Meg Stuart
Damaged Goods
Jozef Wouters/Decoratelier
MEG STUART - ANNA TERESA DE KEERSMAEKER, London 1998, Berlin 2005, Stuttgart 2006 - Irmela Kästner -(14/07/07)
DE MORGEN, The extremes touch - Pieter T'Jonck (06.06.2007)

Choreographers Stuart and Gehmacher together at Kaaitheater.

The American Meg Stuart, in spite of her very own vocabulary, often collaborates with other choreographers and dancers. She just made Maybe Forever with the Austrian choreographer Philipp Gehmacher. As from tomorrow to be seen in Brussels.

The first time Gehmacher and Stuart met each other dates back to 1996. Gehmacher: "I took Megs workshop on body images at Impulstanz in Vienna. I think she inspired me more, than vice versa. I got especially interested by her qualities as a mover, how she could embody a theme. Only years later, in january 2005, her interest was aroused by my 'Incubator'."

Gehmacher is not just any old choreographer. He has been developing, imperturbed since 1999, a very obstinate and unruly choreographic language. Time and again he uses the same contorted, frozen bodies that hardly put sparse signs on the bare stage. Those are silent, self-absorbed, almost autistic images. That is exactly the reason why the least sign or gesture or hazy singing create a huge emotional impact. Gehmacher's very personal voice was quickly spotted. Since a couple of years he has been present on just about every prominent European stage.

At first sight there is no greater difference than between the frozen, bare images of Gehmacher and the agitated, feverish dreams of Stuart. How can one link such disparate worlds?

Philipp Gehmacher: " Your work can look very different, but still have a deep connection. Our cooperation is a typical example of that. Meg starts off with the physical and mental state somebody is in. This creates movement images. Her choreography is built with that kind of images. My starting point is more the idea of dance as a language of signs, that can be used to communicate, even if that proces is very laborious. But we find each other on the underlying level. We share the same ideas about corporality and the source of movement. And there is a certain affection, we also affect each other.

The piece is also an encounter.
Meg Stuart: "And about how fascinating and strange that is. You ask yourself what direction it can go, or what the ground is for it. That's why you have to understand the history of the other. That double history is very present in this performance. You will notice that both our histories will merge. That is the way in which we create a situation that we both don't recognise anymore. The usual, the everyday suddenly becomes very uncomfortable and strange because we can't rely on our habits any more. But that's also why the piece is full of discoveries that we never would have made on our own."

Gehmacher: "We don't try to stick together two kinds of dance. We are looking for new aesthetics, something that goes beyond the sensitivities of the two separate bodies of work."

Stuart: "The performance turned out to be sober and a little melancholic. We tried to create a situation that would enable us, without any external influence, to get as close as possible to ourselves. Trying to see what our own self amounts up to even before the question is asked how to present that to an audience. That's the point in which we meet in the performance.That's why there is a lot of emptiness and uncertainty in this piece. It is in fact an impossible task."

You have already worked together in Vienna in 2005. What you showed the audience then was the first result of your improvising together. Is improvisation still the base of the performance?

Stuart: "No, the performance is more or less set now. Moreover, we're not alone on stage. The Belgian musician Niko Hafkenscheid sings his songs live. He sings about love, loss and encounters. Songs are very powerful: they can very effectively summarize a situation. They offer a view on the past, in the way photographs do. But looking back often implies a certain loss. Things nevertheless always get irrevocably lost. That kind of melancholy is certainly present in the piece."

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