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Notes on WOODS, as part of STHLM DANS

Clarice Lima (BR), Catarina Saraiva (PT), Nina Fajdiga (SL) and Aline Bonamin (BR)

May 13-14, ArkDes, Stockholm

Photo: Sima Korenivski/ArkDes

Reading up on WOODS, it’s said to be an “artistic cry for environmental awareness”. A confession here is in order before proceeding; pressing environmental realities do not quite make for my forte. What draws me in particular to WOODS however; headstands. A practice I am well-familiar with from my own physical endeavors at the gym. Headstand for those who are not in the know is the act of balancing on your head and hands popularized in recent years by yoga as a commonplace notion. To learn that WOODS was initially presented in an urban setting in Brazil somehow makes sense, especially with the increasing deforestation and exploitation of the Amazon in mind. WOODS, however, I will later gather is about far more than just the environment. The iteration presented at ArkDes as a part of the very first edition of Sthlm Dans is a collaborative output by a world-spanning quartet of creatives consisting of Clarice Lima (BR), Catarina Saraiva (PT), Nina Fajdiga (SL) and Aline Bonamin (BR).

Photo: Sima Korenivski/ArkDes

The backdrop for the performance in Stockholm is a sunny afternoon in May. On a green lawn outside the joint main entrance of Moderna museet and ARKDES, a group of performers emerge and take to the ground as their stage. It’s not a particularly urban setting, or concrete-oriented as I would imagine could have been the case in São Paulo for instance. If not for a disruptive scaffolding in the background, it’s quite serene and invites for resting one’s eyes and lounging on the sideline. The performers are all volunteers by an open call. Some it’s said have travelled a far stretch of hours just to participate. To prepare, the performance has been preceded by a two-day workshop. Clad in floral prints and bright colors, the performers start to hold their poses with legs hanging and fixated straight in the air. More and more people stop to watch this meditative display and join the crowd. Movements are very subtle and at times take time to unfold or to “blossom” to use a fitting word. There is a feeling of a utopian statement of coexistence between bodies being made. I think of an analogy with how trees operate in nature, distributing resources and nourishment for such that need them the most. A statement to learn to look at the greater whole than the individual machinery. It’s after all a performance so subtle that its real strength beyond the individual bodily displays lies in the collective repetition and a number of bodies accentuating the acts of each other.

Photo: Sima Korenivski/ArkDes

At some point, almost from nowhere it appears, a breeze sets the fabrics into a beautiful and sudden fleeting motion. Legs eventually start to shake, breaking the pose. Some bodies remain motionless on the ground while others resurrect. One performer holds the pose for almost the entire duration of the performance. It’s quite an awe-inspiring display of collective athleticism but an older lady seated next to me, let’s call her “a Karen”, is not impressed. She gets to her feet halfway through and asks: Is this meant to be dance? Yes, I say and turn away. No, she says, clearly provoked by the lack of agreement she finds. I’ve been seeing dance for years. This is called endurance, she tells me. Dance has evolved, I counter, to ultimately brush her away.

Over a chat with the artists later, I’m told that their paths have crossed and overlapped over the years. Their chemistry as a team is evident and bonafide. As a strong proponent for artistic collaborations, it’s lovely to see. At the core, this is work that very much rest on ideas of solidarity and sustainability. However, it’s not difficult to see, perhaps amplified by my own perception of the universally harsh conditions for professional artists, how this work could have been about the exact opposite. Following Vilnius, Stockholm is the second stop of a five-week tour involving seven European cities. “Sustainable touring” is a concept that is brought into the conversation. Drawing from some of their own collective experience as dancers, they stress the importance of not rushing from one place to another and being generous with scheduling downtime on site to be perceptive and properly get to approach a new location. Touring at the core is taxing on many levels, especially if family across the world is concerned. Hence creating viable and humane structures is crucial.

I might not be an environmental activist, but this is a language dear and very relatable to me. One that should be propelled out into fore far more often than it is.

Koshik Zaman

WOODS was presented as part of STHLM DANS at ArkDes, Stockholm, in May 2022.

Report commissioned in the framework of Perform Europe.


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