programme leaflet 'CASCADE'
'Jump, fall and be brave'
An interview with Meg Stuart, by Els Van Steenberghe (Knack, 28/08/2021)
In CASCADE, a dazzling dance performance by Damaged Goods, choreographer Meg Stuart shows how the world can reinvent itself: by a lot of dreaming and a lot of falling.
You made this piece last year. But one scene - hills bathed in blue light, people lying on those hills - is very similar to the flood images from Western Europe, where people waited on their roofs for help.... Do you believe, as the art historian Jürgen Wertheimer recently stated in Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, that literature and art can predict reality, like the
Greek seer Cassandra?
Meg Stuart: We don't just share information with each other through language. You pick up signals through what you see, feel, smell. An artist translates that into his work. That happened to me more than once. In 2001, the year of the terrorist attacks in America, I made Alibi, about the link between violence and the media. In 2011, the year of the Arab Spring, I made VIOLET, about how body language can imagine a change, a revolution.
During rehearsals we shared our fears and dreams with each other. Of course you talk about the state of the world. Of course the disruptive pandemic colors your image of the future. Our planet and society are yearning for a reset. We draw the audience in by showing the movement that goes with such a reset: jumping despite all the uncertainty, daring to fall without knowing where or how you will land and then standing up courageously.
Philippe Quesne's set fascinates. What did you ask him?
Stuart: Philippe's sets are wonderful landscapes that are both ominous and funny. I simply asked him for a landscape; he gave me huge beanbag-like "hills. He draped canvases over them on which, if you look closely, you can see the cosmos. By playing with light, the decor sometimes looks like a wondrous landscape, sometimes a landfill. It is an alternative world, a playground built on and with the remains of an old world. The seven people do what mankind must do: find a new balance, learn to relate to the earth differently and resist the idea that there is only linear time.
That sounds abstract. How do you dance "time"?
Stuart: Quantum mechanics teaches us that there are several parallel timelines. Even within ourselves. You can see that even in one of the dancers: Davis Freeman. He explores different body memories, from adolescence to old age. Furthermore, we translate this different relationship to time into a form of polyphony: none of the dancers moves to the same rhythm, despite the exciting, compelling live drum music by Brendan Dougherty. The dancers embody a society that reinvents itself, while playing, falling and dreaming.
"What dream do you have to give up to keep dreaming?" you asked your dancers. What dream did you give up for this life?
Stuart: I'm living my dream! Traveling around a lot on my own, daydreaming and creating dances. Damaged Goods is based in Brussels, but I live in Berlin and we travel around the world. I used to work with dancers, now I mostly reflect with them. As an audience, you can feel the energy that is released in this way. (quietly) Because of all this traveling, I will never be able to have a dog. Maybe that's the dream I lost. (laughs)
What are you still dreaming about?
Stuart: Of my next piece: a location project in Zurich. Just as the world is literally and figuratively drowning, I'm creating a dance piece in the water. That decision was made before the floods. Suddenly I feel like Cassandra.
Meg Stuart (US) is a choreographer and dancer, working and living in Berlin (D) and Brussels (B). She founded her own company, Damaged Goods, in Brussels through which she has realized over 30 productions, ranging from solos to large-scale choreographies, site-specific creations and improvisation projects. With each piece, Stuart charts new territories, in collaboration with artists from different creative disciplines and navigates the tension between dance and theatre. Her work revolves around the idea of an uncertain body, one that is vulnerable and self-reflexive. It is analogous to a constantly shifting identity and constantly redefines itself while searching for new presentation contexts and territories for dance. Meg Stuart received various awards for her oeuvre and practice, amongst others a Bessie Award in 2008 and the Konrad-Wolf-Preis in 2012. In 2018 La Biennale di Venezia awarded her the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in the category of dance. Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods has an ongoing collaboration with Kaaitheater (Brussels) and HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin).
Pieter Ampe (BE) is a dancer, choreographer and performer, based in Brussels. He studied at the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance, the Arnhem Dance Academy and at P.A.R.T.S., where he graduated in 2008. In 2006 he participated in the danceWEB scholarschip program at ImPulsTanz in Vienna. Apart from creating his own pieces, Ampe engages in research and collaboration with other artists such as Benjamin Verdonck, Hooman Shariffi and Alain Platel. With Guilherme Garrido he created the duets Still Difficult Duet (2007) and Still Standing You (2010, Theaterfestival 2012), which is still touring around the world. As a dancer he appeared in pieces by Jan Decorte, Rosas and Eun Kyung Lee, among others. CASCADE is his first creation with Damaged Goods.
Jayson Batut (BE) is an actor, dancer and performer. He was trained at the National Theatre School of Bretagne, C.N.D.C. in Angers and the Susan Batson Studio in New York. Jayson has collaborated with theatre directors and choreographers such as Pieter Ampe (It is in the small things, 2016), Boris Charmatz (10.000 Gestes, 2017) and Latifa Laâbissi (Pourvu qu’on ai l’ivresse, 2016 et White Dog, 2019). In the domain of cinema, Jessica collaborated with Jérémy Van der Haeghen (Les hauts pays, 2015) and Luca Guadagnino (Suspiria, 2018). CASCADE is Jayson Batut’s first collaboration with Damaged Goods.
Mor Demer (IL) is a choreographer and dancer. In 2017 she graduated from ‘exerce’, ICI-CCN in Montpellier, France with a MA in Choreography. Born and raised in Kibbutz Dvir in Israel, she began dancing at an early age, going on to complete training programs at Vertigo Dance Company, 2007-2010, and P.O.R.C.H 2010 in Ponderosa. Demer has collaborated with various choreographers including Meg Stuart, Tino Sehgal, Peter Pleyer and Anna Nowicka. She has been dancing with Damaged Goods since 2016. Demer’s own work engages with a holistic ecosystem of movement and performance practices. In 2021 she will premier her solo dance piece NEW REAR in DOCK11. As an extension of the research, Demer published the NEW REAR artist book. In 2020 she became a resident artist at DOCKART Berlin, receiving a two-year development grant for her on-going projects.
Davis Freeman (USA/ BE) is an American artist based in Brussels with his company Random Scream. He makes contemporary theater & dance, photo/video installations and curatorial projects. His work is referred to as devious political theatre or docu-performances and often fights for a more ecological planet. Currently he is touring his latest pieces Do my Mouth, Karaoke (ART), 7 Promises and What you need to know, which won the second prize in the Danse Elargie competition at Theatre de la Ville. Alongside his own work Davis works as a performance artist with Forced Entertainment (Bloody Mess, The World in Pictures), Meg Stuart (Highway 101, Alibi, Built to Last, CASCADE), Stephan Pucher (Kirshgarten, Snapshots) and Superamas (Big 2, Big 3, Empire).
Márcio Kerber Canabarro (BR) is a dancer and performer based in Berlin and Budapest. In 2011 he graduated at SEAD, Salzburg. He is part of the DEEPER collective with Csaba Molnár, Tamara Zsófia Vadas and Imre Vass. Canabarro has also collaborated with Adrienn Hód (Hodworks), Keith Hennessy, Peter Pleyer, Benoît Lachambre and with Meg Stuart for the performances VIOLET (2011), Inflamável (2016), Atelier III (2017), Projecting [Space[ (2017, Signs of affection, Solos and Duets and CASCADE). His work unfolds and manifests information through movement by travelling, hiking, mobilising words or actually dancing.
Renan Martins de Oliveira (BR) is a Brazilian choreographer and performer based between Porto and Heidelberg. He graduated from both SEAD (Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance) and P.A.R.T.S (Performing Arts Research and Training Studios) where he started developing his choreographic work. His first full-length piece Let Me Die In My Footsteps was chosen by Aerowaves as one of the top works of 2016. Next to his choreographic practice, he has also been a performer for Iztok Kovac, Marysia Stoklosa, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Alexandra Waierstall, Ceren Oran, Daniel Linehan and Peter Savel. Renan Martins is an active teacher sharing his work in various dance schools, festivals and companies such as Impulstanz, B12, Danish National School of Performing Arts, Antwerp Royal Conservatory, Centro de Artes da Maré/Lia Rodrigues and P.A.R.T.S, to name a few. Since 2013 he has been a member of Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods performing in VIOLET, Atelier III, Projecting [Space[ and most recently CASCADE. He is also a researcher and part of a diversity and inclusion engagement European supported program together with the faculty of P.A.R.T.S. (BE), Manufacture (CH) and SKH (SK).
Isabela Fernandes Santana (BR/FR) is a choreographer and dancer. She graduated in theatre and performance art at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo. She joined the "Accompanied Intensive Training" at the C.e.m – Centro em Movimento in Lisbon and she has a Master's degree in Choreographic Studies at ICI - CCN Montpellier. Santana’s work was awarded with, amongst others, a National Arts Foundation Award – FUNARTE Klauss Vianna and with the danceWEB scholarship 2017 at the ImPulsTanz festival. As a dancer she has collaborated with artists such as Jorge Garcia, Lua Tatitt, Edith Derdyk, Bernardo Montet and Volmir Cordeiro. CASCADE is Santana’s first collaboration with Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods.
Philippe Quesne (FR) is a theatre director, scenographer and visual artist. He received an education in Visual Arts in Paris. For 10 years he designed sets for theater, operas and exhibitions. In 2003, he created the Vivarium Studio Company, and directed his first show, La Démangeaison des ailes (2003), based on the acts of taking off and falling down. Philippe Quesne hunts the marvelous, the tiny, and pushes to the extreme experiences of our daily lives as well as the relationship between mankind and nature. The performances Quesne developed in collaboration with Vivarium Studio, such as Des expériences (2004), D’après nature (2006), L’Effet de Serge (2007), La Mélancolie des dragons (2008), Big Bang (2010), Swamp Club (2013) and Next Day (2014), compose a repertory that tours all over the world. In addition to his work for the theater, he creates performances and interventions in public spaces or natural sites and installations for exhibitions. Between 2014 and 2020, he was the co-director of Nanterre-Amandiers, National Dramatic Center. Usher, his first opera direction, premiered in Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 2018. In 2019, he was the artistic director for the Prague Quadriennal.
Igor Dobricic (RS) studied dramaturgy at the Academy of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade (Serbia) and attended a MA Theatre course at DasArts in Amsterdam (Netherlands). From 1995 until 1999 he worked as a dramaturge for the Belgrade International Theatre festival (BITEF). As a program officer for the arts at the European Cultural Foundation (2000-2008), he initiated the international support platform for the arts, ALMOST REAL. As a research fellow with the Amsterdam School of the Arts (2009-2010), he articulated a long-term research project Table Talks (TT). From 2010 until 2011, he was the in-house dramaturge of Het Veem Theatre (Amsterdam). As a dramaturge he collaborates with choreographers/makers Nicole Beutler, Keren Levi, Guillaume Marie, Diego Gil, Alma Sodeberg, Shannon Cooney and Meg Stuart a.o. Dobricic has ongoing engagements with the Choreographic Centre Hamburg (K3), Amsterdam Master of Choreography (AMCh) and the Amsterdam Master of Theatre (DasArts).
Brendan Dougherty (US) is a Berlin-based composer and musician. He is active as an improviser and producer of contemporary music and collaborates with Tony Buck and Jochen Arbeit. He co-founded the bands Idiot Switch and Charrd. He has worked closely with choreographer Jeremy Wade, creating music for and performing in Throwing Rainbows Up (2008), I Offer Myself to Thee (2009) and There is No End to More (2009). His collaboration with Meg Stuart began in 2009 when they curated an improvisation series in HAU theater's Politics of Ecstasy festival. They performed together in Dougherty's OURSONGISLONG (2009) and Stuart's Atelier I & II (2011 and 2012), VIOLET (2011) and Sketches/Notebook (2013).
Philipp Danzeisen (DE) is a Berlin-based musician, He studied jazz percussion at the New School University in New York and sound design at the Theatre & Dance Department of the University of California in San Diego. Danzeisen has played in numerous musical projects with Jarry Singla, Jan Gerdes, Matt Otto, Joe Fonda and others, and regularly works at the intersection of music, dance and theater with directors such as Einar Schleef and Jan Fabre, as well as with choreographers William Forsythe / Ballett Frankfurt and Rabih Mroué. His current Duo is hÄK/Danzeisen an experimental music collaboration between him and electronic musician hÄK alias Bernd Norbert Würtz.
Tim Etchells (UK) is an artist and a writer based in the United Kingdom. He has worked in a wide variety of contexts, notably as artistic director of the world-renowned performance group Forced Entertainment. He has also worked in collaboration with a range of visual artists, choreographers, and photographers. His work spans performance, video, photography, text projects, installation and fiction. Across this range of work, he uses strong, simple, sometimes comical means to get to serious ideas. He is currently Professor of Performance & Writing at Lancaster University.
Aino Laberenz (FIN) was born in Turku, Finland, and studied art history. She worked as a costume designer, among others at Schauspielhaus Zurich, Volksbühne Berlin, Vienna Burgtheater, Schauspiel Frankfurt, Deutsches Theater Berlin, Thalia Theater Hamburg, Opera in Manaus/Brazil, Bayreuth Festival, Deutsche Oper Berlin and Staatsoper Berlin. She designed the costumes for several short films and worked with René Pollesch, Schorsch Kamerun, Karin Henkel, Stefan Pucher, Jette Steckel, Armin Petras and Martin Laberenz. Since 2004 Aino Laberenz was part of Christoph Schlingensief's team and since 2010 she is the managing director of Christoph Schlingensief's Opera Village Africa. Together with curator Susanne Gaensheimer, she designed the German Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011, for which she was awarded the Golden Lion. In addition to her work for the theater, Aino Laberenz has edited books for Christoph Schlingensief and conceived various exhibitions, including at Kunstwerke Berlin and MoMA PS1 New York.