Tobiah Booth-Remmers - Australia


The interactive performance „Lār“  and the rituals of initiation

Tobiah Booth-Remmers is an Australian choreographer and performer and is one of the 4 selected  among 111 candidates  to participate in Derida Dance Center’s  Residency Program in 2017. The purpose of his visit in Sofia is the development of the  interactive performance "Lār", which he works on together with performer Lucia Moretti. The work in progress showcase of the performance was presented to Bulgarian audience on May 19th  2017 on the Stage "Derida".

Lār” is an interactive performance that investigates ritual and initiation rites. It submerges you in a world full of symbolism and imagery, sometimes dark and confronting, sometimes beautiful and poignant. As an audience member you are invited to become a direct participant in the initiation rite of the performer, becoming more than just a witness to this universal process and instead claiming that ancient but ever present part of your humanity where ritual and rite is an important expression of what it means to be part of a group or community.

During the three-week work process at  Derida Dance Center, we were able to "catch"  the two artists after a whole day of rehearsals in Studio 3 and ask them a few questions about details around "Lār," , how it feels to travel  around the world with a dance step and how does someone coming from so far away feel the Balkan syndrome.

A conversation with Tobiah Booth-Remmers about  his new project, the creative process and the challenges


Tobiah, tell us more about  „Lār“?

It is an interactive performance. The idea of the work is based on rituals. I want to try to interact with the audience. The idea is that they will become part of it as performing some key parts of the show.

How did you come up with the idea for „Lār“ ?

Well I don’t know. I’m having interest in interactive performances and I’ve done a little bit of it before but not so much so I wanted to research some more. Also the idea of a ritual comes from people’s culture, storytelling and what we hold as group, what connects us as a community. One of the scenes is a ritual. I like the idea that the ritual can be something really nice that people go through like weddings and birthdays but also that it has elements that are a bit darker like some of the rituals in sect cults. I’m kind of interested in all the dark stuff so that’s also why I addressed to ‘rituals’ because it has two parts. It’s about people, it’s about groups, it can be a good thing, but it can also be a dark thing.  It seems like an essential thing to humanity but it’s lacking a little bit in our time.

How do you usually come up with project ideas? Do you have a specific place that provokes your creativity, your own “ritual” for attracting ideas?

I think ideas come from anywhere. The ideas I find continually interesting are physical stuff, something that is a bit darker, something that is about humans or humanity. I’m not into abstract or beautiful stuff. I think that is kind of general interest, but at times I go a bit into one things or other. I think that that comes from reading books, looking images, watching movies, whatever it is, it comes from everywhere. Also I think admitting to yourself and what you’re interested in as well coz sometimes you have interest in some stuff but you hold back on that. So if something is interesting for me I try to find out more about it and then try translate it into a tory. And that’s the other thing- I’ve always liked making stories, creating something like a world you kind of come in to. Not certainly telling a narrative but kind of keeping something for the audience to question and to think about so in that way as well I have a lot of ideas about around, the feeling of what the work will be, the images in the work so that you kind of have a sense of what the audience might go through. When they experience the work-what they might feel, what they might see, stuff like that.

What do you want the audience to see and to feel while watching „Lār“? Is there something particular that you want them to learn or to feel or you want to provoke them to find their personal interpetation?

It’s still something we’re figuring out. I really want the audience to feel like they had a direct effect in the world. That’s by coming in to this place they are the ones who cause certain things or that they are the ones that initiate certain things. So the performance wouldn’t have happened if they haven’t been there. It’s that feeling of direct involvement. At the moment what we are looking at is a lot about the personal process, what you go through when you change, what you go through when you go from one state to another. I think that’s kind of the message. In a way is that transformation of being one person into another person through a certain process, a ritual. These things are something that everybody can relate to in a way. Like from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to adulthood. This kind of really clear processes that we go through.

Is that your story, about your change, or are you studying it as a global phenomenon?

No, I’m just exploring the idea. It’s very much become the story of a book Lucia’s been reading (“The women who ran with wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés).Iit’s about a personal transformation, about what they go through to arrive to the next point. It’s related to everybody but the specific kind of version we are looking at is based on that book and the ideas of that book.


Footage from Tobiah's workshop with Bulgarian contemporary dancers from the education and training program Dance PORT Derida
Flow Physicality Bulgaria from Tobiah Booth-Remmers on Vimeo.


How long does it take for and idea to become an on-stage performance?

Depends on how big what you are working on is  -  how many people are involved, how much support you have from the beginning, how far you want to take it, like how much you want to put in the production of it. It varies a lot, but I think you can always do it more time, you can always do with more support but it those are definite things that have to come by so it’s a lot of work to set these thing up but they are really important that you set them up so then you can have a really nice result, a high quality result, but we’re often forced to work quite fast because sometimes there are financial constraints. So I can spend a lot of time researching the ideas but actually when we are at the studio and we are looking at them you often have to move quite fast.

What are the obstacles coming from outside?

The thing about dance is that you require a group of other people, you require a space, a decent floor, decent sound system; it’s quite resource heavy which means it’s difficult compared to may be having your own studio and to visualize, and sitting there and painting and you rely on yourself. Here you rely on many outside factors. Particularly in Australia finance is quite difficult so it takes a lot of years… usually it takes four years to make a work and perform it if you get all your funding. That’s a massive issue; finding space- another issue. There’s a lot of people who are willing and there’s a lot of people who are interested and that is nice.  But it’s always this kind of balance of how much you can ask of them when you don’t have money and how much you can put your own time in their time and balancing those kind of things as well. The Australian industry is always interested in people who have been overseas so I kind of go like “I need to put the investment now and do this kind of things so when I go back to Australia there would be a result from this.

Are there many opportunities similar to Derida Dance Center’s Residency Program?

Yes, there are but it’s about finding out and getting the right people and the right network, this is the difficult part. In Australia I’m quite aware of where everything is and who everybody is and how to go about everything which is good but it is also bad because you get stuck in a certain network, people and studios. To be here and to be exploring this kind of residency is really fantastic. It gives us an opportunity to be somewhere else and work somewhere else which is quite important to make sure that the works keeps being interesting and being relevant. I wouldn’t have come to Bulgaria if the residency wasn’t here so that’s the really fantastic thing to do. You’re having new perspectives and new information. That’s quite a lot but I think having the motivation and the knowledge about where to go and who to talk to.

What do you get from your stay in Bulgaria?

Well, I’m still learning a lot. Particularly in terms of the work and the interactive side of it. It’s been really great place to be in terms of having the support getting in the studio and research something that you’re not so comfortable with and have necessarily researched that . In that way this residency has been fantastic. It’s giving us that kind of safe place to do that. It’s just getting ready, we’ve had lots of conversations with lots of different people. You’re building networks, you’re building connections.  

Compared to other people you’ve worked with are Bulgarians different?

They speak a different language that I don’t speak! Nah, it’s been really lovely! I find them very supportive and I think it’s been really nice. I haven’t notices any kinds of massive differences. There are differences in culture and stuff like that but they’re always interesting to me.

Up to this moment what is the thing that impressed you the most?

Beer is really cheap! It’s a really nice culture to be. I hadn’t event thought of being here before so it’s really great.

What’s the funniest, craziest, the most weird thing that’s happened to you as a dancer?

One of the less exciting experiences but quite funny was that time when we had that contemporary dance work but it was made in a very ballet structure. I had to be a tree log. The other guy and I had a river scene. We had to lay across the river and the main character had to sit on us and we had to roll. Because we were the tree logs and he was rolling down the river on us. But that was a few years ago… I survived the trauma. 


Lucia Moretti about her experience in Bulgaria



What’s your impression from the residency program?

I can say that it’s great to be here, it’s great to be here with Tobiah who I met just in January so it’s a fresh start to our partnership. It’s amazing to be here and have the space and the opportunity to express ourselves. In this process it is a really big topic. I love the calmness of Bulgarian people- you can feel it when you go around the city, it’s so chill. I am glad for this opportunity. It is a big deal for me, as a person, not only as a performer.


What will you remember from Bulgaria?

I never imagined that Bulgaria is an open space for people. I feel freedom in an artistic way here, sometimes in Italy I don’t feel it so much. I will remember that the people are open- minded, their tranquility and good energy.


In case there is a new choreographer that doesn’t know about the residency what would you tell them?

To apply for Derida. I’d say DO IT.  Tobiah was in Australia and I was working. It’s was 2 o’clock in the morning, bad moment of my life. I thought I need to find something for my life, to improve myself and I found Derida residency! So… let’s do it! I texted the application to Tobiah and I told him: “Man, you need to apply.” I didn’t know what his work was about, what was the material, I didn’t know that it was a solo … he just sent it. And we went through! So just do it!

How did you find out about Derida Dance Center’s Residency Program?

I found out about it on Dancing Opportunities 

What’s the funniest, craziest, the most weird thing that’s happened to you as a dancer?

Once I had to dance in a religious way. I had to dance for God. And I did it! It was really bad but I did it! I used to dance in a company in Italy and one day our choreographer really changed her mind and started to believe in God. For that she started to create new work based on religion. It was really challenging for me; it was work so I had to go for it but then I quit the company.



The project "Derida Dance Center's Residency Program" is part of the Calendar of cultural events of Sofia Municipality for 2017. 

 Dancing Opportunities is Derida Dance Center's media partner for this project.


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