Maria Hassabi unveils PREMIERE at the Kitchen

Maria Hassabi talks about her latest work, PREMIERE, which is a co-production by the Kitchen and Performa 13

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Time Out New York: How long have you known each other?
Maria Hassabi:
Since 2002 we’ve been working together. There is this idea of the Wooster Group—these people who have worked together for many years. I like that. I’ve always liked that.

Time Out New York: I wonder if I’ll be able to tell who you’ve worked with longer in this piece.
Maria Hassabi:
I hope not. I hope you have time to see each one. Hopefully, it’s not going to be about who is the most comedic person…but that always comes through. And it’s also your taste. You’re going to choose this person or that person.

Time Out New York: How much time do you spend in New York?
Maria Hassabi:
This year, it’s going to be five months.

Time Out New York: What is your life like?
Maria Hassabi:
It’s crazy. I don’t even think of it as a nomad [existence]. Somebody called me a nomad the other day and it’s not quite right, because I’m always performing. I performed so much this year. I think of the art form that I chose—you’re on the road because it’s the only way for people to see what you do. They’re not going to be able to see it on video in the same way. At the moment I can’t imagine that you don’t have to go anywhere, that you send your performers, and you can stay a little bit longer in one place. But Merce always went with his dancers; Pina always went with her dancers. So I’m talking extremes now; Meg Stuart still travels like insane. All the time. And of course there are choreographers like Ralph Lemon who don’t like to travel, and that doesn’t make him less or more, but for me, it was always about this traveling. I always wanted that and loved that. This year, I got really tired. But it’s also that this is my third premiere in a year. I think having two weeks of a break is not a good idea. You need a little longer. Two weeks is enough to go to the doctor and take antibiotics. So there is a structure that needs to happen. I have to think about and see how I want to continue doing that. Because this was really exciting when it started. And I just got tired now, which is okay, but I need to really think about this model for me. I’m not sure how. That’s the other project: How to live this life and sustain it with happiness.

Time Out New York: What else are you working on?
Maria Hassabi:
There are a lot of things. There are two new site-specific works that I have to make. One is in Switzerland, and it’s a performance in a public space. The other one is in Australia in the Centre for Contemporary Art. In the summer, I’ll start working on another new theater piece. Because I want to continue working in a theater.

Time Out New York: Do you ever think of moving away from New York?
Maria Hassabi:
I love my studio, and I still have good friends here. Now I have good friends in other places too. So as long as I can afford this place, I’m here. What we do in the dance world most of the time is ask for a show to happen. And you do put the studio as part of the expenses, because it’s rehearsal space, but when commissions come, they initiate it, right? So I’m just thinking of a way that I can make this sustainable with all the different projects even if the rent goes up.

Time Out New York: How did the Kitchen happen?
Maria Hassabi:
I went to them. In New York, always. I think everywhere in the dance world is pretty much like that. There are very few times that they’ve come to me. Or like Vallejo [Gantner of P.S. 122] in his crazy way: “When are we doing a show?” That doesn’t exist very much. In Belgium, they do that.

Time Out New York: Is there a place in Europe where you feel most at home?
Maria Hassabi:
Belgium. I have good friends there and support. I pretty much love it.

Time Out New York: Can you talk about what everyone’s wearing in PREMIERE?
Maria Hassabi:
Simple. I had a really hard time with costumes, to be honest. I had a nightmare that we were all wearing yellow and orange, very cheap satin. I woke up in the morning, like [Gasping for breath]. So it’s not yellow and orange. [Laughs] It was a real nightmare. I woke up sweating. It just came in my dream like that. But threeASFOUR are still styling a little bit. They always come in at some moment in the process.

Time Out New York: This relates to something we were talking about early on. What is a work of art to you? What are your values?
Maria Hassabi:
First of all, my work is live performance. My values are within live performance. One of the biggest elements of that are the performers themselves and having the time to look at them and see them as human beings. To give them this value. For me, that’s really important. Then within live performance, there is the use of space, lights, the audience. These are really the elements I always work with in different ways each time, but something that is always there and has been always there is extended duration and precision. Sculptures as opposed to movement. And why is that? It gives time to see the people.

Time Out New York: Do the performers touch in this work?
Maria Hassabi:
No. I should make a piece where they touch.

Time Out New York: Does the idea of a premiere freak you out?
Maria Hassabi:
It’s not so psychological. It’s a much more formal approach. It freaks me out more in the way that it’s never finished, and what does this mean? I need you to finish this work. You the audience, you the viewer. That interests me: the moment I need you.  
Maria Hassabi is at the Kitchen Nov 6–9.

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