With the Project Y 2017 Tour opening this week, we talk to Hagit Yakira, one of our four choreographers about her career and approach to working on a project like Project Y.

Can you tell us a little about your background? How did you get started in the dance world?

I am Israeli and I came to the UK 13 years ago. I worked as a dancer and as a dance movement therapist in Israel. I was always very interested in psychology and how dance and movement can help people in expressing themselves and in their process of recovering (I think this feeds my choreographic work very much). However, when I came to London I stopped working as a therapist and concentrated more on dancing and creating. I started my choreographic work here, in the UK, 8 years ago, and formed my dance company Hagit Yakira dance.

I always loved dancing and I think that I always somehow danced. When I was 12, I was accepted to one of the best dance schools in Israel and had to choose whether I kept dancing or kept playing the piano… well… I chose the former. Since then, I have danced for different choreographers, in different projects and in different scales, mostly in Israel. I also danced in my own work until I decided to concentrate on choreographing and teaching only.

These days I travel a lot, mainly to the UK, Europe, Scandinavia and Israel – choreographing, teaching and researching. I also travel a lot with my company for touring. Alongside that I do a lot of community work – teaching and choreographing for non-professional dancers. This is one of my biggest passions! At this very moment I am also writing my PhD, looking at the notions of feminism, autobiography and choreography.

What was the transition from performer/dancer to choreographer like?

I think that even when I worked as a dancer/performer I was already a choreographer. I was always interested in creating, in choreographing, and maybe less in performing – or else performing alongside creating. I performed to get the experience, so I can try it myself, so I know how it feels to be on stage and to go through a creative process as a dancer, however it was always (for me) secondary. I always knew I wanted to choreograph.

What interested you in working with Project Y?

I find it so inspiring to work with young dancers. I love the energy, the honesty, the rawness, the curiosity, the commitment – it gives me so much energy and a sense of optimism and hope. I feel it challenges me as an artist in a very specific way – I need to find a coherency and simplicity within the process and the approach in order to let these young souls shine. I want to meet them and I want them to meet me – and somehow we need to meet in the middle. My work and their personalities will be seen as equally important. It is not a straightforward task, and it isn’t as easy as it sounds – it requires a sense of humbleness, of paying attention, of listening and of mutual respect. In a way, this happens within each creative process, however with young dancers it is more fragile, a bit more sensitive and therefore a bit more emphasised.

How do you approach working on a project like Project Y? What’s your process?

Ah! This is a good question. I have in my mind a clear subject matter, and some physical tasks to explore with the dancers. However besides that – I arrive as open as possible and let intuition and the connectivity between the dancers and me help me in shaping a journey. The process for me is as important as the product. Once the creative process is truly creative, I know the final choreography has the potential to be meaningful.

I work through improvisation – the choreographies themselves are also based a lot on improvisation. I therefore lead the dancers into a journey that enables them to feel as good as possible, and as confident as possible when they improvise in front of an audience. Because the process is SO short, it’s a real challenge, but saying that, every creative process is a challenge in many different ways.

The Project Y 2017 Company will perform GO!choreographed by Hagit Yakira and the dancers on the Project Y 2017 Tour. Get your tickets today!