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Dasniya Sommer & Silke Schönfleish — Bondage Duell

Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evenings, I had the great pleasure of seeing Dasniya Sommer’s new performance, Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch at Sophiensæle. I was there to photograph and film, so saw the performance as a series of movement between the real world, camera screen and intercut with frozen images and instances of blackness. It’s always a weird way to see a performance and detaches me from the actual duration and progression of a work.

Bondage Duell is in Sophiensæle’s Kantine, a medium-sized rectangular chamber on the ground floor, in which Dasniya has set the audience in a shallow arc, like theatre half-in-the-round, on the long axis. Everything is compressed, as audience we’re much closer to Dasniya and Silke than we would be if the space was arranged more conventionally, using the depth. Their movement then, is side to side, long, flattened ellipses.

It’s brutal, touching, sexy, intimate; there’s a whiteout of fog, an audio landscape going from cars (courtesy our annual visits to the shrine of Fast & Furious) to cicadas, light moving from ’90s techno to blinding footlights to the softest, haziest, dreamlike seduction. Yes, there’s rope and shibari and suspension, these are after all what Dasniya has made her art for over a decade. Silke also, first coming to her workshop in Vienna at ImPulsTanz in 2014, and since then gradually working together and towards this performance, fitting it around her career as a Regierungsdirektorin in Berlin and formerly Staatsanwältin with the Bundesjustizministerium (that’d be currently a senior government official, and previously public prosecutor at the German Federal Ministry of Justice), basically deeply scary person when at work.

Dasniya’s last performance in Sophiensæle was MA — let’s give it it’s full and proper title, eh? — MA√ 15 { idiosyncrasy } || sin x = ly – fx²¯ in 2009, all turquoise everything, one of the most significant works bringing shibari into theatre and dance, certainly a huge influence on shibari and performance in Berlin, and particularly for trans and queer artists (especially on the women and feminine sides of those things). That was eight years ago, and the rest of the world has made inroads into catching up to what she was doing then — there’s a lot of brilliant art and performance being made with shibari these days. Dasniya’s also moved on, in addition to her own work, working with the likes of Roméo Castellucci, and being a long-time regular with Berlin theatre group, Das Helmi, which in turn has led to semi-regular collaboration with Zürich’s Theater HORA, as well as slowly and very determinedly taking and forming her ideas around rope, shibari, bondage, ballet, also queerness, feminism, femininity, representation, selfhood, her own history as both German and Thai. Anyone who’s seen what she’s been up to in recent years (like smaller performances in festivals like Männer in Garagen) will recognise what’s going on here.

It’s tough, and I don’t mean just the physical brutality of Dasniya and Silke tormenting each other. Obviously I’m biased as I’ve known her for as long as I’ve lived in Berlin, and I like the work of my friends, nonetheless Bondage Duell is doing what interests me in performance. It’s not passing off superficial, trashy, glib, cool, disposable politicising; it skates dangerously along the kerb with imagery that causes discomfort not just on the stage (like the nude paint orgy scene did in the Helmi/HORA collaboration, Mars Attacks!), and at the end I’m like, “Fuck yeah, that was brilliant.” It’s a little like Melanie Lane’s Wonderwomen, or Iain M. Banks’ Culture civilisation, it’s something to aspire to, a future we are making now.

In the end I saw the generale, première, and closing nights, so I saw the performance evolve over this short season, and some of this evolution was considerable. I know Silke and Dasniya talked through various things and were much more willing to take mutually tormenting each other to places where it became disturbing for the audience to watch, which in turn allowed them to revel in causing that unpleasantness. Whether to laugh or be outraged, they’d already moved on by the time we’d formulated a response. It was the gentleness I noticed as well, how they moved together, how completely confident and knowing each other as they mirrored each other’s movement while dressed only in pink and black lingerie, spontaneously growing in beautiful, tender ways. I loved also how the audience was both shocked and in love, how they were battered back and forth by the continual flipping of these states; by the end it was like they stunned.

So, photos. This is a mix from the generale and première, a mix which conveniently turned out to cover each other’s missed spots, so forms a patchwork of the whole (well, most of, there’s a few surprises yet). It is a patchwork though. As usual, I took hundreds of photos, kind of brute-forcing the limits of my camera in low light and fog to capture something. I ended up with about a hundred I really liked, which together convey the work more faithfully than these do, these which in the end are a somewhat arbitrary choice.

Dasniya Sommer — “Bondage Duell” At Sophiensæle + May Performances & Workshops

Everything Dasniya Sommer in May, in Berlin, Lyon, Bremen, performances, and workshops, and the première of her new performance, next Friday May 18th at Sophiensæale.

Dear Friends, Bondagisti, Theateristi and Dancers,

a bunch of performances in Berlin, Bremen, and Lyon this month, plus Tuesday mornings Shibari Technique in Haus Sommer.

As always, you can read all about this on my blog. In the meantime:

  1. Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch at Sophiensæle, May 18, 19, 21
  2. Nun on the Moon, at European Lab, Lyon, May 25
  3. Der besuch der verknallten Dame, with Das Helmi, at Theater Bremen, May 28
  4. Tuesday mornings Shibari Technique, in Uferhallen, Berlin-Wedding May 9, 23, 30
  5. Private & Group Lessons
  6. Blog!

Enjoy the arrival of spring’s sun!

Dasniya

1. Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch, at Sophiensæle

As part of the Every Body Festival in Berlin’s Sophiensæle, I am happy to première in Berlin Bondage Duellwith Silke Schönfleisch.

A 178cm tall ballerina and a 114cm small female government official on a tricycle appear on the scene. An uneven fight. The weapons: rope, muscular bodies and a thirst for adrenaline. Using classical dance means and Japanese bondage techniques, Bondage Duell examines physical and social patterns of bonding, empowerment and constraint. A place where cruelty and freedom, fun and curiosity lie closely together.

Dance: Silke Schönfleisch
Choreography & Dance: Dasniya Sommer,

Dates: Thursday 18th, Friday 19th May at 21:00; Sunday 21st May at 19:00
Location: Sophiensæale Kantine
Tickets: 13€ / 8€ (Online tickets)
Kombi-tickets: 18€ / 12€
More info: Sophiensæle

A production by haus sommer in coproduction with Grenzenlos Kultur Theaterfestival and SOPHIENSÆLE. Photo © Holger Rudolph

2. Nun on the Moon, at European Lab, Lyon

I will be speaker/performer at European Lab 2017 in Lyon in the Nuit Immersive, by Tracks and organised by Adami and European Lab.

Featuring the interactive contributions of a selection of unique and pioneering artists, the Nuit Immersive will be a night like no other. No seats or popcorn-holders, no stages or “fourth walls”, the Nuit Immersive will instead plunge you the public into the heart of the creative process and invite you to move around and explore this interactive performance as best you see fit. Advanced warning: here, the sign clearly states “PLEASE DO TOUCH”!

Date: Thursday, 25th May, starts at 21:30
Location: Les Subsistances • Le Hangar
Tickets: 8€ (Online tickets)
More info: European Lab

3. Der besuch der verknallten Dame, Das Helmi & Theater HORA at Theater Bremen

Once more with Das Helmi and Zürich’s Theater HORA, in Theater Bremen’s Festival Mittenmang.

Date: Sunday, May 28th, at 18:30
Location: Kleinen Haus, Theater Bremen
Tickets: 9€ – 20€ (Online tickets)
More info: Theater Bremen, Das Helmi, Theater HORA

4. Tuesday Mornings Shibari Technique in May

The workshop focusses on traditional Shibari technique, basic and intermediate level. Inspired by my teachers Osada Steve, Kamijoo Saki, Arisue Go, Tamandua Ropë. We start with the basics and security principles. Learning initial knots and floor work patterns with a partner. When these principles are set, we approach complex figures and suspension technique step by step.

Dates: Tuesdays, May 9th, 23rd, 30th, 2017 (No class on the 16th!)
Time: 10am-12pm
Level: Intermediate
Costs: 20 Euro per person
10 class card 160 €
@ Uferhallen Kulturwerkstatt – Wedding. Uferstrasse 8, 13357 Berlin. Entrance B
More info: Shibari Technique Morning Classes

Please call when you are in the court yard, in case you don’t find it, or the door is locked: + 49 174 393 70 49.

5. Private & Group Lessons

Of course it’s always possible to arrange another time for private and group workshops, sessions, choreographing ropes for performances, and other long-planned or spontaneous ideas. Drop me a line!

6. Blog!

Recent adventures make their way to my blog, perfect for a spring weekend afternoon of reading and pictures.

Bamboo Shibari, Dasniya tying Florian
Bamboo Shibari, Dasniya tying Florian

Dasniya Sommer — Bondage Duell at Sophiensæle

In two weeks: Dasniya Sommer’s Bondage Duell, with Silke Schönfleisch premières in Sophiensæle. We all know who Dasniya is, but who’s Silke? That’d be Staatsanwältin Schönfleisch with the Bundesjustizministerium, or Public Prosecutor for the German Federal Ministry of Justice. Who rolled up (literally) with her dog Jack at Dasniya’s Yoga & Shibari workshop at ImPulsTanz in 2014, did weird things with us, and since then Dasniya and her have been working on performaning together, having their first outing in Mainz late-last year, and now here’s their new piece in Berlin, part of the Every Body Festival in Berlin’s Sophiensæle. Am I excited? Oh yes!

A 178cm tall ballerina and a 114cm small female government official on a tricycle appear on the scene. An uneven fight. The weapons: rope, muscular bodies and a thirst for adrenaline. Using classical dance means and Japanese bondage techniques, Bondage Duell examines physical and social patterns of bonding, empowerment and constraint. A place where cruelty and freedom, fun and curiosity lie closely together.

Dance: Silke Schönfleisch
Choreography & Dance: Dasniya Sommer

Dates: Thursday 18th, Friday 19th May at 21:00; Sunday 21st May at 19:00
Location: Sophiensæale Kantine
Tickets: 13€ / 8€ (Online tickets)
Kombi-tickets: 18€ / 12€
More info: Sophiensæle

A production by haus sommer in coproduction with Grenzenlos Kultur Theaterfestival and SOPHIENSÆLE. Photo © Holger Rudolph

Dasniya Sommer, Silke Schönfleisch — Bondage Duell
Dasniya Sommer, Silke Schönfleisch — Bondage Duell

SOIT / Hans Van den Broeck: The Lee Ellroy Show

This is a very tardy review of the one show I did see in Vienna at ImPulsTanz. I’d planned to see two others, but the first coincided with getting from airport to apartment, and the second, following a bike-sprint from Arsenal to Schauspielhaus, suffered the fate of late arrival. That latter was Jérôme Bel’s Jérôme Bel, a performance I’ve only seen parts of on video, which nonetheless had a significant influence on my work.

Lucky third then. Hans, of course I could not miss seeing a Hans show, and double lucky only a roll down the hill from Arsenal to Kasino. Outside I find Ivo, who was looking very healthy and relaxed, having moved to the hills outside Sophia; inside, behind the desk were Hans and Giacomo, and on stage Anuschka and Jake. Present only aurally: James Brown (no, not that one/yes, that one). Inside was late, as Dasniya and Florian shuttled themselves post-workshop (I was the early ticket collector), so my seat was exactly in the middle of the back row, where I got to stretch out above all the others squashed in.

The Lee Ellroy Show, then. Hans had been in Los Angeles with Anuschka and discovered that terrifying writer: James Ellroy. My discovery of Ellroy was as a student in Melbourne. A flatmate had a thing for crime fiction and introduced Ellroy to me, starting with the L.A. Quartet, moving chronologically backwards to L.A. Noir, and proceeding forwards again via American Tabloid. On a plane from China to somewhere (or the other way, not that it’s important), I picked up The Cold Six Thousand. I never read his autobiographical My Dark Places then or subsequently; his fiction was disturbing enough without venturing into that. In Melbourne also, I had a chance to meet him when he was doing a reading around the time of the L.A. Confidential film. My flatmate came back with autographed books; I was far too intimidated of him, or his persona as objectified in the inside-cover portraits, him leaning on a wooden chair with seated Pit Bull.

I haven’t read him for years now, but I do have a distinct memory of the emotional and psychological trajectory that occurs like a leitmotif, one where the pressure and stress on the protagonist (usually in first-person) rearranges itself, as if looking into a scene reflected in mirrors which suddenly shift and displace the viewer’s sense of self and certainty, It’s like vertigo, or waking from a nightmare, where it’s only after, once one has surfaced that the inchoate horror of the preceding pages reveals itself. These waves and drownings would repeat through each novel until the protagonist would put enough of the pieces together to drag himself clear, though not without damage.

I mention all of this because Ellroy seems largely unknown, at least amongst the audience of The Lee Ellroy Show; I mention it also to describe the feeling of watching the performance, and how it illustrated that very particular horror which is an Ellroy novel.

So, first: lights! There are few lighting designers as talented as Giacomo Gorini. I can think of only a couple—Henk Danner for Emio Greco, and some of Frankfurt Ballett—that are comparable, and I would watch a show for his lighting alone. He not only designs, but gets up the ladder, hangs the lamps, operates the show (with beer and cigarettes), which says plenty about his personal artistry and just how uncommon a designer he is. Second: sound, the very-much alive James Brown’s fitted like a film-score with the lights and Dirk De Hooghe’s plastic-walled box set. Third: Anuschka and Jake. Anuschka wearing a dress! I’ve never seen her wearing a dress in six years!

It starts as a long, uncomfortable anti-climax: Jake as Ellroy at a book-reading, or perhaps Jake as a Ellroy’s character in 1950s’ Las Vegas; Anuschka either way as the compère. Canned laughter repeats and cuts abruptly. Ellroy as a boy, or again a character—who is always a stand-in for Ellroy—rides in circles around the transparent walls on an old bike. The walls hang and shine like curtains in an abattoir. Each moment of Jake as Ellroy as the protagonist as authorial stand-in is in tension with Anuschka as Ellroy’s mother, murder victim herself, murder victim in the book—either already or imminently—lover or potential lover, not quite betrayer, always there as a mute signifier and witness to herself, never entirely trusted or forgiven.

This is Belgian dance, so they do in fact dance. I’ve seen many brilliant dancers in Han’s works: Ivan Fatjo in We Was Them, Lars August Jørgensen in Messiah Run, and of course Anuschka in everything. Jake and Anuschka together is dance that makes me smile and say, “fuck, yes!” There is dance where the movement, its quality, the bodies doing it are not so far from mundane, most of the audience themselves could, with some preparation, perform no better nor worse. This is not that. This is transcendence of corporeality that comes from dance having so thoroughly infiltrated the person that they are irrevocably changed. It is virtuosity. They collide, fling together, apart, flailing, wrapping themselves around each other, falling and collapsing, now delicate, now explosive, terrifying, there is an inevitability here, as if we can almost see into the future, and when we arrive and look back it seems there was no other possibility. This is choreography.

Hans’ works are cinematographic and have become more so since working with James and Giacomo, who have strong filmic influences in structuring light and sound across scenes and the entire work. I saw the Staatsballett Berlin performing Onegin recently: both works have progression and development over time of a narrative drawn from a novel, and both use choreography and dance to do this. This may seem a superficial comparison, but it does represent the history of dance and its continual involvement in narrative storytelling (as different from “a bunch of things happen on stage and we the audience get to create our own story”, or straightforward conceptual dance). Hans is one of the very few choreographers I’ve seen who manages convincing narrative performance, in no small part by the highly talented people he works with.

On that, a couple of criticisms: I was speaking with someone after—a well-known Berlin performer whose work I also like—who hated it, who thought it was old and tired and unoriginal ’90s Belgian dance of which the world has seen enough. It made me question my own perception, not the least if somehow in the last few years I’ve become old, my critical faculty is only good for ballet, and this new generation understands the world in a way I can never. By comparison, I see the current autobiographical trend in dance as a very late arrival at the Tracey Emin party, absent critical self-reflection. I did agree with him in part on the process towards nakedness, which is a habit of european dance generally. Even flipping this, so the ending was the clothed resolution of a prior nakedness would lend a different reading.

Writing this, I was thinking of British playwright Howard Barker’s Death, the One and the Art of Theatre:

A theatre which honours its audience will demand of its writers that they write in hazard of their consciences, for writers are paid to think dangerously, they are explorers of the imagination, the audience expects it of them. If they think safely, what is the virtue of them? Do you want to pay £10 to be told what you knew already? That is theft. Do you want to agree all the time? That is flattery, and the audience is always flattered, which is why it has become so sleek.

An honoured audience will quarrel with what it has seen, it will go home in a state of anger, not because it disapproves, but because it has been taken where it is reluctant to go. Thus morality is created in art, by exposure to pain and illegitimate thought.

It’s not simple as that, particularly with the last 15-ish years where racism, misogyny, homo- and transphobia are given free rein under the aegis of ‘freedom of speech’, ‘post-blah’, ‘irony’ and with simultaneous resistance of groups targeted by bigotry to (the idea of) “exposure to pain and illegitimate thought” being presented a priori as neutral or unproblematic. Much as I no longer read William T. Vollman, Neal Stephenson, the classics from Hemmingway to Miller to the canon of Anglo and American literature, I haven’t read Ellroy for years: I’m looking for some other perspective, perhaps something of a Deleuzian Minority reading (and self-as-audience) project. I do however find in this quote something of what draws me to Hans’ work, as audience, as performer, as friend. I also think Hans is one of the rare people who manages to be choreographer, director, artist simultaneously. It occurs to me now that he is close to Falk Richter in this, though personally I think Hans is a vastly superior, thoughtful, more considered, and interesting artist.

Image

Vienna Panorama from Graf-Starhemberg-Gasse

A week in Vienna and no photos until today. Two years ago, Dasniya and I stayed in Mayerhofgasse; this time, we could see our old apartment from the rooftop garden of our new one. Yesterday seeing Ivo in the morning, then Hans at Café Prückel, and Guido for dinner. Today, after returning my bike to Arsenal, lunch with Hans, Giacomo, Dasniya, and Florian, at the café around the corner with the vomiting man fountain. Yesterday also was expressions ’14, where we made some strange shibari performance thing for 6 1/2 minutes. After lunch, finishing packing and off to the airport with Jared and Angela. In Berlin, unpacking, and dinner with Emile who is making AMG sounds while blasting through town: the shortest measurable duration in the universe is the time between us seeing each other and laughing. We also agreed next year shall be us at Nürburgring 24h in Mayhem t-shirts.

And so, one photo from Vienna: the view from the rooftop garden, all 360º (plus a bit of overlap) from the chimney cleaning platform above the terrace. North is slightly to the right of the circular blue table. I spent less time here than I wished.

Vienna Panorama from Graf-Starhemberg-Gasse
Vienna Panorama from Graf-Starhemberg-Gasse

Two Experiments at ImPulsTanz

For the last day of our Yoga & Shibari workshop in ImPulsTanz we are having an informal open last hour:

1. Informal Try out Shibari/Yoga workshop at Arsenal, Vienna
Friday Aug 15th, 19-20 uhr
Arsenal F

Japanese Bondage meets dance! The last hour of this workshop people are invited to watch us. How can restriction inspire movement or stillness? How adventures and inventive can we be with our bodies?

On Saturday, we will be taking part in expressions ’14

2. ‘Shibari Express Extra Hot’
Saturday Aug 16 4 pm
Arsenal 1

Shibari & Painting
Shibari & Painting

A Small Explanation

Between now and the last time I posted something non-reading-ish a whole month has passed. Then, I was in Heppenheim with Dasniya and Florian; now, Vienna and still with the two (though Florian caught a night train to Berlin for what we’ve been sweating on the past month.)

The day after we drove back from Heppenheim, I was back in Alte Kantine with Das Helmi for the second block of filming Adrian Jacobsen’s Reisebericht, now titled Der von einem Stern zum anderen Springt, almost two weeks of puppets, foam, cardboard, musical instruments, that got progressively weirder until it completely untethered itself from any faithful telling of the story. I managed two part-days off at the end of filming—I wanted to write a whole post about the Zeiss lenses I was using, but ah, not much time besides hauling camera and sleeping—before dropping into editing land, my first proper slab of time in front of a computer since early-June, and the intervening months reminded me how much my body prefers to be moving around.

So, two weeks; one of syncing audio, cutting the rubbish—bad takes, shaky camera, loss of focus, general meh—and dealing with 12 hours of footage from the second block plus at least familiarising myself with the first (most of which we’d redone, but a couple of scenes at least had usable stuff), and the second, finishing yesterday, of sorting out a rough cut. The first version of that ended up being 50 minutes, twice as long as required, giving Florian and me some gratuitous moments of slashing to solve that.

About now, he’s with the Dahlem museum showing the 15 seconds short of 30 minutes version which we’ve watched twice and have a lot of work to do to shave off a few more minutes, clean up the editing, add and remove things to make the story more coherent and flow better, clean the sound, correct the colour, miscellaneous other things, all in another two weeks starting Monday.

In the meantime, on Sunday we three jumped on a plane at Tegel Airport and arrived a short time later in Vienna for a week at ImPulsTanz teaching Yoga & Shibari. The sultry weather turned stormy and not-summery the next evening. The workshop is sold out, twenty people, once again in the farthest studio from the front in Arsenal. Hans is here to perform, Ivo also is here. I’m not taking any workshops for the first time just to have some leisure to see some of Vienna and the festival in a way that isn’t rushing from one place to another.

That then is the past month as I remember it. A couple of very good books in there also.