Shapeless

La Raffinerie

18, 19, 20/05 – 20:30
21/05 – 18:00
50 min

Since being among the first to graduate from P.A.R.T.S. in Brussels, Belgian choreographer Charlotte Vanden Eynde has become well known for her personal, intimate works which manifest a desire to return to a form of innocence of movement. After broadening her field of expression to other disciplines – notably performing the lead role in the film Meisje – she returned to choreographic creation in 2009 with I’m Sorry It’s (Not) A Story, a remarkable solo in which she sets out to (re)discover herself. Her new show is that of the adult woman she has become: after having put some distance between herself and the choreographic languages that made an impression on her body during her dancing career, Vanden Eynde has now decided to enter into dialogue with them. Starting from purely physical, formal and dynamic qualities of movement, in an intimate relationship with the music she reaches the very limits of abstraction to give us a work from which emotion is never absent.

Choreography & dance
Charlotte Vanden Eynde

Coaching
Nada Gambier

Lighting & technique
Bert Vermeulen & Elke Verachtert

Costume
Juliette Bogers

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, La Raffinerie

Production
wp Zimmer (Antwerp)

Coproduction
Kunstenfestivaldesarts

Supported by
Buda Kunstencentrum (Kortrijk), Kunstencentrum Vooruit (Ghent), Vlaamse Gemeenschap

Thanks to
Marc Vanrunxt, Maya Wilsens, Etienne Guilloteau & Willem Vanden Eynde

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Charlotte Vanden Eynde’s new chaos

Prior to I’m Sorry It’s (Not) A Story, the solo she created two years ago, choreographer Charlotte Vanden Eynde had been silent for four years. Since then, however, the genie is back out of the bottle, and at the Kunstenfestivaldesarts she will present a new solo with the working title Shapeless. She now wishes to draw on another source than for her earlier work.

Charlotte Vanden Eynde: Immediately after I’m Sorry It’s (Not) A Story, I wanted to do another solo, but this time I was more inclined to explore abstract dance. I let this longing simmer for a while to be sure that it wasn’t just a whim. Since it stuck with me, I sought out funding for the production. Christophe Slagmuylder of the Kunstenfestivaldesarts had been very enthusiastic about my previous solo and was thus willing to help out once more. So that’s how…

What precisely do you mean by “abstract dance”? After all, the support, the medium of dance remains a very concrete body?
In the first instance you could say that creations are not so much about intention as about form in particular. Movements that come from the desire to want to move and nothing more, not from an emotionally charged theme, a certain bit of content or specific set of associations. The distinction is not as clear cut, of course. Now, too, associations come to me while I work, but I spend less time on them. Nada Gambier, my coach for this production as well as for I’m Sorry, believes that the expressive or suggestive soon rises to the surface in me. She doesn’t think I should shut it out. But still I now prefer to emphasize the physical, the act of doing, even though it can’t be disconnected entirely from the emotional. This is, besides, not only the case in dance. This holds for art in general. A black square, too, will trigger an emotion. I don’t want to banish it, for that matter, for then a performance wouldn’t yield much.

Even within the purely physical aspects of dance there are still a lot of movement parameters you can work on: you can focus on large movement figures, on the overall body expression or only on details of movements. Do you have a specific line of approach?
I do. I’m looking for what you could call the shapeless, hence the working title. Every time I try out a form for myself I try to lose it just as quickly. You can imagine the dance I’m trying to make as an ongoing ‘tipping over’ or ‘running’ of one form into another, so that you can’t ‘get hold of’ the form.

Even then you have two extremes. Cunningham defined specific poses and then let the dancers seek transitions between both. That’s one way of running. The other extreme is the ‘morphing’ to be seen in Meg Stuart. A performer’s entire aura shifts perpetually, even if there is little movement and there are no delineated poses.
I think I’m evolving more in the direction of ‘morphing’. In many dance performances, poses are so clearly defined that even a layman could more or less repeat them. You soon recognize forms that refer to a known model. In my training as a dancer I learned to appropriate many of these forms and techniques. As a choreographer I left them aside for a long time because I didn’t know what to do with them. I now try to use them consciously, however. I find that very difficult. I’m quickly inclined to move towards a form of silencing, to adopt non-dancing, sculptural poses. I’m here forcing myself towards the opposite: to shake loose my body, to raise my legs from the ground. That’s where my background as a dancer comes in handy. But after that I try to get rid of the recognizable again by erasing those traces. You can’t see where it comes from, I want to give it my own turn so that you will see me in it again. It has to be “very Charlotte,” as Nada Gambier says. It also has to be a form of movement that is so fleeting that you can’t grasp the individual poses, let alone copy them.

So you use known, acquired forms to get to something that can no longer be read as a clear form. How did you come to this?
I discovered my fascination for this tension between form and not-form thanks to a workshop I gave at Wisper (Editor’s note: a cultural training organization). Most participants came from the theatre world and hadn’t a clue about dance. One girl, however, was decently trained. The assignment I gave the participants was to develop a ‘personal’ dance by improvising. I came up against a classic problem with the theatre people: you have to release them from their static position. Once that had been achieved, however, they came up with quite authentic dances. It’s due, I think, to the fact that they lack a background in dance. That’s why they don’t have a vocabulary to fall back on. But what they show really comes from themselves. The dancer, however, was able to dash off a lot, but somehow or other it seemed less authentic. Her movements were all quite rigid. It took a whole process to get her to forget everything she had learned. As long as she remained within the lines, she knew exactly what effect she could achieve, how it would look. I saw that as too much form, however. I wanted her to use her ‘gut’ to dance. Like the way you dance at a party: you don’t keep controlling the effect. It really only worked on the last day. She created a beautiful piece. Strangely enough, she noticed with this much more authentic dance that she herself had no idea what she had actually done. I found that a particularly interesting question. Too much form is not good, but if you let go of the form consciousness, then where are you headed? How do you arrive at a movement form that can only be approached, but not defined?

Are you then busy with mental processes, with ‘situations’ you end up in?
Not really, because I noticed that it was a limitation if you start out too much from ‘states of mind’. You can try to imagine the experience of feeling happy, then feeling miserable, and that will certainly generate a sort of movement. But it will also restrict you. I’m now open to whatever happens. In particular, I try to free myself from patterns in which I have apparently ensconced myself. Everyone has such patterns, things you keep repeating almost automatically. It becomes interesting when you try to go against that.

But if you’re ‘open to whatever happens’ you also have a problem: a performance is meant to be more or less repeatable.
That’s what I now have to get started on: to see how I can still record these things. It’s a learning process for me. So far I’ve been busy with this at an elementary level. The challenge is in something Jonathan Burrows states in his book. The first time you create a movement it’s ‘unseen’, but the more you repeat it, the more normal it becomes. The trick is to re-invent each time that ‘unseen’, what is unique in a movement.

How does this relate to your earlier work?
I used to seek form out of a certain intention. Something like taking a photograph. Visual work. It was often about immobility and what happens then. But I’m now tired of the direction I chose at the time – or which chose me. Dance also does other things. Dance is also something that can overcome you, and that changes continually. I have no idea how I dance at a party, but that doesn’t make it meaningless. Only in Vrouwenvouwen was there a short moment in which I allowed that chaos, but it remained structured. It is a risk, of course. No one expects this from me.

Perhaps music is important? And what about scenography?
Music is an important aspect if you wish to work with the dynamics of movements. The music will be as chaotic as the movement. I’m thinking of musicians such as Einstürzende Neubauten, John Zorn, Hans Appelqvist, Tom Cora. The scenography revolves especially around the lighting, which I designed with Elke Verachtert and Bert Vermeulen. It will perhaps look a bit as if the light is just doing as it pleases. Conceived randomly or randomly conceived. These three layers – dance, music and light – will each go their own way, grating over each other.

A real adventure, then?
Yes… it’s wonderful!

Interview: Pieter T’Jonck
Translation: Patrick Lennon & David Camacho

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Charlotte Vanden Eynde (°1975) studied at the Dance College of Lier (1993-1996) and at P.A.R.T.S. (1996-1999). She has since been busy creating her own work. She has worked on three occasions with theatre-maker Jan Decorte: on Amlett (choreography, dance and performance), Cirque Danton(choreography) and Cannibali! (choreography, dance and performance). Charlotte Vanden Eynde was the lead performer in Meisje, the debut film by Brussels film-maker Dorothée van den Berghe, for which she received a nomination as Best Belgian Actress 2001/2002 and for which she won the Best Actress Award at the Amiens film festival. Vanden Eynde followed a course on video- and film-art at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Antwerp in 2002-2003. In 2009 she created the dance solo I’m Sorry It’s (Not) a Story. In early 2011 she danced in Onvoltooid Verleden Tijd, a performance by De Roovers.

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