Lazy Susan &Co

Corona has forced the cultural sector to shift, adapt and sometimes take a step back. In Rotterdam, Lazy Susan &Co, a young collective of 11 dance graduates from ArtEZ, is working hard to shake things and create opportunities despite the dire times. Lucia Fernandez Santoro spoke to members Alice Gioria, Hellen Boyko, Iris Boer, Keren-or Ben Shachar, Ian Yves Ancheta, and Catarina Ribeiro to find out how they are going about it.

How did you start your initiative?
Keren: ‘We started in September 2020, so during Corona. I’m not sure if it was very ambitious or very naive. Catarina and I were talking about our situation and how we could join forces. So, we wrote to our friends, basically. We sent an email saying we had this idea and invited people to meet and talk about it. Of course, a lot of questions arose once we got together, but we decided to give it a try. We proposed our idea to Sebastiaan Kerckhof, the owner of De Studio Rotterdam. He was very supportive of us, it became our headquarters. I had already been working there, which made the connection easier.’

Alice: ‘It so happens that we were in the right place at the right time. The space cannot have any morning classes or events, so proposing ourselves to bring the place to life was an organic process.’

What has it been like to start a new collective during Corona?
Keren: ‘Corona is what kept us here! I’m not sure it would have been possible otherwise since many of us were interested in going abroad and going for auditions, but a lot of these things were cancelled due to the pandemic. It was unfortunate, but it ended up benefiting the collective. It gave us time, availability, and motivation.’

Catarina: ‘Finding work is hard, and so is fitting into a scene, even without Corona. To enter the Dutch scene, you need to fit into and understand certain parameters such as looks and body types, or a tight network. If you want to get into an audition, people need to know you already. Production houses, too, choose makers who are similar to what they already know, which is keeping dance languages from evolving. The freelance scene is very conceptual, which is a great contrast to the more commercially oriented dance institutions, but it’s just not where I stand as an artist. My work falls in between those extremes. I don’t want to feel pressured into writing concepts that make my art sound intellectual, but on the other hand, I don’t want to be superficial either. If you’re not either one or the other, it’s difficult to enter the field.

I’m not alone – I know many people are facing the same dilemma. Staying in the Netherlands after graduation is not so straightforward. I don’t think there are enough companies or young makers creating work outside of the norm because there’s not enough money to provide for all of us, and the requirements for subsidies are quite specific. Through Lazy Susan, I still have opportunities, so I don’t have to quit or study something else. We wanted to create our own work circumstances and support ourselves. We gathered our minds to create something that we enjoy.’  

What is behind your name?
Keren: ‘A Lazy Susan is a rotating platform on a table that enables you to pass food or spices around easily. It’s what we are, a rotating system, just like the object. We are able to share, pass on ideas, exchange roles.’ 

Catarina: ‘Hierarchical systems are so common in dance companies and production houses. So we wanted to have a very horizontal mindset for our organization.’

Alice: ‘The full name is Lazy Susan &Co, and the &Co represents multiple things: Collective, Contemporary, Colleagues, Collaborations…etc.’

With 11 people involved, how do you operate as a collective? Who takes on which role?
Iris: ‘We started with this idea of a rotating platform. So per project, different people will take on different roles to support the choreographer. The person who comes up with the idea for a project initiates the process and states their needs. The other collective members fill in the roles as needed. The idea is that the positions rotate on each project.’ 

Alice: ‘We’re also finding out that some people feel comfortable in a specific role, so why not stick with it? But as Iris said, it’s based on the creator’s initiative. The most important thing is that you choose to cover a specific role if you have the time, and you’re interested. There’s no obligation from the collective. The personal drive is a key element. We’re continuously communicating with each other.’

Catarina: ‘Clarification is also very important. We made a sheet, listing all the roles – choreographer, performer, production manager, composer, et cetera – and each had to assess their position preference from 1-5. It’s very practical and clear and keeps us all on the same page.’

Hellen: ‘There’s always someone who proposes a project. That person decides who the dancers will be, but performers have to come from the collective. You send your availabilities to Alice, who then creates a schedule. There are deadlines, although it’s now difficult to know when you will perform, we try to organize ourselves as much as possible as if corona weren’t a factor. It’s just like a production house, you need a premiere date, you need to have props and costumes ready, somebody needs to make a trailer, to come into the studio and make sure all is going well.’

What are you waiting for-workinprogress-Iris Boer-Photo by Tijmen Teunissen
What are you waiting for (work in progress) by Iris Boer | photo: Tijmen Teunissen

How do you choose your artistic content? Are you looking for a cohesive artistic line?
Keren: ‘I think because we are all graduates from ArtEZ, we naturally have something common in our artistic directions.’

Alice: ‘Subconsciously, there’s a common line in the works and in our approach to performance, but we don’t necessarily want to name it or frame it. We believe variety is our strength, and that’s what allows us to reach different types of audiences. Anything can happen, we’re very open to ideas that are completely out of our comfort zone.’

How do you envision the future of the collective, and of the dance field as a whole?
Keren: ‘We’re in a reflective period, trying to see where we’re going as a collective. We want to find out what we can add to the field.’

Hellen: ‘We want to make a change in the field, move it somewhere else. We’re quite ambitious. I think most of us are very interested in live performance. We want bodies and movement and receive from that energy. The Netherlands feels stuck, in the types of work created by older generations. Corona has helped us establish ourselves and hopefully, we can do more in the future.’

Iris: ‘There’s something missing, and we have something different that we want to share. A more honest way of showing the body, more in tune with the times. There’s a gap to fill and we’re slowly shaping what that is.’

Ian: ‘What is missing from the field of dance is opportunities. I believe that this was the biggest issue that drove us to create this collective. It is the result of a high supply of dancers and a low demand. The allocation of resources from the institutions is also a point of discussion. However, we didn’t want that to stop us from being in the field. Despite our circumstances, we questioned how we could develop our craft if it was going to be good, valid, or relevant. And how can we ask these questions when there is no place for us to be heard in the first place?’ 

Keren: ‘In the Netherlands, the institutional system in the art and cultural sector is what allowed the significant development of the sector in the past years. I think it is one of the reasons so many of us are still around after graduation. However, artistically, the strong and impressive legacy established by larger dance institutions keeps overruling the perception of what contemporary dance is. What we want is to offer something that is not separated by concept or style; it can be very physical, visual, minimal, theatrical, or abstract, all that serves the idea of the maker. I believe our perception of what dance, theater, and movement can be, is more hybrid in that sense. What drives us is the wish to create and share something more genuine and yet at high quality.’ 

Alice: ‘We’re using this strange period to our advantage and getting ready to build ourselves for when live performances can start again.’ 

Lazy Susan & Co is: Alice Gioria, Fleur Roks, Hanne Blomme, Sebastian Pickering Pedersen, Hellen Boyko, Ian Yves Ancheta, Iris Boer, Keren-or Ben Shachar, Sara Miguelote, Tijmen Teunissen, Catarina Ribeiro.

featured photo: Andrea Couceiro (Astonishing Adventures of an Accidental Image by Iris Boer and Sebastian Pickering Pedersen)