The extra stranger

april 16th, 2009

Written for Springdance Stage

Last Tuesday Europe In Motion started as a meeting between “total strangers”, as moderators Igor Dobricic and Nicole Beutler prescribed it. On Wednesday I enter this dialogue as yet another stranger. Simon Ellis, Rui Catalão and Tom Dale present their work today, based on the question “what is central to your work as a choreographer?”.
As mornings go it takes a while to get started. I notice that the atmosphere is comparable to last year’s sessions, with the ‘Romanians’ being late, the ‘British’ ready to get started and the ‘Dutch’ walking up and down between kitchen and the kleine zaal in Theater Kikker.

Fifteen minutes behind schedule Simon Ellis starts his practical demonstration. Pairs are formed with one blindfolded active and one sighted, passive person. His assignment is for the blindfolded person to explore, feel, locate, and make sense of the other body. By touching, moving, pushing and pulling you can get an idea of what the other, passive, body is like. But what is passivity? How can you be actively passive? The movement is building up and the passive persons are asked to assist, resist, rupture or contaminate the actions of the other, but still with the passivity as a starting point.
Actively watching I seem to be the one with the overview while Ellis himself is blindfolded as well in the second half of the exercise. What is it what you see watching an exercise like this? There seems to be a tension between knowing and not knowing, between having power and being powerless. Who is more powerful: a sighted or a moving person? Ellis explains he wants to know how it is to be the viewer of his performance. This wasn’t a performance, although there was a viewer. I enjoyed the tender fight between equals who are not the same.

Another choreographer, another exercise. Rui Catalão seems to have prepared everything. The introduction of half an hour in which he divided the group in duets and quartets feels like a performance already. In the end the exercise starts. It is a very formal assignment, but it can only end up in a complete mess. From that mess they start again, a little bit more organised, a little bit more structured but in a way a lot more confusing as well.
Idea, Material, Formalisation: these three circling steps represent for Catalão his working ethics. These steps he showed through practice and this practice also showed what he says is central to his work: he does not want to be in control of his work aesthetically.
The participants are all both performers and spectators. I am both spectator of performers and spectators. I’m not sure if they all notice my presence during the exercise, but it does turn the act of watching in a performance as well. It gives the exercise an extra layer and emphasizes the importance of the presence of the spectator during a performative situation. Yet again I am the welcomed alien.

Offbeat stamping and clapping and almost floating over the floor, music and pushing the earth away from under your feet, movement identities and the vestibular system. Tom Dale creates choreographies that seem to be closely related to street dance. Because of the music, the movements and the clothing. But for Dale it has is own origin. He damaged his inner ear causing him the feeling that he always pushes away the ground beneath his feet instead of standing on it. His unnatural, conscious way of moving derives from this experience.
Dale’s somewhat more traditional presentation ends in a long and quite fierce discussion. His finished, wrapped, ‘products’ touched some sore spots. Not all the participants agree on the level in which a product must me packaged and made ready for consumption. Dale prefers the concept of creating a world for his choreography to exist in. A world that, as Gabriele Reuter puts it, amplifies the movements.

For me this has been an inspiring day and I am looking forward to Springdance & performance festival more and more. My kick-off was yesterday and I’ll emerge myself in the festival from today on, starting with William Forsythe’s installation in a couple of hours. And what can we expect from the participants of Europe In Motion? Simon Ellis will show ‘some kind of performed document’ has he describes it, a performative reflection on Europe in Motion. It will be a challenge. For me it is already hard to write about one day, what about five of these intense days of discussion and presentation? What will it be like to be his audience? Tom Dale will show a piece exploring the roaming nature of people. Seeing his videos and hearing him talking about offbeat and music I wonder how he will present something as trouble-free and restless as roaming. Rui Catalão presents a live movie. His precise indications and his seemingly open-minded approach to his own aesthetics must give a very specific touch to this concept.

Simon Ellis started a blog on Europe In Motion:

Performances by Europe In Motion participants:
Tom Dale – Roam. April 21, 20.30 (in a tripe bill with Cosmin Manolescu and Erik Kaiel)
Simon Ellis – Down. April 22, 20.30 (in a triple bill with Liat Waysbort and Vava Stefanescu)
Rui Catalão – So Tender. April 23, 20.30 (in a triple bill with Efrosini Protopapa and Kenneth Flak)
April 24, 20.30 a triple bill with Gabriella Maiorino, Manuel Pelmus and Gabriele Reuter.

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