Three questions for Doris Uhlich
Austrian Doris Uhlich is one of Europe’s leading choreographers at the moment, and through her work she keeps questioning the performing body as we traditionally know it. Tanz magazine named her “Choreographer of the year” 2018 and 2019, Ravemachine won the Nestroy Special Award “for inclusion on an equal footing” in 2016, and Every Body Electric received the audience award at Our Stage Festival in Dresden 2019. This particular work has gained international interest and was presented at the two most prominent art biennials in the world, the Venezia and the Sao Paulo biennale.
You are known for working with performers with different and non-conventional bodies. Why is it important for you?
– I initiate works where non-conventional bodies are hopefully no longer seen as non-conventional, but unique. I am an open minded person with empathy for humans in their uniqueness and difference – and not to forget that we share the planet with many non-human life forms.
You have talked about the body as an archeology of memories. Can you tell us more about this?
A human being is a moving body archive, the body is a system of incorporation, a storage system, the skin not an impenetrable wall. I incorporate my biography into my body, and equally the biography of the world. The vibrations of the present time and its political, social, economic and cultural events inscribe themselves. The body is in the world, the world is in the body. We go through the infinitely complex choreography of our biographies, sometimes autonomous, sometimes directed by others. What interests me is how the present, the past and the future are connected by the body as a point of intersection. What defines the way we think, our body, its gestures? When I shake up my flesh, I shake up the archive, I activate my physical thinking.
How would you like your work to open up new ways of being together and new perspectives?
– The fluid relation between fragility and robustness is a fact every person, no matter which body he or she has, is dealing with. Every body has limits, and if you are not afraid of touching them, facing them, limits can be inspiring places to expand one’s movement horizon.
What is beauty in dance? Every person has another sense of beauty, what he or she finds beautiful. I appreciate the beauty in the non-conform body, I discover beauty more in a moving body than in a posing body. A flesh in motion is beautiful when I am attracted by the energy, sensitivity, empathy and vitality in a body, no matter what the body looks like.
Performers who are dancing in and with wheelchairs for example have smaller expansions of movements. A small movement can be big in the sense that it has seismic potential to spread its specific energy in space. Mobility is not only connected to moving, but also to thinking, reflecting.
Inclusion begins in the way we think, in asking questions, in open communication, in direct contact. We often interpret the needs of people on the fringes of society, but this is an interpretation that leads to false assumptions and prompts false inclusion. Asking questions instead of interpreting. Inclusion begins when you try to understand what the life of a person with a different body feels like. And understanding begins by clearing up assumptions. Then inclusion can be a great movement.
Not having a visible disability, I cannot understand what it feels like not to have legs or to have a wheelchair. I will never be able to say to someone with a disability: “I understand what it’s like for you.” But I can put myself physically in an empathic relationship with other bodies. I cannot change my physicality, but I can extend it by trying to comprehend a different physicality.
Every Body Electric will be opening our spring season at Black Box teater, shown at Store scene 25 and 26 January 2020.