Emmi's Pen (14): What moves us

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.

What moves us

Our season is winding to an end. In our studios, that carry a rainforest-like climate, the mirrors reflect increasingly tanned dancers. Almost every evening, we dive into the half-light of the theatre to perform our second to last program Hope. This is probably our most emotional production so far.
The evening consists of works by three female choreographers. Existing masterpieces by the legendary artists Pina Bausch and Martha Graham, and a new creation by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, one of the most renowned female choreographers in the ballet world right now. The preparations for this touching program started already before Christmas. Silent tears, wonder of discovery and tender camaraderie all found their way into the process.

The honour and privilege that is tied to getting to perform Cafe Müller by Pina Bausch is immense. The original cast members are stars in their own right. With utmost love and generosity they took us through the motions of the piece. The movement is very simple and pure. It asks for absolute precision. There is no hiding behind spontaneous gestures. Every detail matters. The way the hands are held, with energy flowing through the fingertips, every step taken, stedfast or with hesitation, a look into the distance or one that is directed inward. This clarity strips the performers completely bare, they stand exposed as everything they are. It is necessary to stay honest in every moment, let a real feeling come through. For this the dancers went through a moving journey, discovering themselves in the framework of the piece, uncovering and releasing memories and emotions from their own life. It was very touching to witness my beautiful colleagues inhabit Cafe Müller with all their soul. 

It is equally special to be performing Martha Graham’s tour de force - all women's piece, Chronicle. Martha Graham developed her own training technique, which most ballet dancers have been exposed to at least on an introductory level at their modern classes at school. Still, as we started learning the choreography, there was a whole cornfield of information to be harvested and packaged in very little time. Chronicle is a powerful group piece, that requires every individual performer to feel and feed its drama. To achieve the required level of intensity, a warrior-like discipline was instilled on us in rehearsals. This echoes its way also into the wings. There is not much time for transitions between coming offstage and going back on again. We have developed a system in which we know exactly who needs space to run fastest, who has time to give way, who passes left, who right. All transitions happen smoothly and efficiently, like carefully programmed clockwork.

With these two monumental choreographies at the beginning of the program it is exciting to close the evening with a new creation. Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s dynamic and virtuosic choreography Ecdysis has the whole cast passionately dancing their heart out. Performing this program certainly feels meaningful and relevant. It speaks of a continuous cycle of love and loss, touches on the horror and desolation of war and unites all dancers on stage to dance past their comfort zone of fatigue. Chronicle ends with the whole cast standing on stage their right palm extended forward, eyes fixed on the audience. Having rehearsed as a group of women all immersed in the piece we could not possibly anticipate the reaction that our performance would have on the audience. It is a thrill to be greeted with thunderous applause. Continuously we switch roles between moving and being moved.

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