Filming and Photography: Suzanne Zhang
Filming and Photography: Suzanne Zhang
Using Ann Van den Broek's most recent work Accusations (2017) as a starting point,
Loops of Behaviour focuses on the exploration of emotional behaviours and how they translate into movement.
Once a day, five performers will present an adapted version of Accusations in a promenade style performance in The Curve. A selection of extracts from this work are also projected on and performed around several screens, creating a web of video, choreographed performance and sound.
Curator Leila Hasham speaks to Ann Van den Broek about the work...
Leila Hasham: Can you talk about how you initially start making a work? I know that it can often take months or even year for a piece to make it to the stage.
Ann Van den Broek: A lot of research goes into my work. I have memories of how something felt at a particular time and I use these specific emotions as a spring board. Experiencing these emotions physically is essential. When I look at the video recordings of these improvisations, I forget that it’s me I’m looking at. I look at a female body, a person. What am I feeling and how does it come across? That is what I analyse.
To be able to experience the emotions during a performance and do it well, they have had to put in a lot of work.
AVDB: What is very important to my work is that the dancers are motivated and are determined to sink their teeth into something and learn. The most important thing is for them to be willing to analyse their weaknesses.
During performances the dancers actually feel the emotions in their bodies. They have totally incorporated them. To be able to experience the emotions during a performance and do it well, they have had to put in a lot of work. The dancers
mould their feelings from within to the point where they can control them. They can decide to what extent they allow the emotions in their body to come to the surface or keep them in check. It is as if they have created some sort of
brake mechanism with which they can control the levels of intensity of a feeling in the execution of the movements.
LH: People’s emotions and how we connect and relate to each other is an important part of your practice.
AVDB: There is nothing unique about what I go through. I am one of billions of people on this planet. My personal emotions are not important but I have a problem figuring out how to cope with this life. That is what I want to bring to the surface, so that people can talk and be open about it. Society teaches us to keep all our emotions under control, to be polite and to behave ourselves. This has a function, but I have always struggled against that and learning how to do that was really hard work for me. In order to explain my own experiences and those of others, I want to be able to localise emotions. Anger has always been a survival tool. Fear, pain and longing were very normal things for me. Extreme emotions such as aggression are not good for your body and soul, but there ought to be a place where you can express it in a more balanced way. So you can be honest. At home we were all temperamental people. As a child I had a very positive attitude, but I was also anxious. Our house was full of emotions. There was plenty of love, but extremes as well. Nothing was papered over.
Extreme emotions such as aggression are not good for your body and soul, but there ought to be a place where you can express it in a more balanced way
Ultimately, my work deals with the fact that many people in society struggle with the same issues as me and I recognise certain character traits in the dancers I work with. With dance, I have always wanted to communicate what I felt. My starting point is the behaviour of people. I look at the emotions of people and start distinguishing between the various movements.
LH: I would describe your work as a collage where multiple ideas collide and come to the surface. Would that be a fair assessment?
AVDB: For me, it’s too easy to make a narrative piece of work. By summoning several associations, scenes can be given multiple interpretations or meanings. In doing so, I try to appeal to the open-mindedness of people.
If you are very ambitious, have strong sexual desires, or are obsessed by something, once those feelings have been satisfied, you start focusing on the next desire. That never stops. Time and time again, you test your limits and extend them. As the experience of satisfaction becomes more extreme, the feeling of euphoria also increases. Eventually, this is followed by conflicting feelings; either emptiness or sadness because of what you’ve learned about yourself.
When Eve took a bite of the apple, if it was indeed a woman who did it, where did the urge to do this come from? The longing for something you know will end badly, or is forbidden.
LH: The starting point for your work is often specific emotions that originate from an autobiographical place. Instinctive and explosive are words that I would use in describing your work, as well as pain. Would you agree?
AVDB: People who are in pain can carry it with them their whole life. But where does it come from? We all know how it feels to have a lump in your throat if you don’t want to cry, because you don’t want others to know. That can really hurt. Or that other pain, right by your heart and around your midriff. Scientists and biologists know exactly how an emotion can impact your muscles and organs. I have been working on visualising that. And to study the degree in which people feel grief. Pain is wide-ranging and can have many different meanings. The rocking back and forth you often see in my work is caused by that intense grief. Intense emotions don’t always feel very extreme to me. I often lay it on thicker in my work. A ‘pain phrase’ can go on a long time. Long enough for it to get through to the audience, who can no longer bear to watch it. That all they want is for it to stop.
LH: You have moved away from dancing to focus solely on choreographing. How has that shaped your work?
AVDB: I was a dancer for quite a long time. After I created and performed in a number of solos and duets, not dancing in my own pieces was a new step for me. It gave me the opportunity to step back and see how I could set the choreography from the outside and see what the dramatic arc looked like. Over time, working with groups of dancers became more and more fascinating. After all, in a group piece I can make the emotional aspect of a theme more abstract. The choreography then becomes a synthesis of the various points of view, of many people in the same situation. To develop my own aesthetics I have had to study and analyse in great detail the various emotional situations the body can find itself in and then you can feel the movement material without having to perform it.
About Loops of Behaviour
Delve into a ‘total experience’ of live performance, spoken word, sound and video as Dutch-Flemish dance company WArd/waRD create an impactful ten-day performance installation.
Performances take place throughout the day. View the performance schedule for timings.
Supported by Fonds Podium Kunsten Performing Arts Fund. Additional support by Flanders State of the Art.
Parental guidance: 16+
Under 16’s must be accompanied by an adult.
Elements of this performance exhibition contain challenging content with scenes of a sexual nature that some viewers may find upsetting.
Listen to our Guest Picks playlist with Ann Van den Broek:
About Ann Van den Broek
Born in Wilrijk, Antwerp in 1970, Ann Van den Broek lives and works between Belgium and The Netherlands. After completing her dance education at the Rotterdam Dance Academy, Van den Broek danced with the Elisa Monte Company in New York; Dansgroep Krisztina de Châtel in The Netherlands; Galili Dance based in Amsterdam; and Charleroi/Danses in Belgium. In 2000 she set up the non-profit organization WArd/waRD vzw (Belgium) and in 2008 established WArd/waRD foundation (The Netherlands) to produce and promote her own choreographic work.
Filming and Photography: Suzanne Zhang