There’s something of a paradox in New Stories as a theme for a dance festival. Say stories and you think of something conveyed in words. Stories help us to understand our lives and the world around us, precisely because they give us the words to speak of our lives. Dance, on the other hand, is an art form without words. Dance stories don’t explain, order or interpret the world. And yet dance stories help us to understand our lives and the world around us, precisely because they manage to express that which cannot be captured in words.
The key to this other way of understanding is in our bodies. There lies a treasure trove of knowledge that we draw upon, time and again, intuitively or otherwise, with non-verbal communication as an obvious example. Dance, being the art form of the body, uses this source of knowledge as no other, and at the same time refreshes it with new input. The stories told through dance are like the antennae of an insect: they probe the world around us and translate what they find through the body. Dance sensibilizes: for the sensual, the irrational, and the imagination; for emotions, contradictions, silence, dreams, desires, transience. It sensitizes us to the unlimited number of grey tints that make all boundaries porous. Dance stories are a mirror of the complexity and fluidity in our lives – and prepare us to be able to deal with them. This last aspect is important to remember. In a time when the susceptibility to populist simplifications is on the rise, the new stories that the artists of CaDance add to the public debate have an enhanced political significance, precisely because of its appeal to empathy and openness for that which is not simple and unambiguous.
For the artists, the lack of words opens up possibilities to broach subjects that we in the Netherlands certainly feel inhibited talking about. The choreographers in the CaDance festival feel an urgency to speak in their performances of the soul; the experience of time; the liberation from all dogma; the relationship between mother and child; archetypes and thinking in labels; murder as part of our humanity; self-presentation and loss of identity; acceptance of death and continual transformation; willpower and courage; feminine anger and sensuality; the need for safety and danger; co-existence within circles of power; loneliness; depression; racism; machismo and homophobia; and the irresistible attraction of ecstasy.
A focus in the festival program is what I would call the urban momentum: after a development period of 40 years, urban dance, which has branched out into an enormous diversity of styles, has grown into an established genre in the performing arts. It also entails an accentuation of artistic ambitions that urban dance as well as the theatre landscape in general benefits from, especially because with each new urban style, a new body language emerges with which young artists can tell their new stories.
And as always with art, these are stories that are only partially made by the artists, and then completed by the audience. Ultimately, the public decides what a story means to them. You could compare the impact of dance stories to a massage. A skilled person works wordlessly during one hour on your body. Sometimes it’s pleasant, sometimes not at all. But something happens to you and at the end of that hour you feel better, stronger, and healthier, with renewed energy to deal with life’s challenges. What you do with this better, stronger, and healthier body is not for the masseuse to tell. That’s up to you – as your freedom and as your responsibility.
Artistic leader Korzo productions & CaDance