UPCLOSE: YARON LIFSCHITZ
HK Magazine: How did you come up with the concept of Opus, where you perform alongside the Debussy String Quartet?
Yaron Lifschitz: Like all our creations, Opus has no story. It is based on a series of extreme human states. The dramaturgy of Opus follows the three and a half string quartets of Shostakovich that make up its score.
Australian circus group Circa is coming to Hong Kong to present their nail-biting masterpiece “Opus.” Xavier Ng talks to their artistic director Yaron Lifschitz about the show, his inspirations and how it’s different from anything you’ve seen before.
HK: The setting of Opus is very different from traditional circus performances: why is that?
YL: Because we are not a normal circus! We are a contemporary circus and we do difficult, strange and unusual things not only with our bodies but also with the art form.
HK: How did you start directing circus productions?
YL: Well, I got bitten by the theater bug. I loved the experience of being in the theater and seeing work on stage. But I failed miserably as a theater director. I just didn’t really like stories and acting very much. The thing that appealed to me was the excitement, the immediacy and the presence of what happens in theater, and that seemed to be captured best by the circus. I don’t think I evolved. I just made mistakes, tried to learn from them and then made more.
HK: What’s the difference between directing a circus performance and normal theater?
YL: The bodies! It also helps having fewer, if any, words. You come to the theater to be unexpectedly moved and connected with bodies that somehow surpass their virtuosity and hit some kind of artery of emotion. The ideal for the circus show is to make you feel emotions that you didn’t know, that you don’t have words for.
HK: What’s so special about Circa? How are they different from other circus performers?
YL: Circa’s look is very stripped back – clean lines, elegant but simple costumes. The focus is on the body as the site of expressive possibilities. It’s what the artists do, rather than how they look that carries the meaning and emotion.
HK: What are your inspirations?
YL: I was influenced by [choreographer] William Forsythe’s writings about ballet—rather than the works themselves, which I hadn’t seen yet, Pina Bausch of course, but also jazz music, Richard Serra, Derrida and the philosophers—not as philosophy as such, but more as ways of thinking... plus life.
HK: Why combine the circus performance with music of Shostakovich? And why blindfold the musicians?
YL: It is incredibly great music that moves me profoundly. The physical movements and the music match in a complex variety of ways. The pieces were written at time of great oppression under Stalin. The blindfolds refer to the challenges of this period including the vast number of executions that occurred.
HK: What message do you want to bring to the audience with the performance?
YL: My shows do not have messages—the audience is free to take from them whatever they choose.
Check out “Opus,” Mar 11-12 at 7:30pm, Mar 13 at 2:30pm. Grand Theater, Cultural Centre, 10 Salisbury Rd., Tsim Sha Tsui. $120-380 from urbtix.hk.