That Which Resonates – Matters!
In "A Matter of One‘s Own" Roni Katz, Manon Parent and Lisa Densem explore bodily memory as a practice of self-empowerment
Their project deals with a self-reflective tool: the dancer and choreographer Roni Katz (from the collective female trouble) invited her colleagues Manon Parent and Lisa Densem to personally confront choreographies to which they’ve felt a special affinity in their past. In reflecting on earlier pieces, they are developing a "piece of their own” using the available material. In a conversation with the dance journalist Alex Hennig, the three tackle the big questions: the value of history and memory, de-canonizing the "canon”, working together in non-hierarchic ways. Their explorations tend to end up on touching on feminism or the seminal question, "What makes us move?”.
Roni, Manon and Lisa: What is your personal interest in the project?
I see a freedom in this project, the ability to position myself as a dancer with autonomy and agency, not needing to be what Roni might want me to be. I was interested in looking back at history and asking what’s still valid about it: What inspired us when we were younger and what’s still important to us now? What still resonates in our bodies? The body of a dancer carries a lot of history.
How does the selection of the original material work? How is this selection related to the final piece?
The pieces themselves are not that important – it is more about what emerges from sharing the material. One might not even recognize the references. We consider the pieces to be gifts we’ve experienced on our personal pathways. We’re dealing with echoes, transmitting them into something new, rather than reconstructing something.
How does this work?
There are always different layers to a particular piece: there is the piece itself, its vocabularies, movement qualities, its dramaturgy. But there are also personal relationships, desires, frustrations and very subjective feelings. It’s a way of considering our past and the experiences we have been through. At the same time, one can say we are de-constructing the focus on the choreography as the "original” and the choreographer as the one possessing the "authorship”. It’s not the material that’s prevalent but it’s rather about the whole dimension of reception: dancing in a piece, watching it as audience member, being told about it … We might start with solos but we’re never alone.
How important is the word "canon" for this approach?
I am actually more keen on de-canonizing! And we’re all experiencing different canons – just by the fact that we all come from three different places. There might be a canon in Berlin, our very personal canon, the canon we’ve been experiencing though dance education and repertoire. Through the pieces we see and the work we are doing we can create new reference systems.
What is the subversive act of your project?
We allow ourselves to rewrite and share our history, to focus on our personal approaches. Together with the whole team: Maya Weinberg (dramaturg), Xenia Taniko (set and costume design), Annegret Schalke (light design) and Annett Hardegen (production manager), we’re providing a space where we can feel safe to articulate a vision and to value our experience as dancers. The relations to the original pieces changed – it became more fun. We are flipping roles. It’s not the dancer that serves the piece but the material that serves us.
Last but not least – how do you position the project in the frame of #MeToo?
There’s a lot of hierarchy in the dance world. Being a dancer is not as valued as being a choreographer. It has to do with power dynamics, and the abuse that happens the most is an abuse of power. The open letter to Jan Fabre was published when we started rehearsals. Six women in a room – there was a lot to share. It’s important to stress that talking about it is already a huge step. We’re sharing a space where certain experiences are not to be questioned and this is part of our job as artists: exploring different ways of working. While we might not be able to change the prevailing power structures, we can have a vision and a practice by ourselves; that remains effective. The common approach on a dance piece is very results-oriented. Our value system would change a lot if we would also consider how a piece was made. What if choreographers had to face the requirement: "if we are to like your work – we also need to like your methods”?
All the separate answers by the three have been collected in one (sometimes contradicting, always polyphonic) voice.
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