theatre: Visual Language of Performance with a distinction! My final show, Blind Trust, went really well and I am working on taking it to another venue now.
For the past month I have been looking into creative and job opportunities (the two not always go together really, but then again, that's another creative aspect of it all) and have been lucky to have a nice break from an exhausting, but indeed very productive, year. I have started going to some dance workshops at the Place,  something I hadn't had much time for during my MA year. 
Also, I recently discovered that luna parks, which have always had some kind of a 'sad and out-of-date stuck in the eighties' feeling attached to them, are beginning to involve our senses on a more personal level. A few quid to spend 10 minutes in a plastic sphere on your own, in an open field...It was a thrill!

It's called 'zorbing', and seems to be a new sport activity in fast expansion. It may only look like a simple hobby, but if you actually decide to move in a certain pattern with that ball, it does take the energy and skills!

Monday, September 13, 2010


(A participatory performance)
@ Wimbledon College of Art

Approximate duration: 15 minutes
One participant at a time on a 'first come first served' basis. Get your number!

Concept, development, set design and presentation: Milka Panayotova
Original music: Giacomo Natali
Performing: Charlie Hendren, Laura Erwin, Marta Masiero, Martina Armaro, Michael Kelland, Milka Panayotova, Rata Thuvasin

Thursday 9 September: 7:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday 10 September: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Saturday 11 September: 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm
Tuesday 14 September: 11:00 am – 1:00 pm
Wednesday 15 September: 5:00 pm – 7:30 pm

BLIND TRUST takes you on a small journey of the senses. While it sets off as a visual experience, it seeks at creating further dialogue in the absence of vision and language,
concentrating on touch and movement.

The performance is divided into two main parts: one is visual, and the other is non-visual. You are invited as the only spectator in the performative space, which you are free to explore. You will be blindfolded at a certain point and your journey will carry on by trusting your other senses as well as the performers who will guide you for the duration of the performance. Based on the notion that the absence of a certain sense contributes to the amplification of the others, ear muffs will be placed upon you and you will renounce to your sense of hearing for a few moments.While you are encouraged to respond to the performers' movements and tactile stimulus, this does not mean there is a right or wrong way of doing so. You may interact or just enjoy your non-visual tour of space, texture and movement.

High heels: While you can totally trust our performers, which will especially be the case when you are blindfolded, high heels are not an option. If you happen to be wearing a pair you can still participate, we got some flat shoes available.

Share with others what the journey was like for you: you are very welcome to leave a written or video message after the end of your journey as reference for other participants.

* Please note that you may be filmed or photographed for documentation purposes and the material could be used for promoting the show. If you do not wish to be photographed just let us know.

Friday, September 3, 2010

My web page

Here it is:
With special thanks to Marco Lodovichi, photographer and web designer.

Blind Trust

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Small lights, small changes, considerable impact

Now that the space is ready and the structure of the performance is slowly coming to life, there are the little details to take care of. Small things that make a big difference in visual and perceptive terms, all a big deal for my final piece. Things like getting all the LED lights to work in unusual ways, blocking the massive green lights of the beloved health and safety exits, so dear to the British. 
Great thing is I got the desired equipment, solved the problem with a flat screen way too big for its purpose, tried the sound system and many thanks to Eileen, got a heavy black curtain, pictured below. Can't wait for the two-day workshop with dancers leading up to the first show on the 9th of September.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Rehearsals with spectators

For the non-visual part of the show I have been trying out different movements and actions to do with the participant getting feedback from them. My first participant was Marouso. Topics that came up: trust, disorientation, fear.
I am also testing these ideas while working on the information given to participants before each one can have their private 'sensorial perception'.

Story line

A summerised story line of the performance, mapped out on the 29th July. Under development through practice and rehearsing with potential participants.

My space ready

A couple of weeks of muscle fatigue were worth it I guess, my space is all ready and newly painted now. 

Almost ready on the outside

Closing doors

Smooth walls

Floor painting

Rooms one and two seperated

Nutricion matters

Painting walls black


View from corridor (my space on the left)

Above photo taken from this angle, special tribute to health and safety

Well happy now! 

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A short story in photos

On the 19th of July I handed in my final dissertation along with the research portfolio! So glad this is over. It was fun, but glad it's over...

And now I can enjoy preparing for my final show. This is how I left my space before we broke for holidays. Packed with lots of flats and red signs keeping  away potential burglars...

And the building started, in the early morning... Two flats up already!

The risk assessment sheets are a must in Britain... Steve, our technician was too nice to explain it all in detail...

But all I care about is put flats up...

So great to get some help! A lot of help actually...

Probably I am gonna dream of those tonight...

I am always amazed at how inventive people can be, especially when they got nothing to do. That's  some chewing gum on one of the flats...not using that one...

Here we go...

Getting there...

Closing the other side, it's starting to look like real walls!

Ok it's not so boring, not just a wall...there's a lovely door too...


Will be back tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Going Final

I have been working towards my final show in September. So far I have found some dancers whom I will be meeting within the next couple of weeks. 
At college we have had a number of meetings and have finally allocated spaces for our shows, all within the theatre building. 
Here is my space plan:

I will build two rooms which will be used as performative spaces, where participants are going to be invited one by one (or two by two, still to be decided). There will also be an outdoor performative space, Dundonald playground, just opposite the college. And the nucleus of it all will be a meeting point at the foyer of the theatre, where audience members will be invited to read more about the piece and take a number  in order to participate. When their 'journey' is over, participants will be interviewed and filmed on what they have experienced and the footage will be put up on a show reel for new spectators to view. As this time there will be almost no communication between audience members during the performance, the feedback loop will take the form of digital recordings. On the other hand, the autopoietic feedback loop between performers and participants will be influenced by touch, putting spectators in a position of reconsidering the use and validity of this sense.

Here is a sketch of some of my starting point ideas as regards to spaces. I had thought of allocating a room for each sense, but considering that all our senses are connected and work together, even if some are shut, I think that inputs of different nature may work within the same space and trigger various responses from participants.

It feels great putting all my ideas together now, realising that I have a lot of material and ideas I can use from what I have produced during this year. Working towards the final show feels like just placing everything in a well-defined pattern, yet it holds the excitement of the new.

We have a short break in the next few weeks, as we have our final paper to finish along with a few more essays. So I will be working on my final theoretical paper along with the development of my final show. A nice thing about this is that it will all be done in the old fashioned manner of pencil and paper, as I will be away enjoying nature for a change. Yes, machinery stays home this time.
On my way to discovering Scotland.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

'Secret Service' at Le Volcan

I am finally able to attend one of Felix Ruckert's performances. It's Secret Service, the piece I actually got to know his company with. It's part of a small festival in Le Havre, France, at Le Volcan.

Le Volcan is a big, chimney-like structure, that resembles a volcanic mountain, as its name suggests. Only it's entirely white and is the most popular venue in Le Havre that offers a rich program of theatre, performance and music.

Strangely, I feel the excitement prior to a performance one is presenting rather than attending. I know that this piace includes no visual input, so I will not be just waiting for something to happen in visual terms. Even after having read a lot on this piece and Ruckert's work in general, I suppose it's about the personal experience and all the theory doesn't really matter now.

The foyer has been transformed into a waiting room and people are reading through the informational sheet on the performance while sipping their fruit juices. I take my number and join the crowd as I wait for my turn to come up. I am already aware that Secret Service is divided into two parts: the first is about haptic experience and is more open to interaction, while at the same time participants are being led and manipulated by performers. On the other hand, the second part concentrates on pain and pleasure and it takes part after a break following part one. This part involves the participant having most of his skin exposed, in order to have more acute sensations. The main element is that all participants are blindfolded for the whole duration of both parts. Seeing strictly prohibited.

Number 8 is on the screen and I go in. We are seated in another small waiting room, with lower lighting. We are welcomed and soon blindfolded, one by one, as we are assured we can interrupt the experience in case we didn't feel comfortable or awkward. A pair of hands take me and and from there onwards I rely on my senses of touch, smell and hearing, on my physical balance and sense of orientation. My feet are heavy on the floor as somebody massages my legs swiftly, preparing me for sightless movement. It doesn't take me too long getting used to the fact that I can not see. I begin to perceive other bodies moving withing the space, even if I hardly have an actual contact with them and after a while it's possible to distinguish the few performers that are interacting with me by their smell, skin texture, weight or style of movement. I find myself walking and changing directions, running till I have no breath left, dancing, playing hide and seek and I even manage to hold somebody on my legs while lying down on my back. Performers are really good at manipulating me and yet I feel my body is free, maybe due to the fact that I am so cautious with it. Every little movement is thought and planned at first, but after a while I feel more confident to move around and it's amazing how complete the experience is given that language and visual input, the most widely used in every day life, are completely eliminated. It seems normal to talk with my body, move with my ears and see with my skin. It's over before I know it, a pair of hands lead me back to where I was blindfolded in the first place. I am back sitting on the sofa and I feel a cool glass placed in my hands. 'Here, have some water'. Before I know it my blindfold has been taken off. I drink the water and stick around for a few more minutes. On my way out I pop a couple of grapes in my mouth and I am again in the foyer.

There are more people waiting to go to part one, and some of them are probably here for part two. As I come out their eyes are on me, probably hoping to understand more about the performance, maybe they are just comparing faces that come out of the performative space, or maybe I simply find it unusual to look at or be looked at right after Secret Service part one. Strangely enough I feel uneasy walking towards them, as I am still adjusting my seeing-moving balance and involuntarily letting go of my haptic/auditory receptive instincts. Walking feels somehow very artificial now that i can compare ti with the space around me. But I start realising why people are actually looking. It's the only way of gathering information, especially from somebody they don't know. But now, to me, seeing is still quite irrelevant. I feel empty looking at them. I cannot smell them or touch them, or feel the way they breathe. My other senses have developed so quickly over the past forty-five minutes (which seemed much shorter) that I actually find it difficult to simply go back to relying on my eyes and shutting down my other tools for perception.

The intimacy of the first part made it feel like a very personal experience, even though audience members were in the same space at the same time. The fact that we would never see that space and the people who interacted with us probably freed us from the preconceptions of worrying how we would look in the others' eyes. Even though performers could actually see participants, it didn't really matter, because eye contact, which is what makes us the most conscious of how somebody else is, was not part of it. Being impossible to judge by the looks of somebody, we got used to recognising everyone through using our other senses in a more acute way.

Unable to see absolutely anything, at the same time, triggered a lot of visual input, which was obviuosly a response of the brain to what the other senses were sending out to it. This may as well mean that seeing with your skin, nose and ears, became just like seeing with your eyes. The very same mechanism was adopted by the human body, only it became evident through experience. Were we provided the luxury of using our eyes, the visual input would have overwhelmed and suppressed any other sense, which, in the case of blindfolding, was able to recreate reality through personal interpretation, making reference to past memories. Although it is true to say that any kind of input, be it visual, auditory, haptic or olfactory affects how we perceive and interpret, since vision is our principle means for perception, we tend to not only trust it most, but consequently share experience with others based upon it, for example describing something by how it looks. This is why I think that the perception brought about by the other senses, rather than vision, tends to be more personal, due its high indescribability.

Soon it's my turn for the second part. The procedure is more or less the same, except from the fact that before I get blindfolded I am asked whether I want to be handcuffed too. I am aware that this part does require the participant to be more submissive and concentrates on pain and pleasure, but it feels strange to set another restriction: movement. Fortunately I have a few minutes to decide, while the other two participants who have come in with me readily accept to be handcuffed. It actually made a big difference that they were there and I am sure that different participants would have influenced me in another way, according to how many went for it or not. The assistant sees that I am hesitant and assures me I can do whatever I want, just as in the first part, letting me know that the handcuffs remain for the whole duration of the piece (I didn't miss asking that little detail). In the end I go for it, after all it's probably the only time I can put myself in this situation without any possible negative results. It's voluntary, it's a game and it can stop whenever I wish. Actually, the perfect opportunity to get yourself handcuffed.

Again, a pair of hands takes me into an invisible space and my hands are clipped above my head, so that I am almost completely immobile. I can only perceive slight movements around me and am expecting something to happen. I start hearing some kind of whipping noises and am ready for a hit coming from any direction. However, it's first a tickle on my back. I am certain that it's going to turn into something harsher as I can hear has already happened to somebody else. And when it does, I can hardly hold my laughter. Somehow, as I knew what was about to happen, the actual happening of it didn't really have much significance at first on a physical level. The performer 'hitting' me also started laughing. With the little movement I was entitled to I start moving and trying to escape the whips and I get some smacks on my feet for that. I experience some horrible pinching around my waist and I am almost sure it's a needle. And here I dare to ask whether is so (and now that I think about it of course it was impossible)...'No, it goes like this' as I get another one on my stomach and I realise it's a peg. It stays there and I have no way of getting it off even though I try flexing and contracting my stomach muscles to get it off. It stays there and I also get one that closes my nose. Here I manage to reach with my hands and take it off, but realise that I was not supposed to as the performer behind me laughs along with me and grabs the peg from my hands. I recognise his laughter from part one. He is one of the strongest guys.

I keep on picturing how I look, something I was not worried about in the first part. The restrictions and the fact that I am being exposed in this way makes me feel awkward. I want to be able to do something about it. While the first part was more interactive, this one tests the participant's feelings of pleasure and pain. My legs are tight together with a rope, then gently untied. By now, performers have probably realised I need a break. My hands are freed at last, and I can feel the blood flowing back to the tips of my fingers. I am covered with a blanket and held and hugged for a long time before I am taken back to where I started.

This was definitely the more difficult part to participate in, because it carried a certain deal of psychological involvement, whereas in part one, reactions tended to be more spontaneous. In part two one was confronted with pain, and for as much as one is resistant, when pain doesn't have a well-defined reason, the way one reacts to it or resists it may change drastically. Probably this is the reason why I got tired of it at some point, I felt trapped in it and there was not a set goal for it. It was a test of pain and pleasure offered, but its anonymity and setting (a safe performative environment) made it hard to realise one's limits of pain. Of course, pleasure is another story. While with pain one is inclined to set his limits according to what the pain brings him eventually, except from if one sees pain as pure pleasure, is that pleasure is enough to feel satisfied with and not ask yourself whether it is going to bring you something because it already makes you feel good.

Another point to be made here, regarding pain, is that not seeing what and how it was inflicted, made it feel much stronger and real than what it really was. I must say that after the performance I hadn't even a suggestion of any kind of pressure on my body, considering the fact that I bruise way too easily. This also suggests that the performers were very well trained in order to be able to give strong sensations when they were not really so significant. Thus, the 'make-believe' effect was not only given by the fact that we were blindfolded but also by the training and preparations of the performers.

What is unique about Secret Service is that it is neither about performers nor about participants. The complex communication created between the two lays in its foundations, making the ephemirality of performance evident each time it takes place. It does, at the same time, hold a clear distinction between the two, making it possible for haptic interaction that is allowed to develop following a certain pattern, thus setting the limits of what can or cannot happen. Further, it makes dance and movement accessible to audiences that may not normally choose a dance performance to a theatre piece for example, or a rock concert. While body language alone, especially as employed by contemporary dancers and choreographers is abstract and thus open for broad interpretation, spoken language is more direct and therefore less abstract. This is why dance often has a specific dance audience, which often has some sort of a dance/movement background. Secret Service however, takes away the visual from dance, preventing an interpretation based on what is seen, so making dance acccessible to anyone through the immediacy of touch.

There are very few performances that have stayed with me for a long time once thay are over, and from talking to people I have found that this is very common. As Tim Etchells has said, if a performance doesn't touch you in any way, your mind going back to it every now and then, then it is not worth it. While this may be considered a very total point of view, which merits another chapter here, Secret Service is definitely one of those worth it. Moreover, its audience circumference is far greater than many other works which have a more specific target, yet remaining truthful to dance theatre and audience participation, beautifully making the sense of touch its main element at the same time.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Vedo. Show vs Share

Few days ago it was open studio's day, as a lot of people came in for the private view of the BA show. A chance to 'show' your work and advertise our final in September. In this case, the word 'show' literally stood for itself, as everyone around was hungry to see and see and see something. Oh, of course drinking comes together with that! I don't know if they were looking for beauty, content, political awareness, amazing stories or whatever else one's tastes and interests are. It was certainly not the right context to share your work and ideas. 
And since my work is about involvement and participation, it was certainly not the right venue for me. 
Aim: offer a simple game, giving two options to potential paticipants. Put part of my final show to the test.
Why: Experiment, examine people's responses, get feedback.
Result: for the whole day, one person only (a friend) spared five minutes to participate. 
It was clearly a fine art environment, where people were not interested in anything that involved a performative discipline. I certainly do hope that in September we will get more open audiences.