Dancers from Asia (2) – ​Ditta Miranda Jasjfi from Indonesia

Ditta suggested that we met at Café Engel. When I said that it was a quiet place, she suddenly remembered that it would not be my first time in Wuppertal.

After leaving my luggage in the hotel, I headed for the Laurentiusplatz. It took me a while to realize that the schwebebahn was out of service as the trains kept operating « normally » but without passengers. When I walked towards the bus station, I crossed Rainer Behr with a scooter. It must be an ordinary encounter for any Wuppertal citizen, but not for me. The weather was pleasant and finally I sat with Ditta at the terrace of Café Engel.

My first image of Ditta with Tanztheater was The Rite of Spring in the documentary Pina. It was also the first piece of Pina that she saw in Jakarta in 1979. She didn’t have much memory about that but how jealous I am of her having parents bringing her to « watch almost every dance company in Jakarta ». Ballet and Indonesian traditional dances (from Bali, Java, Sumatra, Sulawesi and Jaipong) accompanied her childhood and have become part of her life ever since though pursuing dance as a career didn’t come naturally and she was majored in Japanese literature for three years. The turning point came when a friend went to study dance in America, and her ballet teacher’s son in Germany. Like her friend, studying dance in the States was her dream but financially speaking, Germany is an even more sensible destination. Regarding school selection, Folkwang became her first choice simply because that’s where her ballet teacher’s son studied.

Joining the Tanztheater company seems to be ideal for a lot of dance students in Essen. Ditta became one of them after having watched several Pina’s works. But it didn’t happen until 2000. Who would think that getting a role is an issue for Ditta after having seen her dance? During her period of Folkwang Hochschule, no young choreographers asked her to dance. She is different but may be the issue is the cliché image of dancers in Europe. Luckily Suzanne Linke is fond of Indonesian culture which is not completely irrelevant when she decided to bring her into her company.

Wuppertal is even an unknown destination for some Germans. A girl coming from a muslim family in Jakarta must need passion, courage and confidence working and living here. Freedom is her reason to be, both on stage and in daily life. Working with Pina also awakens her freedom on stage although she was deprived of part of her personal life. When dancers spend so much time together, they may don’t want to further develop friendship within them otherwise you are surrounded by the same people all the time. You can still have your small circle of friends. For Ditta, Héléna Pikon is a close friend.

Looking back Pina’s works, she loves Iphigenie auf Tauris before her arrival, Für die Kinder von gestern, heute und morgen and Vollmond as world-premiere dancer. She has more personal time now as the way how the company works is much more standardized than before. For anyone, this is not a bad thing. She can spend more time with her friends, watching more performances, etc. 

Regarding the last creation with Dimitris Papaioannou, she was not quite used to his way of working when dancers in the other creation felt comfortable as Alan Lucien Øyen worked à la Baushienne. It seems that Dimitris has already had everything in mind and dancers just interpret his images. I find this perspective interesting as personally Papaioannou did a much better job than Alan in terms of capturing the essentials of Pina. Turkish dance critic Danzon best summarizes Since She in his review: « it is as if, by means of ‘seit sie’, Papaioannou creates ‘the missing Athens piece’ among the complete works of Pina Bausch with its bauschian qualities, subtle use of greek music, abstract sirtaki movements danced in unison by the company members, and with the acropolis at the back of the stage ». But Ditta appreciated the experience with Papaioannou more after creation than before. She is also interested in other choreographers/companies such as Batsheva, Akram Khan, Legend Lin Dance Theater. Will she do something outside of Tanztheater one day? Let’s see.

Question on integration seems unnecessary as she has been here for thirty years and enjoy it very much. She still goes back to Jakarta from time to time visiting family and friends as well as curing her homesick for Indonesian food. I said that I was luckier as there were many authentic Chinese restaurants in Paris.

On 3rd, October, I was back to Wuppertal. I saw two Dittas on stage: one in Pina’s last work, the other in Anne Linsel’s documentary (2006). No, actually it was the same Ditta, as innocent as a child of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Ditta’s favorite places in Wuppertal:
– Rex Theater
– Thalia Bookstore
– Utopiastadt

Dancers from Asia (1) – ​Shihya Peng from Taiwan

来自亚洲的舞者(1) – 来自台湾的彭诗雅

Paris. Good News Coffee Shop. I didn’t know this place though it is a good sign for my first interview with « Dancers from Asia (Good news, right?) ». When Shihya told me that she lived in the 16th district, I picked this café on the map, in the middle of her district and mine. It was the last Saturday of April, or another #yellowjacketday.

巴黎。好消息咖啡馆。我没来过这里,尽管这对于我的“来自亚洲的舞者”系列的第一个访问是个好兆头( 这是个好消息,同意?)。当诗雅告诉我她住十六区,我在地图上选了这家咖啡馆,位于她的区和我的区中间。这是四月的最后一个周六,或者说又一个#黄马甲日。

I first saw Shihya in DFS but We Are Monchichi deserves better the title of her signature work which sketches a bright and clear silhouette of this dancer coming from Taiwan. When she was still a little girl, according to her, she was mischievous. It was just her desire of exploring the world outside, I would say. That’s why she had so many extra-curriculum activities. When her mother asked her to keep only one activity, she picked dance. A sort of turning point. Ever since, she hasn’t stopped dancing. She learned different types of dances in a private dance association. It was more than a hobby: she had to commute so as to continue dance classes along with her studies. And finally she entered the dance department of University of Taipei.

第一次看诗雅演出是《DFS》,但是《We Are Monchichi》更适合称为她的代表作,鲜明地勾勒出这位台湾舞者的形象。她说她小时候很调皮。在我看来,那不过是她探索外面世界的欲望使然。这也解释了为什么她参加各种课外活动。当妈妈要求她只能保留一项活动时,她选择了舞蹈。这成为了她的人生转折点。从此,她从未停止跳舞过。在舞蹈社,她学习了不同类别的舞蹈。这已经不再只是个人爱好,因为为了上舞蹈课,她必须花很多时间在通勤上。终于,她考取了台北市立大学的舞蹈系。

I never saw the original version of Monchichi by Ramirez Wang but strongly feel that Shihya delivers her own interpretation, both in dance and in personality. In dance, her excellent dance technique broadens the landscape of Hip Hop. In personality, she breaks the clichés about Asian women with her independence, directness and humour. W.A.M. succeeds in creating sparkles between evolving image of Asians and the statu quo of Europeans. We are still different, but differently different.

虽然我从未看过Ramirez Wang的原作《Monchichi》但是我强烈感觉到诗雅完成了一次非常个人化的舞蹈和个性表达。就舞蹈而言,她出色的舞技拓宽了原作的街舞风格。她独立,直接和幽默的个性也不同于以往对亚洲女性的既定形象。《W.A.M.》成功地激起了逐渐转变的亚洲人和一入既往的欧洲人之间的火花。我们依旧“不同”,只是不同于以往的“不同”。

Her first connection with Europe? A two-month exchange program in Caen, France. She couldn’t speak French at that time and didn’t have opportunity to watch any dance performance. Now she is an expert. When you look at her dance experiences, you will be impressed by the number of choreographers that she worked with. She faces the same reality as any « intermittent » in France, meaning chasing all kinds of working opportunities. At the same time, it is partially her choice of working with different companies. This resonates with her desire of exploring the world outside at early age. The most inspiring experiences so far? W.A.M. and DFS. François Chaignaud and Cecilia Bengolea revealed to her the Jamaicain dancehall and the polyphonic singing. With Hongji, she perfects technique as well as enhances control consciousness.

她与欧洲的第一次亲密接触是大学时期到法国卡昂进行两个月的交换。她当时不能说法语,也没有机会观看任何舞蹈演出。现在的她已经轻车熟路。看她的舞蹈经历,你会惊叹于她合作过的编舞家的数量。诚然,在法国,作为拿“演出临时合同”的一员,她要面对现实,必须抓住一切工作机会。同时,从某种意义上来说,与不同舞蹈公司合作也是她的个人选择。这又呼应了她早年探索外面世界的欲望。到目前为止,《W.A.M.》和《DFS》是最激励人心的合作。François Chaignaud 和 Cecilia Bengolea带她感受牙买加的街头dancehall,也带她学习多声部人声合唱。和Honji合作,她提升了舞蹈技巧和自我意识控制的能力。

What’s next? Dance of course. The next choreographer has been identified: Eric Minh Cuong Castaing for reprise of School of Moon. She also plans to create. She already did a few and you can find a video here.

接下来,诗雅当然还是会继续跳舞,下一个合作的编舞家已经确定,是Eric Minh Cuong Castaing,主要是重排《School of Moon》。她也打算自己编舞。之前她已经有尝试过,你可以看这里

I asked my routine question about integration for Dancers from Asia. Unsurprisingly, Shihya, doesn’t have issues with living in a western culture. I feel that we are the same kind of unconventional Asians. I confirmed her when she asked me back the same question. It was almost 5pm and we quit the coffee shop heading to the metro station. On the road, I asked her two things for this article: her selfie and her favorite places in Paris. And here’s what I got: Shihya on the road!

我最后问了我准备给来自亚洲的舞者的常规问题:关于融入。毫无意外地,诗雅没有遇到融入西方文化的困难。我感觉我们可能都不是典型的亚洲人,所以当她反问我时,我也说没有。快五点的时候,我们离开了咖啡馆,走向地铁站。在路上,我请她为此文提供两样东西:自拍一张和三个巴黎最喜欢的去处。瞧瞧我收到的照片:诗雅在路上!

Shihya’s favorite places in Paris: 诗雅在巴黎最喜欢的去处是
– Centre Pompidou 蓬皮杜中心
– Opéra de Paris 巴黎歌剧院
– Seine riverbanks 塞纳河畔

SESSION

Some songs, some dances, some noises. That’s how Colin Dunne presented Session and the same sincerity remarked the whole journey till the final a cappella.

Two dancers, two musicians. In 90 minutes they were more than their written role thanks to the smart use of their versatility. Take the table scene as example: everyone was dancing, a choreography of six hands and two feet; everyone was also percussionist if you just listened.

In addition to his acclaimed body movement, what passions me with Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui’s works is his incessant curiosity which leads him to all types of collaborations. As he said, pleasure is born from collaboration. Indeed Session has this surprise effect and this is largely attributed to Colin, according to Larbi. I did watch the DVD of Riverdance before coming to France and probably Colin was in it. But defining Colin by Riverdance is not fair and that’s probably why he avoids talking about it.

During the creation process, Colin insisted on bringing the stage back to essentials trimming down all the unnecessary elements. Such mindset leaves for the audience a much larger space of imagination compared to certain Larbi’s previous works. Labri referred the psychotherary scene to midlife crisis as both Colin and himself happen to fall into this age group. However, the final output (without a single word) is self-explanatory without limiting it to his inspiration, at least for me.

If Play is joyful, Session is playful. Colin’s swinging leg brings me to the Irish coastlines; Larbi’s funny interaction with theremin reminds me of the undergoing human-machine relationship problems. When Larbi drags the carpet with Colin dancing on it, the Irish traditional stepdance finds its contemporary situation. Their passion for polyphony becomes a moment of unity and serves for transition. It is sort of a quartet’s jam session unleashing the freedom out of their impeccable techniques.

There is one question repeating at the end: What is the noise in your mind? When I left the TNB, more questions came into my mind: When we are busy with daily life, can we still hear the noise? If we can hear it, will we follow it?

Applause for Session at TNB Rennes

JR

After having watched The Land of Nod at La Villette, I was electrified and deeply affected. Ever since, I follow closely FC Bergman’s tour which brought me to the 2018 Holland Festival.

Food Center Amsterdam. A man at the entrance looked like an actor. He turned out to be David Davidoff in the piece. After the ticket control behind the black curtain, a three-floor building stood alone in the center, fully blinded and enclosed by the seats at all sides. It reminded me immediately of the Museum aan de Stroom in Antwerp. In the next four hours (incl. 30-minute intermission), I was completely seized by everything that happened inside this stage complex.

Unlike The Land of Nod, JR adds a dimension of dialogues. The book is only about dialogues, told me Thomas Verstraeten. FC Bergman must have spent a significant amount of time working on the text as my concern of being lost without reading the book didn’t happen. Initially, Ivo van Hove found the book and it was supposed to be a co-creation between them. I cannot tell how it would look like differently but the output undoubtedly confirms FC Bergman’s exceptional talent and capability.

In this adaptation, JR is the center but under the spotlights mainly are characters such as Edward, Jack and Amy, who represent the soul of the piece. Their chaotic lives are consequences of or in parallel with JR’s. The building can be imagined as a projection of JR himself who at the same time observes inside what’s going on. Surprisingly(at least for me), the stage idea and film use were decided at the very beginning of the project. FC Bergman intends to illustrate the chaos of the novel itself in this amalgam of genres and refers the building to capitalism. The stage complexity also means the large crew « behind the scene »: 76 including the cast. But Gaddis’s 700-page fiction deserves a meaningful scale.

The piece is not about morality as JR is purely amoral. FC Bergman built the tower but didn’t stay on the rooftop. They hide behind the camera extending our vision, questioning themselves and ourselves. Part of them are in Edward’s body as well.

I ordered the book JR recently and just started reading it. Also I plan to watch it again at la Villette next week.

Briefing in Dutch
First view of the building
JR on the floor
Snacking area
My bookshelf

Story (of) Water

It was not only about Story Water. Let’s put it in this way: a story of water.

Summer breeze accelerated circling in Avignon, weather forecast seemed to be accurate. a rain in the middle of a performance is not exceptional in the history of the festival according to the tour guide of Avignon. Finally, the rain didn’t pour before the giant LED timer was shut. When I spoke to one of the dancers afterwards, indeed they were informed in advance but it was their first time performing at the Cour d’Honneur. So experience of performing in the rain didn’t exist. I wish the weather forecast were even more accurate though.

After the applause, when I walked out of the Palais des papes, unlike in 2017, I felt enchanted. Let me just be clear: I am not a loyal fan of Emanuel Gat Dance. I loved Sacre but hated Sunny. That was my feeling before watching Story Water which I loved.

Once friends regrouped outside the Palais, we kept arguing about some music and the projection. When we met Emanuel the next day, he was fully aware of those possible criticisms. What I perceive in this piece is the gradual transformation of dance from the status of sophisticated improvisation to that of universal tradition. In addition, physical movements interact with musical movements. Vice vera. Dancers and musicians form a river flowing in each and every spectator. This river moved me profoundly but it can have different effects on another person.

When to the projection, Gat admitted that it was added quite late in the creation process. He referred to the interchange of realities between the rehearsal studio and the touchscreen. The projection did succeed in replicate this effect. Some spectators criticised the naivety of the information projected. Well, if you are a smartphone user, you cannot deny this simplistic and violent way of communication currently dominating our daily life. Again, the job of art is to question ourselves but is not obliged to answer. The choreographer just shared his personal experience in an artistic way and we can interpret it differently but over-interpretation is misleading. Although I understand his reference, I see it in a different angle. I feel the importance of dance, or the power of life whatever is the circumstance. From chapter to chapter, the dance becomes warmer and warmer, the music less and less abstract. The contemporary jamming evolves to the diverse, colourful and universal humanity and that’s where my enchantement was born.

As the rain didn’t arrive on time, we decided to have a beer at the place du Palais. We were not alone but the square was no more crowded and the Palais turned off the lights. Thunders followed lightning. Then the rain poured. We decided to run back to the apartment. The water was familiarily warm and I found the joy of running in the summer rain when I was a kid. I screamed, sang and could not stop smiling. Story Water ended in water, wasn’t it a good story of water?

Note: Special thanks to Catherine from Danseaujourd’hui who organised the trip to Avignon as well as the encounter with Emanuel Gat

My public Avignon guide
Encounter with Emanuel Gat
Dancers and musicians who skipped the rain on the 20th July, 2018


Scala

The more I watch Yoann Bourgeois’s creations, the more I like his universe. For Scala, I went to the theatre twice. It is not necessary to summarize his works by inventing a terminology such as « acrobatheater ». However, since Celui qui tombe, he has become a captivating storyteller based on his signature stage language. He makes gravity tangible, moving and meaningful.

Back to his apartment, a young man starts releasing his other facets out of him after a day of hiding. He needs a dialogue with the inner world, unlocking his doubts and fears. It is not surprising but slightly unexpected: a cache-cache with himself. I am here and there. How many versions of myself do exist? Is she real? She is multiple too. Step by step, each self finds a balance with the others when the cache-cache becomes a sequence, a pattern, or a loop. If this is a dream, I will enjoy it; if this is the reality, I will blame the moon.

Dreamers, they never learn. Life is a staircase with no return. You make efforts climbing up but in vain. Life is a circle when the tail of your staircase meets the head. Is there a destination? Probably when life ends. Mechanically and « effortlessly », performers continued to glide downstairs; in addition to the music, I became emotional:

This goes
beyond me
beyond you

At the end, we are just tired of ourselves, tired of being sophisticated and different from others. Or we are just out of control. The Scala theatre is freshly painted blue and so does the stage set. When we cannot stand ourselves we just paint ourself Scala blue. One day, when archaeologists remove layer by layer the painting from the wall, they will find out. So does Bourgeois make a poetic one-hour tribute to Scala’s long history since la Belle Epoque.

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Violin Phase: Portrait Opening

A long queue keeps growing along the city hall building. BHV windows whisper that winter is coming. 15th, September. Sunny. Autumn. Today start European Heritage Days. So does the portrait of Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker within Festival d’Automne à Paris.

Rue des Archives. Then Rue du plâtre. My first time in Lafayette Anticipations. I didn’t realise the stage location until I arrive on the first floor following the direction. Exceptionnally white, the stage occupies the courtyard and spectators the balconies. Yuika walks a few steps on stage and music starts. Actually the white is not painted but a layer of white sands. Her movement paints the stage in black, first a star, then a circle. Two equal parts, four equal parts, and so on. Music amplifies, repeats, varies. Created in 1981, this piece already sketches Keersmaeker’s signature movement. 15 minutes of beauty: tangible, precise, dynamic.

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« Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, you are not patient but impatient. » Injured last may, she is not allowed to perform as planned for this opening. And the recovery needs patience. After the applause, Keersmaeker come on stage starting with this anecdote. She fell from a horse and broke the right arm. « They cut my wings. » She said with such strong emotions. Memory of her works starts flashing in my head. Indeed, they are her wings.

She was in New York, aiming at expressing simple pleasure of dance with Steve Reich’s music. She found her inspiration from kids: spin, jump, wave the arms. I start navigating memory of Hashimoto’s dance. Keersmaeker keeps moving on stage as well, tracing Hashimoto’s footprint. When Rosas’s staff finishes sweeping the floor, Keersmaeker starts creating her own circle on a darker stage while continuing the explanation.

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The momentum cumulates in this structured geometry of continuity. The courtyard seems to become her private space. She misses the stage, and the circle may also make her continue to spin around. Like a Saturday afternoon, we, the spectators, are no more than her neighbours moving to our balconies, intrigued by the sound of her movement, her murmur and the music. When she notices our presence, she asks if we have questions. A brainless question from the second floor ends the conversation.

I walk out the foundation, still feeling emotional. Walking randomly in the district, I enter a cloister. On the wall I think that I find the feather dropping from Keersmaeker’s wings.

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Artwork by Marjolaine Degremont

Re(view): Bel

Contemporary art in whatever form gives artists space of possibilities. Not all artists have the same capacity of self-expression and my criterium is simple: connection. I am connected to Bel’s creations as much as to Duchamp’s Fontaine.

Gala is the first piece I saw of Jérôme Bel. It was in 2015 in Nanterre. Simple, but sincere. He gives the theatre to a group of people like you and me. Suddenly it becomes relevant minimising the distance between the stage and the spectators. Two years after, when I knew that there would be a portrait of him for the 46th edition of Festival d’Automne à Paris, I was so excited planning to watch every programmed piece. Disabled Theater and The show must go on fall in the same pattern as Gala. Banal but powerful pop music moves away from the singer’s aureole to each and every individual. I will never forget when the song Imagine started to play in MC93. I thought of the 2015 attack and my warm tears rolled down in the darkness when spectators raised their phones with light.

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Pichet Klunchun and myself @ Centre Pompidou

Portrait series are my main discovery during the festival. Pichet Klunchun and myself is an appropriate piece to understand Jérôme’s idea thru gestures as well as dialogues with Klunchun. He uses the traditional dance as a tangible reference to navigate his philosophy which stays coherent thru all these year. As I saw Jérôme Bel previously, I can even better associate his explanations with the movements mentioned. The eponymous piece, for Jérôme, is already dated. I understand his point. Indeed it is not as provocative as it was twenty years ago. However, it is still something different for me even I have already seen a variety of dance performances. And spectators still left during the performance.

When to the documentary Véronique Doisneau, we finally spotlight a ballet dancer from the background. Etoiles have their own name; so do unknown « decorative » dancers. The best part is that this was performed in Garnier making the idea symbolic. Cédric Andrieux pursues the same idea completing the portrait series with a modern dancer.

In the end, except the already-seen Gala, I watched one less performance following its title’s advice: Un spectacle en moins. If we don’t break down the boundary, there will be no new idea. I can still remember my joy of observing audience’s reaction in Garnier when Tombe was performed. That is all Bel about.

In Avignon, they attempt to…

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Cloître des célestins.

Les Hivernales.

Rising moon.
Summer breeze.
Falling leaves.

Sound of selfie.
Air-conditioning.
My aching toe.

 

He lies on stage, rolled in a blanket.
A few clothes exhibited with care.

Sitting at the right corner of stage,
he interacts with his Mac.

He pretends to live in her last apartment,
listening to her recordings,
pacing from « room » to « room »,
in her clothes and shoes,
like what she used to do.

In one room or another
that he used to stay,
he feels home anyway.
Connected are FB and email.

He dances, or ATTEMPTS to.

He doesn’t speak a word.
Her singing. Her speaking.
Enough.

He types words.
He speaks a few too.
A selected playlist.

She was alone. He is alone.
We came alone. We will leave alone.

He sent a message to his ex.
He is with himself.

From Hogue to Eggermont,
from Paris to Paris,
she will always be remembered.
In what way?

IK BEN AANWEZIG.
All by himself,

He finds his way.

Their eyes meet at the end.

He merges with the screensaver.

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Neues Stück II / Bon voyage, Bob

Three weeks after, I am here again, in Wuppertal. Several months ago, Alan Lucien Øyen was still unknown for me. I had occasion to discover his universe at Chaillot for two creations: Simulacrum and Kodak. I like his sensitivity but the feeling was mixted. Unfortunately, the feeling stays the same for this new creation.

The theme is great: death/lost. He managed well the balance between dance and theater. He found a remarkable Helena. He made a scene for both Julie and Rainer. He…

Probably his explicitness limits imagination. The scenography is full of details. I had impression of sitting in a Hollywood filming studio: an apartment is an apartment, a shop is a shop, a bed is a bed. In Kodak, I also found the strong influence of cinematography on Øyen’s style but the stage was much cleaner.

Then the texts are complex. If I remember well, every dancer spoke. Julie is outstanding as usual while Rainer is certainly more comfortable with his dance (his debut and ending are incredible). Alan made a mélange of English, German, French, Korean, etc. Sometimes the same text is spoken twice, in German and in English. Sometimes he let non-German audience lost for a while (when Tsai-Chin sitting with Andrey in a shop). Is it necessary? Is it the best solution? Why not use subtitles?

Regarding Nazareth that everyone loves, it is the first time that I didn’t see her 100% confident on stage. Mr. Øyen maintained her stereotype roles without substantiality behind and some texts even don’t match her style.

Emotions are trapped in this four-hour (one intermission included) piece overloaded with details and words. All dancers do experience something else and they do give some memorable moments but the dramaturgy definitely needs to be simplified and concentrated before it becomes a classic stück.

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Applause