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Q&A with guest artist Iris Heitzinger

Blackbox (2010).

Photo by Xavi Torrent.

The dance division at the School of Creative and Performing Arts is welcoming two accomplished guest artists in residence during this winter term. In this Q&A, we introduce Iris Heitzinger, who will be here until the end of February 2016.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I grew up in small village in Austria, where from a very young age, I loved to explore dance and movement as a means of expression. I attended Anton Bruckner Private University with the intention to become a dance teacher in my village. There, I realized that what I most enjoyed was the process of making something, fascinated by the seemingly endless capacities of the body, looking for my own way of moving. Today, I am a dance maker, performer and teacher.

Can you describe your creative work?

I create works, both individually and with interdisciplinary and intercultural collaborators, that investigate the body's capacities from different angles. The body has capacities that can exceed those of our conscious mind. It is able to function on many different levels at the same time, unfurling a spontaneous creative potential. I also often question the balance between structure and freedom in my works, as I believe a certain degree of improvised movement allows the performers to manifest their individual signature.

What attracted you to being a guest artist at the School of Creative and Performing Arts?

My relationship with the University of Calgary goes back to 2002, when I assisted guest choreographer Johannes Randolf with his piece Ikarus. I was very impressed by the students, their commitment to their practice and their curiosity for new ways of approaching movement. It was a very nourishing experience and coming back after all this time is a wonderful way of continuing our relationship.

Can you describe your work during the residency?

I am teaching multiple courses and creating a new piece with dance students, that will be presented during Mainstage Dance. It is still very early in the process and we are researching different ideas. I’m inspired by the city and its people; I love the cold, the sparkling layer of snow, the specific magic of the light and am thinking how winter is a time of retreat, which allows for everything to grow again in the next cycle. But, as always, I trust the creative process and sometimes it's a surprise what we will end up with.

What is the most challenging and exciting part of your residency?

I have more than 70 students I am getting to know. As a teacher it is important to me to give as much support as possible to each student. It is always exciting to see how people learn and grow. It's almost like figuring out a puzzle, finding different ways of offering information so that everyone can benefit from it. I learn a lot from my students and am very happy with their commitment. I hope that we will continue to enjoy learning, searching and creating together!

What advice do you have for our dance students?

One thing I realized after I had finished my studies and started working full time is that as a student you have the possibility to explore and try different things, without always having to be worried about the outcome. It's a perfect time to take risks, make mistakes, do things differently, explore your insecurities instead of hiding them, taking things seriously and then also laugh at yourself when you need to lighten up. The most important thing is to be fully committed, interested and involved with your practice.

What other projects are you working on?

After the residency, I will be starting a new collaboration with an Austrian company, which will premiere in the summer in Barcelona. For the fall I am preparing a new piece, co-created with Swiss actor and theatre director Françoise Boillat, which will premiere in Austria at the beginning of 2017. I am also organizing a Summer Dance Festival at La Caldera, a centre for contemporary creation in Barcelona, and preparing performances of some existing works.