Rob Hayden - about art, contemporary dance and movement
Describe yourself and the way you approach your work.
I’m first and foremost another human being, who one day decided to become an actor, then a dancer, and from there I got involved in music, as well as composition. I was a gymnast before that and it helped me understand the body really early on in my life.
That’s what I do, but what I think it’s important is who I am. Who is the person behind the clown, the actor, the dancer? A lot of it has to do with a very strong, focused attention and listening: what is the inner voice saying, how I listen to myself, how we listen to the other.
We can learn to listen to this inner voice and respond to every situation, either it’s a life situation or a studio situation. We have to be ready all the time to respond to the situation. Everything is happening only that time, that moment, even if you do it 1000 times. I have to treat it as only that 1 time. The quality of my attention is going to determine the response. So my interest, in terms of the work and when I teach, is honing the capacity to be present in any given situation. Practice oneself, not just technique.
We can practice and master the piano, the guitar, martial arts, but how can you practice yourself in the same way? It’s a question of being attentive, concentration, and habitual regularity.
How does it feel going from gymnastics to acting, dancing, and the artistic mindset?
It’s like going from a square to a circle. From an image that’s very rigid, structured, refined, and has its own rules, to dance and theater, which also has its own rules, but with a much more range of possibilities for how one can define dance or theater. Gymnastics is just a sport.
The similarity between the two of them is interesting. As a gymnast, you have a team, and in each competition, you aim for the gold medal, but also for a high score. If you all get a high score, then you also win as a team. So it means you are competing for yourself in order to win, but it’s also a benefit for the team. The higher you score, the more the benefit.
The same goes for theater and dance. The more you devote your time, energy, discipline, and vigor to your practice, the more it supports the work and the others. It’s like a responsibility between you and the group you are working with. In both cases, I understood that if I work for my own development, it will help others. In art, the most fundamental is that it’s not about me, it is the work itself that’s more important. When I teach or work in a creative process, the most important thing is the need to bring the work to life. Not my own will, my ego, not my expectation, but releasing something that’s very hidden.
So it’s not about what the creator needs, it’s about what the work needs. You are searching both yourself, but also the need of what you are creating.
Yes. It’s like love, you know? When you are looking for love, you are also looking for yourself.
How does the body grow in relationship with art?
As I get older, I understand my body much more. What it needs, what it wants, the limitations that it shows me. The natural process of age comes with some kind of barrier that we have to respect. Ok, I can't push myself like I did when I was 25, so I have to listen more to what my body is telling me so I can find a way to do the same a 25 years-old would do, but in a slightly different way so that it’s still as powerful, as strong, as captivating and even more present because it’s not about the virtuosity anymore.
The virtuosity becomes less and less possible, so we have to develop the craft of being truly present into every single action and micro-action. You don't have to jump 1 meter high, but only 2 inches and capture the same attention.
Does aging improve creativity?
I would say it becomes an interesting notion of doing more with less. Every limitation brings out the question: How can I pass this? This inspires a creative response. Out of necessity, I need to find different ways to approach what I do. I’m still discovering what is possible for me and the range of my limitation.
Can the Body teach us something?
Absolutely. I think it’s possible to dive into movement and let the body, somehow on autopilot, move. The inhibitor in our brain stops us from doing or saying certain things. If you turn that off, if you let your body just move, it’s going to show you something that will surprise you because it’s not a habitual response. It will be something unexpected. Working with the body itself, the matter, you are going to use as much, imagines memories, and sensation store in the body as a creative motor.
But one of the problems is that one can easily take the body for granted.
The body is designed to move. It evolved like this in order to survive. But year by year we need less and less movement to survive. We can do everything online. What do you think is the future of the movement?
We saw last year when restriction of movement was severely imposed and it had a strong effect on people. Movement is one of the very fundamental instincts that we have. If the instinct of movement is restricted, even if it means to be trapped in a 2 by 2 prison cell, or just in the sense that we are not allowed to travel anymore, it will have a long-term effect on how we evolve as a species.
It feels like we are doing more and more, but it’s all about the mind. We are forgetting body intelligence. It’s not just the brain that runs the show. I think humans are very adaptable, but to what extent? This adaptability will be a detriment to our well-being.
Does knowing yourself help you become a better performer?
Absolutely. If you don't know yourself, there is not much that you can rely on. It’s just a mechanical repetition of movements and techniques. If you don't know, to a certain degree, who you are, the level of your maturity will not grow. I don’t think it’s possible to become so responsive to the need of work if you don’t know yourself.
What does it mean to be responsible? To be able to respond to the need of a situation. How can you do that if you don’t know who you are in that situation?
What do you think that everyone should know about movement?
That it never stops. Even when you die, the movement continues, just in another form. Thoughts are a type of movement. Words are movement, even if the words are not tangible. It’s like that question with the chicken or the egg. Which was first? The movement or the action?
When movement stops, it’s a precursor of something dying.
How was your experience here?
It’s the 4th time I come to Romania and I have a great time. People are very warm and welcoming. The experience of teaching was great. It’s amazing to see so many young people at such a level of understanding of movement. Some are 13, 15 years old. I see them growing day by day.
Will you come again?
Even a 6th or 7th time.