Taking space & making space
For 2 years, different choreographers work together with people from the local communities. These are a group of women from various neighborhoods in Tilburg and a group of people with Indian and Moluccan roots from 's-Hertogenbosch and the surrounding area.
In autumn 2022 two choreographers visited The Netherlands: Javier Vaquero (traveling dancemaker from Paso a 2 - Certamen Coreografico de Madrid) and Vita Osojnik (traveling dancemaker from City of Women) worked with the communities in ‘s-Hertogenbosch and Tilburg.
Both residencies were welcomed with a lot of positivity, power and pleasure by both Dutch communities.
An active attitude and a continuous preparedness were required for this workshop. With her immense energy and straightforwardness, Vita shook the Den Bosch community up.
The workshop started with massaging each other, with touching each other. Touching... Do we still dare to do that just like that, after covid-19? Where touching equaled danger? Where touching only happened behind the doors, with lovers, family members or close friends?
For some it felt very intimate and out of the comfort zone. “Approach the body as flesh, blood, and bones. Without the emotions,” Vita said. The group felt comfortable with each other.
After the closeness, imaginary samurai swords were drawn. The alertness and responsiveness of the participants were put to the test. Powerful movements accompanied by a primal voice from the belly. “Don’t hold back!” shouted Vita.
With these exercises Vita trains the connection between brain and body.
The swords gave way to balls. Fictional balls in all forms and sizes were thrown over and bounced through the space. They changed shape, temperature, size, and weight until Vita transformed the ball into something precious. Everyone carefully walked through the space with a twinkle in the eye and something precious between their hands.
They walked as if they were carrying a big secret. Occasionally they carefully showed the big secret to each other. They piqued each other's curiosity with glances. The other could also be the potential audience in the public space. Vita has worked a lot as a street theater artist and teaches the participants how to attract the attention of passersby. By seducing and arousing curiosity.
Finally, the precious secret transformed into an object. Something invisible became visible by using it. In a sudden, childish impulses arose in all of them. Not only objects transformed this day, also the space did. The participants were made aware of each other and the space around them.
The space got smaller and narrower, as they kept moving.
When are you a good leader? What qualities do you need? The purpose of this task was to switch roles as well: the natural leaders became followers and vice versa. One by one, with their eyes closed, every group member was guided by another one, through the space.
After that, they had to act like traffic controllers giving directions to each other. Wordless. The group noticed that forced leadership – a leader who wants too much control – induced recalcitrant behavior. Many suppressed feelings surfaced in the exercise.
It appeared that when they did the same exercise with words, it got much more complicated. Everyone got confused. Communicating without words is sometimes much easier. The body can tell so much.
Just like in Den Bosch, the Tilburg community started massaging each other to warm up. While the group in Den Bosch was familiar and trusted with each other, Vita noticed that this group was still looking for what binds them together as a community. That's why she put the focus on the connection between them and taking care of each other.
While they walked through the space, everyone had to touch two people. In that way they all became connected. Meanwhile, Vita decided that the studio got smaller, and so the space between them got narrower. They were not allowed to let go of each other and came closer and closer to each other, until they ended up in a corner of the studio. With no space between their bodies.
The body awareness and the awareness of the space were also trained in this exercise.
Just like the Den Bosch community they threw different kinds of imaginary balls to each other, which transformed into precious secrets and eventually in invisible objects which they passed on to each other.
Next to the give and take of trust, this workshop was all about taking up space and giving space. And about being present, as a woman.
The group played with stereotypes of women and kindled fire and power within themselves, by going back to a moment where they felt themselves very powerful. They passed that power on to each other like fireballs. Receiving was just as important as giving. In voice and in physical. There was no talking, although there was a lot of communication. Everything was in the movements and the non-verbal communication.
After this exercise they leaned against each other in pairs. The trick was not to push too hard and not to counteract too much. To find the middle together, the balance.
Through Vita’s workshops, the Tilburg group has really experienced that they have grown closer together. She really challenged them. One woman said afterwards:
"I accidentally crossed my limit a few times, but actually I didn't mind at all."
On the last day of the residency, both groups came together in Tilburg. Just like all the workshop elements of that week.
One by one, everyone introduced themselves, by really taking up the space in full regalia, in voice and physically. Then the fire was passed, which roared through the whole body. This led to strange and expressive movement qualities.
With supposedly something precious in their hands, everyone walked mysteriously through the studio. Everyone was challenged to play with what you show and what you don't. How do you make the other curious? How to involve the audience on the street? How do you attract the attention of people passing by? How do you hold that attention?
At the end of the workshop, everyone was allowed to throw a word to the center of the circle. A word that suited the workshops for you. Playfulness, energy, attention, presence, and power were some of the many words.
Vita also added one last exercise. A powerful exercise to fall back on when things are not going well in a group. What do you give the group? And what do you need from the group? Everyone was allowed to share the answers.
The workshops have released a lot of energy in both groups. The participants have learned to be alert to each other. To pay attention to the other. To take up space. Make the voice heard. To give space to someone else. To persevere and keep going.