MALA KLINE AND
ROBERT HAYDEN ABOUT TEACHING (&) DESIRE, TRUST AND RESPONSIBILITY
An interview by Martina Ruhsam
corpus: You were teaching at the Hauptschule
Alkhoven and the HBLA für künstlerische Gestaltung in Linz for two months. You
were working with 16-year-old pupils at the HBLA and with 11 to 12 year-old
pupils at the Hauptschule Alkhoven. What did your first lesson look like?
Robert Hayden: When we entered the classroom the pupils
were all standing up, saying "Good morning" and so on. So, I first asked them
to change the perspective and to turn to the windows. I opened the windows and
one by one expressed to the ‘outside' what their deepest wish for themselves
with respect to the project was.
Mala Kline: When we came to the Hauptschule in
Alkhoven for the first time we met the pupils in the gym; that was very bad
soundwise because there was a lot of echo. There were 35 children because they
put two classes together. So, it was difficult to work there for the whole
period. We wanted to combine physical work with imaginary, emotional,
theatrical work but actually that was impossible in this space. So, in the
first two weeks we were trying to figure out how we could work with them. They
are sitting in the school for seven or eight hours attending different lessons,
and we worked with them at two o'clock in the afternoon. It was a bit like a
bottle that is boiling inside. If you open the top it is just exploding. When
they came to the gym we sometimes just had to allow them to explode.
In the very first
days we saw what they are able to do or what they can express emotionally and
what they can imagine and we realised that they had very low physical
capacities and that they were very framed by computer(game)s and by the school
that does not support creativity and imagination. Of course all the games based
on competition were functioning very good. But we didn't want to keep them
there because this is what gym teachers do. So we started to do theatrical work
and that was only possible in small groups in the classrooms, because it was
soundwise impossible to work in the big gym.
corpus: Who was working with the different
Mala Kline: One teacher was working with each group.
corpus: Did you instruct the teachers what they
should do with their group?
Mala Kline: Yes. First we did group exercises in
which everybody was doing the same. So the kids already knew which tools they
corpus: The teachers were willing to cooperate?
Mala Kline: It was a little bit difficult for them
but it would have been a pity to have them in the lessons just sitting on the
side and watching. What we did is that we provided the know-how. They had to do
the same work as we did – basically directing the kids. It was very much a
process of finding out the appropriate way of working with pupils of this age.
Because there are continuous negotiations when the kids are 11 or 12 years old.
corpus: So you were confronted with some kind of
resistance from the pupils?
Mala Kline: Yes. It was a big question for us how to
direct this current of their energy because if they did not get what they
wanted they were immediately reacting with: "I don't want that". There was a
lot of resistance. You feel that there is a lack of flow of their energy.
Robert Hayden: The pupils in the Hauptschule are used to
learn things by repeating or copying someone. It is very difficult for them to
do process-oriented work. It seemed as if they had to swim against some kind of
tide that is in them. For the girls it was a bit easier. I had the boys and
sometimes I just let them do acrobatic things because they seemed to be so full
of energy. So instead of directing or restraining that energy I did some
acrobatic exercises with them that they really enjoyed.
Mala Kline: Sometimes we tried to do something really
unpredictable. It was never the same. Nobody knew how it's gonna be if we come
there, which is very good. Even for the teachers it was very surprising, they
had to do something they had never done before. If you frame the pupils a
little bit different and if you offer them tools with which they can play, if
they are allowed to do stupid things, if there is no mistake possible, if they
can create something with the whole body, some things are possible. All these
things are connected to self-awareness and to how you appear in front of other
corpus: How did you talk with them? Did you have
Mala Kline: We had an assistant that was always
present when we were teaching. Either she translated what we were saying or a
teacher translated. But very often no translation was needed because it was
very obvious by showing what they should be doing.
corpus: Did you have the impression that the
teachers could benefit from the whole process?
Mala Kline: It was a learing process for everyone. We
didn't illuminate anybody. It was as much a learning process for us as it was
for them. Sometimes the children are so tired and in a way fed up with being
there. You come with a plan and then you see that to push that plan would be
the most stupid thing you could do. It's different from day to day. Sometimes
you push them a little bit or you find a way how they can be challenged
individually, sometimes you just let them have their day because it is stupid
that they should always be efficient. If it is a free place then it also has to
be clear that people can do different things. Sometimes it is difficult not to
take that personally.
corpus: Did you have the feeling that you had to
act as an authority in order to gain the necessary attention?
Mala Kline: If the teachers in the school said
"Silence" there was silence. If we said "Silence" there was everything:
silence, noise … You can't avoid that. It's a kind of half-half situation. Some
authority is good because then you have attention. They listen, they have some
corpus: How did your work at the HBLA für
künstlerische Gestaltung look like?
Mala Kline: It was very different. This is an art
school and the pupils were so willing to participate in the project. It was
really their desire. There were mostly girls.
corpus: Did they have to participate in your
lessons like in other compulsive subjects or were they allowed to choose
whether they wanted to participate?
Mala Kline: We were teaching in regular lessons
(instead of some other subjects) but we made it like that, that it was
completely optional whether they want to perform in the end or they want to do
something else. There was one girl that clearly said that she didn't want to
perform, so she was doing videos and photos together with a boy – the only boy
in the class. One girl was just writing and documenting what we were doing. She
was always present and she was always writing something. Nobody knew what she
was writing but she told us to let her alone and we did. After one month there
were four more girls that did not feel comfortable enough to perform. Because
actually we asked them to be very exposed and very vulnerable. They were all
the time getting homework. We offered them certain tools, we taught them many
aspects of performing from dance to speaking, theatrical work, writing their
own texts, writing songs, singing songs and so on. After three weeks we started
to be more and more demanding and we really wanted them to bring material.
Robert Hayden: I was asking myself how we could give
them the responsibility for their own creativity. How can they create
themselves, how to give them the feeling that they can trust themselves? They
can trust the teacher or us but that does not help a lot if they don't trust
themselves – if they don't want to become a copy of somebody's work. We are in
such a product-oriented society that there is no space for processes in which
something can evolve witout being fixed on the result.
corpus: Did the pupils teach you anything?
Robert Hayden: Yes. The younger group taught me the need
to have a lot of patience. Working with a group of thirty 10 to 12 year-old
kids was quite a challenge, even if we were two and three teachers were
assisting. With limited time in each meeting, it made me aware that there is a
big need to construct creative excercises that put the task more in their hands
rather than having us always ‘teaching' or telling them what to do. This group
was a bit like a group of wild horses that loved to run!
The students of
the HBLA gave me quite a lot in terms of understanding how to stimulate and
direct their creative ideas and impulses. Many of them were very imaginative
when we proposed tasks for theatrical situations. It was clear to me that they
responded very well to being given the chance to develop and work on their own
ideas relative to our instructions. Again, putting the creative responsibility
into their hands proved a valuable tactic for their development both creatively
corpus: You did a big presentation with them in
Robert Hayden: The performance we made with them, and I
do mean ‘with them' because they came with a lot of the material that we had in
the show, was important for us because it gave us a confirmation of something
that we didn't expect. It took a lot of patience as well and it required trust
both on our side and on the side of the pupils in order for the creation to
work. Luckily, they had a great deal of trust in us or I don't think it would
have succeeded to the point it arrived to.
corpus: How did you create a space that supported
the girls to try out things that they had never tried before?
Robert Hayden: Many times we would propose an idea for a
scene and then let them run with it and find out for themselves how they saw
it. Then we would give them the chance to show it to the rest of the group.This
process of ‘performing' for the others showed a huge range of potential in what
we saw from them.
Mala Kline: They were always presenting things in
front of the whole class. And it was amazing to see that there was no
criticism, there was just acceptance and support.
Robert Hayden: I think what really worked in terms of
creating space for the girls to try out things they never tried before was to
give them the director's halt and see what they could come up with. Somehow, I
feel like this whole project with them was about becoming their own.
Mala Kline: It is incredible how things sit in them.
We did a lot of exercises with them to make them feel creative and likeable and
good … Because if you make people feel like that they truly become like that!
If you frustrate them, they will be frustrated. At one point we only gave them
questions and it was incredible with how diverse ideas they came up and with
which desires of what they would like to try.
corpus: Which questions did they get for example?
Mala Kline: There was for example a situation that
begins with the sentence "I am a performer". And they did all kinds of
different things on that. They prepared text, they acted it, improvised.
Somebody started to do a film scene with that. Their imagination takes them
there. The more we were improvising, the more they started to realise how far
and to which different places they could go. Another question was to engage the
audience in their improvisation. So they had to go into the audience or they
had an interactive text with them or they asked the audience to come up and
corpus: Did you have the feeling that the
perspective of having a presentation in the end brought more dynamic into the
Mala Kline: Yes, it really did. It is so different if
you create something just for fun or if you have a real piece and the parents
come to watch it. They made their own wonderful make-up in the end. They made
the set and so on. We were in a little theatre outside of the school building
that is also used for many other things. There was a little stage that we
extended. They had just enough light and sound equipment that a lot of stuff
was possible. We had the idea of working with animals and with meeting the
animal within you. There is a wonderful costume shop in Linz with animal
costumes, so we borrowed some of them. We made the space really nice. So they
had an environment that felt so complete and so safe that they didn't have to
work to pretend that they were somebody else. No, it was a theatre and it was
really so much a theatre that they felt they could be sombody else. It was such
an imaginary world in the end – like a world of these teenagers that are slowly
becoming adults but the world of a child is still so present. But sometimes it
was also like a girl's room full of memory toys that suddenly came alive.
corpus: Which feedback did you get after the
Mala Kline: Everybody was thrilled. The whole group
just didn't want to stop clapping. In the end all these animals came down and
there was food and drinks and nobody wanted to leave the hall. The parents kept
coming back to us, saying "That was so wonderful" or "Thank you so much for
giving this to my child" and the children just didn't want to leave. And I
think it is really important that those who wanted could have an experience to
sing on stage. They were really wonderful! In the end they could concentrate so
well. Because, I mean, it was a big, complex thing. They had to write the
texts, they had to learn them, they had to perform, they had to be in the right
spot in the right time, they had to remember all the cues. We had video
projections and different music. I made them a big paper with all the little
cues that they could see when the curtain opened and closed. It was a complex
thing. The performance really gave them something for further on. Everything
was recorded. So, when they can watch themselves like this on the video later
on they can see that they can do this. That's the most important thing – whatever they will do in their life.
corpus: Do you think that it would be good to
establish dance as a regular subject like music or sport in the schools?
Robert Hayden: Absolutely! Not only dance and movement
techniques but also theatre, theatre history, voice work and other forms of
process-oriented creative work.
Mala Kline: I don't think it's a good idea to
establish dance as an obligatory subject. What schools should offer is not
dance specifically but more a place for creativity. The pupils should have more
opportunities to choose by themselves. What is missing is a place for
creativity and for the application of knowledge.
Mala Kline, born in 1977, is a performer and
choreographer. During her formative years as a professional, she took many
courses and workshops for dancers and performers with people like Joseph Nadj,
Jordi Cortes Molina, Vera Mantero, Mark Tompkins, Lloyd Newson, Meg Stuart, Jan
Fabre, and she attended workshops at the Jerzy Grotowski's Workcenter and
Thomas Richards' StemWerk. Mala performed in Iztok Kova's productions of "Sting
and String – First Touch" and "Codes of Cobra" as well as his films "Vertigo
Bird" and "Dom Svobode". She was also in Wim Vandekeybus' productions of
"InAs-MuchAsLifeIsBorrowed" and "Spiegel". From 2001 to 2004, Mala collaborated
with En-Knap's Dance Laboratory.
She was a co-founder and a co-programmer
(2004-06) of Agon – educational and research programme for dance, and
co-director of Cimet – project for mobility of young dancers in Central Europe
in 2004. She co-founded Emanat – institute for the affirmation and development
of dance art, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia. Her own works include "Garden of
Traversing Fates" (2003), "Campo de Fiori" (2004), "Properly blonde,"
"Rondinella and HIRES", "Gallery of Dead Women" (2005) (the latter four in
collaboration with Maja Delak) and "Début – In Memory of Coming". In 2005 she
created "Anagram" (in collaboration with Lucija Stupica). Mala Kline is
co-founder and from 2004-06 was co-editor of Prehodi, which publishes books on
dance in relation to other arts and theatrical practices. In 2005 she received
the Zlata Ptica and Povodni Moz Awards. Mala Kline is currently finishing her
studies in philosophy and comparative literature at the University of Ljubljana
and assisting Iztok Kovac with "My Kingdom for a Horse", the new production of
En-Knap's Dance Group.
Robert Hayden was born in America in 1971. Robert began
his studies in movement and theatre at the University of New Mexico in
Albuquerque in 1991. Between 1995 and 1996 he was invited to work with the
Mexican company UTOPIA Danza-Teatro (artistic directors Marco Silva and former
Ultima Vez dancer Vivian Cruz). Robert continued his training throughout these
and the following years with a multitude of divergent movement and theatrical
disciplines, workshops and projects.
He worked with various companies and independent choreographers
including Bill Evans, Keshet Dance Co., Q-staff under the artistic leadership
of Richard Van Schouwen in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Zack Fuller and Co., Trajal
Harrell in New York and Gardzienice in Poland. Robert joined the Belgian
company Ultima Vez for the creation of "Blush" (2002), and participated in the
creation and touring of "Sonic Boom" (2003), "Puur" (2005), "Spiegel" and
"Menske". In addition to touring, Robert regularly teaches workshops both in
Belgium and abroad. Most recently, he's been collaborating with Mala Kline as
both musician/sound designer and performer.