Dominika Knapik

Photo: Kuba Dąbrowski

She dances the words of Mrożek, Beckett, Chekhov and Keret, which she mixes on the dance floor with films, contemporary music, politics, theatre and visual arts. Her style is characterised by a large amount of irony and humour.

Born in 1979, she is a graduate of the State Drama School in Kraków and of the Kraków Opera Ballet Studio, as well as co-founder of Harakiri Farmers.

Dominika Knapik collaborated with Maja Kleczewska on the play Babel and with Ewelina Marciniak on the award-winning Amateurs / Amatorki. Knapik has also collaborated with Iga Gańcarczyk (At the Small Manor / W małym dworku, Not Me / Nie ja, Winter Tales / Opowieści zimowe, Piccolo Coro dell’Europa, Castronauts / Kastronauci), Anna Augustynowicz (Greta Garbo Came to Donegal / Greta Garbo Przyjechała), Paweł Łysak, Radosław Rychcik and Lena Frankiewicz. Lately, Knapik has been working with Anna Smolar, with whom the artist is preparing the premiere of Pinocchio / Pinokio at the Warsaw theatre Nowy Teatr. In this performance, Knapik will play the title role together with Magdalena Popławska.

How Do You Like Me?
She debuted in 2007 with the solo play How Do You Like Me? / Jak wam się podobam?, which was realized at the Poznań Old Brewery in the framework of Joanna Leśnierowska’s Solo Projekt programme. This was Kanpik’s first fully authorial work, which paved the way for her further artistic exploration. A year later this solo was amongst those successfully presented at the Polish Dance Platform event. Within the artistic collective Harakiri Farmers, Knapik has always collaborated with the sociologist and director Wojciech Klimczyk, with whom she has realized approximately a dozen performances, some of which were based on texts by Sameuel Beckett, Etgar Keret and Sławomir Mrożek.

She said the following about her approach to dance and about what literature means to her activity:

I understand dance in the broad sense. I’m interested in not defining boundaries, in merging motion with theatre and visual arts. The presented style depends on the group that happens to be involved with a given show. There are always a lot of gestures, image processing and live music. To me, a text is a point of reference, a layer of literary inspiration is very important in our work. As are emotions.

The absurd and ironic tone of Sławomir Mrożek’s short story An Optimist’s Testament / Testament optymisty inspired the creators to realize a minimalistic show that makes use of the language of dance theatre. As Harakiri Farmers explain, the staging refers to the atmosphere of Aki Kaurismäki’s films, which, according to the members of the collective, corresponds greatly with the irony of Mrożek’s text. On the website of Harakiri Farmers one may read that a special role in the show is played by live performances of songs that are a kind of internal monologues of the loser characters. The play, which follows the convention of a concert/wake, becomes a multi-dimensional narration that addresses the issue of death in a subtle way which is devoid of pathos.

In 2011 Knapik was given a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage which helped her to create Moskwa, a duet of the dancer with a pianist (realized together with Dobrochna Krówka), was inspired by Chekhov’s Three Sisters and Vivien Leigh’s character. The show, which was presented in Berlin in the framework of the project MicaMoca, tells of insanity treated as a theatrical form, a gesture of artificiality brought to manic precision.

The relationship between a woman’s body and her voice is an important theme of the show Not Me / Nie ja, a dance variation on Beckett’s plays which was directed by Iga Gańcarczyk. Knapik confronts her own body and voice on stage but also the live performance of Aleksandra Gryka’s score. Gryka is a young composer who merges acoustic and electronic music with various media.

Harakiri Farmers
“Work method? I don’t know if we want to have one” – admits Wojciech Klimczyk in a conversation with Anna Królica published in the book Solo Generation / Pokolenie solo which was published by Cricoteca. Klimczyk adds:

We have formed personalities and that affects our works. I’m under the impression that we are not interested in making combinations based on traditional elements drawn from specific techniques such as the Polish contemporary dance technique or the Limon technique. We are inclined to build scenic images that make use of the bodily presence of the performers. Anything can be an element of these images – motion, text, sound, songs, stillness. Surely there is no technical virtuosity in our projects and most probably there won’t be any. There is a request to do something of the likes of humble dance, but not poor dance. Minimum means and maximum thought. That’s how I’d put it, even though this is a definition which is rather silly because of being hackneyed.

The duo of Klimczyk and Knapik make all their artistic decisions together. “Dominika is brilliant when it comes to motional imagination, expression, emotions and energy. I think in a more structural way. In dance I’m very interested in working with ideas that go beyond the autobiographical approach and universal emotions. In my opinion one may dance about analytical philosophy, economy or ancient Persian grammar. It’s all the matter of an idea” – adds Klimczyk in the aforementioned book.

The Harakiri Farmers collective was appreciated by the audience and critics at the Malta International Theatre Festival. The group’s Keret, which was presented at an old Poznań synagogue that had been turned into a swimming pool, was deemed the best debut of the series New Situations / Nowe sytuacje. They created also We Are Oh So Lucky in 2009 (collaboration with Ana Brzezińska), Stille in 2011, and DZOE in 2012. The Harakiri Farmers’ website says:

In We Are Oh So Lucky HAFA and Ana Brzezinska create a specific performative hybrid-language in which dance, words and video images become equal components. In result the message (if there is one) never falls into clear-cut categories but is rather a set of impulses from which spectators can build up their own narratives, reading out of it various references to everyday life.

Apart from shows, Harakiri Farmers also have a short dance film under their belt. This picture is entitled There and was realized on the roofs of buildings and in the interior of a theatrical hall. This film was presented at festivals in Poland (Slamdance on the Road at the Łaźnia Nowa theatre in Kraków) and abroad: in Greece (Naossa International Film & Video Festival), Italy (A Corto Di Donne Festival, Pozzouli) and the Czech Republic (International Competitive Festival of Short Ficion Films, Brno). Both dancers from the Harakiri Farmers are also members of Minus 20 Collective which is their co-operation with Kenneth Flak and David Chazam. Their first work was The Fork in 2010.

As a dancer, Dominika Knapik has also collaborated with the Gymnastic Association “nic” and the Dada von Bzdülöw Theatre (Le Sacre, Celebration or the End / Celebration, czyli koniec, And Once Again / I jeszcze raz). In 2009, she held an ArtsLink (Dance New Amsterdam, NY) scholarship. In 2012 she organized and co-curated the mini-festival Nowy taniec w starym Krakowie. In the same year she began to collaborate with the festival Krakowskie Reminiscencje Teatralne as a dance curator. Since 2012, she has lectured at the Ludwik Solski State Drama School in Kraków. Before she became a lecturer at the this school, she co-created the Kraków group Hoplaaa, with whom she had realized performances and a dance video in the years 2006-2007. She participated in the projects of the visual artist Zorka Wollny (Concert for High Heels / Koncert na wysokie obcasy, 2004; Museum / Muzeum, 2006)

Knapik has performed at prestigious dance venues all around the world – in Berlin, Hague, Paris, Amsterdam and Bonn, amongst others. In 2015 she received a nomination to renowned Paszporty Polityki. Anna R. Burzyńska said Knapik was nominated: for her choreographies that give a unique character and expressiveness to most interesting young male and female theatre directors’ performances. The critics appreciated the artist mostly for her choreographies for theatres, eg. Ewelina Marciniak’s plays Amateurs and Death and the Maiden by Elfriede Jelinek, Morphine by Szczepan Twardoch. As a choreographer she has also worked with: Iga Gańczarczyk (Country House by S. I. Witkiewicz), Anna Smolar, Radosław Rychcik (Versus by B. Brecht), Maja Kleczewska (Babel by E. Jelinek), Paweł Łysak (The Cherry Orchard by A. Chekhov), Lena Frankiewicz (Tales from Moominvalley by Tove Jansson), Paweł Świątek (Gyubal Wahazar by S. I. Witkiewicz), Bogdan Hussakowski (Philosophy in the bedroom by D. A. F. De Saade) and Rafał Sabara (Peer Grynt by H. Ibsen)

Read about the show We Are oh So Lucky, which was directed by Ana Brzezińska and Wojciech Klimczyk and choreographed by Dominika Knapik.

Author: Anna Legierska, translated by: Marek Kępa, April 2014

Sources: Institute of Music and Dance, Solo Generation / Pokolenie Solo,, own materials, edited by: AL, April 2014.

Photo: Kuba Dąbrowski