WERDEN, Magda Korsinsky ©Ze de Paiva

Becoming Joy

WERDEN by Magda Korsinsky, which premiered at Ballhaus Naunynstrasse from 15 to 19 December 2023, searches for joy in Black FLINTA* community. 

On the night before the premiere of WERDEN, I attended Collective Joy Forum organised by GLADT. It was a space for BIPOC LGBTIQA+ community to (loosely paraphrasing from the event’s German description) gather and refuel our energy in these troubling times. Each performer on stage was asked the question, “What brings you joy in difficult times?” Despite some variations, everyone mentioned how friends and community are essential in creating joy. The event ended with an exuberant dance party.

This is how WERDEN ends as well. The four performers, Jana Falcon, Millie Engono, Kuloued Marohn and Turending Stelkens, all of them Black FLINTA*s, burst into a cheerful dance after Marohn says, “I am glad we have each other.” Throughout the piece, the performers depict what a healthy community can look like: They listen to one another kindly and intently. They encourage one another to exist as they are and to take pride in their individual and collective presence.  

At one point, Marohn pulls out a mirror and works on her hair. The others sit next to her and everyone shares hair stories. Falcon says that it takes her 16 hours to do her hair, which gets audience laughter in response. Three of the performers say that they have “relaxed” their hair before when they were young, because it was “common”, but that their hair felt rather “stressed” by the experience. It is heartening to witness how a source of potential nuisance, when spoken about openly, can be a point of connection that makes the sharers feel seen. When Marohn finishes her hair, the others cheer enthusiastically, shouting, “Show yourself!”, to which Marohn responds by standing up, looking out at the audience and striking poses out of fashion magazines. Watching this scene, I wonder what impact it would have if a younger audience, especially one made up of Black FLINTA* teenagers, which the audience around me is not, could see this performance. Could it give them greater self-assurance in navigating their teenage years, which usually is the time when the pressure and desire to fit in—not only to peer groups, but also to the way society constantly reinforces a dominant image of beauty that conforms to the features of whiteness—can be so great that one can easily lose oneself?

Although the entire piece seems to be thoroughly choreographed with all texts and many unison dances memorised, each performer’s distinct character shines through. Their different backgrounds and training, which are described in their biographies in the programme (not all of them have experience in performing), is apparent. Even in unison, I notice how each holds and moves their body differently. How some look out at the audience, while some keep their gaze inwards. There are moments when the acting and dancing look awkward, which I find delightful, as I am allowed to see the performers as they are. These, I find, are valuable aspects a community can offer: To build a collective practice that may sometimes pull you out of your comfort zone, and to still be given the space to be yourself.

Watching the performers beam as they bow at the end of the piece, I sense a transformation in their collective presence. As I entered the theatre in the beginning and saw them sitting on the floor, chatting and laughing, I perceived the scene as a put-on act with a hint of stiff nervousness. Now, after the performance, their presence seems to have softened into a more natural togetherness, a joyful community.

WERDEN by Magda Korsinsky (Performed by Jana Falcon, Millie Engono, Kuloued Marohn, Turending Stelkens) premiered at Ballhaus Naunynstraße on December 15 2023 with performances until December 19 2023, tickets at ballhausnaunynstrasse.de.