Emmi's Pen (12): Contrasts

Emmi’s Pen is a blog, appearing on our website every two weeks. Dancer Emmi Pennanen will take you behind the scenes into the daily joys and struggles of a dancer, each time zooming in on a specific aspect of life at Ballet Vlaanderen.


Sometimes many things seem to be happening all at once. As events follow each other in a tumble, eventually there is no choice but to give in and go along with the momentum of the situation. The same principle applies when translated into dance. To create extremely fast movement, one has to set the mind and body free, let a dynamic flow take over. In order for the dancing to still be readable, the twist lies in simultaneously maintaining a sharpness and clarity. Especially in the two first pieces of our current program East; Kaash by Akram Khan and Secus by Ohad Naharin; this idea is essential to the work. Two weeks have passed since our premiere in Ghent and we are now looking forward to bring this unique production to the opera house of Antwerp next week.

The pieces in this program require a very different physicality than ballet. Deep lunges and squats, using the arms, shoulders and shoulder blades in different ways. Making the head fall along with the movement, whereas in ballet it mostly stays supported over the spine and neck. Kaash starts off with a section of nearly hundred fast lunges on one leg. In Secus there is a lot of jumping and exploding or falling into movement. A big part of the choreography in Requiem is build upon very intricate arm combinations.

During the rehearsal period for this program, some of the daily ballet classes of the dancers involved in Secus, where replaced by Gaga classes. A dance practice created by Ohad Naharin, based on his own movement language. In Gaga, movement is being generated and explored through focusing on intensions and sensations. A task might be to create as many curves in the body as possible. While doing so, moving with minimum effort, or reversely to use all muscles to their maximum. Combining intellectual concepts with continuos and increasingly physical movement can open up new possibilities in dancing. While diving into the worlds of three contemporary choreographers it was very helpful and exciting to investigate movement from this angle.

Changing in the dressing room after the premiere, we were analyzing what we had just brought to the audience. The word, that to us seemed to sum up the performance best, was “raw”. Raw power in Kaash, raw movement in Secus and raw emotion in Requiem. Only a little over a month earlier we, the women had been taking off rhinestone embroidered wigs and false eyelashes after Spartacus. Now we were in casual hairdo’s, wearing hardly more make-up than on a regular night out. This was just an external indicator of the transition we had gone through leading up to these performances. In a little over one month we had gone from ballerinas to moving like warriors, animals and water. Sweaty but happy we looked back on the past month proudly.  We feel strong and versatile. Contrasts are full of beauty.

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