1. What are the ways to start the process of creating a performance according to your experience?

It can start from a theme suggested by someone else, like a producer or an artist who asks you, or a thematic need posed by a group or a scope. In this case, I integrate into something that has already been started. It can also come from one’s own inspiration: something that attracts you, catches your attention, and you feel the urge to continue with it. It is completely intuitive. These are the two ways, in my experience.


2. So you mean that these starting points can be rather conceptual or more physical, is that right?

Yes, physical and also imaginative. I work a lot with images. Suddenly, I see something that inspires me. Generally, it’s something I see. When I make the creation, these ideas are usually never intellectual, but rather images or acts.


3. A substantial part of your recent activity is based on collective creations. Which aspects in these kinds of creations would you highlight, as opposed to individual creations?

The truth is that it is easier for me to work in that way. For me, a collective creation is something that is transversal. My role is to open my attention to a series of stimuli and suggestions that I take and transform. As a director, creator and dramaturgist, I feel more comfortable working in a practical way. However as an actress, I am happy with a script or a text. My formation at the Escuela Argentina de Mimo, Expresión y Comunicación Corporal [run by Ángel Elizondo] probably contributed to this modern approach that I have to individual and collective creation.

I work extensively on linking up with what the artists suggest. This is why diversity attracts me a lot. I love working with what a person, whatever their background, can transmit and suggest by themselves. It is a mutual summing-up. The person proposes something, this suggests something, I propose again and a cumulative growth originates, with images and propositions. It is as if the person were the raw material. I imagine the people I work with as clay. The qualities posed by each person are completely different and highly rich.


4. Let’s move to a more concrete question. What is the role of the concept and the structure in a creative process?

I think the concept appears quite early. It is what gives coherence to the image or the proposal. The concept is very flexible (I am very flexible). I let myself be influenced by what comes next, and I stay permanently open until almost the end. Therefore, I start from a concept that can experience alterations, and I am very influenced by these modifications. Sometimes I arrive at the rehearsal with a very clear idea and suddenly, my vision changes due to something that occurs. The concept is essential in order to continue creating.

The structure depends highly on the rehearsals and the ideas that I have. I work a lot with fragments that I combine. It is not a whole, but smaller parts that form that unity. The structure shapes the artistic and aesthetic proposal, and in my case, it appears gradually throughout the process. 


5. Could you tell me in which aspects you base this structure?

Structure needs to be coherent, obviously. It has to reflect the concept. Sometimes, things appear that don’t really contribute to the concept and have to be eliminated. For example, you can be carried away by something, you work on it, you like it, but then you’re not being coherent with the whole scenic proposal. The structure is strongly based on the artists you are working with and what they are proposing in terms of [artistic] language.


6. Would you say that there could be, to simplify, two types of structure? One which is more related to telling a concrete story, more theatrical; and the other more event-related, with various levels of tension, which could be more related to music or dance?

I rarely tell a story [in my creations]. It is true that in Lorca [“Lorca y nosotros. El alma estremecida”, a collective creation performed in 2019], there is a story and a storyteller. However, what is important in this piece is to dive into Lorca's life and oeuvre, focusing on the contents and artistic proposals. This is what would be the closest to a story.

My main goal is to generate impressions and emotions with what we do. You enter a theme, like the devil, you have to start with a certain configuration, transition to another and end with the last one. In the case of “The Devil on the Dance Floor”, there is a theme (angel and devil), but it’s not a story; it’s as if there were a text on which the performance is based.


7. Now I am turning to “The Devil on the Dance Floor”. I would like to start this section asking how music influences your work. In which way does it affect your process? 

For me, music has always been something fundamental in my life, obviously; it has especially been important as a structuring element in the works I have done. It is not a supporting feature, but something that contributes to the structure. Music is part of a ‘personal imaginary’ which dates back to our first aural memories, like the lullabies that were sung to us. Lullabies are part of a very sensitive and distinguishable area in our personality. Therefore, music enters directly in these emotions, without the need to understand it intellectually. It’s a communicative and expressive element. When I choose the music I am going to work with, I take all this into consideration. I am very meticulous in this, and I do it for both creations and workshops. The goal is to find the music which will result in a specific reaction from the person, so I look for the music that will achieve this. I don’t tell the participants about these choices because I want to work on unconscious and implicit levels. In this way, the actor or the participant of the workshop will be more effectively moved.


8. And which concrete observations would you highlight from working with musicians with academic background?

Collaborating in ‘The Devil on the Dance Floor’ has been very important and enriching for me because, apart from working with music, which I love, it has permitted me to work with the six of you. You are a group which has been working in a very concrete academic environment, where the body, in many cases, is just a medium for the instruments to sound. I found it very interesting to explore the possibilities that these bodies can express at a scenic level. In this way, you turn into scenic performers, apart from musicians. You needed to surrender and trust each other to keep playing at the best level, and at the same time open another ‘expressive area’ that wouldn’t bother the musical performance, or that would even make this performance freer. I can imagine that the musician is also enriched by realising their capacity to express even more on the stage. 

When you attend a concert, everything around the piece contributes to its interpretation. There is a venue, lighting, an environment, the clothes they choose to wear, the chair they sit on… All of this is an aesthetic choice. Therefore, I think it is enriching to a musician’s career to be able to access this kind of scenic formation to widen their scope. It is a contribution, even if they don’t do interdisciplinary performances in the end.


9. A big part of the work in the beginning of DODF was focused on the interaction. Why does interaction need so much time in the rehearsals?

In the projects I take part of, I value group expression. The artistic expression has to be collective, especially in the times we are living in. It’s a confirmation of how we manifest ourselves as humans. Even if you create something by yourself, you need to connect to someone else. We are nothing if we are alone.

For me, working on interaction is fundamental, as it changes what finally happens on stage. In your case, five musicians and one dancer can create something amazing, because you guys are very talented. However, if these artists, these humans, get to interrelate and know each other from another perspective, the result on stage will be six people performing in a unity.

You have to begin with the basics, which is the contact between each one of these people, and you have to see each other. It is like starting from scratch. The fact that this group is getting together is exceptional, even if some of them have worked together before. Those are the circumstances where one has to start. This is why it is fundamental to take this precious time to deepen into this experience. In your case, we had to add the instrument as an ‘expressive subject’ for each one of you.


10. The topic regarding the instrument is very interesting. We as musicians use our instruments to express our art, but in terms of the possibilities of movement, instruments generally involve limitations in movement. So how do we work with this fact?

Going back to the group dynamics we did, I think instruments are a limitation. However, an instrument is also an object, with its beauty, its touch, its smell, and some musicians may have never discovered this, due to their routinary relation to it. Suddenly, seeing this object with its shape is very interesting. It allows the musician to experience it from a sensuous point of view. Of course, in this process one will recognise its limitations, but it will generally result in a more sensuous relation to it.


11. This was one of the group dynamics we carried out [to discover our instruments as if it was the first time we saw them]. Generally, what were you looking for in these exercises?

The first step comes from oneself. The starting point is located in our self-perception, and I seek to surprise the performer when they are with themselves, with their body. You feel your body and the gravity, and the space and its sound qualities.

The next step is to open these perceptions to the others, and look for dynamics which will generate trust and a group feeling. This will permit performers to do things without feeling embarrassed or scared. We start getting to know the other bodies by doing exercises where this contact becomes concrete.

Breaking these schemes, setting aside the fear to be ridiculous, and achieving looseness, helps embrace the space. The second step leads to the last, which is to perceive the space as a whole. The dynamics I use facilitate a new way of relating to the environment.

In addition, the fact that you guys worked together with a dancer contributed to creating ties amongst yourselves. She acted many times as an element that facilitated your possibilities of doing crazier things. You could take her and move her around, something that wouldn’t have been possible with your [musical] background. Having been able to lift her in the air with care has a huge impact in the final performance. You were able to ‘lift’ her with your playing.

All these exercises we did together can be regarded by some people as unnecessary or unrelated [to the final performance]. However, these personal and group experiences are perceived on stage and translated into the artistic language you are using in the moment. I am completely convinced about this.


12. So, actually, interaction extends to any element around us. We even went to the extreme where we did exercises where we greeted the objects in the space.

Everything influences the process in one way or another. If you are performing something that will be presented in different spaces, you have to train to adapt to these spaces. Of course, a conventional venue will somehow influence the performance, but when going to non-conventional spaces, it is fantastic to have the possibility and the training as a performer to take advantage of it. You are losing a lot if you go to a space with the potential to be developed artistically and look for a 5x8 rectangle to place your performance. Training allows this flexibility to transform a limitation into a possibility. This is the ideal situation, where malleability and imagination are fundamental.


13. What did you have in mind for the musicians when we had to interact with the dancer and which resources did you try to elicit?

It is very interesting to observe how each musician is and which instrument they play. This, added to the possibilities or limitations posed by each instrument, shapes the particularity of each performer.

As each one of the performers is particular, you have to decide what you do with each one of them. Maybe someone is very expressive with their instrument, but then has problems connecting to others. In this case, you stimulate their ‘missing part’: you encourage them to open to the others. For example, one of the musicians is an excellent player with an excellent posture. The task with them was to originate the trust that if they break their posture, they will still be playing well. This means that they would also contribute with something personal, adding to the resources they have incorporated and studied as a musician. What I did was to generate this space that only they know. I can give them many instructions: to relax, to get loose, to dance as if he were in a club… However, I cannot comment on technical [musical] aspects, which I don’t know. It’s all based on the trust they have in me and the trust I have in them as a musician. It sums up.


14. Returning to the topic regarding the structure, was the structural plan affected by the fact that the interaction sometimes was more centered on the musicians and sometimes on the dancer?

Of course. We had to choose the moments when the music takes a protagonist role by itself within the whole repertoire. Therefore, the timing of the performance would be more varied, and not always music plus dance [equally].

I had to relate to the dancer and plan that all the pieces wouldn’t become the same. You think about how the narrative develops and how you want the intention to be conveyed from your choice of the repertoire. The repertoire, in fact, is already a proposal. The idea was to respect this expressive proposal and use the resources we had in order to transmit it. One of these resources is how the interrelation between the dancer and the musicians works in each piece.


15. In the DODF (‘The Devil on the Dance Floor’) case, we generally used the repertoire as a trigger to what was finally created. In my current project about climate change, you spoke about the idea of the ‘dramaturgical units’ as smaller entities in a larger performance. How would you define this dramaturgical unit and what can trigger or originate one? 

In the case of DODF, the smaller dramaturgical units were each piece or each movement. It is very musical. It is important that each dramaturgical unit has a quality. It can have a small development within itself, but it can also be a specific quality (without development) that you want to stamp in that moment of the performance. It can be based on a small development you want to transmit, an emotion you want to convey, or a state (something dreamlike, for example), that will influence the rhythm and narrative of the performance directly.


16. Could a text also trigger a dramaturgical unit?

Indeed. A dramaturgical unit can be triggered by whatever you want. You just have to develop this idea from different aspects, be they expressive, conceptual or musical. It is like squeezing this trigger to its maximum capacity.

If you apply a more classical theatre point of view, these units always contain conflict. Conflict generates the theatrical quality. It is a clash that has to be solved. This can be translated into situations without specific argumental lines or characters. It is something that happens, a core, that has to be solved.


17. I would like to talk about actions and intentions. Is it possible to focus the work on only one of them?

A clear action, carried out in a concrete way, is always going to generate an intention. If you only act without reason, it is not going to originate anything in the receiver. Therefore, the key is how you execute this action. If there is an intention and the technique of the action is clear, this intention is going to be transmitted, but the most important thing is that this action is concise. Otherwise, it doesn’t function.


18. Would it be possible, in the context of working on a dramaturgical unit or a rehearsal guideline, to focus on one of them [action or intention]?

The reality is that you will end up working with one when you focus on the other. The ideal situation is that both are there and both have a reason to be there. This reason doesn’t need to be something profound or complex. Sometimes it can be obvious or simple, but asking why one carries out a specific action will change this action. 

You may want to transmit sadness but the actions you take are numerous and not clear [to deliver this sadness]. If this sadness is focused on the action of sitting down in the most sorrowful way, you will get the ideal combination of both action and intention.


19. So the lucidity of the action is based on the clarity of the gesture. Is the clarity also related to the duration of the action?

Yes, and it is also related to how we open our senses. When carrying out an action, the body is open to perception. In case of touching the surface of a table, something very simple, I will put all my attention to the senses. I can feel my hands touching this surface, which can be cold, wet, etc. By doing this, the action is enhanced, and the public sees more than just a person touching a table. The fact that the actor is feeling the temperature and the touch, is giving depth to the action. Actions include perception, and its slowness facilitates a much closer contact with the substance. Even when you move your arm, you are going through air, which is a substance. Even if you don’t do this movement slowly in the final performance, your body has already registered it carefully and you already know the richness in that action. For me, that training is fundamental.

As a general remark, the reality of being on stage, in a venue with people, implies that everything you move affects the rest. It is as if the air were water: everything is inevitably modified. I think that, if we are conscious of the fact that everything we do will alter the other elements, we can highly enrich our performance. And the process originates also in the public, so we also have to be open to that. It is like being permeable, with open attention, like when you meditate.


20. When working on improvisation, if an expression (emotion or image) appears casually and you want to develop it further, would you place this result in the intention or would you keep the intention the same as initially planned?

This is the key question: how to recuperate this moment without losing spontaneity. One should try to recall what happened in that moment, because sometimes it’s so spontaneous that it gets lost. Therefore, it is useful to ask oneself what one saw and felt as a performer to try to come back to it. 

For me, being able to catch spontaneity and get the performer to keep it fresh is the most absolute expression of Art. This is my task [as a director]. When working with inclusion, there is plenty of intellectual data that I could give you so that you can translate it into something else, but it doesn’t work with everyone.

The interview with Laura Suárez is significant to give definitions about the components of a creative process and a performance. Apart from the conclusions drawn from the experience with ‘The Devil on the Dance Floor’, the interview meant a substantial contribution to the development of the framework.

During this interview, Laura Suárez reflects on various aspects of creative processes in the performing arts, both related to her own works and her contribution in ‘The Devil on the Dance Floor’. In the first three questions, she gives insight into the possible starting points for creative processes, according to her experience. These starting points can be more physical or more abstract. Moreover, she also reflects on collective creations, on which she bases a substantial part of her projects. She explains how these kinds of collaborations work and what is unique about them.
The following three questions (4, 5, and 6) dive into the role of the concept and the structure during the creative process, and how these components influence it.

Alongside these components, the next five questions (7 to 14) expand on the topic of interaction and group expression, mainly through reflections on ‘The Devil on the Dance Floor’. Laura Suárez exposes her views on musicians’ relation to their bodies and their instruments, and how the whole ensemble achieved unity through the group dynamics. Interaction, as we can see, is very important in the process. It is key to a cohesive group and also reaches other elements, like the venue where performance or the rehearsal is happening. Interaction also influences other components, like the structure (question 14).

Towards the end, on questions 15 and 16, Laura Suárez elaborates on the term “dramaturgical unit”. This term will be used later in the framework as a component that gives structure to each section of the performance. These units serve as scenes and can be triggered by a music piece, an action, a text, etc.

To close the interview (questions 17 to 20), she talks about the actions and their connection to intentions. These components are translated to expressions that are transmitted by the performer, and impressions that are perceived by the public and the other performers. The key to these components (named ‘expressive components’ in the framework) is that they work very closely. Laura explains in these last questions why it is important to keep all of them in mind.

Photo by David Vegal

Interview with director, actress and pedagogue Laura Suárez

"For years now, I have worked with and through diversity, finding it a constant source of inspiration and endeavoring to always remain permeable to change, to the possibility of breaking out of molds and creating new structures. At present, actively leading workshops, I am delving into different methods of acting, collective creation, inclusive theater and investigating the influence of Art in the development of the person and the social collective. Onstage, I am normally drawn to work as part of a rewarding multidisciplinary team."

Laura Suárez