How a Russian Woman Launched a Transformation Theatre in Switzerland

by | Apr 7, 2020 | Fempreneurship, Interviews, Theatre | 0 comments

Maria moved from Moscow to Geneva bringing vivid spirit of Russian capital into a cozy life of Switzerland. With her Theatre Studio Beloe she presented sincerity of body language to the public and met the appreciation of famous museums of Geneva. We discussed self-expression and the transformational theatre.

Photo: Personal archive

SUISSEPIC: How old is Theatre Studio Beloe and what was the idea behind?

Maria Rakotonarivo: I established my theatre studio about 8 years ago in Moscow. Four years ago, when I moved to Geneva I started my Theatre here. Half a year ago we also launched the Studio in Zurich. On the 8thof March we launched a studio in Paris.

The idea was to let any person from any culture or profession express himself or herself. No special theatre experience needed. Follow the flow!

Our concept is based on the movements. I personally believe that a body never lies. Using the language we can play a lot with meanings. But using the body it is not possible. 

As a stage-director I try to find a concept of movements relevant to each actor in my Studio. Every person has his or her way to move and to express. So, we balance person’s way of speaking and moving. After classes people start feeling more comfortable not only at the stage but also in real life with family or friends. And we call it a transformational theatre.

SUISSEPIC: Can you express colors with body language?

Maria: Recently we presented Passion with certain roles The White and The Black.

The Black is related to the shadows of your soul. On the contrary The White is the image of innocence. We underlined these ideas with minimalistic costumes.

During the class we did exercises on how to express yourself in a color. The Black is related to anger and aggression. Hiding the anger is toxic, so you need to find an ecological way to get rid of that. And our classes help.

Photo: Personal archive

SUISSEPIC: How do you find a proper Black and a proper White?

Maria: At this particular performance I created roles for particular people. When my students came I already knew what character could express and open this person!

SUISSEPIC: What kind of exercises you perform with the students?

Maria: We have some exercises on how to fix your emotions. We ask our students to feel a certain emotion and then to fix it in the body making a pose. For example, you feel happiness inside, you fix it in your body and when you go back to a normal state, your body will remember the feeling of being happy.

Our theatre is based on the sincerity. So, students should really feel what they show.

SUISSEPIC: Do you stage the performance or are you a script-writer?

Maria: I do both. I am a director and a script writer. Previously, I staged The Nightingale and The Rose by Oscar Wilde and In Praise of Boredom by Joseph Brodsky. The genres are completely different but passion is the clue that makes you survive.

Creating The Passion I was inspired by a Facebook post of my friend. I took her philosophical statement about Passion and rewrote it into a script. It is incredible how today we read Facebook posts like our ancestors read printed journals in 19 century (smiling).

I wanted to show a person who does not have connection between the Black and the White parts of his own soul, unable to follow the passion. As soon as the Black and the White are balanced, you can feel all the colors of emotions and follow the Passion.

Photo: Personal archive

SUISSEPIC: What inspires you?

Maria: I listen to a lot of music. My favorite rock band is Muse. Their songs are very strong and give a lot of food for thought. I also like classical music and modern composers such as Keiko Matsui from Japan, Rene Aubry from France. I try to mix various styles of music in my performances because modern art is always about combination. I also listen to myself. When I create a performance the idea already speaks inside of me. 

SUISSEPIC: Do you create symbols in your performances?

Maria: Yes, of course. In Passion performance we show how hair can express feelings. Fixing hair is the way to hide emotions and loosening it you let your emotions flow. So, at the end of the performance all the girls dance with their hair loose.

As a symbol hair meant a lot in the past. Remember, that all the medieval witches had long hair.

SUISSEPIC: You recently performed in the museums?

Maria: I have always been dreaming of connecting art-exhibitions with the theatre. We were invited by Geneva’s Museum of Art and History to perform there. We presented our performance «Silence» more than 12 times. We also showed our Metamorphosis twice. Since then we are quite often invited to collaborate with museums or art institutions.

 We are happy to see the spirit which is born on the basis of this art collaboration. We contribute to the canvases to become alive and let the fantasies flow. It lifts up the interest to the art in general.

Photo: Personal archive

SUISSEPIC: Your theatre is based in Zurich, Geneva and Moscow. What are the spirits of these three cities?

Maria: It is totally different. Moscow is very vivid and international. There are a lot of great theatres. This city never sleeps. I followed this city spirit and created most of the performances having a night ride in a taxi. Enjoying views, I asked drivers to make several circles.

Geneva is more relaxed. You can take your time, meditate and create while observing Geneva Lake. It helped me to focus on the theatre. In Zurich I once saw an announcement “Do you believe in life after work?” This describes the atmosphere of the city. Paris is the city of art and my favorite museums. The spirit is creative.

All cities have their specific tempo and energy. We adapt to each city’s specific spirit.

SUISSEPIC: How can people join your theatre?

Maria: We arrange theatre classes in Geneva, Zurich and Paris. There are options: classes for beginners and advanced groups. 

On Monday people can have a test-lesson. It lasts for 1.5 hour. We give exercises on how to raise yourself as a team, how to relax and stay focused. On Wednesday we hold a class for those who has been taking our classes for 6 months. They have rehearsals and trainings.

SUISSEPIC: How do you adapt your classes during Covid-19?

Maria: We have classes online and it’s an amazing chance to work deeply on articulation and on public speaking. We learn various breathing practices and storytelling basics. I also arrange online poems parties every week. We read the poems of famous poets and self-made poems. Thus, on the 27th March we celebrated The International Day of the Theatre with the Hats and Poems Party.


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