Talking Moves Series 4 Episode 6: The Role of Dramaturgy

Talking Moves | 10 December 2021

In this episode, we talk to Karthika Naïr and Eva Martinez about the role of dramaturgy.

An artist’s creation space is a rather special place to inhabit. It’s vibrant, exciting, tense sometimes nail-biting. And it always feels to me to be an honour to be there. But by the same token, it comes with much responsibility particularly if you are invited not as an onlooker but as a contributor. One role, increasingly in use within the creation process is the role of the dramaturg. But what exactly is this, how do you become one and what benefit can a dramaturg bring to an artistic process?

We start off by discussing what a dramaturg actually is and Karthika shares a clarifying analogy we here at Greenwich Dance will reuse again and again about an elephant…

Our guests have held over the expanse of their careers multiple roles within the creation process and Karthika and Eva clarify some distinctions between writers, producers, dramaturgs, dance scripters and librettists to help us understand the complexity of the work that goes on behind the scenes. We also discover a new word, fabulist, which again will be reused again and again.

We talk a lot about the creation space and the dynamic within, about permissions, boundaries, feedback and respecting both the process and the work itself as well as the collaborators who make it. We weave a basket with our threads of conversation as we touch upon trust and the ways trust can be built (particularly this past year in remote settings), about whether prior relationships need to be established (or not) and whether all artists or only those using narrative would benefit from dramaturgical support. And we discuss, as we often do, the use of language and whether the words ‘authority’ or ‘power’ are ever at play in these settings. Eva makes the point that she has been an activist within an institution for many years and Karthika states that she would never work with anyone she could not disagree with.

And finally, we talk about the importance of acknowledging the plurality of the creative team in crediting and the need to break away from the ‘primacy of the single narrative’, which is so often prevalent in the way that work is presented and marketed to audiences. As ever there seems so much more to discuss and dig into.


Bonus content

Watch from 18:00 to 28:00, to see how a section from Karthika’s book The Honey Hunter is conveyed on stage through animation, movement, lighting, music in Akram Khan Company’s production of Chotto Desh.

Who's Who

Eva Martinez headshot in colour

Eva Martinez

Eva Martinez is a performing arts curator, producer, dramaturge and coach. She was most recently Artistic Programmer at Sadler’s Wells in London (2013-2020) where she curated a programme showcasing distinctive artists based in the UK alongside the best of international work for the Lilian Baylis Studio, as well as introducing new artists to the mainstage. She led on artist development and research for this most prestigious dance house, supporting a new generation of makers to consolidate their artistic voices, bringing new perspectives to a large audience. Prior to this role, she was Dance and Performance programmer at Southbank Centre, London (2009-2011), Europe’s largest arts centre.

Born and educated in France with a Spanish heritage, she moved to the UK in 2000 and is currently based in London. She joined Trinity Laban (2002-2006) as the school moved into their award-winning building, then joined national dance agency Dance4 (Nottingham, 2006-2009) where she managed the delivery of nottdance, a distinctive international festival of new movements in dance, taking her first steps as curator.

Now freelance with 20 years’ experience, Eva is focusing on her practice as coach, mentor and dramaturge with dance artists and change makers. She is a sought-after curator and consultant, collaborating with an extended network of cultural organisations internationally; she is known for her empowering and facilitative approach to talent development, for her championing of experimentation and diversity, and specifically for supporting the rebalancing of inequities in relation to gender and racial structural discrimination.

Photo: Jason Dimmock

Karthika Naïr black and white headshot by Koen Broos

Karthika Naïr

Karthika Naïr is a producer and librettist, poet and fabulist whose books include The Honey Hunter, which became the animated fable in Akram Khan’s DESH and Chotto DeshUntil the Lions: Echoes from the Mahabharata, her reimagining of the foundational South Asian epic in multiple voices, won the 2015 Tate Literature Live Award for Book of the Year (Fiction), was shortlisted for the Atta Galatta Prize, and highly commended in the 2016 Forward Prizes.The performances she has scripted and co-scripted for choreographers including Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet have been staged at venues across the world, such as Sadler’s Wells (London), Esplanade (Singapore) and Lincoln Center (New York).

As dance enabler, Naïr’s closest and longest association has been with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet. She produced several of their works including the multiple award-winning Babel (Words), Puz/zle and Jalet’s site-responsive Les Médusés for the Louvre Museum, and is co-founder of Cherkaoui’s Antwerp-based company, Eastman. Between 2010 and 2015, Naïr also seconded Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui as associate programmer of Festival Equilibrio in Rome.

Photo: Koen Broos

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