Scilla Rajalin’s choreographed performance was a highlight in a year of breath-taking projects at The Responsa Foundation. We sat down with the London-based choreographer and multidisciplinary-artist and peaked into their world of performance.
Scilla is a prolific choreographer whose multi-layered performances temporarily transcend space and time, leaving you holding your breath as you wait for the next sinewy step to take place. Their complex, emotive performances draw from a rich vocabulary of stories, histories and places that have accumulated over their life and then come to fruition on stage.
Where did you grow up, and do you think this has affected your work?
I grew up on a boat in central Stockholm, with a single mom, countless siblings, drama, humour and a lot of responsibility. A very active place for a child – it fuelled passion, play and perseverance – all of which I believe have enhanced my personal and professional life. Thanks mom x
Can you give me a brief overview of what your work is about, what you try to convey in your choreography and performances?
I’d say my work is about people and places, as well as the (in)significant differences between realism and fiction. I play with a rather fluid definition of truth, and I like to experiment with time and our non-linear perception of it. My work is usually structured yet full of nonsense. Colourful but dark. The process is often centred around composition and characters. I present a concept or task to the performers that we work with together, any narrative usually comes later. With that said I always aim for the audience’s emotional spectrum to be pushed in various directions, the best performances in my opinion are ones where you’ve felt eight contradicting emotions and fallen in love with each performer. It’s about authentic play and rock-solid conviction.
What do you think motivates you to create your work?
Selfish reasons mostly: feeling entitled and able, expressing my voice, figuring out who I am in this world and how to position myself in it. But then it also reaches the people I work and collaborate with, being able to share artistic space with others is priceless and indescribable, to give and receive things you didn’t know anyone needed nor appreciated – it takes you beyond yourself. When it reaches the audience, that’s when it feels huge, when your own selfish motivations and agendas have fueled someone else’s, someone you haven’t even met, that’s massive.
You live and work in London, to what extent does this city affect your art?
Quite a lot, something really shifted when I moved to London. But I think that happens everywhere, that’s why I love moving around, there’s so much space to fill, so much perspective to take part in.
How did you discover dance? What drew you to it?
It was very immediate and instinctive, I was 2.5 years old, and my older brother took weekly dance classes which I interruptedly joined enough times for the teacher to have to accept my underaged a*s to the class. I’ve been dancing since and I’m still very close to that first teacher – forever grateful for you Cecilia.
Who are your biggest influences?
My current influences are a mix of directors, choreographers, and performers, many of them dear friends of mine. I’m highly influenced by people I work with, Lewis Walker, Eva Recacha, Liza Tegel etc. Old idols include Mats Ek, Hasse & Tage and Alexander Ekman. New idols include Ryan Trecartin, Lea Tirabasso and Luca Guadagnino. Basically, anyone that can make me laugh and cry at the same time.
How has your performance style developed over time?
It develops constantly, without me asking, or even wanting it to… It’s hard to keep up sometimes. People say their work develops with them; I’d say I develop with my work – I rarely learn as much about myself as when I’m in a creative process.
Recently my work has taken a wide side curve into documentary methods and archiving, which is surprising considering my lack of knowledge on the subject. It goes where it wants to go, and I just do my best to stay updated and educated in a way that can facilitate it.
Where do you find your inspiration?
Literally everything, everywhere, all at once. It’s taken me a bit too long to fully realise how many things feed and inspire my practice daily – now it’s like I’ve opened a tap and it’s overwhelmingly satisfying to take it all in.
Where is your sanctuary? (Either real or imagined)
By the water, always by the water.
What are your creative plans for the rest of this year, do you have anything lined up that you can share with us?
I have my first official video work coming up: docufiction including nonsense, movement, and amazing performers, as always. I am also hoping to bring back what I consider ‘my first work’, which was only shown to a designated few. It’s a solo performed by Lila Abdel-Kader and we’ve both been waiting far too long to bring it to life beyond the studio.
What are your hopes for the future? (Both artistic and otherwise)
I hope for more money and studio space to facilitate all of these amazingly talented artists whose presence have somehow still not taken over the world, to continue creating work that excites me and to meet people that challenge and impress me. An MA is somewhere in blurry sight, and I would love to move to Osaka at some point. Or Milan.
Eat, love and fu*k brexit.
How did you find the process of working with The Responsa Foundation?
The foundation was introduced to me by an old teacher, and I am beyond grateful that he did: the process with Responsa Foundation was incredibly encouraging and my work would not be where it is without your continuous support.
Choreographer/Director: Scilla Rajalin
Dancers: Lewis Walker, Kaivalya Brewerton, Fiona Macbride
Composer: Zacharias Wolfe
Lighting Designer: Edward Saunders
Additional music: Klara Keller
Videographer and Editing: Genevieve Reeves
Supported by The Responsa Foundation, The Place London and Bathway Theatre Greenwich University London Contemporary Dance School