Welcome to Choreographic things, dancing, an attempt at documenting and making accessible the choreographic research of the same title, which was undertaken from September 2008 to June 2010 in the frame of the Amsterdam Master of Choreography, a department of the Theaterschool of Amsterdam, Amsterdamse Hoogeschool voor de Kunsten. The research was undertaken by the author of this documentation, Martin Nachbar. The main research question was:

How are the body's sensations connected to what the mind imagines? An investigation through a series of choreographic practices, which all graft at least two existing movement and/or performing practices onto each other, accompanied by several drawing exercises, which act as two-dimensional renderings of the three- or four-dimensional practice of choreography, and with the attentive, mindful body as a hinge between the sensory and the imaginary.

I have organized the elements of this documentation on a timeline from left to right. Right underneath it, there are the research questions as they occured during the course of the research. Since the research here presented unfolded very much as a series of ever-changing research questions and in order to get a feeling of this, the reader might want to first read through all the questions, before deviating to the images and videos on the top or the further readings on the bottom. 

December 2009 - August 2008


Silhouette drawing of "Las Meninas"

1. The initial research plan in 2008 mainly asked how imagination and performance are related or not and how sensation connects to this relation. I had arrived at this question mainly through a piece I had made with my father in fall 2007: “Repeater – Dance Piece with Father”. In the process I was confronted with similarities in movement habit between my father and me, and how these habits had been influencing my choices as a choreographer. My father’s and my kinship of movement connected to how I perceived movements kinesthetically and how I arranged them aesthetically when making dance pieces. The image of my father in everyday life had influenced my sensation, which had determined my movements and what kind of images I produced in performance. Interestingly, the German word “Vorstellung” means both imagination and performance. It literally translates to “putting in front of” (my inner eyes or their physical counterparts). It served as a first hinge on which to hang the door to enter the research space. At the time I imagined this space to be filled with a group of ten people and a dog trying to reenact Velazquez’ “Las Meninas”, whose intricate construction makes the on-looker see her seeing.

The German word „Vorstellung“ means both imagination and performance. But how are these two operations related? What leads from imagination to impulse to movement to image to performance and all the way back again? What are possible oblique connections between these operations? Maybe there are more operations to be found in the spaces in between?


Images of "Repeater"

click arrow to continue

The fact that kinship is largely definable through physical particularities makes it akin to kinaesthetics, the perception of particular movements. How then do kinship and kinaesthetics relate to aesthetics, as sensuous perception (mainly related to as visual) and as philosophical branch?


"Repeat after me" PDF

on "Repeater"

click to download

Postcard and credits PDF

click to download

2. Reading Uwe Wirth’s essay “Between Genuine and Degenerate Indexicality: A Percean Perspective on Derrida’s and Freud’s Notion of the Trace” in preparation of the first seminar, I discovered Charles Sanders Pierce, an American 19th century philosopher and one of the founders of semiotics. Put very simply, he related sign processes as processes of philosophical logic to intelligence capable of learning by experience. Unlike Saussure, Peirce thus relates signs to physical experiences, which makes his theory interesting for me as a dancer and choreographer, who continuously places the body between its non-legible sensing capacities and its possibility to make sense in the frame of theater. Peirce differentiates between three kinds of signs: first, the symbol as a sign understood by shared habit, not by resemblance or cause-and-effect relation between the sign and the signified object; second, the icon that signifies its object by resemblance; and third, the index that negotiates between the realms of language and of physical experience, either as a genuine index or as symptom (e.g. smoke as a sign for fire) or as a degenerate index (e.g. an index finger pointing at a specific object that is simultaneously being named by the pointing person). Re-reading Derrida’s Signature Event Context, Wirth proposes towards the end of his essay an operation that he calls interpretative grafting: “Interpretative grafting undertakes attention shifts, so that utterances are not regarded under the aspect of their illocutionary function but under the aspect of their indexical interpretability. Focus is not anymore, what has been said but instead, what appears in the uttered. […] The interpretative grafting is thus an operation that brings different interpretational frames into relations of interference by shifting attentions […].”[1]

[1] Spur, ed. Sybille Krämer, Werner Kogge, Gernot Grube, Frankfurt, 2007, p.55; translated by Martin Nachbar


And once the painting is approximately achieved: How pictorial have the operations been? Or more general: How much is dance a visual medium? And: How can we communicate our findings?


September 2008 - December 2008 --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Having worked with narrative elements: How can I treat the narrative, so that it can become pattern or form-statement and thus open associative spaces rather than story lines?


3. The first seminar was largely dedicated to the students getting to know each other and to getting acquainted to the course. Inspired through the exchange, I could clarify three aspects as crucial to the future trajectory of my research:

  1. Working with a group of dancers (How to lay out landmarks in order to become heterogeneously productive together?)
  2. Diagramming as a practice of generating physical, three-dimensional processes through sketching map-like drawings in the two-dimensional plane
  3. Hand-to-torso relation and relation between sensing and making sense (If we say a sign acts within a field of making sense and a body within a field of sensations, can a sign be sensed, can a body signify? Where is the threshold between sensing and making sense? How does the body slip back and forth between them?)

The last point got highlighted in a showing towards the end of the seminar, in which the AMCh students presented themselves to an interested audience. I took Peirce literal and tested his theory by pointing at one of the lamps, saying “this lamp” and then sort of slipping the gesture into my torso by working on the connection between the finger, the wrist, the elbow, the shoulder, and my spine.


Blackboard drawings from first residency

click arrow to see more

If choreography is a way of writing, what is the function of the body in it – symbol, icon, genuine or degenerate index? Does the body oscillate between perception of feelings and creation of symbols? Is it symbolic in itself through the fact that we share a lot of our habits physically? Does the dancing body negotiate between sensing and symbolizing sensory experience? Or does it simply become an icon of itself, when choreographed? In short: How does choreography let the body relate sensing and making sense?


4. During the first half of my first residency in October 2008, I worked mostly alone in the studio. In the warm-ups I went through developmental patterns, as I had learned them at the SNDO, 1992 to 1996. In the improvisations I tried to find scores that would allow me to investigate the connections between the sensing set up in the warm-ups, and moments of bodily indexing or signification. As the latter was hard to identify while dancing and without anyone else in the studio to actually “decode” the possible indices or signs, I had to come up with some kind of “self-decoding”. I decided to try to look at how sensing-exercises could go into repeatable movement patterns, and how these patterns might feel like a habit of mine or remind me of a dance style (which could also be looked at as a shared habit of all the dancers who have studied this or that dance technique). A diagram-practice would follow each warm-up and sometimes also one of the improvisations. The drawing followed the feelings and thoughts that had come up during a movement session. Each new diagram would serve as a way into the improvisation. The new diagram would depart from one or more elements from the diagram before.

 5. In the reading sessions, the text the most striking for me was “Virtual Powers” by Susan K. Langer[1]. In this essay Susan K. Langer attempts to define dance as an art form on its own terms. After having argued against a number of misunderstandings that dance as an art form has suffered from (e.g. dance is music rendered visual), she holds that dance must have its own “primary illusion”, something created only specific to dance, which means that all movement in dance must suffer transformation into gesture, which consists of actual movement and of virtual self-expression. Replace ‘actual movement’ by visible performance, ‘virtual’ by imagined and ‘self-expression’ by sensation, and we get close to a philosophical induction into my research: If the visible performance (Vorstellung) of a dance only becomes meaningful gesture by relating movement to imagined sensation (Vorstellung), a closer look at gesture itself might be productive. An investigation into the hand-to-torso relation might become diagrammatic for a group to heterogeneously become productive together, placing the physical work right on the threshold between sensing and making sense.


[1] Virtual Powers, Susan K. Langer in The Dance Experience, 1971, Myron H. Nadel & Constance Nadel Miller (eds.), NYC: Universe books; reprinted from Feeling and Form, Susan K. Langer, 1953;


Langer's Virtual Powers" PDF

click to download

6. In the last session on October 17th, 2008, we were four participants, sitting around a table. We discussed the issue of gesture. Gestures made while talking could be explored by slowing them down, sensing their kinesthetics, repeating them. Doing so, the attention had to stay on the conversation. This produced a kind of split state, in which the attention to the body and its movements was dislocated from the conversation’s content they were originally connected to. At the same time, the gestures remained in contact with the conversation, as its topic was gesture.

We then moved away from the table and onto the “floor” in order to explore only gestures. The score was: One collaborator goes in and establishes a gesture by exploring its range; second and third persons join in and relate gestures to the first respectively to the first and second one; leave when ever the gesture’s range seems to be exhausted. The result was very intriguing, it looked somehow “expressionist”, although not so in its aesthetics but in its thought/movement/concentration.

Afterwards we tried the same score with the option to transform the once established gesture and allow for impulses to change it. The results were denser and more in the whole body but less clear in the concentration than in the first exercise. We also tried to work with dynamics but this failed. Still need to look for a way to work with different speeds.

In the end, the task was to draw a living room together. We didn’t agree on one perspective but left it open to each of the three collaborators (I watched). They could draw three lines a time. The concentration and the drawing were intriguing again. The gesture of drawing and the thinking of three people together became visible.

How can experiences be framed – in rehearsal and in performance? How to lay out parameters (of movement exploration, of discussion, of group improvisation, of choreographing etc.) that can act as landmarks or orientation points for a group of people (the dancers) and make them productive within the given research? How to form a group? How to lay out landmarks in order to become heterogeneously productive together? How to deal with diversity within the research?


Photos of first group meeting with SNDO during

residency, fall 2008, click arrow to see more

7. After this first residency in Amsterdam I went to work with Jeroen Peeters, Andreas Mueller and Alexaner Baervoets for one week in Brussels around the theme of blindness. We tried various movement scores involving literal blindness (closing or blindfolding our eyes) and discussed the topic. A major concern was how the idiosyncratic experiences of choreographers and dancers can be made visible: How can experience be claimed and expressed in the theater? I introduced the possibility to discuss through drawing rather than talking.


Collective drawings from "Hollywood Endings"; click arrows to see:

image1: the history of theater spaces; image2: "dysleg-sic transmouthing";

image3: the visual interface in dance

How do sensation and index relate? How do habit and symbol relate? What does icon relate to? What are the relations between technique, habit, and style?


“How to collaborate? How to communicate my ideas? My desires? How to form a group? How to trust? How to play? How to be vigorous together? How to find a shared time together? How to share?”


How are solo research and group research connected? Does solo research rather relate to sensing, while group research (especially when I stay outside) relates to making sense? In which ways is this so, in which ways not?

How do the hands relate to the torso? What about the legs? If we say a sign acts within a field of making sense and a body within a field of sensations, can a sign be sensed, can a body signify? Where is the threshold between sensing and making sense? How does the body slip back and forth between them? Do sensing the body and making sense in performance relate? If yes, how? If not, what is the gap and in what ways can this gap be made productive?



8. With the information of the first residency in Amsterdam and of the research with Peeters, Mueller and Baervoets I went into the second residency in Amsterdam in December 2008. I worked with a group of six dancers, all students of the SNDO. We worked with various materials, mainly trying to hinge back and forth from “readable” gestures, pragmatic actions, abstract dancing and intense moving and using the blackboard seen in the photos of the October session. But the main finding was pantomime.

In one part of the showing the group established a living-room through miming imagined furniture and objects. Pantomime is a technique that allows looking at gesture that tries to make (narrative and delineated) sense through physical actions that provoke the audience’s imagination. The discussion that followed the showing was first dominated by the audience’s refusal to consider pantomime as a resourceful research object. When Myriam van Imschoot pointed out that pantomime is about the only taboo that all forms of modern and contemporary dance share, the space opened for looking at this technique in terms of gesturality and shared imagination. The main feedback evolved around how I could slow down the practice and let the intensity of pantomime’s gesturality unfold slowly rather than hinging away from it into abstract dancing or pragmatic action.


Which role does performance play for me in choreographic research? In what way are research and performance intertwined? Is there a performance of research and a research of performance? Do I want to differentiate between researching, trying, preparing, rehearsing and performing? If yes, how and why? If not, how and why not?


Video excerpt of living/room with SNDO, 2008

9. The second semester was mainly marked by two events: the second seminar, during which we witnessed Steve Paxton and students of the SNDO re-envision “Ave Nue” by Paxton from 1985; the third seminar that took place at HKW in Berlin during In Tranist festival “Resistance of the Object”, curated by Andre Lepecki.

 Having studied and practiced a lot of Contact Improvisation throughout my dance career and having taken Paxton’s workshop in Material for the Spine at P.A.R.T.S. in winter 1998/99, a lot of my approaches are informed by the practices instigated and taught by Paxton. Watching the workshop, rather than participating in it, in the beginning of the process, I was able to identify and formulate clearer my understanding of the body as a vessel full of events, often patterned by habit, unconscious for most of the time and almost always somewhat chaotic unless brought to examination through exercises and dances that bring the events to sensation, which can then be scrutinized, refined, altered and played with. In this process it doesn’t matter whether the sensations are really felt or imagined, as both, imagination and sensation, seem to be closely related and useful in bringing the “chaotic event you are” to sensation and to form.[1] Moreover, a large part of Material for the Spine looks at and examines the relation of the hands to the torso and spine. Pointing is an important exercise within the material: “Let’s go back to pointing. It is part imaginary, part physical […] See what you sense, when you point. It’s not just the finger but also the ischiae, the head, the eyeballs, the shoulder blades […] Imagination as an actual critical tool of the skeleton, something minding where your mass is going, something keeping track of the events. Imagination is inside the body and extends outside of it, projecting into space.” (from workshop, Jan 27, 2009). Which immediately connects to my research questions around the connections between imagination and performance (Vorstellung), and between sensing and making sense, only that Paxton asks his questions in closer relation to the body, while I have been busy with them more in relation to rehearsal and dramaturgical aspects: How can I instigate a group to work with movements between gesture and dance as gesture? How can these questions become a piece? Paxton’s closeness to the body seems to allow for another kind of approach, less busy with what the results might be and how they can possibly be related, and more allowing for the body to surprise the researcher.


[1] I am relating here to a short comment from Jan 27, 2009, and to a talk I had with Steve Paxton on Feb 9, 2009. Asked how he thinks the eyesight relates to the rest of the body, he tried tilting his head back in order to align the plane of vision with the plane of the digestive column. Then he went down on all fours, talking about several sensations and images that occurred on the way. He concluded by saying: “I don’t believe that this is an imagination in the sense of unreal phantasy. If we sense something it must be there, existing.”


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How to claim experience in theater, a place of shared experience (unlike cinema, a place of individual experience)? Is dance read or experienced? How to circle a square? What about the legs? How can we watch “blindly”? How can we become our own shadow?


Photos of Ave/Nue

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10. The third and last seminar of the first year took place during the in transit festival Resistance of the Object curated by André Lepecki at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin in June 2009. There were many inspiring lectures and pieces at the festival. To be succinct I will just mention Fred Moten, who inspired the title of the festival. His lecture There is no racism intended and the various talks we had with him. His thorough thinking about universalism, art and performance was and is inspiring; his interest in others and their opinions was impressive. For the first time, I found some kind of access to Kant, whose universality Moten tries to refresh in terms of a radical non-exclusion that evokes immanence rather than transcendence. Universality is manifested through and differentiated in shared subjectivity, which is the fact that we don’t share the same space (time, form etc.) but the capacity for spatiality, temporality, and recognition of form. At the same time we are fallen into the world, which makes as also always objects. The cut between our subjecthood and our objecthood is what we have to come to terms with continuously, as it always escapes us. Being as life has always already escaped, it is fugitive. Moten sees art as a practice that deals with this scar, being the scar itself and at the same time forming a bridge, which spans the gap between our being subject and object and thus becomes a mark of healing. Performance then is a recording of something previous, of its (rehearsal) process, and of its becoming in the presence, always inscribing itself upon the cut. Performance is thus the resistance of the object.[1]


[1] In an attempt to apply this theory to choreography, I noted: “The resistant object in dance is the choreography, whose resistance exists through and in its fugitivity.” (AMCh notebook #6)


Empathy as a state that provokes one to feel along with someone else: How to enable this kind of empathy? Resonance as a mode of enabling sharing: How to create an atmosphere in the theater that lets the subjective participants of the theatrical event resonate with each other? How can proprioception be provoked in the onlooker? How can we shift away from the interface in dance being visual and towards an idea of a choreographic interface? How are sensing and making sense NOT connected?


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11. Velazquez Las Meninas is not so important to the research anymore. The practice has shifted towards gesture as understood by Susanne K. Langer and towards grafting different techniques onto each other, letting the body execute two things at the same time to see what it will produce through this, especially in terms of sensation and imagination.

For the second year, I planned to work on three renderings of the research during this time: first, a five week project with fourth year students of the SNDO (SNDO4), who came to Berlin to work with me on grafting mime onto Steve Paxton's Material for the Spine; second, a five week teaching project with first-year students of the SNDO (SNDO1) in Amsterdam, looking at the gestures of illusionism and magic in relation to the gesture of dance; third, a solo for myself, revisiting the findings of the first two renderings and filtering them through my own body. All projects take place in a circle with the dancers and the audience sitting in the same situation to start with. All projects deal with a form of gesturality. The first two renderings are busy with the question of how to become heterogeneously productive together. The last one is busy with how to become heterogeneously productive alone.

The circle formation is a result of the thinking around how to share sensation, imagination and idiosyncrasy through visible movement in the theater. It can be traced all the way a photograph by Thomas Struth.





How to dance inside a circle? How to work with bodies as vectors?




12. We see a group of adults looking at Velazquez’ painting, whose protagonists all look out and back at their on-lookers. This creates an intricate choreography of gazes in the midst of which we see a group of six school children, obviously fulfilling some art class task. They wear school uniform, which lets them appear as performers in costume, performing in an almost closed circle of real and painted on-lookers.

The circle provides us with a situation of shared space and the shared experience of sitting. It also makes the backside of each dancer, only imagined when placed on a frontal stage, into the front side of the on-lookers sitting opposite of me. Thus each spectator’s imagination of the dancers’ backsides continuously turns into the visible front side somewhere else in the circle. While “Las Meninas” makes us see our seeing and Struth’s “Museo del Prado 7” captures the intricacy of this process, the circle will provide us with a situation that can hopefully make us sense our imagination.


Silhouette drawing of Thomas Struth's Museo del Prado 7

How can I instigate a group to work with movements between gesture and dance as gesture? How can these questions become a piece? Paxton’s closeness to the body seems to allow for another kind of approach, less busy with what the results might be and how they can possibly be related, and more allowing for the body to surprise the researcher.


13. From October 9 to November 6, 2009, I worked with Tomislav Feller, Alma Soederberg, Teilo Troncy, Yurie Umamoto, and Emma Wilson in Berlin. We had a showing on November 7 at Tanzfabrik. It was a first exploration of the circle structure and an examination of pantomime’s gesturality and how it can become dance. The main inputs were:

-       Our experiences with the work with Paxton and his “Material for the Spine”

-       Pantomime classes at Mimecentrum Berlin

-       Paxton, Steve (2008) Material for the Spine, a movement study, Contredanse: Brussels.

-       Cramer, F.A. (2001) Der unmoegliche Koerper, Max Niemeyer Verlag: Tuebingen.

-       Cache, Bernard (1995) Earth moves – The Furnishing of Territories, translated from French by Anne Boyman, MIT Press: Cambridge, USA.

The main practice consisted of grafting pantomime and “Material for the Spine” (which studies not only the spine but also its relation to the arms and hands and to space) onto each other by studying both in the same period and by testing various scores that were based on the idea that a choreography or movement exercise could be treated like a piece of furniture that existed independently of its execution –as a kind of residue in space that affords the movements it scores or frames and the movements of tracing the first with the hands and other body parts. We called this practice miming the body and its traces (instead of any other imagined object). Interestingly, Decroux pursued with his technique, mime corporel, something that was not so different from our search. He distinguished between mime objectif as an illusionist performance of imaginary worlds and mime subjectif as an abstract performance of soul and mime processes. For the latter we might also say of imagination and sensation processes, especially as Decroux propagated the development of an inner sense of detailed movement as a motor for form rather than meaning or narrative. Although his understanding of dance as the simulation of surpassed gravity doesn’t fit with the self-understanding of contemporary dance, his notion of the body as pure matter, objectified in the moving, non-bodily piece of art, is not so far from Yvonne Rainer’s examination of the body as object. For both Rainer and Decroux the body does not unfold content. The difference is that Decroux failed in making his point of view productive for the theater, as he would stubbornly try to erase all contradiction from his practice, while Rainer, and with her Paxton (even if very differently), have been embracing paradox and absurdity.

 Our practice in Berlin was situated on the line between the body, its objecthood and the impossibility to hold all the traces of its movements together. The images emerging were hard to grasp in their three-dimensionality that was heightened in the circle. The reciprocity or inter-dependence between movement and tracing it becoming movement created an ever-evolving flow of movement-images that continuously escaped meaning. However, we attempted to work with meaningful gesture such as a prologue in which two dancers summarize the piece through gestures. The interest lay exactly in the tension between these two poles of gesture and movement or making sense and sensing: “We believe that certain images can become crystal-clear while never entering into the order of the identical.” (Cache, 1995: p.16) Although this hypothesis at the beginning of Earth Moves wasn’t central to the thinking about this project “choreographic things, dancing # 1”, it appears as a guiding principle to it in retrospect. It was also Cache’s understanding of furniture, based on his hypothesis, that inspired the look at choreography as furniture: “[…], furniture is also that object that is directly connected to our bodies. For our most intimate or most abstract endeavors, whether they occur in bed or on a chair, furniture supplies the immediate physical environment in which our bodies act and react; for us, urban animals, furniture is thus our primary territory” (Cache, 1995, p.30).

Bernard Cache,1995: Earth Moves, MIT Presee, Cambridge

How can a group of dancers become one somatic body as part of the work on a piece?

What kind of technique is needed in dance? What does such a technique do? What does it include? What does it exclude?


How can pantomime’s gesturality become dance?


Video excerpt of choreographic things, dancing #1, with SNDO4, 2009

14. My external mentor for the second year, Litó Walkey, gave me feedback on the Berlin session, of which she had seen two rehearsals and the showing. Three points of her feedback seem crucial for the next steps of the research:

  1. The bodies need to be transparent, open and fragile to able to produce the imaginative traces in space and remain available to them and to the ones of the others. In rehearsals this worked, but in the showing the dancers got dense and not so open and available anymore. This point curiously connects to Lepecki’s feedback on the bodies in profit & loss as hollow vectors (p.12) and was resolved in the showing in January.
  2. The importance of slowing down in order to identify landmarks to help dancers and audience orientate in the piece. Landmarks might be the circle, its center, certain ways of moving or certain movements or gestures, specific moments or images in the dances etc. What are possible landmarks in the on-going dance material? What is it moving away from? Where does it go?
  3. What could be a ‘resonating other’, e.g. a theme or a pattern, to allow the research to resist mere absorption in how the movement is danced, and instead to exist in conversation with an imaginary. How can the research ‘play out and live somewhere’?          

 choreographic things, dancing # 2 picked up on this last point. I suggested working again on gesture but this time on the gestures of illusionism and on the gesture of magic in theater. Together with the 15 students of SNDO1, we tried to engage the body and its movements on the line between the gesturality of illusionism that serves to distract the audience from the mechanisms of the trick and an engagement of embodying, directing and transforming attention in order to achieve theatrical wonder and maybe even a momentary belief in magic. We worked again in a circle. The structure of these SNDO1 pieces foresees three rehearsals and one dramaturgical session a week. The dramaturge was Felix Ritter, who had been my mentor during the first year. Together we planned to work on four kinds of materials:

  1. Solos that use the structure of an illusionist trick to talk about a detail in one’s biography (the pledge, showing something ordinary) that enables the narrator to something special (the turn, something ordinary turns into something ordinary). The last step would be what is called prestige in illusionism, yet another turn that inspires shock and awe in the audience. This step was difficult to produce as I refrained from all kinds of secret mechanisms. But still transformations of the material were possible and worked out by the students. In their obvious playfulness these transformations were often funny.
  2. Manipulation gestures and the gesture of being manipulated. A group material, which was finally danced by five dancers as all the other group materials. In it, each dancer simultaneously directs another’s movements with gestures of manipulation and follows another dancer’s directions. This provides a circular structure of relations. In the piece, we opened this circular structure by forcing each other to move in straight lines, by breaking into duet and trio, and by opening to the audience to try to manipulate them.
  3. ‘Turning the image’, a relay of short solos. The first dancer suggests two gestures (of which one could be thought of as the distracting gesture and the other as the mechanism of the trick); the next one frames one of the two gestures with a third gesture, thus trying to completely turn the image and redirecting the thought of the first dancer; this second dancer also tries to suggest a second gesture (but often there is enough whit noise in the first to go through as second gesture); the first leaves the second alone, thus giving space to her movement and possibly already turning it; a third dancer comes in to suggest a new gesture that again turns the image of the second dancer alone; and so on. Questions were: What is a gesture? What is an image? What is a turn?

 The work with fifteen students was complex and challenging. On one hand, I had to understand and manage the organization of 15 people in rehearsals and of their material in the final piece, trying to insist on my research, my intuition and my decisions. On the other, I was also a teacher who came into a school that trains future dance makers, already highly individual in their approaches and strong in their opinions and tastes. So, while I was learning how to work with so many dancers, I let some of my artistic choices be led by pedagogical reasons (such as incorporating 15 solos in a showing of ca. 70 minutes or letting the groups of the group materials figure out most of the choreography and solutions to problems themselves). Three outstanding moments were:

  1. Studying the mime technique of ‘fixed point’, which we had studied during the session with SNDO4 already. Now it made me realize clearly how a lot of my research was indeed about how the hands relate through the shoulders to the torso.
  2. Letting the students sing and dance their solos rather than talk and execute its gestures, which freed the material up and gave the students emotion, playfulness and range and a lively inside control over what they did (rather than controlling the material with an inner distance).
  3. A very bad run-through with Jeroen Fabius as spectator on Wednesday before the showing on Friday. I decided to not do another run-through on Thursday but instead work on details and leave the students with the memory of failure, so that they would go into the showing with some detailed directions and with an awareness for the need that even the most playful and easy material doesn’t work by itself and has to be worked by them. I think this was the first time I ever directed a group so strategically.

The final showing during the Lunch Lecture on April 16 was great. The students managed to seriously play (Mark Tompkins), meaning that each of them was constantly engaging physically and mentally, even when sitting on a chair and waiting for their solo are group material’s turn, and at the same time remained light and playfully available for the whole situation.


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How can we engage the body and its movements on the line between the gesturality of illusionism that serves to distract the audience from the mechanisms of the trick, and an engagement of embodying and directing attention?


Video excerpt of choreographic things, dancing #2 with SNDO1, 2010

How to make a solo out of it?

How to work with lights?


 15. choreographic things, dancing #3 was  an attempt at narrowing the findings of #1 and #2 down to what might be called basic questions of the research by reiterating the wealth of the findings from before, with my own body, an experiment on myself.[1]

There were three further tasks, when starting to work:

-Not to use spoken language (to maybe give the final rendering more the air of a research presentation)

-Not to work in bits and pieces but rather building each step out of the previous one (to avoid my habit of bringing the bits and pieces together through what can be called dramaturgy in the sense of bringing sense to existing material by organizing it according it to certain exterior principles)

-To collaborate with light designer Katinka Marac (to explore how the traditional black-box theater could participate in the experience not only be its being square but also with its technical facilities)

 The final project had five main phases:

  1. In April while still working with SNDO1 on choreographic things, dancing #2 with a brief phase of rehearsing in the studio simultaneously with Katinka Marac, who tried ideas with the lights
  2. From May 4 to 20 (interrupted by 3.) in Berlin with two meetings with Litó Walkey
  3. An intense period from May 10 to 13 in the studio of Beeldmedia, rehearsing and working with Katinka Marac
  4. The final phase in Amsterdam from May 24 to June 1, working with Katinka Marac and regularly receiving and giving feedback with peers; and the performances on June 2 and 3
  5. Feedback in the assessment talk with external assessors Joao Fiadeiro and Sigrid Gareis (also present Jeroen Fabius, Sher Doruff, Myriam van Imschoot and Litó Walkey), and in the peer feedback session with Susan Rethorst, Ame Henderson, Jeanine Durning, Pere Faura, Branka Zgonjanin, Sher Doruff and Jeroen Fabius

[1] For a more traditional understanding of research this might be contradictory: gaining more clarity by reducing the distance to the object of research, in this case the dancing body. But for me clarity can also be gained by immersing in the experience, as the sensory apparatus has to get involved with the researched objects anyways, if any knowledge is to be gained. The tipping point from experience (the moment of involvement) to knowledge (the moment of distanced understanding) and vice versa is a topic of its own. Also, some effects can only be researched on the researcher’s own body – here I find myself in company with researchers such as Dr. Albert Hofmann and his experiments with LSD in the 1940’s.



Video excpert of choreographic things, dancing #3, 2010

 16. The underlying interests of the peer feedback session seemed to be not in conceptual clarity and readable frames but in mystery and the precariousness of the dancing body. As everyone present had followed the course of my research for at least one year, the atmosphere was less determined by asserting one’s own approach and/or opinion in order to claim a position in relation to the proposed research but rather by looking at how the relation itself could be made productive for the project talked about. Thus, it makes sense to not reiterate the dynamics of the talk but to go through the session along three keywords:

The circle was necessary to set up the tight, intense and controlled atmosphere needed for working with both mime and magic and their gestures. From the outside the audience’s attention sitting in the circle was visible in its concentration and force. In fact there were many circles (of attention) and echoes of circles, which got underlined with the circles of the solo for the lights in the end.

The circle made one aware of the gaze of the person sitting opposite in the circle, which interrupted the magic but also made one watch the watching. It was actually interesting to see how one got distracted from the image of the performance by the gazes of the other spectators and re-gained attention continuously. This mechanism operated also without my dancing (which also meant that I could have let go of my own gaze and give myself and the audience a break from directing the attention with it, allowing for more sensorial empathy).

The switch or hinge between producing mystery and solving the mystery was the stake of this project. The first occurred in the work with the gestures of magic and illusionism and in the abstract dancing, the second occurred when working with mime. The mystery solved felt like the intrusion of a bigger mystery: outlining imagined movement traces felt like an explanation that was needed to understand this bigger mystery. These moments also seemed to set a frame that distracted from what I was doing really: dancing

How is the sensorial connected to the imaginary with the body as a hinge between the two?


Some texts written during and after the research --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

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