Q&A with Gecko’s Amit Lahav

Gecko Theatre Company have shared this brilliant interview with us, really useful for any budding professional dancers and performers, and all young people looking to enter the creative sector. Have a read:

Amit is the Artistic Director and founder of Gecko. He was born in Israel and grew up in London where he trained with theatre and dance creators such as Lindsay Kemp and David Glass and worked as a facilitator in South East Asia, making theatre with street children over a four year period.

Shortly after this time he began to develop his own company and methodologies; particularly Gecko’s emphasis on emotion, physicality, metaphor, breath and musicality.  The shows are created in the UK with an international ensemble and tour world-wide. Amit shared his thoughts on creating movement work, self-care and getting into the industry.

Where would you suggest students start when making work?

The first thing about making work is – start. That sounds incredibly simplistic but it really is true. It doesn’t have to be an amazing idea to begin with, but you do need to start. From that moment of beginning, realisations will occur. That’s essential, you have to begin and there has to be a positivity and an openness in general, surrounding that beginning. That’s one thing I would say. The other thing I would say about where to start is make it personal, make it meaningful to you. If you have to reflect on something, try to understand why that’s important to you personally. Again, the reservoir of creativity will flow much more meaningfully, and you will be able to invest so much more if it’s coming from you specifically.

Could you talk at all about the importance of synchronised movement in Gecko work?

The repetition of motif, symbolism, metaphor. These things are very important in terms of how we ingest the world, and certainly how it plays out for me. I think I often sense and feel a Gecko piece, rather like a piece of music that has verses and choruses and elements that we revisit and we revisit it again and again. It’s a complicated dream world that you enter in a Gecko show, and we need to return to the motifs occasionally so that we have more and more opportunity to marry them with the narrative of our own lives.

In terms of synchronicity I think that the shared voyage of a group of people is something that I’m interested in because I’m fascinated by community and the potential that people can come together. Also I don’t think one can discount the beauty of people moving together. There’s something so fundamentally human about how we can connect with each other.

Do you have any tips on fostering the level of commitment and energy that the Gecko ensemble always seem to have in the rehearsal room?

I think the important thing to say about this is you have to take the time to build up a non-judgemental environment in which trust grows. This is absolutely critical. You can’t get there without that. How do you do that? This is about a methodology in which, day by day, games and exercises are built up.

What are some tips on how to get into choreography/movement directing as a career?

I think the only thing I can say about that is, when I started to make work I had already spent 7 or 8 years working with lots of different people who made work. That was very important. When I started to make stuff I had a feeling for what it was I wanted to make and I allowed myself the time to experience trial and error. I think that’s very important. Giving yourself time. And finding a space where you don’t feel judged, and you feel that you can be playful without limits. It’s about getting into spaces where you don’t feel that you’re under pressure.

How do you create your physical scores and movement sequences?

The whole thing is a voyage like writing a score for a piece of music, or a symphony for a whole group of people. Some of the notes on that score come from the detail of emotional expression – if this is a moment of exploration to do with frustration and resentment, in the playing of trying to find that some of the notes comes from that physical exploration.

In terms of movement it is about the sense of being as honest as one can, and having the physical dexterity and skill to allow your body to express its inner world. So your emotional inner world is really the thing that I’m looking to uncover when we’re in the room. If I can get to a place where we’re scoring and looking at that physicality, and then we’re learning and being specific with it or leaving it very free, that’s the centre of Gecko physicality and movement. It requires enormous physical discipline and it requires enormous emotional openness.

Do you have any tips or tricks for looking after your body when you’re in such a physically demanding company?

I’ve come to realise that, especially with the performers in the company and when I’m performing in the company, there are personal physical needs of everyone individually that are very specific to those people. Broad range of ages, broad range of training, but also broad range of physical, psychological and emotional needs that are to do with preparing yourself, either to create or perform.

I try to give everyone some time to go back to some basics about how they want to prepare themselves, how they want to look after themselves. Whether that’s a much more aerobic thing that some people seem to need, or whether that’s a very yoga-based thing, or a dance stretching thing, or an actor’s way in. And that needs to happen. Giving people the space to look after themselves individually is important.

Running alongside that is how do we then bring ourselves in together as a group. I think we try and do things together which allow ourselves to set ourselves up rhythmically and emotionally so that we’re in the same soup when we start to play and perform.

How do you check back in with yourself after a long emotional, physical and psychological performance or rehearsal?

I’ve found over the years that if I don’t find a way to check in with myself, then I’m going to have problems. The process of making the shows is so all-encompassing psychologically, spiritually, physically, in every single way. I have to find time to reflect, I have to find some privacy. Nature, privacy, family, friendship, community. It’s trying to meet those needs and trying to listen to yourself moment by moment, and understanding what those needs are, and finding a way to meet them. It’s a really beautiful and real question. As you get older you don’t spring back as fast as you did so you have to be even more careful.

Head over to Gecko’s YouTube channel or Engage group for more interviews, behind the scenes footage and full-length shows.