Perception and Borders
The choreographer Anna Konjetzky and the composer and musician Sergej Maingardt, who is originally from Kazakhstan, have worked on their new piece “OUT” with eleven dancers from the Centre for Contemporary Dance of the University for Music and Dance in Cologne. Here they talk about their collaboration and their individual work methods, about perception and borders.
OUT is the title of the latest production by the German choreographer Anna Konjetzky and the Kazakhstani composer and musician Sergej Maingardt, who has been living in Germany for some 15 years, which has been rehearsed with eleven dancers from the Centre for Contemporary Dance (ZZT) of the University for Music and Dance in Cologne.
This collaboration witnesses a confluence of extremely versatile talents with quite commensurable interests: while Anna Konjetzky studied Dance and Movement in Brussels and Berlin before going freelance as a choreographer with dance pieces and dance installations, Sergej Maingardt, after completing a course in piano studies in his home country, turned to composition, specialising in Electronic Music at the University for Music and Dance in Cologne. Along with fixed media compositions, combinations of acoustic instruments with live electronics, interactive sound installations, music theatre compositions and collaborations with video and pop artists, he has frequently worked for dance, which poses a special compositional challenge for him: “For dance you compose quite differently – in dance you work with a different feeling for time than, for example, in a concert piece in the field of new music. You have to develop different levels of density and dynamic qualities in the music. You think in quite a different way - this contrast is very exciting.”
Of central importance for Sergej Maingardt is the question as to how human perception changes through hearing. Here he oscillates between diverse musical aesthetics and experiments with acoustic spatial formations in order to allow very divergent auditive perception worlds to clash with one another. He negates strict separations of art and pop music, preferring instead to cross borders recurrently so as to be able to advance into unusual, surprising and disturbing perception events.
Anna Konjetzky has a similar attitude to her artistic task, which she bases on very specific themes in order to give them spatial and physical dimensions, albeit without lapsing into a narrative mode. In this she regards music as an equal partner with which dance enters into a dialogue and which should never be merely accentuating or illustrating. For her it is important to constantly reflect on how the two media intertwine with one another and what this interaction could trigger with the spectators: “With my artistic work I’m definitely pursuing a political interest – not in the sense that I’m doing political art, but as a possibility of changing perception by means of art – my own as well as that of the spectators. I construct a dialogue between the performers and the spectators via a very physical perception. In this it’s important to always take a step back in order to reflect upon this relationship: where is the spectator moving right now – not in the strictest participatory sense, but with his or her perception? It is fascinating to observe that there are very diverse “spectator bodies” who react very differently to one and the same performance.”
Hence from its beginning OUT also focussed on questions concerning the perception of the other, his/her inclusion or exclusion and/or the borders between these spheres and the possible shifting of borders: “Who belongs? Who is out? Can we rely on one another? What do we see and what do we want to see? What do we exclude? Here the dancers set off in search of a border that excludes, that may be crossed only by some, that must be defended and constantly redefined.
At the beginning of this artistic teamwork the “big picture” was outlined, tonal and rhythmic parameters and possible changes discussed. Musician-interpreters joined in these talks sporadically to try out individual passages. In further rehearsal blocks greater emphasis was placed on either music or dance respectively until finally the interplay was nuanced and also aligned with the specific spatial circumstances.
In a previous collaboration of these two artists Sergej Maingardt as both solo musician and composer had made many changes right up to the last minute, whereby it had been unnecessary for him to record all the details as he was able to rely on his memory and on spontaneous ideas. This new joint production, however, proved to be more complex in that here the diverse working methods of musicians and dancers had to be taken into account: dancers are mostly accustomed to developing a choreography together, whereas musicians usually study a composition alone at first and on the basis of a score before they practise – often in only a few rehearsals – together. Nevertheless, until the very end there remained in Maingardt’s composition a fair amount of leeway and sufficient flexibility to adapt the music to the specific dance and spatial conditions on site – and this is precisely the nature of the challenge for a composer: “In composing for dance there is a phase of mental work, but as soon as the dancers come into it then spontaneous and pragmatic decisions are called for. There you have a very tangible picture of what the music has to be tuned to.”
Yet Anna Konjetzky also experiences the collaboration with the students as a situation that has a very tangible effect on her choreography, that gives it a special form. “Once I got to know the dancers from the university, then the theme and form that I had thought out before definitely underwent changes. The piece has become snazzier because they’re all very young women. They are much younger than the dancers I usually work with, they’re so lighthearted and full of zest for life. Of course I incorporated this into my choreography.”