Silvia: Ciao Tamas. You have had a great career and an impressive experience in the field of contemporary dance, but I’ve read that you’ve also had a training as a classical ballet dancer. Could you describe your career path as a professional dancer?
Tamas : Hello Silvia, Yes. I’ve started with a nine year long Vaganova training at the Hungarian National Dance University. Afterwards however I’ve had a Contemporary dance career. I’ve worked most notably with Jan Fabre in Antwerpen and then from there I went on to work with The Frankfurt Ballet, under the directorship of William Forsythe. This became my most formative experiences in dance. The Frankfurt Ballet was a truly exceptional period in dance history and I was very lucky to be a part of that group.

Silvia: Were you dancing with the Ballet Frankfurt or have you been also a part of the Forsythe Company?
Tamas: I was part of the Frankfurt Ballet for almost a decade and I’ve done a few projects with the Forsythe Co as well.

Sylvia: This must have been a very thrilling and challenging experience for a “classical” dancer to work with Forsythe.
Tamas: Yes it was. That experience really changed my views completely on dance and art making. It altered my views on what dance can be.. what it can represent and also how a dance performance can be created. What was most impressive was to see how the processes of creation were changing with every new production we’ve made. There was never a formula on how Bill ( Forsythe) created a ballet. Each new creation had a completely new process and so we’ve redefined also what that could become along the way. The influence of this is still everywhere today.
This was the main reason why our company was so far ahead of everyone else in the dance world. We’ve had a chance to experiment and really recreate how dance can be seen and experienced. We’ve had a lot of visitors and collaborators, some incredibly knowledgeable neuro-scientists, martial arts masters, even forestologists, architects, fashion designers and some very fertile creative minds. For example, at different times we’ve delved very deep into physiotherapy or PNF exercises and used their influences to create dance material and defining qualities of movement. I’ve understood from these experiences a great deal about how the body learns and perceives movement. This became the foundation to what I do now as a teacher. As we’ve used a lot of improvisation in our creations, we’ve also created the Forsythe Improvisational Technologies. This shift has also opened the door for a whole new wave of choreographers.

Silvia: You’ve opened the door to everyone to explore this new philosophy. I’ve seen many of your performances and they were truly amazing theatrical experiences.
Tamas: Indeed. After traveling for so many years around the globe, I’ve brought my influence to a great variety of dance institutions and universities in the US, UK, Australia, Germany, France, Italy, Finnland, Sweden, Denmark, Japan, Turkey, Korea, Holland, Hungary, etc, but also taught at the Prix de Lausanne, or helped to set up a Contemporary Dance Competition in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve brought a lot of this very important influence to the outside world from Frankfurt. I’ve became kind of a self appointed ambassador and planted many seeds all over the world. Bringing new information everywhere and helping to open minds on how dance can be created and experienced.

Silvia: So you’ve put together all these incredible knowledge and you’ve had your own influence as well in fact. Tamas, could I ask, what do you see today as the most interesting “trend” or changes in the landscape of dance arts?
Tamas: I think one of the greatest shifts today is on How we view dance. It is very different from some ten or twenty years ago, because today we watch a lot of dance on our cell phones. There’s an endless stream of dance clips on Facebook, TikTok and Instagram. We are looking at few seconds of dance. Impressive little moves and structures, but it’s a very different experience to seeing dance in a live performance. Sometime I fear that the eye can get saturated by these short videos and miss out on the genuinely fulfilling experience of watching a live performer. So I think this is a big shift today. Also there is a great difference today about how versatile and adoptable professional dancers have to be to function well in a repertoire company. If a young dancer enters into an already existing group, they must be able to switch between very different dance styles from piece to piece, from rehearsal to rehearsal.
There is a very big shift between a Neo-classical work and then doing a piece by Ohad Naharin or a Cunningham piece. Totally different mindsets are needed for them and also totally different physicality. Even if you take away the neoclassical repertoire, the change necessary to access works at a high level is crucial to make it in the dance world today. Being a good mover would get you to work with a single choreographer quite easily. This happens in the
freelance scene a lot, but to be versatile, you must learn very fast and be very accurate with your observations and be great at the Act of Listening. So versatility is very interesting to me… What I am trying to bring to dancers is the capacity to learn fast and adapt quickly.

Silvia: You are very right. The Fitness of the mind is very important. I remember when I spoke to Ted Brandsen (director of Dutch National Ballet), he told me that it is now impossible for a professional dancer to have a long period of time to enter the world of a choreographer. Even the choreographers themselves have to learn how to transmit and give their works over very fast. You as the former co-director of the Royal Ballet of Flanders, you must know from experience how important it is to use the short time frames very well. This is very important. I’ve heard in the past of contemporary choreographers who’d have 50-60 days for a production.
Tamas: That would be lot of time… In Flanders we could only offer 125 rehearsal hours for a visiting choreographer to create a new work. For a 20-40 minutes piece, everything had to fit into that time period. That was all we could give to engage our dancers and create a piece. There were also other pieces being rehearsed so you couldn’t waste time. Dancers had to learn qualities as well as steps and spacings, timings and everything else. To give you an example, in Flanders during my two years of directorship we’ve had the most extraordinary variety of choreographers. We presented works by Pina Bausch, (Cafe Muller) Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham, William Forsythe, Bejart (Bolero) Spartacus by Yuri Grigorovich, Sleeping Beauty by Marcia Haydee, works by Kilian, Hans Van Manen, Ohad Naharin, Crystal Pite, Hofesh Schechter, Akhram Khan, Cherkaoui, Edouard Lock, Nijinski’s Faun, Jonah Bokaer (choreographer to Robert Wilson’s operas) and many more … so you can imagine the versatility that this required.

Silvia: So this will be a new way of seeing the business for Italian dancers.
Tamas: Yes perhaps, it will be a great way to enter into seeing the current world of dance for those that are doing it with genuine passion. I’d like to offer a way to see that there is a difference between activity and achievement. I’m interested in the sense of achievements that dance can bring along. I see it as a life experience as well. So my aim is to prepare dancers that can enter into the world and meet its challenges better equipped. When you encounter a new choreographer’s work, you must be useful and useable immediately to them. There’s not a long period of adjustment available unfortunately.

Silvia: I see that you have already prepared a sort of syllabus for that.
Tamas: Yes of course… it’s clear how I’d like to start and to proceed.

Silvia: And do you have already an idea about whom you’d like to invite or involve as outside teachers?
Tamas: Yes I do … I’d love to tell you some names, but until we have things on paper and agreed upon, unfortunately I can’t announce names. I’d like however to start at the higher end and involve established people that can bring us great influence. Sadly for now I can’t say out names loud. But … no one will be disappointed, I can promise that.

Silvia: So you’d like to introduce some of the main influences from the dance encyclopedia. I also want to ask you, what kind of dancers are you looking for? Who is an ideal student?
Tamas: They have to be honestly interested to commit. They will have to be honest about doing the necessary work and to have an intelligent mindset about it. I would like to find dancers that can engage with the process of learning deeply. Unfortunately there is never enough time for that so engagement and mindset is very important. Their heads need to be in the right place. I want to offer my knowledge to those that can make the best use of it.

Silvia: I understand your point of view very much. It seems that Italian dancer’s (students) don’t have a lot of experience about the outside world so it is a great opportunity that you can bring an international approach to them. This can be very nurturing for the students.
Tamas: I would like to create a sort of new mindset here. A kind of “Montessori” school of dance. A place that helps each student to discover their own best potential and strengthen them in that and allow their authenticity to shine through their dancing. These are young people and they might not yet know how to develop their own qualities and understand the value of those qualities. I would like to help them to gain confidence in becoming themselves and then to be able to present themselves to the world. Then… they will be graceful and beautiful performers that we will want to watch on stage.

Silvia: When I speak with my students, I tell them that it is always visible to an audience if their heart, mind and body are well connected. It’s observable and very satisfying to see. You have to use all you have to reach the audience and gain their attention.
Tamas: I agree. We see authenticity. If you’re present on stage you are also graceful and this is a genuine joy to see. We connect with the performer in those moments when they are present and playful and confident in their excellence.

Silvia: So you are not set on certain body types?
Tamas: That will certainly not be my main focus. More than anything I’d like to have a diverse group, both racially as well as in bodies. I look for qualities and the body-mind connection that we spoke of. The grace in dance doesn’t come from the shape of the body, but from a connection and the ability to use the body to express something tangible to an audience. In Frankfurt Ballet we’ve had very diverse bodies and it always inspired me to see the difference on how those bodies moved. I see much beauty in that. We’ve had women of all sizes and all of them were exceptional in their dancing. My former colleague, Emily Molnar (current Artistic Director of NDT) is someone who comes to my mind when I think of that. Tall and voluptuous with incredible stage presence. But there were many others around me, Tony Rizzi, Francesca Harper, Alan Barnes all had extraordinary abilities but very diverse body types from the regular ballet norm.

Silvia: I remember those days and it was always a surprise to come to see your performances. We never knew what to expect on stage. I remember Alien/ac/tion with Geishas rapping in the second act. It was absolutely amazing to see something like that in a ballet.
Tamas: How fantastic that you’ve seen that show. It seems that it’s memory still charges you up. It was an incredible piece, one of the firs ones I’ve danced in Frankfurt. I even had a solo in the first act. I’m not sure if you know, but there were radically different versions of that piece. At some point Bill changed it completely. From one version to the next, what happened on stage was something entirely different than the previous shows. Bill did that a lot. He was not afraid to radically alter something. It was his piece and if he’d seen something he wanted to change, he did it.

Silvia: Tamas So if all goes well, you’ll start in September… Where do you live now?
Tamas: The plan is that I will be visiting Florence as often as possible from September onwards and work with the dancers, as well as oversee the process they make with the visiting teachers. I’d like to spend as much time with the students in the studio as possible.

Silvia: Another question, I see that you are also emphasising Dance History for the students. Why do you think this is important?
Tamas: Yes … I find it very important that they have good knowledge of dance history. It will help them a great deal to see the evolution of our Art form and value it deeply.

Silvia: Knowing the past will help them to value the present.
Tamas: I feel that most of todays young student’s don’t know much of dance history unfortunately. Although they see a lot of dance online, not knowing much of greats like Martha Graham or Cunningham or even Forsythe. They don’t really know or understand the importance of these choreographers.

Silvia: So Academics is important to you.
Tamas: It is, but to be sure, we’ll get to these students when they are already over 18 years old so their academic studies will have less prominence in our course. We will focus more on their dance experience. I think we have to keep our focus on how to understand and take good care of their instrument, their bodies, and to give them an experience on what it is like to work in a professional environment. We won’t have much time for other academic subjects, apart from Dance history.

Silvia: Will you help them on how to apply for jobs or how to management their own projects?
Tamas: Yes of course we will address this as well. How to prepare and present themselves for an audition, how to write a Cv and create a video for an audition. How to make a video that shows them to their best advantage and also to engage with other aspects of the business.

Silvia: So to resume our talk, you are looking for dancers with a “Mind that dance”.

Tamas: Indeed, that’s a good way of putting it, a mindful, openminded and engaged dancer.

Silvia: I see that these days young dancers are bombarded with so many influences. It seems hard for them to reconnect with themselves, but you appear very clear on your direction and process.
Tamas: Indeed. I am confident that this will be a very rewarding experience for them. I’m sure they will form a good group together and that they will have a lot of fun with these processes. They will have a great chance to be a part of our Program: Choreographic workshops, performances and along the way they will learn what it means to be a dancer in a professional company today.