Choreographer Hagit Yakira talks dance ahead of her double bill – Free Falling and Air Hunger – at Circomedia on 2 March

How did you first get into dance? 

I think I always loved dancing, and even though I started walking very late my parents often tell me that since I was four I just wanted to dance. I think it got really serious for me when I was a teenager, and then again in my mid-30s.

I have to say that my relationship to dance was never a straight forward one. In my early twenties, after dancing and teaching for a while I realised that I need to do something for society; dance felt too self-observed, too self-centred, and I wanted to do something with my love of dance to help people. I went to study dance movement therapy, although after my studies I soon realised that in fact I wanted to choreograph.

Hagit Yakira DanceFree Falling, image © Camilla Greenwell

My work and my background as a dance movement therapist informs my journey into choreography. In a sense, the social and emotional aspects of dance are very intriguing for me. Not in terms of emotional expression, but rather in the ways art and emotion can combine into an artistry and aesthetic.

What was the inspiration behind Air Hunger and Free Falling?

I wanted to create a piece that somehow represents the different anxieties I became familiar with while studying and working as a dance movement therapist. Some of the stories I heard in the therapy room touched me very deeply, and I felt I needed to somehow share them without revealing any details. My aim was to create an experience that somehow provokes the feelings these people shared with me.

Air Hunger started by looking at anxiety attacks. I chose the name because during an anxiety attack the body experiences a lack of air – it is of course a psychological feeling rather than a physical one – and it is a real shock to the system because the person believes he/she is experiencing a heart attack and they feel they are going to die.

Free Falling initially started by exploring the fear of falling. We all experience this sometimes, but in severe scenarios this fear can prevent people from walking or leaving their houses. To them, every step they make feels like a risk which might end in a fall.

What processes did you use? Do you always go through a similar process?

My creative process starts with me offering a subject matter to the dancers. I introduce the subject matter by leading different improvisation tasks and exploration. It always starts with the body, with the physical. From these long improvisation tasks I start to pick the images, physical landscapes and different group dynamics that are relevant, that touch me as a human and as an observer and that stir my imagination.

I then start to delve deeply into them, exploring them further, and combining them slowly together until I shape a structure and a meaning. It is a never-ending story though, because as long as we perform the piece I keep changing it, making it better.

Hagit Yakira DanceHagit uses improvisation and exploration to create her works, image © Camilla Greenwell

My work is a delicate balance between improvisations and set material or set moments. This gives the dancers quite a lot of freedom during the performances to make decisions and to hold a very interesting ownership of what they do.

Where did the idea for the music come from? Why Sabio Janiak?

The music in this piece was very important to me and I needed a very special composer and person for that. Sabio was the perfect choice.

Sabio and I have been working together for quite a while. He accompanies my dance classes around London and I collaborated with him for the first community project On Falling and Recovering.

On Falling and Recovering

I think that Sabio and I have something really quite similar in our approach. Sabio has a vast holistic background, and he looks at music as a source of healing. There is something very fresh and intuitive about his music which really suits my way of working.

Tell us about your community work and the work you’re doing alongside this tour.

I started by doing a very big community project about 3 years ago called Air Hunger. That was probably the first time I decided to really pursue community and professional work together. Then when I came to create Free Falling, the second piece in the double bill we are touring, I decided that I wanted to somehow try to find a way   to combine the community into my professional work.

“I haven’t experienced such a warm atmosphere in a performance before, people who didn’t know each other were hugging and kissing…”

It started by researching with 30 none professional dancers over a period of six months in which we met once a month for a lengthy rehearsal in which we looked at the concepts of falling, recovering and support. In July 2015 we invited an audience to see what we had created and it was so successful that we decided to extend the project into a much larger one.

The project was then commissioned by The Place with 60 participants and was performed in July 2016. I have to say that the 3 performances, which were basically improvised and interactive promenade for over 300 people in total were quite outstanding and overwhelming. I haven’t experienced such a warm atmosphere in a performance before, people who didn’t know each other were hugging and kissing, old people, disabled people, babies, were all part of the interactive jam we created. The idea is to take this community project to some of the venues where we will be performing Free Falling, where it will then be performed prior to the show.

What’s next? Do you have any future projects in the pipeline?

Oh yes – a big project that combines the professional company with the community. I wouldn’t like to reveal the topic right now, even though it is very present in my head, heart and research. I will also be starting to work on a solo.

For more information visit hagityakira.com, to book tickets for the 2 March tour date visit circomedia.com

Featured image: Free Falling © Camilla Greenwell