After years of supposed development and support, ‘environmental stage’ is still an emerging category. Choreographed by Ini Dill, Street Fabrik was viewed at Haus der Statistik on 28 May 2023.
With a trash aesthetic born of careful classification and deployment of already-available resources, Street Fabrik develops a process and research-driven performance that exposes and reveals origins. Choreographer/Dancer Ini Dill has collected a massive amount of clothes from the streets of Berlin over several months, and uses these for the basis of telling a particular story, that weaves together the worlds of fashion and dance. The premise is stoically followed for the whole 90-minute performance in a temporary container in Haus der Statistik, with the clothes imaginatively re-worked into various choreographic and performative formations, their histories supported by low-level lighting and minimalistic sound design Sabine Bremer.
Dill’s experiment seems to be one of ’what would it mean to create a truly environmental stage?’ Thinking this through, the dancer/choreographer identifies resources such as the human imagination projected onto articles of clothing (in the opening, we are met by Dill who hands us a wrapped piece of clothing, explaining a possibly fictional history attached to it), stage architectures (the clothes also form the basis of an elaborate stage design that constantly uses the container), and human labour (the performance relies mostly on local the labour of three dancers and set constructors, rather than the outsourced labour of sweatshops or manufacturing).
But it is not un-messy. After initially being greeted by Dill (who explains to me that my gift is some “favourite yoga trousers originally belonging to her ex-ex-boyfriend”), the dancer enters the stage in a flowing black gown and explains that “everything you are seeing here tonight belongs to a real fictional story”, about fashion. A first distancing device – a long stare at the audience – paves way to a type of choreographed catwalk under scaffolds from two other dancers, Elly Fujita and Katja Scholz, juxtaposed with slow movements from Dill against the pulsing soundtrack, evolving into a type of precise writhing under a black blanket. Fujita and Scholz take a playful approach to the clothing centre-stage, continually dressing and un-dressing, finally settling on crinoline-adorned customised dresses – large enough to fit one dancer under the other – as Dill ceremoniously carries around clothes and places them in different parts of the stage.
The performance moves to karaoke with Yazoo’s Only You, and the clothing-stage is manipulated by a complex and imaginative pulley-system that lifts or drops them. Parts of the stage (clothes) are dismantled and thrown at the audience, who are also invited to throw them back. All the while, a delicate, somewhat absurd practice of interacting with textiles through choreography is undertaken, Dill occasionally intervening with sarcastic, comic comments such as “let’s get back to the really important stuff”. As the performance moves to a more contemplative stillness, Fujita is dragged around the stage, and finally, all three dancers fall in the finale.
While its exploration leads to a messy, trashy dramaturgy, one could certainly argue it’s worth the time trying to decipher Street Fabrik – and in fact, that it represents a rare meaningful moment among a sea of cynical stage work that symbolically expresses sustainability, without undertaking the difficult work of developing new approaches or dramaturgies. Street Fabrik should therefore be elevated as a rare investigation of sustainable stage practices, exhaustive precisely because it is fighting a system that tries to stop these questions from being asked.
Street Fabrik. Ein Tanz- und Textilrecycling-Projekt von die elektroschuhe by Ini Dill premiered on 27 May 2023, with shows until 29 May and again on 5/6 June 2023 at 8pm at Haus der Statistik (Bau OTTO, Otto-Braun-Straße 72, 10178 Berlin). Ticket reservation via firstname.lastname@example.org.