Champagne! – Lisi Estaras’ A Bigger Thing premiered last night.

Last night the OBV – VONK audience discovered Estaras’ work with a diverse group of fifty dancers and live and electronic music on Ghent’s opera stage. Philosopher Carla Carmona witnessed the final steps of this creation and offers us a revealing insight into Lisi Estaras‘ universe:

Champagne!-champagne!!, or ‘A bigger thing’

Carla Carmona

A bigger thing is a solid sample of Lisi Estaras’ dance research. While watching the rehearsals, one is overwhelmed, not only as a result of the number of people on the stage, but also, and most importantly, because of their diversity: professional and non-professional dancers, very different age-groups, people with functional diversity, different genders, sexes and sexual orientations, etc.

I would say that the most characteristic feature of Estaras’ work when working with others and their otherness is that she manages to make their otherness tangible, as well as to extend it to everyone. One realizes one’s own otherness and conventional social norms weaken as the piece develops.

As a viewer, the kind of thought that comes to mind is “My goodness! It must be difficult to handle so much diversity! Huge patience must she have!”. But a viewer who is sensitive enough soon realizes that that is not the right way of looking at things. In fact, that is not Estaras’ attitude toward her dancers and, in a way, A bigger thing materializes and enacts her attitude, communicating it to the viewers. When one thinks in terms of needing patience, one is looking at what is happening on stage from one single perspective, and as if that perspective was the norm. By contrast, Estaras’ work invites you to look at what is happening on the stage from a myriad of perspectives, going beyond social conventions and norms. Estaras is able to communicate that kind of attitude both through her way of leading the performance as well as with the many layers of her piece. In consequence, as a viewer, one is forced to realize that one’s perspective is only one among many.

Perspectivism is not new. It has been a philosophical trend at least since the beginning of the 20th Century. But what Estaras manages to do goes beyond mere perspectivism. She makes tangible that there are plenty of cognitive perspectives, that is, of ways of understanding and experiencing the world around us. With the awareness that her cognitive manners are a set of possibilities among many other possible combinations, she understands that not managing to get a message thru might be due to her own testimonial incompetence regarding her interlocutor’s way of thinking and experiencing what is happening on stage.

In the recent literature on epistemic injustice, philosopher Kristie Dotson (2012) introduced the concept of “contributory injustice”. Contributory injustice is ‘caused by an epistemic agent’s situated ignorance, in the form of willful hermeneutical ignorance, in maintaining and utilizing structurally prejudiced hermeneutical resources that result in epistemic harm to the epistemic agency of a knower’ (Dotson 2012, 31). Accordingly, to fight contributory injustice, we need ‘the ability to shift hermeneutical resources, which requires fluency in differing hermeneutical resources’ (Dotson 2012, 34). In A bigger thing, not only diverse hermeneutical devices coexist, but also diverse ways of understanding and looking at the world, as diverse epistemologies engage with one another. As viewers, we are invited to engage with them, that is, to shift epistemological perspectives time and again, which works against our situated ignorance and in favor of our testimonial and hermeneutical, and in general epistemological, competence.

Besides ameliorating contributory injustice, A bigger thing also leaves less room for other practices of silencing; for instance, testimonial smothering, which occurs when risky and unsafe testimony is not proffered owing to an anticipated failure of uptake, as the hearer-to-be is faulted for not indicating testimonial competence to the speaker-to-be (Dotson 2011). Testimony is thus truncated ‘in order to insure that the testimony contains only content for which one’s audience demonstrates testimonial competence’ (Dotson 2011, 249). In the context of A bigger thing we should understand testimony in broad terms. A piece of testimony could be the enaction of a specific movement or the way one dancer connects a series of movements. Testimony should be understood as epistemic materials, those that concern the dance and those that don’t. In that regard, for example, A bigger thing makes room for very different embodiments and executions of the same moment. Instead of feeling upset for not executing a movement in the standard way, which could prevent a dancer from performing, A bigger thing makes the best of the peculiarity of each individual’s movement qualities. At different stages of the piece, either all dancers together or groups of them enact the same moment and yet they remain faithful to their respective idiosyncrasies. Consequently, A bigger thing, as a choreography, avoids executing epistemic violence on dancers and can foster testimonial competence among the audience. The interaction between the dancers has a big role to play in this process. In A bigger thing, viewers experience a variety of epistemic interactions in which there is plenty of testimonial competence, and in general epistemological competence, as regards everyone involved. In fact, each interaction could be understood as a way of training oneself to strengthen one’s epistemological competence.

The reader who is not aware of recent research on embodied cognition might find it weird that I use epistemological terms to describe what takes place in A bigger thing. However, one of the things one learns from the intersection of philosophy, cognitive science and performative arts studies, including dance, is that understanding, remembering and perceiving include external processes, “in which the body in action plays a central role and there is no fracture between the agent’s body, its immediate environment and cognition” (Carmona, 2018, p. 32), in such a way that cognition is distributed across brain, body and environment. This distribution becomes tangible throughout A bigger thing; for instance, dancers function as memory cues for one another. The piece is also illuminating regarding the idea of embodied cognition. For example, by observing dancers from Platform K move, we are also exposed to their thinking, to their specific experiences and perceptions of space and other dancers, as well as to their memory, and this applies to everyone, in such a way that similarities and differences come to the fore.

Cognitive and embodied diversity is also communicated by means of the way material is connected. This is another important feature of Estaras’ work. By disrupting relationships between cause and effect, music and dance, word and music, movement and word, etc., Estaras questions social conventions, making explicit that A bigger thing is governed by its own rules, and that these are varied and can be extended, always within certain limits.

At this point, I would like to introduce Ludwig Wittgenstein’s (2009) concept of “language game”. Wittgenstein’s philosophy has been the core of the dance/philosophy exchange between Estaras and me. Languages games are small-scale samples of language use in which action and word are interwoven. Wittgenstein understood language games as objects of comparison by means of which to shed light on language as a whole. Slowly, the sensitive knower is able to penetrate the logic of the language games enacted in A bigger thing, which are verbal and non-verbal, in fact, they are mostly non-verbal, given that it is a dance performance. As the piece develops, as a viewer, one exercises one’s epistemological competence and improves at shifting language-games. No matter how diverse they are, the language games enacted in A bigger thing, far from contradicting each other, harmonically strengthen each other, as well as the viewer’s epistemological gaze.

In fact, this is a performance in which mistakes are not mistakes, or at least they are not only mistakes. Being behind others in the execution of a specific movement one is not necessarily late, because A bigger thing harmonizes and reconciles the variety of timings that occur, as well as the myriad of gazes, of ways of embodiment and exploring space, of understanding choreographic cues, each individual movement, one’s interaction with fellow dancers and the audience, or the piece as a whole.

As regards the topic of Estaras’ research in Antwerp Royal Conservatory Antwerpen, “Art Brut, Dance and Disabilities”, A bigger thing manages to communicate the idea that everything is art brut. By exposing viewers to the otherness of their fellow others and weakening social norms, A bigger thing makes us notice the brutality of every social norm, especially as they exclude those people and those practices that go beyond the limits that they establish, which, despite being cultural, are usually presented as natural, which, in turn, is equated with normality. By contrast, A bigger thing turns everything upside down, in such a way that what seems odd is culturally refined and adorned movement. Going back to the concept of language game, it is almost as if that filtered and normalized kind of brutality was not allowed. However, being true to its own spirit, A bigger thing has room even for a ballet duet, but a short one, that is, so far as it does not intent to normalize itself and exclude other kinds of embodied explorations of the space and fellow dancers.

Another remarkable feature of A bigger thing is that the performance is not only, or for that matter mostly, oriented toward the audience. A bigger thing is above everything else oriented toward the dancers. The piece enacts limitless possibilities of interacting freely and transcending normativity in all its expressions. In this regard, the audience is invited to participate in a kind of interaction that celebrates, enjoys and learns from diverse others. Accordingly, A bigger thing, besides working in our way of seeing, aims at transforming the way we experience and interact with one another. The title of the piece already orients us in that direction, as we are invited to transcend our specific individuality and work toward a bigger thing.

There is a fundamental philosophical question that A bigger thing addresses, regarding both intercultural as well as intracultural understanding, namely whether we need the same values to understand one another and build a community. In a very Wittgensteinian fashion (Carmona and Villanueva, 2022 forthcoming) A bigger thing shows that one does not need to share a set of values, that is, a form of life, a way of seeing the world, for communication and understanding among diverse groups to take place. A bigger thing is wonderful at communicating that communication can be built in the moment, in the very embodied interaction between two or more people. It is in judging together and acting together that we create meaning and acknowledge one another as knowers and ultimately as fellow human beings and as meaning builders.

Different kinds of interaction are present in A bigger thing; however, though there is group interaction, the most predominant interaction is between pairs. Estaras is interested in the enactment of intimate relationships between two subjectivities that in principle don’t share the same values and come from different background, and that intimacy manifests in the form of physical understanding, an understanding not only of the other but also of oneself and of the surrounding world. The many intimate moments that we witness as viewers are a celebration of vulnerability, in all its brutality. By making full use of corporeality on stage, Estaras helps us perceive the brutality of vulnerability and vice versa. What is brut is vulnerable; by contrast, what is refined appears as flawless, mechanical, spotless. Thanks to A bigger thing we learn to embrace imperfection and appreciate its brutal beauty, both externally and within.


References

Carmona, Carla. 2018. “Dance and Embodied Cognition. Motivations for the Enactivist Program.” Rivista Italiana di Filosofia del Linguaggio 12 (2): 31–43.

Carmona, Carla and Villanueva, Neftalí. (2022, forthcoming). “Situated Judgements as a New Model for Intercultural Communication.” In Intercultural Understanding After Wittgenstein, edited by Carla Carmona, David Pérez Chico and Chon Tejedor. London: Anthem Press.

Dotson, Kristie. 2011. “Tracking Epistemic Violence, Practices of Silencing.” Hypatia 26 (2): 236–257. doi:10.1111/j.1527- 2001.2011.01177.x.

Dotson, Kristie. 2012. “A Cautionary Tale: On Limiting Epistemic Oppression.” A Journal of Women Studies 22 (1): 24–47. doi:10.5250/fronjwomestud.33.1.0024. 

Wittgenstein, Ludwig. 2009. Philosophical Investigations. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

The Cliniques Dramaturgiques are coming to Ghent!

From 29 September to 2 October 2022, les enfants du garage will organise the first edition of the Cliniques Dramaturgiques on Belgian soil, in Ghent.

Originally developed by Jessie Mill within the framework of the Canadian Festival TransAmériques (FTA) as a basis for inspiring support for local arts practices on the one hand and the development of an open dramaturgic platform on the other, the Cliniques Dramaturgiques are evolving into an intercontinental collaboration with a first Ghent edition in collaboration with Belgian partners arts centres CAMPO and NONA and Canadian partners FTA and LA SERRE – arts vivants.

For this project, les enfants du garage brings together eight international dramaturgs for a conversation on dramaturgical practices in support of various artistic processes. Not “what is dramaturgy” forms the subject of this four-day event but “how do we do it”.

Moreover, based on this focus, for the Ghent edition the Cliniques invite several local artist-dramaturg duos to give an insight into their dramaturgical dialogue during An abundance of dramaturgical voices on 29/9/2022. And on the same day, Jeroen Peeters will present his new book And then it got legs: notes on dance dramaturgy.

In addition, at scheduled moments, the dramaturgs present will make their expertise available to local artists free of charge. They can sign up for a 90min dramaturgy tête-à-tête during which an intensive and enthusiastic listening and reflection around their specific practice will be offered.

invited dramaturgs: Bart Van den Eynde, Émilie Martz-Kuhn, Jessie Mill, Riccardo Fazi, Sara Vanderieck & Yohayna Hernandez joined by Audrey Apers & PAX.

An abundance of dramaturgical voices

On Thursday September 29th, les enfants du garage oragizes An abundance of dramaturgical voices as part of the first Belgian edition of the Cliniques Dramaturgiques, a full day of dramaturgical practice in which duos will give an insight into their dialogue. Dive into the universe of Kopano Maroga & Jan Wallyn, Kristof Van Baarle & Kris Verdonck, Esther Severi & Einat Tuchman, Riccardo Fazi & Benno Steinegger, Bart Van den Eynde & Charlotte Bouckaert and Sara Vanderieck & Lisi Estaras.

When? 29 September from 10am to 4.30pm – Where? Campo Victoria Fratersplein 1, 9000 Ghent – For whom? anyone with an interest in dramaturgical practice – Language? English – How much? Free – How? By registration, subject to availability. Register here.

And then it got legs: notes on dance dramaturgy

Book launch by Jeroen Peeters, with oral annotations by Heike Langsdorf and Kristof Van Baarle

Drawing on his experience in the field of contemporary dance, in And then it got legs: Notes on dance dramaturgy Jeroen Peeters discusses principles, methods and practices that contribute to an understanding of dramaturgy as an experimental, collaborative practice and a material form of thinking. How do you set up conditions for the work to come about? How do you create a shared ground for exploring the unfamiliar in pursuit of making sense? The book is written from practice and reflects a particular history of collaboration and conversation with various dance-makers.

            And then it got legs is published by Varamo Press and will be launched in the framework of Cliniques Dramaturgiques. Dance-making and dramaturgy thrive on embodied knowledge, oral transmission and a culture of commoning. This spirit guides the presentation too: performance artist Heike Langsdorf and dramaturg Kristof Van Baarle will respond to the book with oral annotations, followed by a conversation with Jeroen Peeters.

Jeroen Peeters is an essayist, dramaturg and performer based in Brussels. He has published widely on contemporary dance and on issues such as ecologies of attention, readership, embodied knowledge, material literacy and sustainable development. Publications include a book on Meg Stuart’s work, Are we here yet? (2010), the essay collection on spectatorship in dance Through the Back: Situating Vision between Moving Bodies (2014) and an essay on Mette Edvardsen’s work, Something Some things Something else (2019). Peeters is currently a research fellow at Hasselt University, Faculty of Architecture and Arts, and PXL-MAD School of Arts.

When? 29 September from 6pm to 7.30pm – Where? Campo Victoria Fratersplein 1, 9000 Ghent – Language? English – How much? Free – How? By registration, subject to availability. Register here.


this edition of the Cliniques Dramaturgiques is possible thanks to the financial support of Stad Gent – Cultuur Gent and the grant for cultural collaboration Flanders-Quebéc 2021-2023

proud to present: Lisi Estaras’ #THISISBEAUTY @ TAZ

After a wonderful première series at KAAP, MA Scène Montbéliard and Kunstencentrum NONA last spring, Lisi Estaras will bring her solo performance to the stage of Belgium’s famous summer festival Theater aan Zee. Ticket sales start today at 9am – don’t wait & be sorry!


“If you really want to be understood, look for a good translator” Marlene Dumas

Choreographer and dancer Lisi Estaras celebrates her 50th birthday with a solo. A solo of 50 minutes. A performance consisting of 50 thoughts on identity, gender, sexuality and the life and body of a dancer.

Estaras has always been fascinated by the place of words and language in dance, and for the first time she puts this central theme on stage. What does the performer think while performing movements? Because saying what we say is not always the same as showing what we say.

Inspired by the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein and interviews with other 50-year-old women, #THISISBEAUTY became a fictional autobiographical, physical and verbal performance in which Lisi Estaras questions the absurd limits of communication.


Concept, choreography and dance​ Lisi Estaras Dramaturgy Sara Vanderieck Soundscape Tom Daniels Light design Helmut Van den Meersschaut Costume design Marie Szersnovicz Costume atelier Odile Dubucq Philosophical advice Carla Carmona Artistic advice Kristien De Proost Production management & communication Hilde Debuck MonkeyMind Company Management Nicole Petit Distribution   Plan B – Creative Agency for Performing Arts / Carmen Mehnert & Anne Schmidt Production MonkeyMind Company/MonkeyMind vzw Coproduction Festival Bits of Dance Brugge (B), MA Scène Nationale Montbéliard (F) Residencies  KAAP Brugge, MA Scène Nationale Montbéliard, Tanzhaus Zürich, BAMP Brussel With the support of CAMPO, les ballets C de la B and KC nona (studio) Thanks to Rose, Liora, Mirko and Ludwig

This project is created with a project grant from the Flemish Government – Culture 

About last week: Montréal and it’s Cliniques Dramaturgiques.

From May 29 to June 2 2022, the Cliniques Dramaturgiques held their sixth edition at the heart of the FTA. A true breach in the Festival, this “unproductive” time-space is devoted to the accompaniment of local creation. Six dramaturgs meet Montreal artists and their creative processes in intimate one-on-one sessions. Two public activities – tales of the dramaturges and Thinking Together: the extended community of the Cliniques – have contributed to increasing recognition of the discreet work of these artisans of thought and to sharing tools and experiences.

In their first year of hosting the Cliniques, Yohayna Hernandez and Emmanuelle Jetté have committed themselves to promoting a plural, open and inventive dramaturgy, in particular by favoring the meeting of North-South axes. Throughout their stay, the guest dramaturges inhabited a space in the HQ intended for their reflections; an ephemeral place of occupation to work in and to cover with traces, a place of exchange to think collectively.

Coordination and hosting Yohayna Hernandez + Emmanuelle Jetté

Guest dramaturgs Sara Vanderieck (Belgium) + Riccardo Fazi (Italy) + Noel Bonilla Chongo (Cuba) + Adriana Urrea (Colombia) + Gaëlle Bien-Aimé (Haiti) + Silvia Soter da Silveira (Brazil)

Organized by the Festival TransAmériques
in collaboration with les enfants du garage + LA SERRE – arts vivants + CAMPO + Kunstencentrum Nona

Presentation of “thinking together: the extended community of the Cliniques” with the support of the Flemish Government

Bodies to Bodies Dramaturgies

We are excited to announce dramaturg Sara Vanderieck’s participation in this meeting of minds from different corners of the globe at this upcoming online panel about the dramaturgy of the performing body in its multitude of performance strategies.

Featuring two pairings of practitioner-dramaturgs – Maja Hriesik (Slovakia) with Nia Augustina (Indonesia), and Sasapin Siriwanij (Thailand) with Sara Vanderieck (Belgium )- they will share with us their prior online dialogues and bring sharp focus to ideas surrounding the theme ‘Bodies to Bodies Dramaturgies’.

Hear from this international roundtable of vast and varied expertise, experience and interests in dance, physical theatre and other corporeal performances.

Happening Sunday 27 Feb 2022, 4pm (SGT)! (9am CET)

Sign up now at: https://bit.ly/bodiestobodies.

“Bodies to Bodies Dramaturgies” is one of several programmes in ADN Event Series 2021-22.

HITTING THE STAGE HARD

There ain’t no month like October 2021 to discover the diversity of dramaturg Sara Vanderieck‘s work.

Do you prefer discovering an inclusive performance for children (6+)? Go and discover the final performances of Lola Bogaerts’ VRETEN!.

Or you are ‘more of a theatre’s person’? Kristien De Proost & Bwanga Pilipili are performing Simon, Grafunkel, My Sister and Me all over the place and Sanja Mitrović’ Demeter Calling will have its première on October 14th.

But isn’t Sara Vanderieck a “dance dramaturg”? Yes she is – also. Serge Aimé Coulibaly’s Wakatt will be shared with Athen’s audiences tonight. Lisi Estaras and Ido Batash’ Sonico – the heart is the muscle we like to work out can be discovered in Evergem this month and last but not least: Louise Vanneste’s EARTHS will finally find its audience during the première on October 22nd.

Prefer to see all this information in a calendar layout? Take your eyes here.

Looking forward to share all these worlds with you!

SONICO – the heart is the muscle we like to work out. hits Ghent’s stage next week.

After the long break COVID imposed on us we are very happy and grateful to announce the return of SONICO – the heart is a muscle we like to work out. to the theatre. What makes it even more special: to Monkey Mind Company‘s hometown Ghent and it’s Minard Theatre!

This new dance and live music performance created by Lisi Estaras and Ido Batash in collaboration with musician Ariel Eberstein and his Brussels-based band by the same name, Sonico was inspired by the music of the avant-garde Argentinian composer Eduardo Rovira and the the connection between two people, dancing together, supporting and provoking each other.

Will you join us to discover this journey on August 30th? Get your tickets here.

Summer is for: announcing beautiful collaborations.

Not all has been hard during this past strange season ’20/’21. Behind those closed theatre doors artists continued to research and create. These specific times have created the context for a nourishing and inspiring new collaboration between choreographer Louise Vanneste and dramaturg Sara Vanderieck. We are very happy to finally announce Earths‘ première on October 22nd in Charleroi (BE).

Get your tickets to discover our work here.

Midsummer Souvenirs

While the belgian summer is struggling to break through, let’s have a look back at that beautiful midsummer evening in Leuven’s Botanical Garden on June 23rd. Join photographer Maya Wilsens‘ gaze at performers Kristien De Proost, Lisi Estaras, Mirko Banovic, Sara Vanderieck, Sayouba Sigué, Toon Walgrave and Rahmat Emonds in When I look at a Strawberry, I think of a Tongue.

A new collaboration to look forward to: DEMETER CALLING

‘One day they will listen to me, a woman’

Before diving into summer, let me announce this new exciting collaboration as a dramaturg with Sanja Mitrović and Stand Up Tall Productions for their creation Demeter Calling. Co-produced with the Royal Flemish Theatre (KVS), it will premiere on the 14th of October 2021, with further dates in Brussels, a Belgian tour in October and November, and an international tour to follow.

Demeter Calling is a concert performance in which an all-female cast mobilises the high energy and sensuality of the singing body to draw attention to the gap between the lives of women as prescribed by others and the lives they demand for themselves.

​Stories of women from different parts of the world are turned into songs that question the notion of motherhood as the sole focus of female identity. The performers from diverse backgrounds, including Mitrović herself, act as mediums attuning to and channeling voices of sisters dispersed across the gulfs of geography, ethnicity and culture. In the liminal space between a world which has already ended and another yet to begin, they are an unlikely girl band celebrating female strength, resilience, determination, and guts to speak – and sing – one’s own pain. 

New original music by Belgrade-based composer Marija Balubdžić binds together a multitude of individual perspectives. Taking as inspiration music from various Balkan regions, she leaps off the signature elements of such traditional styles to forge them into slivers of glistening electronic avant-pop, broadcast from somewhere decidedly off the radar, otherworldly and resistant to categorisation.

Through the form of performative practice as communal and immediate as a music concert, Demeter Calling summons up the corporeal, the sensual and the affective, foregrounding nuances of the relationship between mother and child, and, in a wider sense, the perils of female survival.

For further information and advance tickets visit KVS website.

You can watch a preliminary teaser here, with further updates following from September.