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The length of your feelings

July 11th, 2011

Filed under: MUSIC


Katrien van de Camp - proving how strong desire can be. Photo by Mike Roelofs

A KAT dance production
If you get 8 amateur dancers together, each with anywhere between 2 and 10+ years’ dance experience, and you measure the length of their arms, then you get an average of 0731. That’s the sort of thing that choreographer Katrien van de Camp does. She’s not your average dancer or choreographer. First of all she’s a fighter; second of all, she rotates your perspective and prods you to jump out of your comfort zone and into uncharted territory.

“I fell.”
In 2007, Katrien had completed choreographing her first show and six days before its opening, she fell. The worst two words in a dancer’s vocabulary. She bunged up the top part of one of her legs. The first and second medical opinions were “You will never dance again.” But she got a third, a fourth, a fifth – even a sixth opinion. She finally had eight operations and now has acquired a level of mobility that enables her to do far more than just sit in a wheelchair (the initial prognosis). Four years on she has wrestled her way to a hard won place. This place? A show about the brutal truth of emotion – intimate, moving and yeah, sometimes ugly. It’s called 0731.

Adapted reuse of a factory space and a catwalk. Photo by Mike Roelofs

Raw and resonant representation
“The beauty of dance is in the effort it takes to get here. I don’t believe it should be something the viewer sees from far away, where they take the supple, polished result for granted. I want people to see dance really close up, with all the hard work that goes with it,” she says. In between each vignette, the grunting, laboured breath of the dancers rang loud and clear through the transformed machine factory room in the Klokgebouw; one dancer liberally sprinkled water over me as he grabbed his bottle, gasping, rasping, to quench a well earned thirst. Every bang, thud and facial expression resonated. Alarming, true, up-close.

The democracy of dance
One by one, the eight dancers rose in pairs, alone, or larger ensembles, from their seats amongst the audience to take their place up on the dance floor: for this performance, the stage would be a raised catwalk in the middle of a large, echo-ey industrial space. This runway transformed its length into a linear site for duals, exchanges of tenderness, showdowns of forgiveness and the setting for swift, violent battles. Normally a catwalk allows us to see a garment up close. This time we got to see the mechanics of dancers – of all shapes, sizes and abilities.

“I completed my dance training about 10 years ago. Some of the dancers I’ve been working with for that entire time. I wanted to give free lessons to people if they would be prepared to perform! Three of the dancers – Frans, Danielle and Vera – in this current group are reasonably new to dance. They only started two years ago, and I hand-picked them. We worked really closely together to come up with their pieces. Each piece is meaningful to each dancer – some story and emotion they had to work with, deal with, at a very personal level.”

Amateur dancer is no perjorative term
I don’t know what more to say about this performance, other than that my cynical attitude and analytical approach to the arts and culture was momentarily silenced tonight. Why? Because this committed troupe of dancers all have day jobs.

One of the dancers I know professionally and personally – Simone van Wijk. She is a sweet woman, a talented graphic designer and a soulful person. Her performance was, for want of a better word, inspiring. We can – all of us – have jobs that define us and which we do passionately. But we can also be compelled to express ourselves bravely, and with no holds barred.

Simone van Wijk and Marleen van de Camp, photo by Mike Roelofs

My own transformation
But you know what it is? If I had to name my biggest weakness, it is that I think too much. As a writer, my job is to synthesise, analyse and be able to break down in order to (re-)construct. This is the quality that failed me in my journey as a musician (ach, it’s not too late, Jane!). 0731 forced me to stop thinking. All I had to do was feel. And the length of my feelings surprised me. Long and wide, at least as long as wide as that catwalk. I was reminded that you don’t have to have the answers, or an opinion on everything. If you simply let something wash over you, the world will be at rights.

0731 is a KAT dance production.

Katrien van de Camp, choreographer
Marleen van de Camp
Simone van Wijk
Yvette van Wijk
Claudia Timmerman
Tanja Verhoeven
Vera van het Hof
Frans Brok
Danielle Linders

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