100 Dancers – It’s far from the studio to the streets

100 Dancers in Copenhagen

I’ve spent a week in Copenhagen at the 100 dancers workshop. The aim was to do improvised public dance performances. Although I haven’t had time to seriously think through what we did I have some thoughts that I want to share with the ones who were in the workshop as well as people interested in the field of public dance improvisations.

Big thanks to the organizers as well as all the people who were there and engaged in the process. In a time when Europe is shaking it’s nice to get together with people from all over the place and share thoughts, experiences and dance.

Spending 3 days in the studio to prepare for 4 days of street performances was probably a mistake. The labs and proposals that came in the studio’s were nice and had an important function to get the group together, but once we took them to the streets it was obvious that most of it didn’t apply. There is a long mental, spatial, performative distance between the studio and the streets and I think we would have gained a lot by doing stuff in town far earlier on in the process.

The studio is safe, defined and easy to overview. The city is rock solid, uncompromising and unpredictable. The gaze of the audience also pushed us into street performance aesthetics that we were not at all prepared for such as pantomime and clown work. Leaving the everyday life regular clothes style and starting to dress up made things even worse and at some point it all looked like amateur theatre. People running around dressed for show, but with no show to give.

At that point I really lacked a basic confidence in dance as a practice. It’s actually quite simple – bodies moving through space with spatial, temporal and compositional elements in mind. 100 dancers with pacing, listening and moving together would be enough and enjoyable for both the audience and the performers to engage in.

What generally did work was to create intimate situations in the public sphere. It creates a strong and simple dynamic. Many of the scores proposed non-social interaction capabilities in a neat way. Here are some examples of scores, I can’t remember who came up with them:

  • Undulation. Standing in a group with a direction. Breathing together, then moving with a smooth wavelike motion. Walking with one step per breath. Enhance the undulating wave untill the arms go up breathing in and the upper body going down breathing out.
  • Ripple. Gathering in an extremely tight but standing pile of bodies. Slowly creating space in the group. Expanding. Breaking out in a contact duo with somebody. Fill the whole space with dance. Coming to stillness. Running to a new center, a new pile and starting over again.
  • Orpheus & Eurydike. One person sit on a bench, another approach. They have a flirt and a hug. The one sitting there first goes away, stops and look back. Another one comes by and it start over.
  • Entering a space in a conscious and listening way. Dancing with the whole group in mind.
  • Slow motion.
  • Being with. Standing with a couple of meters distance, looking at each other, giving it time. Leaving, finding a new person to be with.

Notes on darkness

The recent Almost out of sight festival at Weld as well as the works Observatory (MDT) and The Infinite Conversation (Magasin 3) has proposed a discussion on the concept of darkness in performance art. What happens to the artistic means and the aesthetic sensibility when they are deprived of visual expressions and representations?

The sensory deprivation of sight is suggestive and full of potentiality. It creates a new sensibility for sound as well as touch, smell and an experience of the inner workings of the body.

The sixth sense

When listening one can hear the sound of the heart beating, the lungs breathing and possibly the blood passing through the vessels of the inner ear. But there is also a sense of the inner body, this “sixth sense” called proprioception or kinaesthetics, the perception of ones own body. Without it we would not be able to walk or move through complete darkness, because we could not organise our bodies. A simple way to try out the capacity of this sense is to close your eyes and try to make your index fingers touch each others tips.

The aesthetic experience thus shifts to new senses and the use of the senses are redefined. E.g. listening is used to aproximate the size of a room.

Desire in the dark

The darkness is also interesting because it veils the social roles of the participants to a large extent. Name, age, class and gender is potentially invisible, allthough the voice can tell a lot about those properties. And the voice turns important, especially in the work of Lundahl/Seitl, where it’s used for instructions or converation.

When you touch someone in the dark you can not tell if you think the person you are in touch with has beauty, education or a proper social status. The qualities of touch differs from the qualities of visual representation. This is of course a threat to the predominating way of organizing our desires. The gaze is so toxicated by capitalism and commodity fetischism and in the darkness we can repudiate the desires of appearance.

Darkness remains an intimate sphere. It withdraws the public as well as the private.

Loosing the world

When we can’t see anything we loose the sense of world, it disappears in the void. There are no distinct feeling of inside and outside, you can not kn ow for sure where your subjectivity ends and the organization of objects in the room can not be understood before you actually feel them. In the darkness the world cease to exist.

To me that is a hopefull experience and I sometimes wish that a new world will emerge from the dark void.

The Infinite Conversation starts on thursday in Stockholm

I will be in there and you are very welcome to come by and join the conversation

The acclaimed artist duo Lundahl & Seitl have created a performance that invites visitors to immerse themselves in total darkness at Magasin 3. After the much talked about performance at National Museum in Stockholm last year, there is now another opportunity to experience an entirely new work for four days only in May.

For The Infinite Conversation, Lundahl & Seitl completely darken one of the galleries at Magasin 3. Visitors are led by the hand into a pitch-black room where they then drift in and out of conversations held between disembodied voices. Each new voice is projected out into the space, where it forms a dialogue with others. The gallery, like the dark caves of Lascaux, absorbs and stores this information in its own inherent memory–every visitor leaves a trace behind for the next person.

Open hours:
Thursday May 5 12-19 pm
Friday May 6 12-17 pm
Saturday May 7 12-17 pm
Sunday May 8 12-17 pm

The Alienation Game

I did a workshop today with good help from Ebba Petrén at Knudepunkt (twitter feed) titled Dance, movement, scores. The aim was to play with body and movement to bring a physical dimension to role-playing.  As a part of it I set up a sequence of 4 physical scenes concerned with alienation, that worked quite well, especially the office scene. I would love to read, see and try out more participatory movement scores like this one, so please share it if you have done anything similar. The Improv Encyclopedia share plenty of methods  for improvised theatre and theatre sports, but when it comes to dance and performance it’s a lot harder to get hold of materials like that.

This one was just a 20 min experiment to show role-players how interaction can happen without social roles, a theme Tova Gerge spoke of in a lecture earlier today, and a theme we have elaborated a little bit on in text before.


So, it’s a short scenario in 3 scenes on alienation from production, circulation and social situations, with 3 different more or less physical scores. I will tell you when the scene starts and when it’s over. In the first scene we are at the office. In the second scene we are going home from work. In the last scene we’ll go out dancing and drinking to forget our depressive job.

1. Going to work

We will walk around randomly in the room. When you hear the beeping sound you want to cross the room in the middle.
Sound: A loud, disturbing beep

2. The Office

The second scene is in the office and we will line up in a ╔╗ shape and send a paper in between us, a little bit like an assembly line, but we don’t produce anything, we just circulate papers. The first person will take a paper, read it, and crumple it. The second one will unfold it, read it and send it along. The third one reads it crumble it, and passes it, and so on.

Sound: Corporate world from the Fight Club soundtrack
Prop: Print this and send along paper by paper to the assembly line:

The text is a quote from The Coming Insurection (PDF).

3. Going out

Same as step 1, but shorter.
Sound: A loud, disturbing beep

4. Disco Dance

We go on stage one after the other. We’ll do disco dancing but with the following restrictions:

  • You are not allowed look into each others eyes and
  • as we dance we put to fingers in our mouth.

Sucking on the fingers will be an image for trying to escape the dissatisfying life at work through oral stimulation and not looking at each other is an alienating effect. Although our generation has a lot of Facebook friends we don’t necessarily have anyone to be close to. So we go on stage one bye one and dance until the song is over.
Sound: Common people with Pulp

The finger sucking was inspired by a theatre play performed on Turteatern, based on The Coming Insurrection.

Memories of Kokoro

Earlier published in The Swedish Dance History, 2009

We met up at the small shared space in Bagarmossen south of Stockholm. She made soup for us while someone took care of the kid. People started drop in. We shared the meal and boiled water for tea.

The dog was loose. The discussions were sometimes heated. Someone started playing piano in The Other Room. Black tea was on the table. The kid was asleep.

The Other Room was covered with mattresses found in a container one year earlier. We sneaked into the dark room one bye one. The movement had already started.

Evening turned night as the bodies moved in contact improvisation. There was a crash-cymbal and a hi-hat hanging from the ceiling. There was a distorted guitar. The actions intensified.

[ … ]

We collapsed in the corners of the room.

Half a year later the space was evicted due to complaints from the neighbours.

Stans Dans

I participated in a series of street performances doing contact improvisation in Stockholm, organised by Avart Dans & Rörelse.

Stans Dans kan dyka upp i samband med tema dagar, utställningar, events, invigningar, mässor och happenings i olika slags miljöer. Som en del av ett större sammanhang, eller bara som ett överraskande moment t ex under rusningstid. Väder spelar ingen roll, vi dyker upp under alla årstider.

4-6 dansare samt ev musiker bygger upp strukturer för dansinstallationer och performances utifrån rådande platser bland människor i stads- och förortsmiljö.