What is Synetic? (Part One)

by B. Cunis

I thought as the inaugural entry of this blog a discussion of what Synetic is or is about would be appropriate. It’s not uncommon for our company members and our audience members to be asked “what is Synetic?”, and, as with many other denizens of the art world, Synetic’s definition is hard to pin down.

Irakli Kavsadze, Irina Tsikurishvili, and the Ensemble in "Macbeth" (photo credit Raymond Gniewek)

Irakli Kavsadze, Irina Tsikurishvili, and the Ensemble in "Macbeth" (photo credit Raymond Gniewek)

I’ll add as a caveat that, as a (very involved) company member, my own definition of the company is far from objective, and I welcome comments on what an outsider’s perspective may be.

My own first impression of Synetic left me, like most, trying to decide what, exactly, I had just seen. I saw a performance of Faust at the Kennedy Center in the summer of 2006 and was struck by the high drama, the visual impact, and most of all the remarkable movement and choreography and how, despite the amount of movement, how it remained consistently grounded in the world of the story and atmosphere of the piece. Trying to come up with a definition I could only describe particular elements: powerful movement, remarkably invested acting, some striking bodies (those who saw Faust that year, despite disagreements, seem to reach a consensus regarding these…), minimal dialogue, dramatic lighting, plenty of fog and wind, and a casting aside of the details of realism in favor of the essential “spine” of the story and emotional impact of the archetypal. I suppose the one thing I could offer that defined it above the rest was the unity of these elements.

My first impressions in training and performing with the company carried out this idea of unity as well. I’ll talk about training and technique in later posts, but suffice it to say, my first period working with the company contained some of the most physically and mentally grueling moments I can recall in my life, mostly because of the insistence on excellence in all aspects of performance. Dance and movement technique must be learned, the mind and body must both become entirely open to improvisation, and the long process of production demands a patient will. In production, every element is important – however few or many lines there may be, they must be spoken loud and clear, a single light being off-target is worth fixing, a single misstep in a dance can be problematic, even dangerous.

So what does all this make Synetic?

Philip Fletcher in Carmen (photo credit Raymond Gniewek)

Philip Fletcher in Carmen (photo credit Raymond Gniewek)

An invention of our Artistic Director, Paata Tsikurishvili, the name “Synetic” comes from a combination of two words: “synthesis” and “kinetic”.  What does this imply? Until you throw in the third word of the combination, not a whole lot; a bringing together of disparate elements combined with some idea of physical movement. Then bring “theater” into the mix and you get somewhere. Synetic Theater means to bring together, to “synthesize” different elements in a dynamic, “movement” based way, to create “theater”, to portray the stories of the human drama onstage before an audience. Everything is free game in this endeavor, from ballet to breakdance, from classical music to rock and hip hop, from silent theater to iambic pentameter, so long as they preserve that unity in dynamism, and all emanate from the spine of that essential drama.

This definition is just a starting point (note the “part one” part of the entry title), and welcomes further input, but I hope this serves as a fair introduction to our ideas and philosophy.

–BC

When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one’s meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. — George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

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~ by synetictheater on July 23, 2009.

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