Bar Groisman by Patrik Palm
Bar Groisman is a dancer, choreographer, and writer, based in Cambridge. We first met Bar as a student on our very own DanceEast Centre for Advanced Training (CAT). We wanted to find out more about her work, dancing digitally, and about any favourite projects that she’s been involved in.
So, first off, can you tell us more about who you are and what you do?
My name is Bar Groisman. I am a Cambridge based dancer, choreographer and writer. I am fascinated with the creative use of movement, text and theatre, breaking linear movement, distorting text and using mundane objects in unusual ways.
I am the founder of a dance theatre company called Sababa Co. Sababa is an Arabic word which has been adopted by the Hebrew language. It means ‘great’, ‘chill’ or ‘cool’ and can be informally used as a replacement of the word ‘okay’.
I love the word Sababa because you can use it to describe anything! And ironically my work which I would not describe as ‘chill’ at all.
Sababa is a really great word. Can you tell us more about your dance training?
I started my contemporary dance training at the DanceEast Centre For Advanced Training (CAT) Programme from 2013-2016. During this time, I was also a member for one year with the National Youth Dance Company, Sadler’s Wells, where I performed in Michael Keegan-Dolan’s work In-Nocentes. I then continued my training at Northern School of Contemporary Dance, graduating in the summer of 2019.
That sounds like a brilliant experience to have so young. And since you’ve finished training, what’s your favourite thing about your work?
My favourite thing is turning all my choreographic ideas that have been in my head and my head alone into reality, seeing them in the flesh. There is something so magical about working in a physical art form, that actually I find as a choreographer I live in my mind a lot, and then when I am with my dancers, I project it out and let it pour into the space and suddenly it’s either what you had always hoped for and sometimes not at all. I find that unknown territory very exciting.
My other favourite thing is working with artists in other art forms, e.g., Composers. Seeing how they work fascinates me, and when I hear their soundscapes and tracks slot into my visual work it is a feeling like no other. Everything feels right and you can enjoy that together.
Current Sababa Company composer is Milo McKinnon. He is a fantastic musician and such a joy to work with.
It must feel great to get your ideas out of your head and into the space. What would you say is your favourite project that you have been involved in?
Choosing one is impossible, as they have all brought different things into my life and taught me to work and perform in new ways.
RUBY PORTUS! What an incredible upcoming female artist. I performed in her work Port Manteau in July 2019 for the production of Together, not the same as part of the Sadler’s Wells Young Associate programme, and what a fantastic process that was. I was so lucky to work with five other amazing female artists: Sara Augieras, Harriet Batty, Marit Landfald Meløe, Fanny Pouillot and Áine Reynolds. Within hours, Ruby connected us all not only as performers, but as human beings. I felt immediately as though I had become part of a family, arriving in such a safe space where I felt heard and respected as a performer and as a person. She managed to really clearly transfer her images and ideas with us into the creative space, but also allowed us to share and create moments of ourselves in the work. Sharing the Sadler’s Wells stage with these amazing performers was an absolute privilege.
Also, in the summer of 2019, I performed as an apprentice dancer with Protein Dance in their project (In)visible Dancing, and what a joy that was! Performing in the streets of Woolwich amongst the community was such a great experience, which I miss dearly. Artistic director and founder Luca Silvestrini’s aim was to bring dance to people who may not have access to it and may not be exposed to this art form otherwise. When you see the reactions and participation of the public, it is so rewarding and truly joyful to see the smiles on people’s faces. It was such a wonderful experience performing as a double to Miranda Mac Letten, who is an incredible performer. This gave me the opportunity to learn from her as a professional in the dance industry. It was a privilege to do so alongside Aimee Dulake, a young artist like myself. I enjoyed engaging in the creation of movement and exploration of my character’s relationship with the other characters in the work. It was such a playful environment to work in, and Luca really created a community. I hope that dancing so closely with the public will be a possibility again in the future and I am crossing my fingers until then.
They both sound like brilliant projects! Working in the arts is a little different at the moment, has lockdown changed your creative process?
Oh wow yes it has! At first, I found it challenging not being in the same room as my dancers – a feeling we have all experienced during this time – and I miss their energies greatly. Therefore, a huge amount of adaptation took place. At the beginning of lockdown, I invited Sababa Co. into the world that is Zoom, and we started creating a new work. It was odd at first. I attended a workshop led by Tom Hobden, where he spoke about the two strongest senses when working online: sight and hearing. Therefore, I worked to enhance those senses while working on Zoom, to try and create a more comfortable environment for my dancers. It taught me to approach the creative process in new ways, to guide my dancers to the physical and emotional states as I would have in person.
That must be challenging! Have you taken part in any digital dance events yourself?
I recently took part as a choreographer in Towards Vivencia (TWV) meets The Playground, where I worked with four artists to explore our dark lockdown moments and our brighter moments. Writing text together and finding ways in which one can deliver it in close proximity to the camera and also introducing objects that became parts of our daily lives.
I am so grateful I could take part in this event even from my bedroom. The TWV and The Playground team did such a great job at organising the event and it was so refreshing to see such a variety of work created by new and familiar artists.
And what about performances, what is the best piece of work you’ve seen in the last year?
I recently saw Botis Seva’s film CAN’T KILL US ALL on BBC iplayer, and it was phenomenal. I was sceptical at first because it is such a skill to capture dance work on the screen, in a way that brings you into that world fully, and keeps you connected from beginning to end, feeling as if you are with the performer. And I was there with Botis, running with him, following his every move. I felt his sweat, I felt his frustration, his cries, and his anger, his every muscle tense and his breathe. I was uncomfortable, yet so fixated on the screen, absorbed by his story. A truly incredible work, so personal and raw. It brought me to tears but excited me all at the same time.
Finally, what do you have planned next for you and your company?
That is the question I constantly ask myself as a choreographer, what’s next?
The company is continuing its creation of the new group work we started on over Zoom in the first lockdown.
Then in January this year we had planned to do a week of Research and Development (R&D) at DanceEast in the Jerwood DanceHouse, however, sadly due to the third lockdown we took the R&D online. We continued to work, and I have taken this time to plan the future of this piece.
The cast members are Polly Constance, Rose Lewis, Fay Reilly and Corrie McKenzie (who is a new member of the company).
Towards this production, I will also be working with Milo McKinnon on the musical composition and Abigayle Holt on lighting design, who I had the pleasure of training with at Northern School, and I am researching at home, creating movement material and writing text for the work.
Alongside this, I have been working with dancer and new company member John Robinson, on a new solo work and with company dancer Matilda Bjärum on developing our collaborative solo Chameleon Life.
Meanwhile, I will be boogie-ing in my room and driving my neighbours mad by my current choice of repetitive music!