Q&A with Attila Andrasi

Attila Andrasi is a Hungarian-born, UK-based independent dance and performance maker who recently exhibited his work Once Upon a Time at Resolution festival, The Place. Attila also showcased his work Nincompoop, a culmination of his 2-year study at Trinity Laban.

We sat down with Attila to find out more about him and his choreographic interests.

Q: Tell us about yourself; when you started dancing and why?

A: I grew up in a small town in southern Hungary. When I was around six years old, I used to watch ice skating artists on TV; this was my only exposure to dance at the time. Around age 12, I watched the movie Billy Elliot on TV, and from then on, I was determined to become a dancer. Luckily, a big city near us had a Szeged Royal Ballet Dance School that offered foundation level classes, so my mom enrolled me. It was a long time before I could participate in a variety of dance classes, including improvisation, ballet, and contemporary dance.

When I finished upper primary school at around 13, I continued to pursue my dream while attending secondary school and taking private ballet classes with. After four years of convincing my parents and trying to maintain my motivation, I was accepted into the secondary gymnasium program at the Budapest Contemporary Dance College. Then I spent five years with some breaks at the Budapest Contemporary Dance Academy in the secondary school and then in the undergraduate level. Later, I continued at Salzburg Experiment Academy of Dance from the 3rd year (SEAD is a four-year undergraduate course), and now I am here finishing my MFA Choreography degree at Trinity Laban Conservatoire in London.

I think I never wanted to be only a dancer; it was always a sense of leading, organising, facilitating, and creating an environment where people feel safe, creatively inspired, and heard.

Q: Your latest work Nincompoop was performed at Trinity Laban as part of the MFA Showcase. Could you tell us about the work, especially how it “questions social norms”?

A: Nincompoop performance serves as a way for me to transition into a new, tangible trajectory towards the “outside space”, the witnesser. I believe this role is called Choreographer.

During the two-year exploration and learning period, I enjoyed playing with choreography principles, approaches, and creating a final product by putting parts, crafts next to each other like a colourful college.

The performance theoretically explores the physical manifestation of stupidity, the quality of failure, and the communal nature of human existence through the notion of frivolity. It challenges and provokes us to consider how we create and dismantle social norms and ethics without borders. The movement research and practice, which speculates through variations of choreography principles, enhance somatic creative autonomy. The choreography ventures into the imagination of theatrical and performative presence, bringing us closer to the performers in an intimate atmosphere. This proximity allows us to observe and contemplate gender, body, and neurodiversity.

Growing up, I didn’t know I had dyslexia and dysgraphia. It took me a long time to become aware of it and even longer to accept it. I knew something was wrong because I would forget words and find it difficult to write correctly. When reading something, I would sometimes remember it differently, and I found it a struggle to articulate my thoughts verbally. Now, as an adult, I can accept that I have this condition, and it doesn’t make me any less or more than anyone else. However, there was a time when I didn’t want to be aware of it because I thought it made me different. I felt like this label defined my personality and gave meaning to something strange. Therefore, the choreographic concepts and inquiries formulated some of the choreographic thoughts that were led by this experience, such as being neurodivergent.

Q: Could you tell us about the Hungarian dance scene?

A:  I left Hungary in 2015 to study at SEAD, and have not been connected to the Hungarian contemporary field since. During COVID-19 in 2020, I did receive a commission from the Hungarian Dance Theatre, which was the only time I worked home.

However, as far as I know and read on social media, the Hungarian government has reduced financial support for independent performing arts. Rumors suggest that without connections to political figures or sending a political statement to the government, grants are not awarded. Currently, well-established performing arts, theaters, and organisations are suffering. In Hungary, access to a wide range of free studio space is available, with up to 30-40 hours per week possible. This is very helpful and supportive for artists. In the UK, you would pay around £400-500 for this. Due to a lack of financial resources, however, this free space accessibility is also unpredictable. Recently, I contacted some studios, and most of the time, they mention that they do not know what will be available in the autumn.

I feel that in the past few years, and before that, the “community” was a bit small for me. It was hard to create something new or fresh in the field of dance if you only participated in this small community, especially in Budapest. However, since I left, I have noticed some emerging artists who were my classmates at the Budapest Centenary Dance Academy doing well. They are bringing something fresh to the Hungarian cultural and professional scenes, which makes me happy to see them succeed. But I believe that their success is not only due to their hard work, but also to the organisations and professionals who recognize these new insights. Therefore, it is essential to have a relationship with these people, and they need to know you as much as possible to offer you grants, see your work, or help you work on the side as a production team. This gives me a warm sense of welcome and the feeling of being at home – but I believe this is the pathway if you keen to establish connection and build recognition.

Q: What are your book/film/dance recommendations?

A: I can recommend some of my current sources of inspiration for my work and for the thesis I am writing. Film: The Idiots by Lars Von Trier Book: Crip Theory by Robert McRuer Performance: 1000 Gestues by Boris Charmatz

Q: What would your advice be to fellow independent makers?

A: I would like to emphasise the importance of not overwhelming yourself with unnecessary work. As a freelancer, it can be difficult to balance multiple jobs in order to make ends meet. However, it’s important to carefully select which work is most relevant to your practice and which will offer you a valuable personal and artistic pathway for the future. Not all work is relevant, and taking on too many small, unpaid jobs can lead to burnout. I have experienced this firsthand and learned the importance of being selective in the work that I take on.

Header image: Movingimages.byines.

Watch the Nincompoop behind the scenes here!