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The importance and the challenges of working with an ensemble

Created by Marianna Varviani

March 31, 2022, Los Angeles, California

Photograph from the performance ‘Phoenix’. Choreographed by Marianna Varviani. Performed by: Gurmukhi Bevli, Cheyenne Dixon, Hannah Ferguson, Tyler Law, Sophie Poe, Marianna Varviani, Alexandra Wood, Tanya Xu. Photographed by: Sophia Alexiou

The beauty of ensemble work lies in the combination of possibilities that emerge with many bodies on stage. Whatever the dynamic between life and art may be, one is relative to the other, reflecting, commenting, mimicking, or merely reacting to each other.

As social beings, we survive by interacting with each other. Our every action has a reaction, impact, and meaning. Therefore, we can say our artistic choices are also political. Even in the absence of explicit political references, the form and format of our work can reflect relations between individuals, and between individuals and the systems, they belong to. When we work with a greater number of collaborators, on equal terms, we have the chance to multiply people’s contributions. This may result in creating communal experiences, shared moments, memories, and exchanges between a small or large group. In this way, the artistic results will be embodied practices that include and combine the views, thoughts, emotions, voices, and experiences of multiple people whilst sharing a collectively owned artistic piece. As a process, working with an ensemble, aims to build cohesive units while combining the uniqueness of each individual. Consequently, after such projects, artists are able to share their common experiences with the rest of their communities.

Beyond the issue of support structures, let’s consider the composition of ensembles, who gets to be part of them, and why?

  • Does an ensemble accurately represent the diversity of the community from which it is born?

  • Can it capture the rich heterogeneity of our societies?

  • How do we give equal opportunities to performers, do we reach out to look for them, or do we expect them to find us?

  • If people don’t have the same access to education and they have trained on their own, do they really have the same chances to be included?

Photograph from the performance ‘Vortex’. Choreographed by: Marianna Varviani.

Performed by: Lia Chamilothori, Erato Chatira, Katerina Foti, Nadi Gogolou, Candy Karra, Stella Spyrou. Photographed by: Marili Zarkou

Photograph from the performance ‘Ahtikos_a dance for liberation’. Choreographed by: Marianna Varviani. Performed by: Katerina Foti, Christiana Kosiari, Iro konti Photographed by: Dimitris Mamaloukos

As dance artists, we use the power of poetry, motion, metaphors, imagination, emotions, and our own bodies in order to tell multidimensional narratives. The beauty of an ensemble lies in the complexity of each group’s dynamic, of people coming together to form small communities, even if it is only for a single performance. Collective bonds are formed each time. Working with an ensemble could lead to artists and audiences finding commonalities. Through the process of collaboration and collective participation, we can practice an open dialogue. By building something together, we empower and support each other rather than step on each other, in the words of activist Mary Church Terrell “lifting as we climb”.

The power of an ensemble is the power of sharing ideas, empathizing, being in sync, innovating, and complementing each other. Working together on an equal basis doesn’t have to mean conforming to or restricting our individuality. Using our struggles and sharing them through dance, is a means of collectively thinking and finding ways to be together. The potentiality of human collaboration is endless.

Connect with Marianna Varviani & Selcouth


Artistic Expression, Ensemble, Dance Organizations, Global Perspective

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