SM: Isn’t that manipulative?
MS: Yes it is! But it’s different from “I have an idea, do this”, because then they would resist. So I totally manipulate, like “Wow, you have a great idea, stick with it”. It’s a kind of terminology – but it really matters.
SM: I totally see what you are saying. But in our process people say “Let’s do it democratically!”, yet I’m the producer. I have the responsibility towards presenters and funders. So how do you deal with these structures so that both your voice and their voice is heard? How can you balance voices? For me it comes down to clear methodologies. I guess I’m very German in that sense, but it’s the only way I can see to make clear what the goal is and to make the choices we have transparent. It’s not magic: There are certain steps to be taken. And the dan-cers I have been working with for over six years now – they know the steps too.
EP: Can you give an example of how you collaborate on material with the dancers?
SM: In “x / groove space” we noticed that it needs a moment when there’s a very personal addressing of the audience – otherwise people can remain in their audience bubble and the piece will stay in the conventional performance situation. So it’s the frame of what we’re looking for. We know what its function is, we have agreed that it’s important, so we get an audience’s feedback of what works for them, what doesn’t work. There are a lot of filtering processes…
MS: Are there criteria?
SM: We discuss the criteria at the beginning of the project, in the kick-off session. I then also have to abide by those rules.
MS: I’m really curious, do you pick dan-cers who are really good discussers or speakers, because you have to value their level of discourse? Or doesn’t that matter, because it’s really about how well they dance?
SM: It’s actually really about dan-cing. I agree with you about creating the space of the aesthetic discourse. But it doesn’t mean words only, but techniques or emotional spaces. You create a space where things can actually materialise, and where you can do something that you haven’t seen before.
MS: It sounds like you find something that’s bigger than the work: you find a system, a language, a process. There’s a byproduct, the work, but then there are spokes and spaces around the thing.
SM: And in a way the work actually gives rise to new questions and new interests or other potentialities. I can never imagine things in their full complexity. The material we develop is stronger than my initial fantasies. And yet we have to talk about it, because in the beginning you only catch little glimpses – it’s not there yet, you need four weeks until the material is actually there for other people to see it.
MS: Who makes this decision if you say some material is working or not working? You or the collective?
SM: We all discuss it. We have a rotating system, everybody is sometimes outside or inside. The dancers step out with me so that they can look at the material too. It’s the moment of objectifying the material. Sometimes I use my veto – but it usually destroys the process.
MS: That’s a lot to say, “Step out and let’s look together”. I mean, of course you’re giving them a lot of voice in the work, because you are practising that with them. It isn’t even just open movement, where they look at each other. You’re saying, “Come on my side and look with me at the work”. It’s beautiful, very generous, but…
SM: It makes it much harder?
MS: Yeah! Well, it depends…
SM: My process is that I need dialogue. I’m much more creative in dialogue.
MS: Yeah, the whole thing is based on dialogue, right? There is dialogue with the audience, dialogue with the crew and performers. It’s like a kind of exponential dialogue system… Maybe we share that: we like to be creative in dialogue. It’s true!