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Authenticity in Movement: learning with Sebastian Hirtenstein

I had the great opportunity to spend some time learning from the incredibly talented and insightful Sebastian (or Bash) Hirtenstein. From our conversation, I really began to discover the importance of authenticity in the creation and performance of dance and movement. As Bash described it, “Dance is an authentic response to whatever’s happening. It is movement that is honest in the moment.”

Having seen Bash move on stage, it is really inspiring to see the integrity and honesty in which he takes on as he performs movement. His intention is so clear, and I truly think his ability to be authentic within the work allows him to create this magic on stage. It was evident that this authenticity has followed him from the start of his journey with dance as he first discovered movement as an expressive tool through hip hop freestyle in his basement. Loving this new art form, he recognized how growth could help him to develop and it is clear this passion has led him to exploring so many different dance and artistic paths that have combined into a very unique and versatile way of movement. As an aside, it was great to connect with another dancer who discovered movement at an older than usual age. The similarities between his experiences and mine really demonstrate how finding dance later in life does not necessarily disadvantage you. Rather, I feel that we have both pursued dance with a perspective that has allowed us to strive for our passion and has allowed us to share our true and real life experiences beyond this art form.

“As dancers we’re trained to be in our bodies and that’s great, but if we add our head and our brain, then it’s magical.” When Bash said this, I began to see elements beyond his dance training seeping into his perspectives on creation and performance. I saw great value in this. He describe that “as dancers we are interpreters of information,” and thus I agree with him that we need to also be aware of how we interact with that information. This multi-perspective way of approaching the interpretation of movement clearly motivates the way in which he creates as he described techniques that allow the dancers to explore his way of movement while incorporating their own points of view. I think this openness towards different perspectives is key as a creator of art as it is critical to consider all of the different consumers of your work. This is something that often slips my mind and so it was a great reminder to consider the points of view of the audience and dancers/performers.

Discussing the importance of recognizing different perspectives, a major theme that emerged from my conversations with Bash is the importance of remembering your own voice and motives for creating work. In particular the importance of creating works that are applicable to the world, the audiences who will view and engage with the movement created, and your own life. Bash highlighted that as choreographers, we should “speak on issues that we find provocative or uncomfortable to talk about” and that it is “important to talk about things that are clearly out in the open but are not brought to the light.” This has really motivated me to explore parts of my identity or my experiences that I may feel a bit less confident in sharing. Art is the best way to share these stories that may not be as openly discussed but represent my everyday reality. This is how my work can become more than just dance and can help to be a vehicle for social discourse.

As we talked about making dance real, we also had the chance to explore the influences of music on dance. I have always questioned what role, if any, music has in dictating dance and Bash really helped me to gain a new perspective. He described how to him, dance is a “natural reaction to music.” Thinking about it, I realize that this idea of an honest response to music can allow us to really play with an audience’s perceptions and emotions. For example we could create a disconnect between the music and movement, creating a jarring experience for an audience, or inversely, we could create harmony between the two and ultimately create an authentic, cathartic moment. Either is valid, and either recognizes our “natural reaction to music” through dance.

Overall Bash summed it up when he described dance as “a form of expression that allows us to get away from our everyday life and to gain spiritual and mental fullness.” Reflecting on everything we discussed, I realize that the best creations and performances come from when we are fully attuned to ourselves. It is only when we are authentically present as ourselves that we can capture others in our art.

You can see Bash in action as he takes the stage for the following events:

-"Cabaret" at the Lower Ossington Theatre on April 6th at 7:30 PM

-BoucharDanse’s “La gigue en souvenir” at the Harbourfront Centre on May 21st, and at the Guelph Dance Festival from June 1st - 3rd

-The trans theatre work “I Am Not A Girl” from June 22nd - June 26th at the Cultch Theatre in Vancouver

You can also see what Bash is up to by following him on instagram: @bash416ix


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