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Art in the Public Domain
Raum für Neues – It’s Time for Something New

As part of their Project “4x4-Raum für Neues”, AMP Dance Company developed yellow square ´action spaces´ that were used for the first time at the Making Frankfurt Action Day in August 2020 on Frankfurt's Mainkai.
AMP Dance Company: Project „4x4-Raum für Neues“ on Frankfurt's Mainkai, August 2020. | Photo (detail): © Moritz Bernoully

How can artistic productions be staged and brought to their audiences when everyone is forced to social distance by the pandemic? Florian Geiger, a dramaturgist and co-founder of the AMP Dance Company, describes an innovative new format that brings dance closer to audiences than ever before – beyond the big city theatres.

By Florian Geiger

The partial closure of all German theatres in 2020 and 2021 brought it home to us just how important the performing arts scene is. Besides its social aspects, this art form offers unique opportunities to find inspiration, clear your mind, give free rein to your imagination and see the world with different eyes. The fact that these opportunities ceased to be available for a time will have consequences for the cultural and creative sector and for the intellectual and spiritual wellbeing of us all – consequences that we cannot yet foresee.

The necessary distancing and safety measures put in place by the government require artistic production to be rethought. Raum für Neues is a permanently installed stage that artists can access freely at any time, allowing them to rehearse and perform in front of an audience again while still complying with all the necessary safety precautions. “Raum für Neues is a yellow platform measuring four metres by four metres that brings diverse forms of impetus from dance, acting and music directly into city life”, explains Florian Geiger, director, dramaturgist and founder of the AMP Dance Company.

Overcoming distances

This new artistic concept was presented in August 2020 during a first campaign day entitled “Making Frankfurt” that was held on the banks of the Main river in Frankfurt am Main. The project showed how the alternative use of urban spaces – in this case a transit space – can inspire us, and ultimately strengthen us, in our everyday lives. Dance has a special role to play in this context. The format radically shortens the distance between the audience and the dancers, permitting a new and direct reception of dance. Experiencing dance requires empathy on the part of the spectators, which is what allows them to have their own physical experience. This “shared experience” brings the spectators closer together despite the prescribed social distancing. Raum für Neues brings about a new awareness of dance in the public domain. Furthermore, there are no restrictions on access, which also helps overcome sociodemographic boundaries.

During a second campaign day entitled “Post-Corona City Centre”, which was staged as part of the Making Frankfurt initiative and took place in central Frankfurt on 18th September 2021, the idea was put into practice. The campaign was driven by the yellow Raum für Neues platforms, which were transformed into versatile, creative and collaborative laboratories. The AMP Dance Company presented excerpts from its performances, including an open rehearsal of its current production Der Himmel über meinem Kopf, which was premiered on 30.09.2020. Performances will resume at the Gallus Theater Frankfurt in February 2022.
“4x4 - Raum für Neues.” AMP Dance Company, 2020 | Idee und Umsetzung © AMP Dance Company | Moritz Bernoully, moritzbernoully.com
Der Himmel über meinem Kopf deals with what it is like to lose something and then discover that it dominated daily life and daily activities to an extent you had never previously imagined. The performance explores the lasting experience of a loss of security and its consequences for our ability to act freely. Based on different narratives of the dancers, this sense of lost security is portrayed as traumatic experiences for the subject, investigating the at times ambivalent relationship between freedom and security. Freedom and security cannot exist without the other. And yet their relationship with one another is complex and full of tension. We discover just how sensitive the relationship between freedom and security is when our basic need for security is suddenly shaken. Der Himmel über meinem Kopf thus symbolises the greatness that the insecure subject can regain if it raises its eyes to the sky after the rug has been pulled out from under its feet. This is a performance that gives you courage.

The performance was studied and rehearsed during three intensive weeks, a period in which the seven dancers came very close to one another because they had largely isolated themselves from others for the duration of the rehearsals and in some cases had even lived together in a flat rented specially for the purpose.

Proximity and distance in the creative process

Proximity initially gives rise to both proximity and distance. This is a constant issue for performing artists in any case, and the question of proximity and distance frequently played a crucial role even before the pandemic: How close should I get? How much proximity will I allow? Which distance do I need to maintain to the spectators, to my counterpart? How much proximity will the spectators permit? In its format as a public stage, and with a minimum distance of 1.5 metres, Raum für Neues is accessible and viewable from all sides – it offers the maximum possible reduction. The artists are therefore even more approachable than they normally would be on stage, and have no space to retreat – they could not be more exposed. This opens up a field of tension in which dancers often brave a step forward – they open themselves up more, rely on their resilience, overcome their fears and thereby create free spaces for themselves. Mistakes and imperfections no longer constitute failure, and progress through iteration becomes the way forward – which poses an entirely new challenge for Marika Ostrowska-Geiger, the AMP Dance Company’s choreographer: to break with and change rigid scores and to be much more sensitive to the reactions of and interactions with the audience.
  • In the first action in August 2020, "4x4 - Space for New Things" was installed on the Main riverbank with the intention of using spaces in urban areas in an alternative way, creating inspiration and strengthening them. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    In the first action in August 2020, "4x4 - Space for New Things" was installed on the Main riverbank with the intention of using spaces in urban areas in an alternative way, creating inspiration and strengthening them.
  • A yellow square measuring four by four metres on which AMP ensemble of of Marika Ostrowska-Geiger and Florian Geiger could dance and perform. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    A yellow square measuring four by four metres on which AMP ensemble of of Marika Ostrowska-Geiger and Florian Geiger could dance and perform.
  • As part of their Project “4x4-Raum für Neues”, AMP Dance Company developed yellow square ´action spaces´ that were used for the first time at the Making Frankfurt Action Day in August 2020 on Frankfurt's Mainkai. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    As part of their Project “4x4-Raum für Neues”, AMP Dance Company developed yellow square ´action spaces´ that were used for the first time at the Making Frankfurt Action Day in August 2020 on Frankfurt's Mainkai.
  • The team rehearsed their choreographies on the area with musical accompaniment in front of the eyes of interested passers-by. The response after the two-hour performance was great, reported Florian Geiger. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    The team rehearsed their choreographies on the area with musical accompaniment in front of the eyes of interested passers-by. The response after the two-hour performance was great, reported Florian Geiger.
  • The action areas form the spatial and conceptual framework for a variety of partly interactive actions and performances in different areas in Frankfurt's city centre in September 2021. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    The action areas form the spatial and conceptual framework for a variety of partly interactive actions and performances in different areas in Frankfurt's city centre in September 2021.
  • In addition to the performances during the action day, the yellow square also symbolizes empty spaces in the city that can be activated, filled and played with. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    In addition to the performances during the action day, the yellow square also symbolizes empty spaces in the city that can be activated, filled and played with.
  • At the "Post-Corona Inner City" action day of the Making Frankfurt initiative in September 2021, the yellow square areas were the focus of action in situ. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    At the "Post-Corona Inner City" action day of the Making Frankfurt initiative in September 2021, the yellow square areas were the focus of action in situ.
  • They also serve as temporary stages for cultural workers of different disciplines and directions, speakers and activists. Photo: © Moritz Bernoully, http://moritzbernoully.com
    They also serve as temporary stages for cultural workers of different disciplines and directions, speakers and activists.

Reactions, Formats and Consequences

The appreciation expressed by the audience was very different and much greater than in traditional settings. The approachability of the artists and the immediacy of the performance experiences gives rise to an entirely new level of identification for the viewers. Spectators are no longer a homogeneous mass: instead, their increased willingness to empathize prompts individual members of the audience to spontaneously voice their pleasure and sense of shared emotion.

As a consequence, the AMP Dance Company is now working on new formats: How can we become even more direct? How can we touch spectators even more deeply, giving them food for thought in a short space of time? What would happen if we were to turn our backs on them entirely, to refuse to show ourselves? Which thematic areas would this give rise to, and how can we lend these a lasting quality and relevance that in turn will ensure that the recipients feel moved? Various formats were combined in a first attempt: classical music performed live by the Frankfurt Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra with four strings, and an improvised pas de deux from classical ballet.

Raum für Neues creates a platform for dance as a fixed feature in the public domain. Looking beyond conventional stages, we are searching for forms of movement that reveal a different approach to and different expressions of the body with and in that space. Urban spaces have different structures and atmospheres. To a considerable degree they determine how we behave and move in the public domain. Raum für Neues is our way of bringing spectators closer to their own sphere of action again and inspiring them to explore it.
 

Previous productions by the AMP Dance Company

  • MUSE1, dance performance, annual production 2019
  • Prequeldance performance video, 2020
  • Raum für Neuesinstallation in the public sphere / spatial concept, 2020-2021
    Video @ Vimeo
  • Don’t die dead, dance performance, annual production 2020
    Video @ Vimeo
  • Der Himmel über meinem Kopf, dance performance, annual production 2021-2022

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