22.12.2020 : A letter for dancing after the grand conjunction
Dear friends and colleagues
In many aspects, 2020 has been like working with a bad, controlling choreographer. Who every second day recklessly changes the score you have to follow as a dancer. Who doesn’t really know what to do, but hides that ignorance under a flood of authoritative rules, trying to save face. Who polices every single move. Who makes you feel like you constantly misbehave to the point you can’t stop monitoring yourself and don’t really know how to move anymore.
I will remember 2020 as that year.
Also as the year of buried minks rising from the dead somewhere on the other side of the bridge that connects, but also separates the city and the country where I live from the ones I see on the horizon when I walk on the beach.
As the year when this bridge became the symbol of many cliffhangers, continuity errors and dramatic license in the series entitled The closings and openings of the Danish-Swedish border in pandemic times.
As the year when the Turning Torso, the highest building in Sweden, located by the seafront in Malmö, strangely reminded me of Romero’s zombie movie Land of the dead.
As the year when I witnessed that no government is even able to think that one of the first measure to take in the midst of a health crisis would be to restore a healthcare system that has been meticulously sabotaged by new public management and neoliberal politics for decades, and that fighting tax evasion and taxing billionaires, who got even richer during the pandemic, would be part of this project. Something we learnt from the AIDS crisis (which is by the way, despite major progresses, not even close to an end) and from other pandemics and epidemics, is that it is social justice, the commitment to dismantling discriminations and the access to healthcare and treatments that are key to addressing a health crisis. But what do we see today? In countries such as France, during lockdowns, citizens are fined for coming back home ten minutes late and the systemic racism of the police seems to find a fertile soil in the pandemic. Somewhere else, a reckless, toxic leader and his no less reckless enabler, who were both contaminated, received the latest and priciest top-notch care and treatment while certain social categories, not having that kind of privilege, are overrepresented amongst the victims of the virus. And so forth… The list is long.
As the year when I heard way too many patriarchal speeches about the management of the pandemic.
As the year when Elon Musk rose delusion and gaslighting to the rank of high art, when declaring “Mars, here we come!” right after his spaceship exploded. Unfortunately, he is not the only one to have achieved that in 2020.
As the year when theaters and dance floors closed, while shopping malls and IKEA didn’t face exactly the same treatment, at least not on the same scale. When I see how performing arts venues have ingeniously adapted to the situation, implementing good protocols for creating safe spaces by mobilizing all their organizational knowledge (and choreographic skills), I really wonder about that kind of discrepancies.
As the year when I saw several sports teams at the airport, while I was about to perform a solo version of a group piece because the current restrictions and their consequences wouldn’t allow us to bring a team of twelve artists.
As the year when it became evident that if the independent art scene would be properly subsidized, up to the level of the activities we actually conduct and the work we actually do, there would be no need for crisis support. I do think we have to strongly advocate for this.
As the year when I deserted social media, didn’t send newsletters and refused to participate in any online event or project.
I will also remember 2020 as the year when dancing was almost impossible. Yet…
Dancing happened. Sometimes in unexpected ways.
I want to share with you some of the dance experiences I had between March and now, because the current restrictions on dancing and seeing dance, which they were subjected to and conditioned by, evoke other underlying issues. Most of all, I also want to share them because they sharply reminded me that dance is essential.
I remember my last club night in Malmö, on March 13. Before going to the club, I heard that Denmark had just announced that the country will close its borders the next day or within the next two days (I can’t remember exactly). When I heard the news, I knew that it would be my last club night for long. Clubs hadn’t shut down yet in Sweden, but it was obviously about to come. We were maybe six people on the dance floor. The expression social distancing and self-isolation hadn’t become omnipresent in our lives yet, but considering the number of people on the dance floor and the space between us, it was de facto already put into practice. I remember my dance that night. There was something both desperate and irreducible in it. Months later, in Helsinki, I realized that it was not at all foreign to how I understand the act of dancing.
Mid-November, I had the pleasure to participate in the festival Moving in November in Helsinki. It was the only international gig I was supposed to have after March that hadn’t been canceled. Yet, it didn’t happen exactly as planned. As the festival had invited international guests, the program was harshly jeopardized. Nevertheless, the festival, together with some of the artists, initially invited, who could stay on location for the extra days that quarantine rules required, managed to maintain a part of the program. And I have to say, it didn’t feel like the left-overs: it was a full, consistent and incredible program. It has been wonderful to participate in it, both as a spectator and as an artist. I have seen so strong performances and heard so strong voices during the artist talks I attended. I witnessed so much political awareness and so much determination and care, both from the team of the festival and from the artists. It was amazing to see dance, to experience its political relevance and the kind of social bound it can incentivize.
Initially, I was invited there with Weld company to present Tribute. Due to quarantine rules, it was not possible to bring such a big team. Therefore, Kerstin Schroth, the artistic director of the festival, commissioned me to make another version of the piece. I came up with a solo version, jumping from one role to another. I augmented the piece with a recorded text, which the audience listened to in the dark, as an introduction. The text I wrote and recorded, in which political questions show through in filigree, starts with contextualizing this solo version in relation to the group version but soon wanders into the territory of the experience of dancing in relationship to viruses, from HIV to Covid-19. Entering this territory felt evident. In the piece, several materials are a tribute to Dominique Bagouet, my favorite choreographer who died of AIDS in 1992. The dances of Tribute also reflect my experience of dancing to techno in clubs and raves. This experience is strongly linked to the AIDS crisis because for the queer person I am, who started to have sex and go to clubs in 1990, the shadow of the virus has never left the dance floor. In the midst of that crisis, the dance floor has been for many a space for building solidarity and community. It was also evident to enter this territory because almost as a negative of the AIDS crisis, the current situation and the almost inexistent space left for the shared, collective experience of dancing, raise questions about our responses to different viruses and how we look at dancing. My monologue also points at the general indifference and at the authorities shortcomings that the persons at higher risk with HIV have been facing during the AIDS crisis. I also point at how certain official discourses put different generations back to back in relation to Covid-19. It pays tribute to all the older persons I have seen on the dance floor and insists on the fact that dancing is not as frivolous as one might think, but rather the opposite. It is a matter of individual and collective survival.
After four days of quarantine, two negative tests, and six days of festival, I came back to Malmö, where stricter rules for public events started to apply. I was supposed to do a series of my one-to-one performance, Unclouded dances, in a small room at Frank galleri. Weeks before, I avoided marketing the event because I could smell that it would not be possible to do it as planned. To be precise, it wouldn’t have breached any rule applying to public events, but the idea of spending an hour in a small room with a total amount of around forty people over height days didn’t feel so reasonable, for obvious reasons. At the same time, I was disturbed (that is a euphemism) by the recent rules and recommendations, which on one hand didn’t directly ask venues to close but limited the number of participants to public events to height persons, and asked people not to attend any performance on the other. Those rules and recommendations made me feel that I had, as we say in French, le cul entre deux chaises (the ass between two chairs). As I was seeing theaters and museums closing their doors one after the other, I decided that the best way to extricate myself from that uncomfortable position was to do something anyway, to find a solution that would be safe for everyone. After all, why not presenting a dance performance in a safe way, when it is possible to go to IKEA in a less safe way (the rule of height doesn’t apply there because going shopping is not a public event or gathering)? And well… is IKEA-the shop that makes every home look the same- more important than dance?
Frank galleri has the particularity to have a space, leading to its entrance door, which resembles a garage, with a big sliding door that allows this space to be completely open to the street. Being in this space is basically like being outdoor, but with a roof above your head. In this space, there is also a wooden construction that resembles a small stage. I decided to create a new one-to-one performance specific to this space. The spectators, one at a time or two if someone would bring a friend, family member or partner, were about four to five meters away from me. I danced for them with eyes closed for twenty minutes, to the music Fiedel composed originally for Unclouded dances. As I am away from social media, and as it was too late to market it through other means, I started to send text messages to friends and acquaintances, who in return texted their friends. I ended up being fully booked. What I keep with me after this experience, is how much seeing dance was vital to the persons who attended the performance. I called this new performance Penumbral Dances – Public Service. The performance was for free. Dance as a public service.
Let me go back to the first months of the pandemic. In the midst of the first wave, when all theaters were closed, Rachel Tess and I presented a four hours dance impromptu, which we made in one day and a half, recycling materials from our pieces. Initially, a public exhibition was planned at MARC, the residence space that Rachel is running in Knislinge, a small town of three thousands inhabitants somewhere in Scania countryside. The pandemic decided otherwise and the event was cancelled. Nevertheless, Rachel and Sven, MARC’s landlord, were keen on making something happen, in a safe way. This is how Rachel and I, wearing lumberjack shirts, found ourselves dancing in the frame of a container stripped from its walls, attached to a red tractor, both provided by Sven, on the parking lot of COOP (the supermarket in Knislinge). These four hours revealed the pure and vulnerable magic of the encounter between dance and everyday life. With no crowding, and no live-streaming.
The next four months were for me pretty much about working behind the scenes, and making dances without knowing at all if and when they would be presented publicly. As for all of us in our field, they were also about spending week after week following the waltz of quarantine rules and of borders openings and closings, the latest statistics and the evolution of local regulations concerning the reopening of venues. About washing our hands and applying for crisis subsidies.
It was a relief when finally, beginning of the fall, my team and I were able to premiere my new piece Warriors: Chiron in Aries, Recital #1 at Inkonst in Malmö, almost according to plans as the shows were luckily scheduled during the little window when venues were open (we also presented the piece at Skogen in Gothenburg and at Weld in Stockholm). Almost according to plans, indeed. Elizabeth Ward was unfortunately not able to join us and dance in the piece. Elizabeth is an American citizen with a renewable one year residence permit as an artist in Austria. In July, as we were trying to figure out if she could travel at all from Austria to Sweden mid-August, it came to our knowledge that as a consequence of her legal situation in Austria combined with the Austrian pandemic regulations, she would not be covered by her insurance if she would travel to Sweden. In addition, coming back from Sweden, she would have had to quarantine fourteen days, something that would not have been imposed if she had a permanent residence permit. Since then, the legality of that denying of insurance has been put into question in Austria. No comment.
It felt very special to share with an audience the intense, dramatic, angry yet vulnerable and almost sacrificial dances of the piece at that precise moment and to feel how much everyone was so thirsty for seeing dance after those six months of closure of cultural venues. Although we didn’t make the piece in relation to the moment, it instilled a whole layer of meaning into the dances. The dances became even more about perseverance, resistance and insistence.
I will also remember 2020 as the year when I saw beautiful dances, which I will not forget. Calixto Neto arm movements, evanescent and assertive at the same time, at the beginning of Luis de Abreu’s solo; Latifa Laâbissi as a monkey dancing softly with colorful threads of yarn, as if vaguely remembering Mary Wigman’s witch dance; an exhilarating jump dance by the students of DDSKS, boldly projecting themselves into space, in a piece by Samuel Feldhandler; the nerve, the groove and the sensitivity of Fanny Ljäs house dance moves, which transformed a black box into a stripped down club; a lonely man wearing a black hoodie, at six in the morning, walking in the street and repeatedly throwing his arms up above his head, letting them rebound into a balletic couronne just before letting them fall down along the sides of his torso.
Today is not only the winter solstice but also the day of the grand conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. The two planets are making out at 0 degree of Aquarius. Considering that this hasn’t happened for centuries, this kiss is no less than the beginning of a new era. In astrology, Jupiter is the Greater Benefic, the planet of abundance and expansion. Saturn represents structure, boundaries, regulations, responsibilities and limitations. Aquarius is the humanitarian of the Zodiac, the sign of social change. Let us be romantic and dream for a second about what this kiss between the two planets at this precise location in the Zodiac might bring to us. And let us be aware that whatever the planets might invite us to, nothing will be achieved without our choices and actions. Social change can go the wrong way.
While today in Sweden, demonstrations are not possible because of the ban of public gatherings and events of over height people (museums, theaters and cinema are closed for the same reason), I read the news about demonstrations of cultural workers in France five days ago. The protesters were pointing at the inconsistency of governmental policies applying to culture, at the fact that efficient sanitary protocols were implemented in cultural venues contrarily to places such as shopping malls and public transport. They were pointing at the fact that this situation was revealing an underlying political agenda, in which culture has very little space. I also read that today in France, the highest administrative court will examine appeals requesting the reopening of museums, theaters and cinemas, pointing at the fact that maintaining their closure might represent a breach of equality, as places of worship and non-essential shops were allowed to reopen.
I remember another zombie movie, Dawn of the dead. In the movie, a handful of people who managed to escape the zombie outbreak find refuge in the shopping mall, where they lock themselves down. They immediately indulge in a comsumerist spree. But soon after, masses of zombies clump together around the mall. It turns out that the only memory zombies have is the place where they mostly went to before becoming zombies. I hope that if one day I become a zombie or have to find a refuge to not become one, the last thing I will remember and do will not be going to the shopping mall. I hope I will remember and go to a communal place where dancing happened. And that we -zombified or not- will dance till the end of the movie, while remembering that dancing is not enough, even if it is essential and also changes the world.
Let’s get our hands dirty.
[link to the audio recording of the introduction monologue for Tribute – the library version: https://vimeo.com/490701281]
20.11.2020 : A trace from Moving in November in Helsinki
It has been so wonderful to take part in the festival Moving in November in Helsinki, which managed despite all odds to remain an international program, even if that meant major adaptations… and quarantine days for the artists participating…
On Nov 13 and 14, I presented an adapted version of Tribute, the piece I have made for Weld company. Instead of the nine dancers on stage, I was alone, jumping from one role to another. The piece was augmented by a recored text that I wrote, navigating in between questions about dance, AIDS, the current situation and ageing. I will soon make it available here.
In the meanwhile, here is the link to a conversation between Kerstin Schroth (artistic director of the festival) and me, on Tribute: a written conversation on Tribute
13.11.2020 : Penumbral dances – public service
Due to the current situation, instead of repeating another round of Unclouded dances at Frank in Malmö, I am happy to offer a 25 minutes dance for one spectator at a time (with the possibility of being accompanied by a friend), in the outdoor entrance space of Frank. It has a roof, but it is completely open to the street, so it is even safer than going grocery shopping and it fits the current restrictions in Sweden.
Sessions are everyday at 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm. It is mandatory to reserve and it is free of charge.
To book your session, please contact us here, giving your name, phone number and the day and time you wish to attend.
Address: FRANK Ahlmansgatan 3, 214 27 Malmö
04.08.2020 : Premiere of Warriors: Chiron in Aries, Recital #1
Sept 25-27 at Skogen, Gothenburg
Oct 2-4 at Weld, Stockholm
picture: Thomas Zamolo
06.05.2020 : away from social media
Dance is ancient and Frédéric Gies are leaving Facebook and Instagram to enjoy, play with and rejoice in old school ways of communicating and reaching audiences. If you want to know (more or less) regularly about our activities, please contact us!
pic by Thomas Zamolo
04.01.2020 : 2020
picture: Malin Stattin
Happy new year!
2019 has been such an exciting year, full of dance, techno and magic: premiering Queens Of The Fauns, Unclouded Dances, Seven Extravaganzas, Dad & Son #2 (Ribbon Dance) and Uranus (with the BA students at DDSKS); touring Ribbon Dance, Dance Is Ancient, Walk+Talk, Good Girls Go To Heaven, Bad Girls Go Everywhere and Tribute (with Weld company); giving Technosomatics sessions.
65 days of performance in total.
Here is a glimpse of 2020:
Together with Anne Juren, I will also be mentor for danceWeb at Impultanz.
From March onwards, I will be slowly preparing for the premiere of my next piece: Chiron In Aries, Recital #1: Warriors. This will be the first piece of a cycle that will extend till 2023. The premiere will take place at Inkonst in Malmö in September.
More dates will be announced as we move forward into 2020.
Dates January + February:
- January 29: Technosomatics at the CTM festival, HAU2, Berlin
- January 30: Dance Is Ancient at the CTM festival, Saüle at Berghain/Panoramabar, Berlin
- February 21-23: Tribute (Weld company) at Staatsballett Kreativ, Tishlerei der Deutschen Oper, Berlin
18.11.2019 : Unclouded dances in Malmö at Frank
Unclouded dances is coming now to Malmö, from November 23 till 29.
Unclouded dances is a performance/ritual for one spectator at a time, in an intimate setting. To the techno beats by Fiedel, Fréderic Gies offers a dance conceived as a journey that invites the spectator to dive into the most delicate and tenuous details and to experience the spiritual and healing dimensions of the act of dancing.
Book your session by calling 0701628767
The performance/ritual is 60 min long. Session can take place afternoons and evenings. Free admission.
Address: FRANK Alhmansgatan 3, Malmö
Dance, props, set: Frédéric Gies / Music: Fiedel /Dress: Grzegorz Matlag / With the support of Kulturrådet / Coproduced by Weld and Skogen
15.10.2019 : Unclouded dances at Skog
Unclouded dances will be in Gothenburg at Skogen, from October 22 till November 3.
Book your session here
10.10.2019 : Premiere of Seven Extravaganzas
October 10+11, in the frame of Pass.hall
In Stockholm, Farsta at The Hall by CCAP
More information about Seven Extravaganzas: here
09.09.2019 : Newsletter September 2019
After a summer full of dances at Impulstanz, Roskilde festival and Dans.hallen, this fall will not allow our legs to rest.
In particular, I am exited to announce Seven Extravaganzas, our last premiere of the year (yes, it’s the 5th one since last December!). For Seven Extravaganzas, Anne Juren, Anna Koch, Hokuto Kodama, Benoît Lachambre, Andrea Svensson and Elizabeth Ward will join forces with me to raise high the flag of a voluptuous dance.
– Sept 11 / RAS / Stavanger: Queens Of The Fauns
– Oct 10-11 / Danshallen / Farsta: Seven Extravaganzas (premiere)
– Oct 12-13 / Dansehallerne / Copenhagen: Tribute (with Weld Company)
Cliffhanger: Two series of Unclouded dances will take place later in the fall at Skogen in Gothenburg and at Frank in Malmö.