Morphing (transforming) with Maria Teresa Tanzarella

The research for a new solo has just begun as resident Maria Teresa Tanzarella has been working in our small studio for the last two weeks. The working title is morphing (transforming) and studies repetition as a fundamental driving force.  We asked her to share some insights of the working process, how she approaches repetition as a theme and how she has been developing methods for this initial research.


Photo by: Maria Teresa Tanzarella

– I came closer and closer to this theme from different sources. I saw the special pleasure that the body gets from rocking; it emerged from my different experiences and workshops of cranio-sacral therapy (and in general hands-on manipulation) which fascinated me. As an audience member I was particularly affected by the strong drive of repetitive music and trance-like soundscapes in certain performances, but at the same time I felt some lack in letting the audience being involved. As part of another creation I had a first try to work with loops, but it was eventually discarded; nevertheless the interest stayed and I got more and more curious about it and about its quality of being pathetic (in the sense of bringing pathos). So all these things slowly cooked in me until I decided to start working on it.

It would be interesting to know if you follow a certain routine during your studio hours to get in to the repetitive mode. Have you developed any specific methods for this initial research work?

– I’ve been somehow dividing the hours in four different kinds of activities. One is researching theoretically through documentaries, writings and definitions of key words such as morphing, repeating, looping, rocking etc. Relating to the more theoretical research I have also been looked into quotations, such as “There is no such thing as repetition. Only insistence” by Gertrude Stein. Another activity has been to analyze different possibilities such as dimensions, qualities, spaces, music, no music, rhythms, no rhythm, pathos, no pathos, fixed sequences or journeys, free travels and so on. Then in the next step trying them out to see what works and what doesn’t work and setting up rules. A third category is the movement based work where I have been doing longer sessions of just the repetition flow, to really just practice it and its rules and become better at it (the body needs quite some specific stamina for it!). The final activity has been to film my sessions and watch through the videos, since in this initial phase I am alone in the studio.

I am not yet busy with a potential structure for the piece really, I’m rather getting nerdy about the material itself. I am also getting inspiration for how I imagine to work with music so that I can give more specific ideas to Ruhi, the musician that will join in the next phases.

How has your work developed during this residency, and has it evolved as you expected or do you have any new insights or directions that you would like to share?

– Well, I mostly realized (or better remembered) that working alone is boring! Hehe, I mean it is necessary especially because the practice I want to put together needs me to be really precise about it and to just devote time to get specialized on it. But I’m looking forward to further working phases when I’ll be playing together with Ruhi and when an outside eye will support me.

I was very happy that in this residency I could really focus on just practicing, and “wasting” a lot of time on it, without having to prepare a product. It is actually the core of what researching means, and it is such a luxury to be able to just try things out.

In the next phase when you will collaborate with musician and composer Ruhi Erdogan, how do you think that your movement material and performative qualities will evolve when music comes in to the picture? How did you find this mutual interest in repetition and is this a first time collaboration or have you worked together before?

­– I have just met Ruhi, we have never worked together before. I actually sent out a call and “auditioned” musicians, something that I had never done before since so far I’ve always only collaborated with friends. While selecting a musician it was important for me that this person was also interested in what I proposed, since I’d like the piece to be really a concert where the musician (playing live) has a central role and is as busy as me in the research. Ruhi played music that fit the style I imagined and has also been doing some research on repetition by himself so it seemed a good match.

I discovered during this residency that my initial idea about the music was too strict and that actually, I can be open to other influences and that somehow some variation is going to be needed. So it will be interesting when we both will be proposing things and inspiring each other, when there will be moments in which I lead the rhythms and repetitions and others in which he will lead and I will have to adapt.

You seem to have a wide range of experiences with you in to the studio, you have lived and worked in several countries and besides your performative work you are also a certified Pilates teacher with an interest for writing and photography. How does these experiences influence your work process when dealing with movement material? For example in terms of how you approach a new project or material, where you find inspiration, how you relate to the body and how you create and develop methods for your work.

­– I feel very scattered inside and there are many things that make me who I am. When people ask me to describe what I do in life it’s hard to give a direct answer. I do many things, some at a better level or higher intensity than others, but they all feel necessary to me. All my dance training (to which I still attend very actively), the languages I speak and the countries that host me, photography, reading, writing, sewing, growing vegetables, wrestling, studying bodies and how they function and then teaching it to my Pilates students while I learn from their (usually not so trained) bodies. All this is what fills my identity.

So scattered is also my way of working, my way of approaching material and of getting inspiration. Sometimes I start purely from the movement, sometimes I read and research, sometimes it’s the visual aspect that is strongly moving me, sometimes the feelings, sometimes I look for ways to concretely use my hands in the work I’m doing. The inspiration also comes from all different sources: an image of how a piece could be on stage, a daydream, another piece I’ve seen, clothing, sounds, lights, materials I’d like to use and so on. It is not easy this time to try to get really focused on such a specific single thing. But there is one thing that is a reoccurring interest in general in my work: emotions, even though this word is nowadays so overused. Or giving importance to every single movement in order to produce dance that generates emotions, instead of adding them on top. Leaving some space for a bit of pathos, the good one, the one that makes us living, sensitive beings. Finding my emotional body as the body how I feel it (not how it objectively is) and that is influenced by the places I’m in, the people, the structures. In general, a (now old-fashioned) love for a moving body and its expressions is at the center of what I do.


Photo by: Maria Teresa Tanzarella


Read more about the work of Maria Teresa Tanzarella on her webpage and watch her works here.