Extracts of the article published in TANZ magazine (edition November 2010) on Johanna Chemnitz performing Margrét Sara Gudjónsdóttirs piece Soft Target.
By Arnd Wesemann
"A naked room in the Ballhaus Ost in Berlin. Four flood lights edge the dancer like in a cage. Her in stakkato blinking eyes fire back. Her feet are standing calmly on the attic floorboards. Rhythmical beats wander from the eyelids through her strong body. Her gaze bites to the fast lounge beats of Peter Rehberg. She is the caged game. On all threes, she carefully lifts one powerful paw into the space. (…) Each of her muscular steps appears animal like: strong, thoughtful, purposeful, careful. During her studies at the Dance Academy Arnhem she already learned that by mere deconstruction, bodies turn into a catastrophe. Her body tousles, as lastly in her duet Dishevelled with Sonja Pregrad. She sews together again this exposed, stage captured and choreographically fragmented body. Decisively she strains her head into the plaintiveness of the room as if to feel a wind gust of freedom. She captures the eye by letting her body begin to think. (…)"
Johanna Chemnitz reports on a festival in Moroccans “Red City”
published in tanzraumberlin (edition 07-08 2009)
"Nowadays, many dance festivals take place close to, but outside the European borders. Johanna Chemnitz, a choreographer from Berlin, performed at the Festival International de Danse Contemporaine de Marrakech in January. In tanzraumberlin she tells us about her impressions.
Text: Johanna Chemnitz, choreographer & dancer
I was just doing rehearsals in Basel, in the middle of the Swiss Alps. Shortly after I find myself in Marrakesh. I am being pushed out of the airplane, breathe in the Moroccan air, look up to the sky and discover with amazement that snow-covered mountains likewise frame this city. I am being picked up by Jessica Laignel who lives in Marrakesh, works for the dialogue point of the Goethe-Institute and who has invited me and Kathryn Rave to take part at the Festival International de Danse Contemporaine de Marrakech On Marche…
We go by bus to the city, donkey carts, honking mopeds and many taxis pass us by. We then arrive in the historic city, Medina: A place, where the atmosphere changes every hour, as we will realise soon. The alleys are crowded with people, animals and in between that, vehicles. Useful and useless things pile up along the sides. Wild cats with chicken heads between teeth and claws are everywhere. Right after arriving at the hotel, we cut our way through the mesh of roads toward our first performance at the Grand Theatre Royal. We are being warmly welcomed and greeted by Bouchra Ouizguen, Taoufiq Izzediou and all the other idealists who, with an incredible vigour, create a room for contemporary dance within their culture. Their strong will and great passion for dance are clearly noticeable. What they do is absolutely pioneering. The situation of theatre and dance in Morocco becomes visible in the Theatre Royal. The building is mighty; the facades stand proudly in the middle of the city. Inside however, the theatre is in ruin and lies idle. The permission to perform in the never completed performance hall was withdrawn at the last minute. In defiance of that, On Marche… takes the room, enlivens it. In the once magnificent foyer, we perform our work scrawling, in which we are dealing directly using dance with our sensations of Marrakech and we create sketchy and imagined drawings with the body. In doing so, it involves structured improvisations and compositions that are being influenced by the dynamic, the energies and the structures of the location.
We not only notice the curious reaction of the Moroccan audience during our own performance, but also whenever we were part of the audience while visiting the performances of others. The audience consists of international experts and from evening to evening a growing number of young and interested Moroccans who have never been in touch with contemporary dance before constitutes a highly dynamic mixture. Movement passes through the hall; people laugh, whisper, whistle, yell, keep silent in keen attentiveness, come in and go out. And it becomes obvious that the way the body is being dealt with in the presented performances both fascinates and at the same time embarrasses the young Moroccan audience, as it is very different from the familiar. Still, there is a great, alert curiosity and we performers are secure of animated feedback coming from a strongly intuitive connection. Every night, we eat together and talk; thoughts and contacts are being exchanged until one sinks exhausted into the pillows.
Another special experience was our performance of scrawling in the ESAV, the sole film academy in the whole of Africa. Just as we began to dance on the terrace of the new building, a storm came on out of seemingly nowhere. The dance carpet made waves and the stage was about to disintegrate. Someone from the audience started to bring wooden palettes that were lying around nearby to ballast the dance carpet. Others joined in and all of a sudden, a stage decor emerged, beautiful and wild like we could have never pictured it ourselves.
My flight back to Germany leaves on the next day already. One more time haggling over the price for the cab ride and a few remaining coins for coffee and croissant. In the plane I can't keep my eyes open, I wake up at Bremen Airport and Marrakesh’s impressive images, enriching experiences and warmth are still present."
Interview with Sonja Pregrad and Johanna Chemnitz on their choreography Dishevelled, opening piece of the Festival Tanztage Berlin in 2010
published in January 2010 in Tanzpresse, an online journal for dance reviews
"How would you describe your dance piece Dishevelled?
Johanna: In Dishevelled we give ourselves to a world beyond logic and we dedicate ourselves to the indefinable. The piece deals with reality, identity and dissolution. Within this process, we have also delved into failure and into the different possibilities and forms of failure: the calm and quiet failing; the intense, noisy and agitated failing and above all, the courage and lust for failing.
Sonja: I would also describe it as dealing with the physical texture, which actually carries an emotional confrontation for each one of us. Through shaking, the structure falls off and maybe leaves a different shape of what is identity, be it personal, gender, social.
What were the influences and motivations for this piece?
Sonja: The collaboration and exchange of two and then three people sharing a language of looking at things and coming from two different areas of Europe, two cities, which in very different way support and carry in itself a great production of art and culture and dialogue. I think the motivation was a desire for confrontation in many subtle and less subtle ways. Some of the influences were the film Thelma and Louise, Egon Schiele, André Lepecki and Johanna Chemnitz.
Johanna: Francis Bacon and Matthew Barney are among the influences. Other important things are the photos that came up during our rehearsals with Sophie Malmberg. The visual arts in the form of photography, painting and sculpture also had a very strong influence on our work. The workshop with Meg Stuart that I took part in this summer in Stolzenhagen also was inspiring and formative for me. And the work with Sonja of course!
How were the circumstances of production in Berlin?
Sonja: Helpful and intense.
Johanna: We were lucky to be able to rehearse in the new spaces of Dock 11 in Pankow: a huge and splendid room in an old building. The work benefited from that. The financial conditions however were difficult. Nevertheless, we made the decision to pay all participants with our small budget, as we want to avoid unpaid work by all means.
What do dance and choreography mean to you?
Johanna: I would describe dance and choreography as a big love of mine. And challenges, communication, passion, a lot of conflict and sometimes a lot of fear but also a lot of happiness make parts of such a strong love. Apart from that I find that dance and choreography embody a unique form of communication. I see this as a long process.
Sonja: It is a call, a profession, a political attitude. I desire to work with physicality of dance, seeing what kind of text and dramaturgy it produces.
What do you like about the dance scene in Berlin?
Sonja: I guess I like, that there is a lot of organized experiments with a political attitude.
Johanna: I really like its diversity: I wouldn't want to miss the people that operate in it and the encounters I have with them."