From the ‘crisis play’ to the ‘memorial play’ to the ‘Syria play’. Current affairs are doing well in theatre. And yet this is not a matter of course for a medium that likes to invoke its slowness with regard to the flow of information that washes over us daily. But perhaps today, argues Kristof Van Baarle, we have a greater need for stories than for information.
The realization that our society is becoming superdiverse is more topical than ever. Even more relevant is the question as to how we want to deal with this fact. The reactions to the attacks in Paris in early January 2015 [PL1] are telling: the Western world wavers between an us-them way of thinking in which repression has the upper hand, and a vision in which the attacks are seen as an extreme, fundamentalist act that has nothing to do with the otherness of large groups in society. That balancing act is laborious, and the sign of an age in transition and of an unsettled world. In the arts too, the hesitant handling of our superdiverse reality is striking. In youth theatre there is in this regard a great opportunity. The presence of a young audience that finds superdiversity almost a matter of course compels youth theatres to be dynamic.
In her research, theatre scholar Annelies Van Assche investigates the working and living conditions of contemporary dance artists in Brussels and Berlin and how these affect the working processes, modes of working and eventually the artistic work itself. Her comprehensive research project ties dance studies to sociology by combining quantitative and qualitative research with the analysis of contemporary dance. Following the release of the first results included in a report, Annelies interviewed contemporary dance artist David Hernandez, whose Sketches on Scarlatti will premiere in Belgium in January at STUK.
The non-Broadway performing arts scene in New York is characterized by a painful lack of funding that almost makes the situation in Europe seem luxurious. In the work of the New York based Larissa Velez-Jackson and her group “Yackez”, this economic condition becomes an aesthetic that prompts a reconsideration of some contemporary assumptions regarding the relations of artistic production, presentation, consumption and critique – as well as their residual material.
‘Breathe, just breathe. And imagine something new.’ After sitting for a gruelling 24 hours you at last hear the closing words of Mount Olympus. A quarter of an hour earlier the audience in the Bourla Theatre in Antwerp had stood up en masse already to cheer on Jan Fabre’s ‘warriors of beauty’ who, covered in colourful layers of paint and glitter, were rhythmically shaking their backsides up and down in the direction of the audience. It’s called twerking. This dance move became world famous thanks to superstar Miley Cyrus who, in the world of mainstream pop culture, enjoys the dubious status of having pushed back even further the limits of the pornification of the human body. What does Fabre himself actually understand by ‘something new’? The aura of a heroic social resistance hangs around his ubiquitously hyped, superlative-laden ‘masterpiece’, while the performance merely reproduces the dominant ideology of our time in a heightened form.
Set in the leafy grounds of Holmwood House in Glasgow’s Southside, Simon Starling and Graham Eatough’s performance At Twilight: A play for two actors, three musicians, one dancer, eight masks (and a donkey costume) was a successful example of the Common Guild Gallery’s commitment to putting visual art and theatre into innovative dialogue. The performance, which combined dance, music and drama, was striking for its structure, for the way in which W.B. Yeats’ Noh-inspired, symbolist play At The Hawk’s Well was placed within the framework of an artist’s talk or public lecture.
The censorship and strict regulation of the public sphere during autocratic times in Tunisia took their toll on artistic freedoms as they anesthetized most of cultural life. The revolutionary movement however marked the beginning of the 21st century in a hopeful way. Five years later, the Nomadic Art Center, Moussem, invited five young Tunisian directors to show their work on the stages of BOZAR and the “Maison des Cultures” in Brussels. The festival explored how artists look back on this period and tackled the question how artists can contribute to the construction of a new social conscience on the ruins of an autocratic regime.
We are constantly busy interpreting. Throughout the day, throughout our lives, we incessantly try to make sense of what happens to us. We read our surroundings to know whether it is safe to cross the street. We read other people to decipher whether they are inimical or ready to support. We read our bodily sensations to make sure we don't eat too much or get a cold. We read our own history to contemplate whether we have made the right choice in life. We read the newspaper to build an opinion about politics. We read the clouds to have fun imagining figures and stories. Depending on our profession, we might read proton flux, grant applications, water pipes, stock market cash flow, trends, trees...
This is a letter. Or rather, the first in a series of letters to be published through the next two years. Together they will attempt to address what I see as an urgent need of the contemporary circus landscape in which we work: that is, the need to redefine what we do. To talk about how we do it. To search for answers to the question of why we do it. And, last but not least, to develop complex and diverse tools that help us to do it.
What state is the Athenian performing arts scene in after more than five years of debt crisis? How do artists and organizations deal with the precarious work conditions? in April 2015, Peeter Aernouts travelled the Greek capital for three weeks. He collected this handful of observations, snippets of conversations and images.
Although the practice of unison is still alive and well within contemporary dance, it is hardly put into perspective or approached through movements in a more reflexive, questioning mode. What does the idea of unison actually suggest or imply, not only as a choreographical tool but also from a wider cultural or socio-political point of view?
At the request of 0090, the international art platform for strengthening cooperation between Turkish and European artists, choreographer Marc Vanrunxt presented a workshop in Istanbul. His oeuvre, which spans more than thirty years, formed the basis for a meeting with the local dance scene. Charlotte De Somviele travelled along and, against the background of a city in political transition, searched for links between Vanrunxt’s ‘art of choreography’ and the desire of young artists to professionalise.
In September 2014, Platform-Scenography (P-S) organized the two-day ‘exposium’ Thinking-Scenography | Shifting layers of (Dis)believe, in Utrecht and Rotterdam
Platform-Scenography is both an analogue and a digital platform that aims to increase the visibility of scenography (in the broadest sense of the word) and the profession of the scenographer. P-S generates and facilitates various activities that stimulate the exchange and reflection on scenographic practices and spatial design, and is open to any initiative related to this field. Currently P-S’s artistic leaders are Sigrid Merx and Anne-Karin ten Bosch, with an editorial staff comprising Liesbeth Groot Nibbelink, Trudi Maan, Henny Dörr and Nienke Scholts. This year P-S is responsible for the Dutch national contribution to PQ 2015 In Between Realities – a quadrennial world exhibition of Performance Design and Space in Prague.
I'm not here, says the void by the German director Julian Hetzel plays with the Void in her late capitalistic, perverse form. The leading roles are for an IKEA sofa, grey plastic bags and overalls made of recycled fibres. The actors, Hetzel and Michele Rizzo, are empty shells waiting in vain for the divine breath that will save them from this deadly boredom.
As a drama tutor at KASK, Jan Steen has developed a specific training course for actors, of which présence, charisma and aura are key components. Jan Steen also discusses the concept of exceptional stage presence in his doctoral research, which recently led to a striking performance of Sarah Kane’s Psychosis 4:48, as well as to the publication of the book Being in Playing.
A beguiling performer and dance guru, David Zambrano is highly prized by the international dance community, yet outside it he is a complete unknown. Who is this Venezuelan dancer, choreographer and tutor who has had an immeasurable influence on the development of contemporary dance, and who tirelessly continues to inspire new generations of dancers?
Pamina de Coulon, Dries Douibi, Tom Engels and Michiel Vandevelde
Etcetera wants to give particular attention to young artitsts. So does Bâtard, the festival held every year in December in Brussels. For the he 2014 edition - held under the slogan “Stretching the moment” - the organizers of the festival compiled a reader of texts. As a lot of the themes connect to Etcetera's interest, we like to share the reader here.
It is becoming increasingly easy to cross borders, both geographically and culturally. In the big cities various cultures, traditions and fantasies are contaminating each other with the resulting clash continuously creating new hypes, trends and self-images. This hybrid and flexible approach to identity in urban culture has inspired choreographers such as Ula Sickle, Trajal Harrell, Cecilia Bengolea and François Chaignaud.
The recent budget cuts that the Flemish culture sector is facing have been sold as an inevitable consequence of the financial crisis. However, the actual political climate is a far more decisive factor. Something similar happened in Portugal, and look how unpaid has become the new black for artists there.