Continuing our interview series with choreographers, we have a quick chat with Bianca Traum whose TR3I, her first solo work, recently premiered at MDT, Stockholm. Earlier in the year we also saw her as a dancer in Mari Carrasco's The Heart at Dansens Hus c/o Hallen. "For a long time, I was content with expressing myself through the material of other choreographers and directors as long as I was able to give a little bit of myself through improvisation and freestyle. Over time, I've felt more and more the urge to express my own point of view and narrative through art" she tells us about the transition from dancer to making her own work.
C-P: Hi Bianca, congrats on recently presenting your first own piece TR3I at MDT. Before we dive into it, I’d like to rewind a little and ask you about what has led to this moment.
B.T: Thank you so much for the congrats! This moment is very precious. Years and years of searching for answers have led me to this more grounded and restful moment. I’ve always dealt with big questions and inner conflicts which I think is what led me to this moment, the urge to seek for answers and peace. It’s been exhausting but very necessary to dig deep and not give up on challenging myself.
C-P: You are notably autodidact with years of experience of dancing for others, the wonderful Mari Carrasco and BamBam Frost among others. Evidently the process of presenting something of your own will be different, but how in your opinion has it differed from say past projects you’ve been involved in?
B.T: In the beginning of my career, before I started working with other contemporary choreographers, I started creating dance/choreography with P*fect dance company; a collective that I together with four other dancers/performers/choreographers founded in 2008. In the street dance context, the dancers/artist are the choreographers through the creation of freestyle. So I always had that point of view when working with other choreographers. For a long time, I was content with expressing myself through the material of other choreographers and directors as long as I was able to give a little bit of myself through improvisation and freestyle. Over time, I've felt more and more the urge to express my own point of view and narrative through art. So about 6-7 years ago while working parallel with other choreographers and directors, I started researching and investigating my own personal experiences and interests. At the same time as my artistic research grew and developed, my personal healing journey demanded more energy and time. I followed the flow and managed to intertwine my interest and questions when creating TR3I. I not only researched themes and my narrative but I also wanted to have time to investigate a more sustainable way of working as an artist. I found it unbearable to overlook the conditions when creating and performing a piece. It’s as big of a part in the process as anything else. This way of working was the biggest difference from any previous work I have done. As a freelance artist I gave myself time as an opposition to the usual art machinery we are
C-P: TR3I commenced with a ritual ceremony of sort. Tell me a little about the idea behind this? Also, what were some of the themes informed by the piece?
B.T: TR3I is a rite about change, about walking straight in to the unknown with the urge to let go of the past and continue forward in to change. It’s a ceremonial practice where the audience are engaged in a circle creating the loaded space for me to be in as the one undergoing the ceremony. I’ve always been more drawn to community/folk dances and art expressions than to fine art and formal spaces. With TR3I I wanted to be on stage and be affected by my audience directly as well as for the audience to invest and be touched in a more direct and bodily way then sitting down and consuming.
TR3I started with questions about identity and how growing up as a ”third culture kid” affects identity. The state of in-betweeness, rootlessness and the constant ongoing negotiation of one’s identity in relation to other people. I researched how the body can transform in the in-betweenness, be in ”different bodies”, shapes and multiple layers and forms. During the rite I transform, allowing my body to become a channel of communication between ”myself” and fictional characters, Romanian mythological and folklore characters. Also, in the ceremony, I call on the bear for force and strength to undergo the rite of change. The Romanian folk dance” Ursu” (bear in Romanian) inspired my own interpretation of a masked bear dance.
Another theme I investigated and worked with in TR3I was the state of ”flow”. A state where the all focus lies on one assignment resulting in total awareness and being in the now. In TR3I flow has been a huge choreographic tool and necessity when working with freestyle and improvisation.
C-P: On a more general note, what serves as inspiration for your practice? I picked up some pop cultural references in TR3I, for instance your costume was giving me MJ Thriller era vibes.
B.T: My inspiration lately has been old stuff, like ancient knowledge on how to communicate in other ways than with just words. I think the best word to describe it would be witchcraft. I’ve been digging a lot in my Romanian heritage and found some very interesting and inspiring things. Ever since I can remember, I’ve been inspired and consumed music and pop culture from the US, especially black music and culture. It comes from the people and it’s foremost a soulful connection through energy and togetherness. It’s one of my biggest inspirations and all-time teachers when it comes to community and dance. So of course, you experience this impact throughout the performance in different ways.
And as for the MJ vibes, I wish we had that of a clear direction and vision! The costume designer Rolf Backman Ossandón and I were going for a red-street-wear vibe. Rolf worked with different red materials and was inspired by the red tassels from the Romanian ”Ursu” which I tell you was crazy because back in 2018 when I performed TR3I at WIP Konsthall (in that current version) I wore all red. Rolf had no idea when he suggested the all red costume so I saw his suggestion as a sign and kept the red for TR3I 2.0.
C-P: What were some of the other creatives you worked with to set sail to the piece?
B.T: I worked with Yared Tilahun Cederlund when creating the music and sound design. We created through the practice of flow and the result came to be the biggest component of the dramaturgy. I worked with the screen playwright Dimen Abdulla. Together we researched the characters and bodies that later came to undergo the rite of passage. This material also created the score of the performance. Together sound and text created the world of the ceremony. As I previously mentioned, I worked with designer Rolf Backman Ossandón for the costume. I worked with Christoffer Lloyd when creating the light design during our residency at MDT. I invited the musician and producer Dijle Yigitbas to help me hold the space during the actual ceremony. We had previously worked together experimenting with music and sound during my residency at IASPIS in 2021. It was amazing to invite her back for the final performances.
During my creative process I consulted some of my biggest inspirations; Anna Näsström, Maria ”Decida” Wahlberg and Jeff Lindström for the choreography and dramaturgy. I worked with Puma Lagos Parra as my producer. I collaborated with Unga Klara who has always, when working with them, inspired me to break the invisible wall between the performer and audience. For this project they advised and helped me get in contact with different high schools around Stockholm. Through workshops I tested out and consulted young adults on their view on flow, in-betweeness and identity. I also worked a lot with voice during the last couple of years and got inspired from the works of singer and teacher Pia Olby and director and artistic director of Strindbergs Intima Teater Anna Pettersson. Of course, I also have to mention that working with amazing creators and choreographers like Mari Carrasco and Lisa Janbell over the past years have influenced me in what I find interesting on stage and have given me great support in becoming a risk-taker. As well as some of my friends like Kristina Kaloczi, Talia Gallegos Fadda and Ingrid Mugalu, their influence on me plays a huge role in the way I position myself to art, consumerism and creating through soulful practices. And of course, P*fect dance company, where it all started for me in this crazy beautiful journey called performing arts. As you can hear, it really takes a village to create a ceremony <3
C.P: Lastly with the year coming to an end; what is coming up for you next?
B.T: This fall I moved to Paris. I’m continuing on the same topic as the ceremony, which is change. I decided to move to Paris and welcome the uncertainty of change, new identities and new possibilities. I’m really excited to live in Paris for a while, learn French. I enjoy the energy of the people here. Workwise I’m going to work on selling TR3I and see what else is out there in Europe. I feel like after creating TR3I at this point, I’m up for anything as long as it’s fun and challenging. I guess that I’m overall ready to express myself more and do me more. Whatever that means is for me to find out in the near future.
For more info on Bianca, please visit: https://biancatraum.com/
All images courtesy of Bianca Traum and the photographers;
1,3) by Tanne Willow 2) by Res (from Mari Carrasco's The Heart) and 4) Talia Gallegos Fadda (from WIP Konsthall)