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Meet Gema Galiana and Anthony Nikolchev of Galiana & Nikolchev’s The Useless Room

Today we’d like to introduce you to Gema Galiana and Anthony Nikolchev.

Gema and Anthony, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
Gema and I met working together on a physical theater research project in Poland. We were part of 8 members of an international ensemble looking at the crossover space between actors and dancers – taking inspiration from Jerzy Grotowski, DV8, Pina Bausch, Ultima Vez and others. Gema and I had come to Poland from backgrounds as performers/actors and with an interest in the precise physical tasks that bring a performance to an authentic response through listening. After a few years in Wroclaw, Poland, we were invited – as a duo – to work on a project in the UK with the brilliant Vivian Wood (a longtime dancer, trained at the Royal Ballet and under companies like DV8 and Michael Clark). We stayed in England on several projects while meanwhile had been invited to CalArts as guest artists, along with our Polish ensemble’s director, Matej Matejka. Eventually, CalArts reached out about teaching a class in movement for actors and before we knew it, we were moving to LA to see how and where the work we had been developing in Europe could find a home here… and thus we needed to define ourselves as a duo and company, coming to The Useless Room.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The theater and performance environment of Los Angeles is much different than Europe – largely because there is no real government support so much of the work needs to appeal to a ticket sales success, and there is less of a mutual growth between companies. It feels fractured. We have found a supportive network through CalArts and some performance companies working a bit off the grid. We make work here but tend to look back to Europe and abroad to travel with it for practical reasons along with inspiration from companies more regularly pushing the crossover between dance and theater. We don’t really even bother applying for grants and such because it feels so competitive and painful to have to ask for permission to do one’s work. The work we do is from love and partly inspired by the struggle to make something that we can’t refuse to do in ourselves – as much as it would make our lives easier if we did refuse it! – and if it finds a home, great. But we use much of our regular income as ways to support the work we make. It’s not a glamorous life of champagne and personalized towels just yet.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
We make performance – from live to film – that asks the physical to speak as much as the verbal. We use images, bodies, action to make our work. Our work is action-based, impulse-originated, precisely-structured movement. We are a space for performers to not be beholden to the regressive tasks of emailing and auditioning, but experiment and abyss-staring, which we feel the arts like music, visual art, dance all get to do, while actors are held to a very limited standard in this town. We want to make work that allows a range of oneself to be tested so that when the performers go into the audition or scripted world, they feel full and offer a fully embodied version of themselves not a version that is asking for permission. We believe in performance across forms and want to facilitate the space for performers to be on the edge of themselves to expand and risk and decide, no, no, no, I am never doing that again.

What were you like growing up?

We both liked looking for the edges of things, to see where boxes would bend and words didn’t work.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Gema Galiana, RJ Penn, Mark Nevay, David Meister

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