“I have always felt very comfortable with being upside down, off balance, and ungrounded when I am moving.”
Delirious, vulnerable bodies running, stumbling, sliding from ramps, crashing into each other in full flight; ravishing glittery costumes shining with pinkish blue light reflected from a disco ball; whirling dancers in states of trance and abandon; traces of patterns emerging and dissolving: Sketches/Notebook – as any piece by American choreographer and dancer Meg Stuart, really – is an enigmatic and dazzling experience of dance, or rather, dance in its broadest, loosest definition, as an exploration of movement and body. A series of rough sketches and intimate investigations, Sketches/Notebook is a multisensory attack, distilling harmony out of chaos, grace out of roughness, moments of intensity out of daily rituals and gestures. Meg Stuart’s work is not about the elegance and beauty of dance, or at least not in the conventional sense. It is about exploring the outer edges of movement, where bodies age, fail, and surrender, where individual spaces disintegrate and bleed into each other, where physical memories are exposed like open wounds.
For someone preoccupied with disorientation and rupture, Meg Stuart’s trajectory is surprisingly straightforward: Born in 1965 in New Orleans and after a childhood entrenched in fine arts and theater, she trained as a dancer from an early age, in California and at New York University. Following an invitation to create a choreography for the Klapstuk festival in Belgium in 1991, she moved to Europe and to this day divides her time between Brussels and Berlin. In 1994, she founded her dance company Damaged Goods as a laboratory and support structure with herself at the heart of a rotating and flexible cast of dancers, artists, collaborators. Within just over two decades, Damaged Goods have produced a lengthy and diverse list of projects, ranging from countless full-length feature works to multi-disciplinary dance installations, improvisations, and films. Beyond the many dance venues and festivals around the world, the company has performed at and collaborated with classical theater spaces as well as museums, such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Documenta X# in Kassel in 1997, among many others.
Meg Stuart’s work is located at the vanishing point where dance meets visual arts. It is informed and transformed by extensive collaborations, where videos, costumes, music and stage design not only contribute to the choreography, but share the stage as sparring partners, merging into one quivering, fragile composition. As such, Meg Stuart’s work is essentially about exposure – not only in a physical sense, where structures hidden behind the curtains are pushed into the spotlight, or common movements analyzed, fragmented and distorted, but also by challenging our notions of time, energy, and human interaction. Hers is a dance on surfaces and appearances pried apart to reveal the pulsing undercurrents of our existence. It is a dance that finds strength in frailty, tranquility in flux. It is a dance of life and loss, abundance and exhaustion, a celebration on the verge of collapse. It is our dance, while it is intimately, inimitably her own.