S1E2 Victoria Primus, Dancer/Choreographer

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Victoria Primus and Mark Abouzeid on “Walking out of Lockdown”

Mark Abouzeid talks with Austrian dance pioneer, Victoria Primus, whose collaborative projects cross boundaries of performance, science and education. They chat about her experiences as a mother of two young children during lockdown and adapting her work to the web.

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Victoria Primus has worked internationally as a freelance dance artist in the independent as well as in the commercial dance scene. Her Embodiment Research Lab acts as an interface between science and art and offers participants the opportunity to physically approach abstract topics. As a dance mediator she create spaces in which the children can move freely and individually in careful accompaniment. The children have the opportunity to indulge in the power and flow of the dance and let their creativity run wild.

Every week, Mark Abouzeid reaches out to freelancers, artisans, creatives, culture protagonists and every day people on how they survived lockdown and what the ‘new normal’ means to them, personally and professionally. In an intimate conversation between friends, Abouzeid asks them about the future, what changes they will make to adapt and how they intend to rebuild.

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Director: Mark Abouzeid
Producer: Real Lives Channel on youtube

Interviewer: Mark Abouzeid
Editing and Postproduction: Mark Abouzeid

Creative Commons Stock footage:
Woman Washes Hands – Cinesim Media
SFDPH Wash Hands Spanish – SFGovTV
Wash your hands, grab your hand sanitizer, keep Corona and other related infections away – #CapitalFmKenya
200129_01_Medical_4k_005 – Videvo
200314 – Work Life_Hand Sanitiser_04_4k_003 – Videvo
WASH Your Hands Mr Bean! | Bean Movie | Classic Mr Bean – Classic Mr Bean

Music from http://www.Epidemic Sound.com:
“Safehouse (explicit version)” – Iso Indies

Thank you to Zoom for webconferencing and recording.

Copyright Mark Abouzeid, 2020. All rights reserved.


Mark Abouzeid 0:19
Welcome to walking out of lockdown. I’m Mark Abouzeid, filmmaker, photojournalist and culture specialist and today I’m here with Victoria Primus, Victoria is a friend but more than anything, she’s a dancer and choreographer based in Vienna. She’s done some very interesting things recently including collaborations between science and education on plankton, which hopefully she’ll tell us a bit about. And as a freelancer she is having to deal with many of the issues we all have from lockdown.

Good afternoon. It’s good to see you again.

Victoria Primus 1:04
Good afternoon. Hello. Good to see you as well.

Mark Abouzeid 1:07
Now, let me start with the same question I asked everybody first. Let’s go back to New Year’s Day or the first week of New Year’s, you know, what are your expectations for this coming year? What were you thinking personally, professionally? What was your mood?

Victoria Primus 1:25
Um, well, when I look back, my mood was very positive, full of strength and big expectations actually for 2020 because I have been working almost since Zita’s birth. Yeah, like Yeah, when she started when she was one year old. I was working on getting back into my carrier and like exploring new adventures and stepping into this like, collaborative world. Have art and science and in the last year i a lot of project actually got. Got a yes. So I could do it like in 2020 I had a few projects coming up one with a school where I introduced my, my project of embodiment of cent scientific like yeah, embodiment of scientific, scientific scientific subjects like planets and plankton. I would have introduced to two kids from six to 10 and they would have produced a whole artwork with 240 kids. And that was one project and then Had others going on. I was invited to two festivals with planetary oscillation embodiment where I embody the different planets. I work with the sound designer, Elena Sheeran, she’s not working in America, she’s a musician and sound designer. And we work the last year to finally also reproduce and go back on stage together. And so these were my expectations. And I yeah, I was super happy that finally things are getting more exciting for me in the dance world again, or in the art world, because it also took quite a while quite a while to get back. Not in shape, because in shape, it was really fast. But getting back the network and

Mark Abouzeid 3:54
Yeah, and I think I think we should point out because I had neglected to in your introduction, you know, You are full time mother of two young children. So getting back to it also means getting to a schedule where they’re active enough that you can carve out some time to do these things. Thankfully,

Victoria Primus 4:12
and I know myself I have always a lot of energy and I I was quite successful in the last month to actually yeah to to work with to work and also to care care about them like

Mark Abouzeid 4:30
to talk about that. Let’s talk about that. Okay, so that’s New Year’s a couple months as and suddenly Vienna’s closing schools, were in lockdown. You have everybody at home. What was the impact? What was the What was your experience of lockdown, positive and negative.

Victoria Primus 4:55
To be honest, it was a beautiful experience because I was closer to my family again. And we we dealt with the situation respectfully, like we dealt with each other respectfully. There was a lot of family time and good family time and cooking a lot, but also cleaning a lot. And of course, there’s routine which is from morning to evening full of entertainment for kids, and it’s exhausting and I cannot really focus on anything else. Which, of course is beautiful to have so much time with your loved ones. But before I had so much more time to dream and be visionary and go to trading and meet people and of course, this suddenly just was yeah was clean.

And yeah,

Mark Abouzeid 6:02
but you did make some changes. Also in your work. I saw some things online some courses you’ve been introducing. Talk to me about.

Victoria Primus 6:10
I mean, I had to because as I mentioned before the project was the school, of course it would have it would have started in the first week of Corona, my workshop with with the schools would have started and obviously this didn’t happen. And then Firstly, it was like, Oh my god, but then, as I’m lucky to have a filmmaker at home as well, who has a perfect equipment, because also His work of God, of course, got cut because he would have traveled a lot, like you notice. And then I, I, yeah, as I always do, I start to move I it’s my way I have to move I have to train and I started to train at home, and because I teach in a conservatory conservatory as well. asked me to do videos. So this was the impulse to start the YouTube my YouTube channel to boost my YouTube channel so I started the video belly back on track, which I was super happy to start because now I’m gonna actually continue to do this

yes nice chat

my kids

Mark Abouzeid 7:30

Victoria Primus 7:33
Thank you Sita ugly I’m gonna do I’m gonna make a few videos going back to my roots because the roots are ballet and to stay fit and stay healthy at home. I started this video

Mark Abouzeid 7:54
yeah. Okay, now we’re starting to see lockdown Wrap up a bit. I don’t know if your kids are back to school yet. The children here actually the kindergartens even open which surprised me. But let’s say last day of locked down, you’re standing at your door, the children are at school everyone, you can do anything you want. What is the first thing you would want to do? What is the first thing that comes to mind?

Victoria Primus 8:26
Well, I guess the first thing which already came to my mind is to do nothing. Because I’m not because I’m always with them. And now I’m with my grandparents, I get a little bit more space to think, because I really need time to think think things through. I’m going to continue as well, because obviously, as you mentioned before we in the cultural scene, this is going to continue for much longer. Yeah, I have to reposition myself. I mean, I’m not going to give up What I’ve done all the months and whatever before, but I think the first thing I’m gonna do when the kids went up, bring the kids next week to the kindergarten. I’m gonna just see what happens.

Mark Abouzeid 9:16
Just have your own schedule.

Victoria Primus 9:19
Yes. Just leave me alone and I’m gonna see what’s gonna happen.

Mark Abouzeid 9:27
I love that most people are afraid of that. Right? The second you’re just I just want to have a second to love.

Victoria Primus 9:34
Just to walk around, see feel the air without anybody else wanting something from me? Yeah,

Mark Abouzeid 9:41
yeah, no, I completely understand that. And, you know, let’s talk about the next part. Yeah, we’re lockdowns wrapping up. We don’t know what’s ahead of us, but obviously for all of us in the cultural sector, especially the performance sector. They have changed. What are your What are your thoughts? What are your fears? What are your hopes

Victoria Primus 10:10
I mean, of course your rights, especially in dance and the performative sector, we folded distance and not touching each other and stuff is gonna add there’s a lot of change and, of course, creative minds, they’re always going to find creative solutions. For for my projects, on one hand, I worked on this planetary oscillation embodiment where I worked. I work directly with the sound designer, but I was I made a solo part. So I could go deeper into that, which I’m going to do. And maybe I’m going to focus a little bit more on yeah on solid work, which Have, which I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but I, I was always a little bit afraid of it as well, or distracted. And I really I actually do like this online teaching. I also do the teaching with small kids and like also with grownups. So I think I’m going to continue with that. Um, I know like, for example, I was invited to Bolton to this also to this huge festival, this dance festival, we are not sure if it’s gonna happen or not. There’s no answer yet. Yeah, maybe it’s not gonna happen. And

Mark Abouzeid 11:46
you don’t know at this point because it’s interesting. If you asked me a week ago, 10 days ago, I would have just had done it. Just forget it. Just forget it. But it’s there are so many People that want to get back to something. I’m surprised I’ve actually seen a few culture calls for actual events. And I keep thinking, how are you still going, but they renewed the call, which means it’s definitely still, at least on the table. Let me ask you, because also listening to you, I hear how you’re already adapting. You’re already thinking. And, you know, especially a couple like you, you have a filmmaker in the house, as you say, you’re a dancer, freelancers. Do you think that freelancers are more adept at situations like this? Do you think that the nature of our usual life or do you think that’s just the people I happen to know?

Victoria Primus 12:44
Well, I think that we are just used to adapting I mean, we’re like, I feel like a chameleon all my life. And I also like that, that’s why I guess I also chose them because it’s exciting, but obviously you have to reinvent yourself. Many times and I also think that politicians shouldn’t forget about us. And I think also that they have to say something, they have to make things clear and they have to care about freelancers. And yeah, people who work in a different field under different circumstances, because we are very, it’s important what we’re doing and all of us, it’s super important for every society and what would society be without the culture? And I think that the to adapt is is good. I think it’s exciting also, of course, you have to always ask yourself, under which circumstances if it comes to payments and an income, it’s always the same problem. I mean, now I can also say it I get, I get state funding, otherwise it would have been not able to pay anything.

Mark Abouzeid 14:00
Yeah, I must admit, I’m amazed.

You know, I’ve lived in 35 countries I’ve worked. I’ve never seen a country move so quickly, to at least give some support at some level as Austria. I have just been amazed and they continue to roll out and expand programs slowly to capture more people. You know, I was talking to an audio engineer and asking him about the economic situation and how it was for him. And he said, quite frankly, you said, Look, I have no money. And I don’t know where it’s coming from. But I’m not sure that would have been any different if there was Corona or not, because this is the nature of my work. Do you think we’re better or one do you feel that’s true? Are you feeling you know, some sense of

How do you feel about that? I mean, that yeah

Victoria Primus 15:05
I mean I can agree to certain extent of course like for me some months are better Some are worse. The when Parana crisis started March to August were my best months this year. So I would have like finally have a quite good income to pay everything for my family. I’m also additionally the project of my boyfriend would have really started and that would have been a better time up like come better time and financially Yeah, his project he would have traveled more he would have also a better income and then me that would have been cool you know, because you work like you know, you work one year or more on a project and then finally, you you have you see the results and this obviously got yeah got canceled and yeah we are also better in adapting and our lifestyle we don’t have like a luxurious lifestyle but obviously I also live in a flat I want to live in and not in a black hole and then have to pay and yeah, I mean my family helps also but not everybody has that you know and of course some other people they have better a better situation financially but we have to see for all of us no so

Mark Abouzeid 16:35
what I think you also brought up an important part I find as a freelancer okay cuz you know, as you know, as soon as Italy shut down every project we have got had got canceled two years in the Amazon. Yeah, God, God, um, but listening to my friends who still were getting some salary something and they just couldn’t possibly Imagine how they were going to get through the month. And so I talked to them, I was like, Well, you know, what’s your basic costs? They said, Oh, you know, between mortgage and all this, I have to have 3000 a month. And I’m like, any guys at 3000 I’m poor. I’m not good. 3000 I’m taking the holidays, okay? Because one of the aspect of a freelancer, I think, is quality of life, but also making sure that in the downtime so you can keep going with what you’ve got. Yes, we often get help. Yes, we often raise money, but it’s managing, I think, both the income side, but also what you need, as opposed to what you want.

Victoria Primus 17:39
Exactly. And I also think, to be honest, like, personally, I don’t need so much like, I, let’s say, I have a car and I think the car is too big. I want a smaller car. That’s already for a while nothing happens. It’s one example. It’s like I actually would prefer now To go by bike again, and also before Corona, but then obviously it’s also good to visit some people with the cart. So I don’t know, sometimes it’s easy to say I don’t need that. But then sometimes it’s helpful. And that’s Oh,

Mark Abouzeid 18:17
yeah, no, don’t get me wrong. I think there’s, there’s basic necessities each of us has, but I do think there’s a lot of extra that people think they need, but really, they just want you know, when it comes to film equipment, I’ve got a list sitting on my wall every time I can get a little money. I buy equipment. Yeah, no, but I’m wearing the same shirt that I’ve had for five years or something. You know, that’s it depends where your priorities are. All right, let’s get back to a bit.

The pandemic itself Okay.

What are your feelings about how your culture how the Austrian culture live? Down.

Victoria Primus 19:00
Well, they behaved really well, I guess. Um, how we experienced it. Like, we were like us as a family, we stayed at home, we didn’t really go out. I think generally people took it seriously. Of course you always have some people they don’t really believe it. But I also believe that this helped and it didn’t explode because of that, because people really stayed at home and I mean to stay at home and under circumstances like I had or Yeah, or others to have circumstances. Some others they don’t have good circumstances if the small flats but it was nice to stay at home. I feel we’ve staying at home, like a bit more have less to do if I really look at it. My time schedule was so full Like, Sophie knows me for a long time. I like to like I like to do a lot of things but then on the other hand, it for sure would have been exhausting beautiful but also exhausting and like this now it was exhausting in a different way but yeah I could spend with my family so

Mark Abouzeid 20:25
yeah which I guess makes me ask the next question

is there anything you’re gonna miss about lockdown?

Victoria Primus 20:34

Yeah, well

maybe because as I said, I also like the basics like, you know to be to not see so many people to not I also do like that to be with your loved ones and having not from many expectations to myself because I think I’ve always had that, yeah, I have to have big expectations. And I, I need to be successful in a way. And like we all do. Some people more, some people less. But I always want to be successful in everything I do. So this took a little bit of weight, the pressure of me, but on the other hand Well, on the other hand, I missed the other things as well. Yeah,

Mark Abouzeid 21:31
of course. No, of course. That’s normal. That’s normal. I mean, I’ve, I found

because I’m very much like you, I can feel I can keep working. If I’m excited about what I’m doing. I just keep going. But I could wake up and not feel like doing anything. And that was okay. Oh, it’s locked down. Yeah, fine. You want to take a day today. Just take the day you want to watch Project Runway. Oh, All day long and go who put these colors together? Fine whatever I had a freedom which I guess because I’m a freelancer I should always have but somehow you just don’t give yourself all right what are your fears? What do you fear for the future from here

Victoria Primus 22:22

we’ve all like all the but pandemic and all this yes circumstances we we are in and this like a new normality and yeah like keeping this distance and demands and how long is this gonna actually last and Is there gonna be a second wave and how is it gonna turn out globally and economically and in the future? Is it gonna worse or is it going to be stable is going to stabilize and how is it going to be with international growth? Jake, because I’ve always been interested in working more internationally as well as my boyfriend. And yeah, of course, these are not yet like big fears. But I think about that as well. Sure. Like, I’m also trying not to make myself too uncomfortable about circumstances. I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out. Like, I don’t. Yeah. I don’t want to I don’t want to have too much fear.

Mark Abouzeid 23:31
No, no, of course, of course. And that’s healthy. I think. What about your kids? Did they understand? Did you explain anything to them? Do they ask why? You know, mommy and daddy are home all the time or how did that work?

Victoria Primus 23:45
Um, well, they do really? Well they know about it. They we showed them videos. We talked a lot about it when they play with each other korona crisis. involved in the old game in their players

Mark Abouzeid 24:02
kids will make a game out of anything. Wow.

Victoria Primus 24:04
Yeah. Beautiful, like big monster Khurana and things like that. They I think they also on one hand, they enjoy it to be so much too fast. On the other hand, obviously they really missed their friends. They miss kindergarten many times although we we did a lot of funny things with them as well. They said like Yeah, but of course we miss our friends. And they need this social contact with them. They’re tiny people. Yeah. But I don’t feel that the they suffered. I don’t

Mark Abouzeid 24:46
know I don’t I don’t have young children anymore, you know, minor and lockdown and other places. Um, but I’ve always loved kids. I’ve always spent the bulk of my life with children and I must admit this was one of those situations where I was like, Okay, how do you deal with this because you definitely don’t want them to fear the world to fear everything. But you also I think, with children, you always owe them an explanation or something they can handle. I mean, I personally thinking about having to explain this to a child just makes me emotional.

Victoria Primus 25:23
Of course, the situation is super emotional. I mean, I’ve I have to live like small children. I mean, they’re four and five, and it’s a different scenario if they are like 10 to 15. Yours is gonna be different. I also was in continuous contact with a 15 year old boy, I give ballet dance lessons over soon. And like, I think with him, the ballet helped him a lot, you know, to get to stay stable and in his mind Because obviously he couldn’t go out and meet anybody. And he’s anyway already special.

Mark Abouzeid 26:04
Yeah, exactly. He’s a 15 year old boy doing ballet. He’s already unique.

Victoria Primus 26:11
Exactly. And so he always told me I’m so happy when I can go out again and but then under the same time, he was a bit afraid of it as well. To go out again.

Mark Abouzeid 26:25
Yeah, he, I feel likewise. I mean, I was inside for a full two months. Even Sophie did the shopping because of my Yeah, yeah, election for pneumonia. And so the first time I went out to the shopping center, there were just too many people it was it really felt uncomfortable. It’s taking me a couple times to go out and just feel comfortable and everybody’s behaving everybody’s but it’s just the energy.

Victoria Primus 26:55
Yes, yes. I have to say I I can actually deal with A lot of different energies but it it changed with my age as well. And of course now the current dynasties Yeah, with the lockdown is the same I when I go out I was out on Saturday to go to different places I came home I almost wanted to sleep. Yeah, no impressions.

Mark Abouzeid 27:19
And I can understand I understand that you’re advanced age these things are more difficult at my age.

Yeah, it must be horrible with the walker right? Yeah.

Victoria Primus 27:37
Yeah, I’m not that old.

Mark Abouzeid 27:39
No, you’re not. That’s what I’m

Victoria Primus 27:42
saying that five years ago is in Bernstein in the biggest club dancing with everybody and now I get afraid after I go out on Saturday. You’re

Mark Abouzeid 27:50
okay. Now let’s put context here. Okay.

Victoria Primus 27:55
That’s what I mean.

I didn’t I was not afraid at that time.

Mark Abouzeid 28:03
No, and I don’t think I don’t think it’s fear. I think it’s getting used to, as you say a new normal.

Victoria Primus 28:10
Yeah, you know, it’s not being Yeah, not afraid. Hmm. Let’s see how it’s gonna continue. Yeah, yeah, very positive about the future. I always tried to be positive.

Mark Abouzeid 28:24
Hey, my children hate me, because they could tell me their foot was cut off. And after like taking care of them, the first thing that comes out of my mouth is, you know, the positive side of this is when we have to buy one shoe at a time or whatever. They’re like, No, dad, there’s nothing positive this time. You know, it’s the apocalypse but the positive stuff. You don’t have to worry about the apocalypse anymore. It’s here,

Victoria Primus 28:51
you know, but it’s the bright side. You have to look at the bright sides.

Mark Abouzeid 28:56
Well, look, I think there’s two ways people do that. I think there are those people that try and convince themselves that everything’s rosy. And I think that’s actually a very unhealthy. I come much more from I think my Lebanese background, which is, I start from reality or even a little pessimism. And then I find a reason why it’s still worth doing it. Or I want to make the day better. I choose to make my day better, even though I don’t expect it’s going to be. And so yeah, it’s just like, I can sit here miserable. Because you’re all right, it’s horrible. Or I can laugh, or I can make a joke or I can go play a game or play with children or do something, anything to make my day better. And

Victoria Primus 29:43
what ever is also every day is different now, and you don’t have to fool yourself, obviously. But I mean, I think I also try to keep the positive because I think managers like that, but also because of the kids. I think They don’t doesn’t. Ah.

Why should they take my pain? You know?

Mark Abouzeid 30:09
No, exactly.

Victoria Primus 30:10
I agree. I have to also keep on doing things like with a positive energy and also for them not just for myself. So

Mark Abouzeid 30:18
we’re gonna wrap up our times almost out. I want to thank you a lot.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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