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Day of the unexpected

September 12th, 2011

Filed under: FESTIVALS & EVENTS


Gah! We had another one of those weekends where there was too much to do, plus glorious weather on Saturday. Blessed with an unseasonable 27 degrees, and spectacular lightning shows at midnight, and a full moon … I had to choose between:

a) All day mini-dance festival ZomersSwingFeest III in the Philips de Jongh Park
b) Night of the Unexpected chamber music mini-festival at Muziekgebouw Frits Philips
c) A birthday party (what’s with all these people born in September?) with a guest performance by Michael Jackson (channeled through the body of my friend’s 6 year old son).

Whatever I was going to choose, it was going to be a ripper, and so the choice had to be made.

I went with option a), because I have been meaning to check out the good people from Eindhoven Danst, since I heard about them in March last year.
Their annual outdoor dance celebration is the ZomersSwingFeest which opens the new season with a singing workshop, something called contact-improvisation, as well as an intro to acroyoga, a picnic, with theĀ  main part of the program being the 5ritmes (5Rhythms) wave session and then free dance. Advertised as “bare foot, no drugs or alcohol” I thought, yes, this is something I need to experience, and the weather was begging for a day in the park.

Contact Improv
To the uninitiated, this may seem to the onlooker not really much as dance. We were situated in a circle marked by a unlit fire torches, at around 2pm. Firstly, we were asked to walk randomly in a circle. “Ah, this is very western, you’re all walking anti-clockwise,” said Kees, the workshop leader. He asked each of us to pick two random people and keep an eye on them. One was labeled our ‘monster’ and the second our ‘hero’ and we had to try to keep an equi-distance between the monster and hero, in a triangular or linear form. This involved, as you can imagine, much running around and hysterical laughing (on my part) and a pleasant exhaustion after only minutes. That was a warm up towards the goal of contact improv which ranges from making shapes with our bodies and mirroring or complementing other people’s shapes with forms we can make with our own. Sometimes we had to push each other. Sometimes we had to play ‘statues’, ‘freezing’ people with a tap and ‘defrosting’ them with a complementary shape. We had to make people walk, we had to resist being made to walk. There was a lot of rolling around in the grass – wholesome, childish, physical stuff I’ve not done in a long time. And never so closely with a bunch of strangers.

5Ritmes/5Rhythms

5Ritmes is a guided dance form, which, on Saturday night lasted 3 hours non-stop. Now I’m not particularly fit at all, but I participated for the first time and didn’t stop for a rest a single moment. We were talked through the process, by Marc Lendfers (see minute 3.20 in the video below), in individual dancing and partner dancing covering the movements of flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. In a word, it was brilliant. Completely un-self-conscious, completely out of control, completely perfect and strange. When I eventually stopped to drink it all in I saw a full moon ringed by mysterious clouds and a smattering of stars; the rustle of the wind in the trees; the glow of the campfire in the centre of a dancing ring encircled by fire torches, the breathless smiling faces of people, whose names I never learnt, who set free their truest selves. Children, men, women, young and old; women in flowing dresses with flowers in their hair, others in tracksuits or jeans. Men with shirts, men without shirts. And no one spoke. We just danced. For three straight hours.

What was unexpected? All of it. The warmth of the people. That I could ‘dance a moment’. The willingness of my normally non-dancing husband to participate. Getting grass stains on the soles of my feet that even a pumice stone wouldn’t release. Feeling free to make my body move and feel like I was 10 again, without complaint or judgement for 180 minutes. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before; not a sip of water – or any other substance – to pass between my lips.

I feel a lot better since Saturday. I feel like I’ve shaken off the mantle of summer, even though summer’s meant to be a time of freedom and lightness. This summer has been heavy on me and I’m looking forward to the cleansing nature of autumn, where I can slough off anything else that remains and settle in for the snap-freeze of winter and be reborn in the spring. And then the cycle will continue, where I will anticipate another unexpected day & night of dancing and liberty, at what I hope results in the ZomersSwingFest IV.

Thanks Frank ter Braak (a great dance partner, by the way), without whom the festival would not have been possible. And thanks, Marion, for the tip back in March last year. I’m glad I summoned the courage to make it; without your advice, I wouldn’t be feeling so light today!

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