Meet the artists Maya Dalinsky and Elsabet Yonas

Our #CROWDdance 2022 residencies continue with dance artists Maya Dalinsky and Elsabet Yonas coming together at Bora Bora in Aarhus, Denmark to start their two-week residency from 15th – 26th August. The artists will also come together at FABRIC – Dance4 and Dancexchange in Nottingham from 12th – 23rd September.

Let’s find out more about Maya and Elsabet:

Maya Dalinsky

Image © Angela Malvasi

Maya Dalinsky is a dance artist based in Copenhagen who works with movement, perception and composition in a variety of interdisciplinary practices she calls “embodied cinematography” through workshops and creative projects with different community groups.

What are you hoping to explore during the CROWD 2022 residencies?
I hope this will be time to share my practice in verbal and non-verbal ways and to learn about what my peers are up to. How do others integrate video and storytelling into their movement practice, and how are they interacting with groups and communities? What is their community and how did they find it? I hope to get inspired to approach my own work differently, and to make connections with other artists and their practices. I also hope to explore Aarhus and Nottingham and get to experience a little bit of their specificities as European cities. Despite many years living in Europe, I still view myself as an American. I’m curious about what that means in the context of this new country that I live in, Denmark, but also as an international artist abroad, in the UK. I am also a parent and have had very little time for my art-making these past years. I hope to just reconnect with the practices I love and explore moving and working and discussing and learning without the pressure and demands of a family schedule.

Why did you want to be a CROWD 2022 artist?
The ’embodied cinematography’ practices I have been developing over the years are inherently collective processes that need to be experienced with others. I am interested in feedback and perception, and how we can observe ourselves in our interactions with other people, spaces, objects, etc… CROWD seems like a chance to keep asking questions through these practices but also to challenge what I think I know about what I do. I have recently changed cities and contexts and am excited to ‘start over’… with CROWD as a way to connect to new people and other creative approaches. Most importantly, it embraces the local and the international by having artists connect with networks within their home countries as well as abroad. This really appeals to me as I have recently moved and am disoriented in my new context. I have to rebuild a network and community from scratch. I have always worked locally, even though I come from an “international” context. I wonder about how to start over again, or how I might understand myself and the idea of “community” differently, and CROWD seems to be a space and time dedicated to just that.

What are you looking forward to the most in terms of the residencies and the overall CROWD 2022 programme?
I am looking forward to working with Elsabet and having time to get to know another artist and their work in a very privileged way: through talking and sharing and having common experiences. It is so rare to really get to know an artist that is a stranger to you. I am free to be curious and offer whatever I can in service of our common interests. I am also looking forward to concentrating full time on my artistic work and reconnecting with practices I had to put on hold due to parenting and other life stuff. I look forward to having personal connections with other artists, even if through zoom.

What made you interested in creating art with the community?
For me there is not “the community” rather communities that come together around shared interests and goals. Just as my roles in life overlap: being an artist, a feminist, a parent, a partner, a friend, an employee, an engaged citizen, etc… so do the communities I am a part of. I work in this overlap because that is my reality. I like to be involved in local projects because I am interested in what I can physically do in the spaces I inhabit or transit through. I find myself interacting with different communities by virtue of participating in the micro and macro aspects of the world around me. I didn’t really choose to create art in a community, it just happened that way. Sometimes I work alone in the studio and that also nurtures my practice. I guess I’ve always been interested in how individuals make up groups and groups make up societies, and vice-versa.

I also work a lot with improvisation, more specifically composing in real-time in a given environment. I have a lot of tools that are about observing and observing oneself, or about being informed by one’s surroundings and being attuned to the physical and emotional spaces we inhabit. This improvisation work pushes me out of the studio and into other kinds of spaces, interacting with other kinds of people (sometimes ones who aren’t aware they have become “spectators”) so that I find myself connecting with my local neighborhood or the city/landscape by virtue of wanting to practice my favourite tools. If you do this enough over time, the work leads you to create differently, with the community and the environment as partners in your activity rather than as a “genre” you are designing for.

What is the strength of community-based work for you?
The strength of community-based work is in having bonds with other people and caring for one another. Showing up for one another, seeing one another, supporting one another. Through this work of mutual care, we also care for the spaces around us. Even without having “roots” in a place, I am a part of it by tending to it and to the needs of those who are already there or are maybe still to come.

As an improviser, one of the things I love most about working with groups and different communities is that the outcomes are completely unexpected. I really get transformed by every single person in a group along the way – and the creative result far exceeds anything I could come up with on my own. People are very generous if they are given time to enjoy themselves and build trust. And we can have a lot of fun! It’s fun to have fun.

What are the limitations of working with a community?
It can be a lot of coordinating and logistics to work with groups and to reach a point where members of a community trust one another enough to be vulnerable. It requires time and patience and usually, there are financial or practical setbacks that keep a group from growing. People are busy and have a lot of responsibilities, and art-making is not necessarily their priority. But that doesn’t mean they don’t want to be included and participate and have fun! So the limitations are usually the ones you find yourself upholding by force of habit, rather than by the desires of a group: limitations of time and space and patience. I find that it helps to adjust my own expectations of what I, the group and the creative work “should” be about and just roll with it.

Does Community dance travel? how?
I don’t know what “Community dance” means, but I would say that dance, embodied knowledge and community-based art-making travels indirectly in the sense that you absorb practices and experiences and continue to transmit them in new ways to others. The practices I engage with have come to me across a diverse array of channels. Something that comes from another country and era–a Judson Church score, a German expressionist dance, a series of manipulations from Butoh, a recipe from someone’s grandmother, a lullaby, a Friday night ritual, a painting, a way to tune a guitar…–finds its way to me and I embody it in my own place and time. Then it ultimately ends up moving on to others through a dance, a workshop, a project, a discussion… This is how embodied knowledge moves across space and time. I am grateful to my artistic and cultural ancestors for everything that has been passed to me. And there is still a lot to learn and encounter. I don’t have to physically travel for that. It is also enough to get out of my cultural bubble and try new things. We have this fantastic technology called the Internet.

Elsabet Yonas

Image © Joe Lindsay

Elsabet Yonas is a hip-hop dancer and choreographer based in London who is inspired by storytelling and the extensive potential that art holds in building communities.

What are you hoping to explore during the CROWD 2022 residencies?
I’m interested in exploring the limitations of my current practice and building more sustainable ways of working.

Why did you want to be a CROWD 2022 artist?
I wanted to be a CROWD 22 artist because it felt like a really unique opportunity to meet/collaborate with other community engagement practitioners. The timing felt very aligned for me. 

What are you looking forward to the most in terms of the residencies and the overall CROWD 2022 programme?
I’m most looking forward to being influenced by a different culture and environment. 

What made you interested in creating art with the community?
I create art with the community because it’s how I became a dancer. The community is and always has been the foundation. 

What is the strength of community-based work for you?
Community work is how I remain connected to others and how I aid connection between individuals. The strength lies in offering people tools that transcend art techniques. 

What are the limitations of working with a community?
There are systemic limitations i.e. gatekeepers & access to funding. There are also limitations around the sustainability of community work for me as a freelancer. 

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