We Carry Worlds Inside Us

“BETWEEN” is a spellbinding virtual trip across space, multiple universes, and the indefatigable imagination of Berlin-based choreographer Howool Baek, in cooperation with sound designer Matthias Erian and media artist Jin Lee. Loosely based on Baek’s eponymous live performance that premiered in October 2019, this interactive web experience (running until 5 December 2021) is by turns a first-person video game, an absurdist animated film, and an odd dance suite for hands and feet. Beyond its ambitious multimedia shell, the work also harbours deep reflections on body representation, the subjectivity of the spectator, and the infinity of multiple universes that we carry inside us.

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Cosmic Solidarity and Radical Softness

T.E.N.T. – A Cosmic Drift Mega Mini Festival took place at DOCK 11 from 11 to 14 November 2021. Of the ‘four evenings of evolving stories that share space and collide on a cosmic drift’, I attended two. I was rewarded with two beautiful and dazzling shows and a performance lottery in which I won a cosy and thought-provoking nap in a lace-made tent. T.E.N.T. Festival did not send me to a supernova or take me on an intergalactic trip (the bold promises made in the festival description), but instead made me reflect on the politics of care and softness, and on the necessity of supporting each other in our precarious and uncertain times. 

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Body Undone

In “Assembly Instructions” (shown at Uferstudios 3 – 6 November 2021 within the framework of Tanzfabrik Berlin’s autumn season) Nir Vidan daringly disassembles his body into fragments, pieces, contours, and shadows. This black-and-white solo work is graphic, stark, and brilliantly paced. Thanks to his clinically precise performance and thoughtful dramaturgy, Vidan paints compelling and evocative images and avoids simplistic narratives. I quickly succumbed to the magic of his work and lost myself in this intense and meticulous experience. 

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Stories of Bonds and Separations

“Forces of Nature” by Ivana Müller, shown at Uferstudios on 12 and 13 October 2021 in the frame of Tanzfabrik Berlin’s autumn season, is an hour-long exploration of the notion of interdependence and collective effort. Unlike many other works that question the concept of group dynamics, “Forces of Nature” is literal and straight forward and allows for as many interpretations as the spectators’ imagination can produce. Bound by climbing ropes and a common goal, the dancers negotiate each gesture and movement as they slowly weave an odd rope-made shelter just to unlace it again at the end. In this smart and deftly staged show, Müller reflects on common effort, ecologies of togetherness and, quite unexpectedly, makes me reflect on my own stories of bonds and separations.

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A Suite for a Dancer and a Harpsichord

In “Elisabeth Gets Her Way” (shown on 6 and 7 October at Fabrik Potsdam within the framework of Potsdamer Tanztage 2021) Belgian dancer and choreographer Jan Martens pays a vibrant tribute to Elisabeth Chojnacka, who is widely recognised as one of the most prominent harpsichordists of the 20th century. Devised as a string of seven solos masterfully executed by Martens himself, the show ostensibly explores the rhythmic universe of harpsichord music and the vastness of Chojnacka’s repertoire. But Martens also wants the audience to get to know Elisabeth Chojnacka more intimately, and amplifies the work with archive materials to draw a poignant portrait of a strong-willed and influential musician. And the show, initially envisaged as a solo tribute, becomes a dazzling dialogue between two uncompromising performers.

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Gosh, it feels like work!

How do you start a show? How do you end it? How do you break the fourth wall? And what does it take to be two onstage in front of the audience of many? Plenty of theatre and performance makers have reflected on these recursive questions to uneven, often hermetic, results — all bets were off for Teresa Vittucci and Melanie Jame Wolf. In “Show Business” (30 August to 2 September 2021 at the Sophiensæle) they deploy a full range of tactics from tongue-in-cheek acting and dance, to compelling visual allusions, spoken word, and even singing. They made me grin and laugh, contemplate in awe, and engage in a long after-show discussion with my friends.

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Dramaturgies of Entanglement

Perth-born and Berlin-based choreographer Emily Ranford premiered her most recent work “Forcefields iii” at DOCK11, 19 to 22 August 2021. This skilfully choreographed piece concludes the “Forcefields” trilogy, that explores, as Ranford describes in her programme notes, ‘a network of interdependencies endlessly morphing and curling on itself into previously unseen shapes.’ I searched for the missing link between the signifier and the signified in this piece, which, although beautifully performed, lacked dramaturgical deftness and emotional power towards the end.

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Tanz im August 2021 Talkabout #2

For the second part of their Tanz im August talkabout, Eli Frasson and Evgeny Borisenko attended the world premiere of Thiago Granato’s “The Sound They Make When No One Listens” at the Sophiensæle on 19 August 2021. After the show they sat together in the Sophiensæle’s brick-walled courtyard to discuss a show that explores the different facets and political connotations of the act of listening. The next day, on 20 August, Eli and Evgeny went to the Lilli-Hennoch-Sportplatz to attend the world premiere of “Breathe” by Milla Koistinen, in which she interacted with two huge brightly-coloured inflatable fabrics and the audience on the football pitch. After the show Eli and Evgeny found a spot near the ruins of Anhalter Bahnhof to sit and discuss the show.

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Symbols of Power

Flags ripple, flap, and cut the air. Shrouds wrap motionless bodies. Exotic creatures slip from mediaeval banners. Military snare drums roar. Fierce battles morph into revelry, and sports events transform into funeral processions. Ginevra Panzetti and Enrico Ticconi have always turned to historical events, art movements, and traditions for inspiration. In their new diptych, “AeReA” and “ARA! ARA!”, they explore the symbolism of flags and mediaeval heraldry, as well as their political connotations. The first part of the diptych, “AeReA”, will be shown during Tanznacht Berlin Vertigo (Part 2) on 23 and 24 July 2021, while a digital version of “ARA! ARA!” premiered during Tanzfabrik Berlin’s OPEN SPACES – Making It Happen #2 on 10 June 2021. “Silver Veiled” is a dance film born from the same research process. It was originally commissioned by Dublin Dance Festival in 2021.

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Performing Memory

How can an archive be performed? How can a research process be shown on stage without the result being dull and didactic? How can a dance be devised about a show that premiered more than 40 years ago? In “Try Leather”, Britta Wirthmüller, William Locke Wheeler, and Justine A. Chambers explore the political and performative aspects of an eponymous 1975 solo by Canadian artist and activist Margaret Dragu. Choosing a dozen different archive records and key words each night, Wirthmüller and Wheeler offer their personal take on Dragu’s work and life in a show that combines dance, spoken word, and audio fragments.

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Uncanny Birds

Danilo Andrés’s most recent piece ‘Schräger Vögel: A Queer Choral’ was choreographed and rehearsed in the darkness of Berlin’s pandemic winter. A filmed version premiered 29 May 2021 during the Performing Arts Festival Berlin. Devised for a group of non-binary and queer performers, this short and intense study into the physicality of guttural singing and yelling was pertinently filmed in the middle of the huge, brick-built nave of the Reformist Church in Moabit. Andrés’s idea of questioning social norms through the embodiment of unconventional vocal techniques is highly appealing, however, the show ends too quickly to allow it to fully unfold.

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Songs of Cranky Hope and Solidarity

Puddles the Pelican continues her tour and lands, silver-feathered, on top of the Haus der Kulturen der Welt for a short online concert within the framework of the conference ‘Diversity Affects | Troubling Institutions’ on 29 May 2021. This magic bird performs at dusk with her band, giving birth to an iridescent pearl to celebrate the reopening of HKW after a more-than-year-long closure due to the pandemic. She sings and walks in beauty, jazzes between grief and hope, invoking solidarity and revolution amid the troubled waters of our times. 

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Perpetual Motion Machine

Jasmin İhraç’s most recent show “liú” premiered on 15 March 2021 and was shown on HAU4 digital platform from 26 to 29 May during the Performing Arts Festival Berlin 2021. In her delicate exploration of the cycles and rhythms of nature and human life, İhraç avoids far-fetched claims and declarations and leaves the audience face to face with the miracle of the infinite time-loop. This laid-back and quiet show made me want to log these images and my thoughts, minute by minute. 

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Filming Utopian Body

“Vogel | 4 Solos” is a sequence of four solos, directed and choreographed by Christine Bonansea, and filmed at DOCK 11. Led by a powerful blend of stark lighting design and raucous soundscapes, this work aims to embody Michel Foucault’s notion of the utopian body — a daunting task for a string of four separate filmed solos that had been initially devised as simultaneous performances amongst which spectators could carve their own paths. Bonansea faces this challenge with a blast of power and creates a thought-provoking study on the limits of emotional perception.

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