How did Body Lounge start – who, when and where?
Body Lounge started in 2004 with a suggestion of Mark Koolen, the artistic leader of the theatre residence Pick Up, an alternative theatre space in Amsterdam. He asked me to create a venue, where all people that use Pick Up would be included – contact improvisation dancers, actors, dancers, singers, body therapists, and a DJ. I am into interactive theatre, so I decided that the borders between art and life should be kept as fluent as possible.
Is this a performance, a workshop, a therapy experience, or something else?
It is a bit of all, but at the end, it is a social happening. It is a theatrical proposal to learn something new about yourself.
What’s the relation of fiction/reality? What’s the theatrical element?
First I would say, we mix them completely. The experience is as real for us performers as for the audience. But when I take a second look, I start to question that. Just the fact that participants come as participants and even if we don’t call it a performance, they come with the openness to give themselves to a situation. And because we place it in the context of a theatre, they trust it completely.
What are the challenges?
We create a space with rules, wherein participants, for a limited period of time, can meet in multiple ways: silent, verbal, physical. Complex relationships will develop, that all together create a ritual. Art in a BodyLounge is to admit to be sensual. Art can be touched.
We need a moving culture and a touching culture, in which diverse forms of closeness, love, friendship and being together can develop and can be lived and played with. We need a structure in society wherein a healthy way of physicality and safe trustful sexuality without moral stigma can be lived and played with. It is important to free the body in a body-positive attitude and to find more importance for physical communication in society.
One of the key words in what is happening during the performances is ‚unconciousness’ – what is your experience in connection to that?
One has got to be conscious about the unconscious parts of BL. It requires a special sensitivity, alertness and mutual respect from both – host and participants, by consciously trusting and being open. You get confronted with memories, past, dreams and hidden aspects of creativity and your self; also fears and bad memories as a confrontation. For me, it is a tool to get more conscious about myself and how I communicate and relate to my environment on a personal and theoretical level.
While observing the others after taking off my blindfold, I remember a man in his 50’s dancing like Travolta and really enjoying himself. It was wonderful! What has happened and given you a strong impression during the performances?
Participants crying after the performance because of happiness. A father embracing his son whom he had really met blindfolded in BL. The overall playfulness and openness of participants. The sunny day on the beach, where we spontaneously created a BL for kids – how they were playing in the sand and throwing with water and laughing. The first time I worked with disabled people with BL material, and I managed to get an old dancer in a wheel-chair wanting to get out of the wheel-chair and dance. The fact that it is possible to stimulate bodily intelligence while working with sensual tools as in the BL. That piece about communication, trust, and the senses creeps under the skin of the participant – that it is possible to create a bridge between (not) seeing and feeling. Dance and movement are getting very close to inner landscapes and emotional circumstances. Theatre goes back to the body.
What is the feedback from the audience – do you have fans coming to experience every performance?
Yep, we do have fans that keep coming back and we offer them the so called ‘strippencards’ so that they, depending on how often they come, pay less and get more and more involved in an active playful way as new hosts.
Whatever you or we are deciding to do, something is going on in your mind and that is the performance.
studies art in the Estonian Academy of Arts masters programme and dances. See also her articles about Amsterdam and Paide (Epifanio 1/2005), the essence
of dancing (Epifanio 2/2005) and www.zone.ee/eev.
is a performer and a theater maker based in Amsterdam. She attended a School for Modern Dance in dance and mime department, also danced for several companies. She has finished an extra study called KIS (Kunst in samelneving, art in society) and developed the concept of Body Lounge - an interactive dance performance wherein new forms of dance, movement and communication are researched.
Instructions. Be blindfolded for two hours of investigation of self and others. After reading this sign, take off your shoes and any sweaters that you don’t want to wear. Select a blindfold. You will be asked to put it on and enter the space for 2 hours of interaction and exploration without sight. There are no rules nor a set plan or schedule of things that will happen. Nothing is expected, nothing is guaranteed.
Experience. The eyes are blindfolded and I am being lead into the realm of the ‚unknown’. There is trust. Relaxing music is in the air. I let things happen, but not from my own initiative. A moment. Back in childhood – I am sitting in someone’s lap, the stranger is holding me and singing a lullaby. A moment. My security is shaken. The surrounding is more aggressive and I am vulnerable. A moment. Laying somewhere, there is something cold and heavy across my face – like water, like a snake. I would like to know, what it is, without touching. I do not know. Touching. Pearls. A moment. „Outside” someone is peeling a tangerine in my right hand. Someone puts an apple in my hand and takes a bite. I am feeding him/her. I do not know who they are. I do not see, I feel.
Many hands. Curious hands, gentle hands, hands that you can dance with, caress, feel. Long hands, short hands, hands that quickly touch my face to see if I am wearing a blindfold, or am one of the ‘performers’ that see and know and protect. Hands that check my hands and identify them as female. There are hands that touch and move on, others that are annoying and sticky. Hands that are cute and playful, hands that are uninteresting, and hands that make me feel at home. Other hands surprisingly touch my feet, rolling my socks up to my knees and back down. It is strange, funny, pleasant, and scary. (The experience of Shahar Shiloach at Karl Frost’s performance Axalotl in Tel Aviv, Israel, in 2005).
Opinion. The experience can be as simple or complex as you create for yourself. What do you bring to your search for experience? What are you open to find? Is there such as thing as chance, or do we invoke our own experiences? This is a space of permission, you are invited to act in ways that you might otherwise not. What new rules and order do we find, when we let down the old ones? You have permission to do nothing. Activity, passivity, receptivity are all choices you can make.
Background. Karl Frost (USA) and Ina Stockem (The Netherlands) are choreographers, who are dealing with theatre that brings together different genres. They challenge typical boundaries and constructions of theater, audience, and performer. Some notable antecedents and reference points include the participatory works of The Living Theater, theatrical happenings explored by Jerzy Growtowski, recent works of Felix Ruckert, and a plethora of small scale undocumented performances and happenings from the bohemian performance art scene. Karl Frost is searching for the answers of what is meaningful experience in the experimental theater work, Axolotl. Ina Stocken talks about her interest in Body Lounge in the interview.