1 anoukvandijk dc HEADS Press kit Premiere: 16 September 2005 concept and choreography Anouk van Dijk created for and with Philipp Fricke Birgit Gunzl David Hernandez Angela Müller Nina Wollny stage and light design Marcel Schmalgemeijer dramaturgy Jerry Remkes music Es Kozo Inada Kaffe Matthews Andy Moor Sleazy Listeners Velvolino rehearsal director Daniela Graça management Erin Coppens technical staff Armand Wouters Robert Koletzki Anouk van Dijk s assistant Judith Hummel anoukvandijk.nl >
2 WE HAVE FLOATING HEADS. Choreographer Anouk van Dijk brings us into dancing contact with the rest of our body. by Sander Hiskemuller, Trouw Just a couple of days before the premiere of her new choreography HEADS, Anouk van Dijk has given her dancers the weekend off. Dance is like top-class sport, says the choreographer. If there s a tough performance ahead, then rest is just as important as training. Although the movement material for HEADS is finished, there are still adjustments to be made to the visual key which will shape the content of the material. Because dance is not only a question of seeing, but of feeling as well That feeling is important for a choreographer whose work concentrates on the way people manage to keep going in this world. Van Dijk: My job as a dance maker is to show how the world influences us. What you see is usually not like it really is. After graduating from the Rotterdamse Dansacademie, Anouk van Dijk (1965) danced with the Rotterdamse Dansgroep and Amanda Miller s Pretty Ugly Dance Company. From 1996, she concentrated on her own choreography, and she had an international breakthrough with Nothing Hurts, which was selected for the Theatertreffen in Berlin. Besides creating almost 40 works, Van Dijk has also developed her own counter technique ; a method which enables dancers to change direction as quick as lightning. After years of networking, project subsidies and standing up for her own dance language, this year Van Dijk has been included in the arts subsidy list. They couldn t ignore me any longer, she laughs. What do I want to achieve in this period? I want to make performances where the audience can participate in intense adventures; something that they want to keep coming back to. The new full-length production HEADS is the follow-up to STAU, from 2004, which indeed can be seen as one of the most compelling theatrical experiences of last season. In STAU, her dancers perform on a small square of dance floor right on top of the audience, and you can smell the sweat, hear the breathing and feel the effort. I never thought that the audience would react so strongly to this direct physical proximity of the dancers. After the performance, some people came to me shocked, to say that they had rediscovered their body. Through STAU, they had discovered that they had lost contact with their body in the daily rat race. The constant stream of information pouring over you, the complex tangle of work, family and social ties to be maintained all these reactions made it clear to me that people are increasingly going through life as floating heads. HEADS begins with a heavy physical marathon for the dancers. At an everincreasing speed, they pump up their heart rate. Van Dijk: The heartbeat in HEADS is used to reach the core, to empty the mind and get beyond the social stress. The problems of modern life can basically always be traced back to the heart, or rather the ever-present internal motives on which we act subconsciously. Am I worth it all? or Do people like me? Once the dancers have been pushed to this core, HEADS focuses on the relationship with the audience. In doing this, we make associations with dreams, as a poetic link between the head and the heart. As dreams form the route planner for actual contact with the audience in HEADS, so Van Dijk regards choreographing as a supremely irrational process. When I look at my work, I often think Well I never so that s what I mean. Indirectly, my dance tells something that I can t actually put into words myself. Van Dijk s counter technique, which has attracted international attention to her dance didactics, places that inexpressible element in a concrete physical context. In my technique, dancers have to give up the concept of physicality they re familiar with, which leads to a much richer physical differentiation. In modern dance, you usually use
3 a particular centre to move from, in order to remain in balance. My technique is based on the exact opposite; you have to let go, but then from contrary directions. Your feet move downwards and your kneecaps go upwards. The result is a much lighter balance which enables the dancer to move much faster. Though there is not much ambition in Holland to arrive at new movement methods, things are different in the United States. Last summer, her counter technique, along with her successful production STAU, resulted in an invitation to the American Dance Festival, where Anouk van Dijk was selected as one of three international choreographers to make a guest performance. She thought it was fantastic to be able to test her method in the country of such pioneers as Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham. Each time, I experience it as an enormous privilege to be able to express what I feel in physical terms. The body without the fourth wall Francine van der Wiel, Parool The body is a tiresome thing that you carry around with you. In your head that s where it all happens. How then do you reach your audience in a society where people increasingly live inside their head? In Heads, choreographer Anouk van Dijk lets them empathise with the dancers. It is a good period for Anouk van Dijk (1965). She is the only new choreographer included in the Cultural Policy Document of the Dutch Government, the first Dutch dance artist to receive an invitation from the American Dance Festival in Durham (successor to the celebrated Bennington School of Dance, founded in 1934 by modern dance pioneers Martha Graham, Hanya Holm, Doris Humphrey and Charles Weidman) and is much sought-after as a teacher of her own movement system, the Counter Technique. But things are not going so well for the Western body. Van Dijk hears it every day; from family, friends, people in the street, in magazines, on television, everywhere we are busy, busy, busy, we have to process mountains of information, life hurtles on by and everything has to get even faster. The main victim of all this is the body. And that is hard to take for the dancer who, since she began choreographing over 15 years ago, has displayed an incredibly strong passion for movement. No wonder that some people hardly understand dance says Van Dijk. Most of us have become so alienated from our own bodies. The body has become a thing which you carry around with you as a burden, rather than something you have to take responsibility for and care for. That s not part of our culture any more, except for a few campaigns like Eat more fruit and Use the stairs. That s why you have the problem of obesity and heart disease on the one hand, and the phenomenon of the perfect make-over on the other. Not happy? Then we ll stick a bit on, or suck a bit away. There s not much left which is natural. Reflecting on this merry-go-round, she envisaged a floating head as the first image for the production Heads, in which she wants to let the audience experience what the five dancers are going through. In the first part, the audience is bombarded by an avalanche of images and movements which bring the dancers to the brink of exhaustion. And because most people no longer know what extreme physical exertion feels like, Van Dijk builds recognition into the piece. In dance performances, the effort is usually concealed; all the puffing and panting is done in the wings. I see that tiredness as beautiful; it shows the dancers without reservations pure. This idea harks back to the experience that Van Dijk had as a child during a dance performance. In a very precise piece of choreography, she saw a dancer fall and totally lose it, but then pick herself up and carry on again. The virtuosity and control that she had demonstrated until then were made even more impressive by the fall. I also saw that she was actually tired out, but had managed to conceal it up to that point. It was as though the impenetrable wall between her and the audience had vanished completely.
4 Especially in recent work, Van Dijk has started experimenting with that wall the socalled fourth wall of the theatre. For instance, in STAU (2004), a location performance that she staged in various European cities, she started off by placing the audience very close to the dancers, who sometimes literally sat in their laps. Later on in the piece, she placed them much further apart. In Heads, the audience sits on two sides of the stage. Depending on the formations and actions on stage, they thus either watch along with the dancers, as if they are part of it, or see a real frontal performance. The imaginary fourth wall is repeatedly built up and broken down again. I used to be mainly occupied with giving shape to my dreams, ideas and problems. But gradually I ve become more interested in the relationship between dance, dancers and audience. And in my responsibility as an artist: what is happening around us; how am I going to use that? I want to give the audience something to grasp which enables them to follow my way of interpreting. And I want to show the beauty of people who, despite all their struggles and confusion, still climb back up again. Yes, I m an optimist. I simply make theatre with dance by Mark Minnema, Noordhollands Dagblad Amsterdam In Heads, the new dance production by choreographer Anouk van Dijk, the audience sits right on top of the five dancers. Especially for the people in the front row, it is a rollercoaster of an evening an intense experience, promises Van Dijk. You feel the wind created by the dancers movements like a fan. A fantastic feeling. At the moment, Anouk van Dijk is living in a pressure cooker, as she says. She is still hard at work constructing the production to be premiered on 16 September. Hectic, in other words, and that is exactly what Heads is about; lives in which there is little room for reflection. Dance is used as a metaphor for turmoil and confusion, and for how people deal with it. Among other things, Anouk van Dijk is known in the dance world for the new movement technique she has developed; the counter technique. This enables dancers to perform the new movements that have become Van Dijk s trademark: capricious and extreme movements which she places in a theatrical context. Her work received recognition this year in the Cultural Policy Document, with Anouk van Dijk s group being the only new dance company to receive the four-year subsidy. Van Dijk (1965) sees herself as a pioneer; an exponent of a new generation of dance makers. Or rather she sees herself as a theatre maker who uses dance as a performance medium. She does not shy from making her dancers speak or from using a computer as an element in a piece. In Heads, she uses videos as they are shown in a plane to relax the passengers. These are rather unusual elements in a dance performance. Van Dijk sees it as playing with the field of tension between the abstract and the concrete. There are more of these contrasts in her work, such as her preference for opposing virtuoso dance and human weaknesses and shortcomings. An important role is played by irregularity. The dancers I choose all have something individual, says Van Dijk. As we all do. I don t mind a dancer not being thin, or having a big nose or something. That adds something human. And although they re all fantastic dancers, sometimes they can also just stand there like a lemon. Failure is an absolutely vital factor. Just think of a gymnast that bursts into tears. Simply because she s human. That s when it becomes theatre. She often lets the word theatre slip. She lectures: Dance is in its early days. It s a young profession compared to acting, which was already practised by the ancient Greeks. In dance, you have people like the choreographer Merce Cunningham, who sees dance as pure movement, and people like Pina Bausch, who approaches it rather from the personal
5 world of the dancer. I see myself as coming from a new generation and I m trying to find a form in which you can make theatrical performances with the help of dance. Of course I am a choreographer, but I see that as more of a craft which you need to be able to work with dancers. Ultimately, I create a theatrical performance, even though I don t tell a narrative with a beginning, middle and end. But it s also not just about beautiful images. I go in search of conflict situations. Besides this, like in Heads, she searches for contact with her audience. Precisely because that is more typical of theatrical performances. Theatre makers often try something out which belongs to TV or film. Television tries to grab people immediately and film draws you along in the story, whereas theatre relies on the one-to-one situation. I m here and you re there. The lights dim, you can t get away and you re going to see something out of the ordinary. That s why the confrontation between dancer and audience is so interesting. Spoken theatrical performances work much more with this concept, but dance still has a lot to discover in this respect. FOURTH WALL In Heads, Van Dijk elaborates on a previous piece, STAU, which is also about the relationship between dancers and audience. She wants to break down the fourth wall that stands between them. The audience should feel the intimacy of the dancers. STAU goes so far in this that eventually, the audience are on the dance floor themselves. But whereas STAU was only about breaking down the physical distance, Van Dijk says that Heads is about who is looking at who. Dancers also observe their audience, sensing whether they are difficult, restless or friendly. For Heads, the audience is seated on two sides of the dance floor. Sometimes you re looking the dancers straight in the eye and they are dancing to you. Then a bit later on you re looking into the distance along with the dancers. I want the audience to look into the heads of the dancers, who are doing wonderful physical things and dancing with great virtuosity, yet are also tragic and funny. Or else I make one of the dancers go to sleep on stage. Everybody is so wrapped up in their head nowadays by Annette Embrechts, de Volkskrant Anouk van Dijk received government subsidy for her new dance company straight away. And her innovative dance technique is also highly praised. A body consists of thousands of parts which move away from one another. In Velp, where she was born, she was soon known as the girl in the red shoes always tapping away on scarlet high heels. She watched her heroes on television on Sunday mornings: Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. The 11-year-old Anouk van Dijk had the good fortune to find a charismatic teacher for her tap and jazz lessons. He taught us to dance from our souls. Like r & b is made nowadays, for instance. One day, the jazz teacher had a surprise for them; a performance by a professional dancer from Paris. And so the young Van Dijk got to see a dancer from close up for the first time in her life. The way he combined energy, daring and freedom! Mama, I want to be a dancer I said when I got home. Not a ballerina in Swan Lake like most little girls dream of. But a dancer like this sweating, leaping man. Soon after, I switched from grammar school to secondary modern, so I could start professional dance training as soon as possible. This experience of an intensely felt physicality is what Van Dijk (40) hopes to be able to convey to her audience. This is why her latest production, which premieres tomorrow in Theater Bellevue in Amsterdam, is called Heads. We are living in a cerebral era. Everybody is so wrapped up in their head nowadays. Even physical corrections are thought up. The ever-increasing speed of means of communication often makes us forget what physical distance is. But that is what people feel when a dancer stands right in front of their nose.
6 Especially in recent work, Anouk van Dijk likes to break down the fourth wall. In STAU (which will be shown again in early October during the Dutch Dance Days festival), she juggled with the seating arrangement of the audience. First they sat around an area less than six metres square, with the dancers crawling under people s knees. Later on, the seats disappeared and both dancers and audience shared a space of sixty metres square. The reactions she received showed that this physical intimacy got people thinking. And in her latest production, she wants to enquire even further into the emphasis on the cerebral. Because although Van Dijk likes to point out the intensity of the dancing body, her performances always have a well thought-out concept. This sometimes follows such an ingenious mathematical structure that it is only revealed after repeated visits. After her training at the Rotterdamse Dansacademie, Van Dijk began creating her own work as a dancer with De Nieuwe Dansgroep, and later with De Rotterdamse Dansgroep and its predecessor Werkcentrum Dans. She learnt how to add detail to the movements from Jacqueline Knoops. Since then, Van Dijk has developed her own technique, the counter technique, in which she gave classes at the prestigious American Dance Festival last summer. There, she choreographed a piece with fourteen top students which was favourably discussed in great detail by both critics and dance specialists. The roots of all sorts of modern dance techniques lie in America. Far more importance is attached to technique there than in the Netherlands. In Van Dijk s system, the dancer s body is freed from its traditional centre in the pelvis, but stays in balance because the direction of the movements counterbalance one another. If your head goes up, something else has to go down, and if an arm moves forwards, the ribs go backwards. In this way, you can divide your body up into thousands of parts that move away from each other. Though Van Dijk s way of moving seems to invite falling, it actually creates balance. She d like to just get up and form a company with those fourteen dance students from America. But she doesn t need to, as from January she is the only new choreographer (of dance for adults) to be included in the Cultural Policy Document. Her company is called anoukvandijk dc, and her friend Jerry Remkes father of her 2½-year-old daughter Oonagh is dramaturge and managing director, and has already arranged quite a lot of contacts for her. Yes, she has to admit it: things are going OK for the girl in the red shoes.