“Labyrinth”, Annapaola Leso & Mansoor Hosseini ©Dieter Hartwig

Hearing Your Skin: soundance festival is Back in Town!

From 11 to 27 June soundance festival Berlin is submerging our senses with an interlacing of digitally presented dance and music works, physically experienced video installations, fully breathed open air performances, as well as a programme of talks and lectures. Led by artistic director Jenny Haack at DOCK 11, the Zionskirche Church, and the garden of EDEN Studios, the 2021 festival edition presents 66 artists in 16 pieces and six dance film videos. The latter can be enjoyed both as a walk-in screening at DOCK 11 and as online streams. With this attractive combination of formats, dance and music works are (slowly) coming back as a physical part of the city’s texture to celebrate the beginning of the Berlin summer!

soundance festival reaches its fifth edition and second pandemic release with a very densely-packed programme. It was initiated in 2013 as a festival dedicated to improvisation, then in 2017 the artistic director chose to rename it and focus instead on music and dance and their mutual possibilities of shaping and composing one another. By embracing the connections between dance and sound, sound is conceived not only as an atmospheric element of a performance, but rather as a self-contained constellation of physical gestures. For this second pandemic edition, the curatorial team established, in advance, specific rules to make the festival possible in unstable conditions. For this reason most of the participating artists are Berlin-based and there are a maximum of three performers at one time. As we have all experienced during these months, the pandemic has forced us to find new solutions to many different areas of our lives. soundance is an effective and creative example of how the necessity to survive can lead to the development of new and valuable resources without losing the original intention.

The festival started live on 11 June with the outdoor performance “ZWINK” by dancer Katrin Schafitel at the Zionskirche and in the city space near DOCK 11 (my colleague Andrej Mirčev writes about it in a separate article: Mysteriöses Tanzobjekt vor der Zionskirche, 15 June 2021). At the time of writing, the festival is continuing to flourish! So far, I have enjoyed two screendance works and three recorded live performances which I will share with you.

“The Coming Pattern”, by dancer and choreographer Julyen Hamilton and musician Georgios Kokkinaris, is a dance and music film, shot in a dance space and the streets of Athens. As is often found in Hamilton’s work, movement structures improvisation, while the use of voices and spatial organisation defines the overall work. Dancer and musician are together on screen, from being barefoot, to their mutual listening as they occupy the space together. The colours in the video appear from time to time as an aura. Together musician and dancer create a genealogy of sounds as they develop from the body; I was able to discern a kind of research in which anatomy shapes the origin of music.

In “Mit den Augen der Haut” (With the Eyes of the Skin), by choreographer Karina Suárez Bosche, performed by Alessandra Lola Agostini, Ariane Hassan Pour-Razavi, Bernhard Richarz, and with music by Gabor Csongradi and audiodescription by Imke Baumann, three performers with mixed abilities appear with their faces fully covered within a minimalistic musical atmosphere. They seem to be locked up in a room. Gradually they remove one another’s full masks to reveal very familiar protective facial masks. In the final part, the three performers appear without masks and with their skin bare from the shoulders up: this moment of visible skin is rather intense and makes me finally take a long breath: I ask myself when — and if — we will be able to abandon our masks. 

In a recorded live rehearsal, violinist and performer Harald Kimmig conceives “Hara”. In playing the violin (which could be already considered a movement performance per se) Kimmig is not just exploring a spectrum of ways to use the instrument as an extension of his body, but also turning it into a performative agent itself. When he starts moving two violins around in the air as though they are extensions of his arms, sound is created directly from movement. The light design reinforces the scene, with a stunning shadow effect.

“Lighthouse” is a trio between dancers Sonia Rodríguez and Enrico Paglialunga, and sound designer Giacomo Mattogno, in the form of a continuous feedback loop. Movements are fluid and the light is warm, but from the beginning, a sculpture hanging from the ceiling — reminiscent of a chandelier or a lighthouse — gives the piece a sense of anxiety. Dancers create electronically amplified sound by moving around on a bed of transparent marbles. On the ground, with circular movements of their torsos, their bodies become a sea following the rhythm of a kind of heartbeat. As the dance ends, the performers are transfigured into a suspended rotating sculpture. A sense of nostalgia arises from their slow and closed movements.

Created by an international team from Germany and Sweden, “Labyrinth”, by dancer and choreographer Annapaola Leso and composer Mansoor Hosseini, is a multilayered performance of sound, music, dance, and video. I find that the mobile body of the dancer corresponds to the soundscape, while the video projections create an alien atmosphere. The white-clad dancer becomes part of the projection and interacts with the multiple metal circles descending from the wall. The circles increase in number until they are an army, invading the stage, making sounds. They finally create something like a forest — a spiritual, hidden place, where the dancer reaches for the light and some quietude.

The soundance festival berlin 2021 continues until 27 June. The full programme and credits are available here.