DANCING A SURREALIST BODY
Funded by the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media in the NEUSTART KULTUR program, [aid program DIS-TANZEN] of the Dachverband Tanz Deutschland.
Over the past couple of years, I have dedicated myself to an exploration of alternative approaches to dance improvisation techniques centered around freeing movement creation from mind control. My primary objective has been to research on methodologies that allow for my spontaneous dancing movement to grow, free of any predetermined structure or emotional connotations, thereby enabling a possible detachment from societal influences. My aim has been to cultivate a sense of liberation during movement improvisation, emancipated from conformities imposed by conventional shapes, norms, and my own educational and dance background.
I have been particularly interested in the intersection of movement with visual art, mainly paintings and sculptures. I have found great fascination and inspiration in the works of surrealist painters such as Jane Gaverol, Leonor Fini, Leonora Carrington, Toyen, Unica Zürn, and Frida Kahlo. Within their artistic expressions, I have observed a diversity of bodies that are not restricted to human form. By conceiving of myself not merely as a human body, but as a phantasmagorical creature, I could experience a greater diversity of movements and emotional states.
In my DIS_TANZEN solo research, I delved into the artistic work of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt, focusing specifically on their collaboration between 1920 and 1924, which produced a remarkable series of costumes.
During my exploration, I consciously projected myself into the shapes of these costumes, rather than emphasizing my own physicality. My goal was to pay close attention to my physical sensations and the shapes they created, allowing myself to be transported in space and time. I approached the costumes with various interpretations, sometimes focusing on their forms and other times on the emotions they evoked.
By shifting my focus to these external images, I was able to approach my performance with a lighter perspective, finding freedom in my body. The emphasis was no longer on my specific shape, but rather on my imagination and how I projected myself within the costume. This allowed me to break free from societal norms that often make us self-conscious about our body image in different spaces.
As part of my search to free my body from societal norms, and in connection with the work of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt, I became interested in the queer approach to the subject of costume and thereby emancipate myself from established gender codes.
The liberation of the body is a fundamental aspect of queer theories, which challenge socially constructed norms and expectations of gender and sexuality. Wearing costumes offers a form of self-expression that can be particularly powerful in this process of liberation. By dressing up, individuals can play with traditional constructions of gender and explore alternative identities and performances.
Authors such as Jack Halberstam or Judith Butler argue that gender is a performance, a series of actions and social representations that shape our understanding of what it means to be masculine or feminine. Costumes, in this context, play an essential role as tools of gender performativity. They enable individuals to explore and express gender identities that do not conform to traditional norms.
Costumes offer a form of transformation and metamorphosis, allowing people to present themselves differently and play with gender codes and symbols. They can be used to embody masculine or feminine archetypes or to create characters who defy social expectations.
Costumes become a means of resistance and self-appropriation, enabling women or men to assert their identity and reject the restrictions imposed by traditional gender norms. They provide a space where individuals can explore their own gender expression and free themselves from the social constraints that limit the diversity of gender identities, and highlight the power of costume as a vehicle for expression and emancipation. Costumes allow us to deconstruct rigid gender norms and open up pathways to greater diversity and freedom in the way we identify and present ourselves to the world.
I found an interesting parallel between the queer idea of interchangeable costumes allowing a gender non-conformities and the idea of a dancing body that can change its normative and human shape, helped for example by the embodiment of the costumes of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt. Working then with the imagination of several different costumes, I wanted to get even more into the physical experience of metamorphosis in my improvisation around the costumes.
During the later stages of my research, I encountered an exhibition featuring Eva Medin's 9-minute video titled "Le monde après la pluie" ("The World After the Rain"). In this video, a dancer wearing a sculptural costume gradually loses some of its components while performing dance movements. The resemblance of this sculptural costume to the work of Lavinia Schulz and Walter Holdt strongly resonated with me.
In Medin's video, "Le monde après la pluie," the focus lies on the interplay between the dancer's mobile, vibrant, and tender body, the cold, rigid, immobile metal suit that must break in order to allow movement, and the delicate, fragile living plants. Transformation stands as a fundamental and central concept within this work, as seemingly incompatible elements come together through the process of metamorphosis, facilitating a dialogue.
What strikes me as particularly interesting is the perspective of approaching the dancer's movement not by anticipating what the body will do or how it can be brought into motion, but rather viewing the dancer's body as a conduit for the sculpture to come alive. This inversion of the relationship between the body and the costume captivates me.
Intrigued by Eva Medin's artistic endeavors, I explored one of her performances from 2018 titled "STORM STATION." In this piece, a dancer donning a substantial costume moves upon a small platform situated on water. These constraints imbue the dancer's movements with an organic yet robotic and precarious physicality.
A striking connection emerges between Medin's work and my own choreographic research. While Medin seeks to merge the dancer's body into the costume, allowing the costume to be inhabited by the body, my exploration involves merging the costume into my body, so that my body becomes a vessel for the costume's embodiment.