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Recording: 2022-10-18 , Sophiensæle (Video © Bickmann & Kolde GbR)

James Batchelor & Collaborators

Shortcuts to Familiar Places


Production Details / Press Releases

A personal performance about the body as a site of inscription. In a fascinating excavation of Australian modern dance history, James Batchelor has been tracing a lineage through his childhood dance teacher Ruth Osborne to the modern dance pioneer Gertrud Bodenwieser. Bodenwieser came to Australia as a refugee from Vienna during WW2, inspiring generations with her visionary approach to dance education and choreography. In a solo and two duets, James Batchelor explores new artistic ways to embrace the complexity of self-expression in contemporary times – while echoing the free spirit of the expressive dance (Ausdruckstanz) era.

JAMES BATCHELOR is a choreographer and performer from Canberra, Australia. His artistic practice includes movement research and performance creation, international touring and teaching. His most recent work includes “An Evening-length Performance” which premiered at Tanz im August (Sophiensaele) and toured to Tanzhaus nrw (Düsseldorf), Theatre de Vanves (Paris) and December Dance (Brugge) in 2021. His solo work Hyperspace was selected to be part of the Aerowaves platform in 2019 and has since been presented over 50 times in Europe and Australia.

Cycling repetitions, collapsing and expanding scale, and subtle rhythmic manipulation contribute to a sense that time is moving at a different pace in this work. The audience is invited to slow down together and be guided into a state of sensorial sensitivity and discovery.

Shortcuts to Familiar Places contemplates the social body-to-body transmission of movement, aesthetics and choreographic forms. In particular the relationship of teacher to student, mentor to mentee. This research has taken a personal focus for the choreographer James and performer Chloe, an excavation of the lineage of their dance teacher Ruth Osborne who was trained in the methods of the Modern dance pioneer Gertrud Bodenwieser. A key figure of the Ausdruckstanz movement in Vienna, Bodenwieser arrived in Australia as a refugee in 1938 and continued to develop her visionary approach to dance training and choreography.

Bodenwieser’s repertory now mostly survives in the body memories of her dancers and pupils. Her style is characterised by a soft sense of freedom with its decorative, fluid and expressive movements. It embraces circles, spirals, waves and figure-8s with an emphasis of decentring the body from the vertical axis.

Perhaps an influence of his father Murray, a mathematical physicist, there is a particular focus on scale and geometry in James’ choreographic approach. Obsessive probing of microvariations in movements reveals the infinite possibility within the finite space, contributing to a calm, calculated and even detached performance affect. This is essentially at odds with the spirit of Ausdruckstanz and the Bodenwieser style, which prioritised the expressive and emotive nature of movement. These contradictory impulses form a unique dialogue and challenging new direction for James to address in this material. There is both a desire to honour and embody the spirit of Bodenwieser’s work, as well as a fascination with the linguistic form of the movement itself and a rethink of what it means to be expressive.

1. VIDEO Remembering Bodenwieser
Ruth Osborne describes the key elements of a Bodenwieser class and performs how the style remains in her body today. Filmed in Canberra, Australia
Note: Ruth Osborne (b.1951) is the Artistic Director of Quantum Leap, a visionary youth dance company in Canberra Australia that brings young people into collaborative choreographic processes with professional artists. Growing up in Canberra, James and Chloe were part of the Quantum Leap program from a young age. James has since remained involved with the program, choreographing for and mentoring the next generations.

2. SOLO Breathing Gesture
Live Performance: James Batchelor

3. VIDEO Transmitting ‘The Waterlilies’
Elieen Kramer teaches James Batchelor and Sue Healey her favourite Bodenwieser choreography, remembered from her days working with the company in the 1940s. Filmed in Sydney, Australia.
Note: Eileen Kramer is an Australian dancer, choreographer, artist and writer – a true creative spirit – born in 1914 and still making art in 2022 at the age of 107. Sue Healey is a choreographer and filmmaker based in Sydney.

4. DUET Bodenwieser Remixed
Live Performance: James Batchelor and Chloe Chignell

5. VIDEO AND DUET Echoes of The Expressive Dance
Carol Brown, James Batchelor, Ruth Osborne perform remnants of the Bodenwieser style. Filmed in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. Featuring archival footage of Shona Dunlop MacTavish.
Live Performance: James Batchelor and Chloe Chignell
Note: Carol Brown is currently Professor of Choreography and Head of Dance at Victoria College of the Arts in Melbourne. She grew up in New Zealand learning Bodenwieser methods through her teacher Shona Dunlop MacTavish, who was a former dancer with Bodenwieser.

[Source: & play bill]

TFB Nr. 1696

Cast & Credits

COMPOSITION: Morgan Hickinbotham
PERFORMANCE: Chloe Chignell
VIDEO MONTAGE: Margie Medlin
VIDEOGRAPHY: James Batchelor
CHOREOGRAPHIC CONSULTATION: Ruth Osborne, Eileen Kramer, Carol Brown
DANCE INTERN: Caspar Ilschner

A production by James Batchelor and Collaborators in coproduction with SOPHIENSÆLE.
Funded by the Capital Cultural Fund and the Australia Council for the Arts, Tanja Liedtke Foundation, Michael Adena and Joanne Daly.
With support of Tanzhaus nrw, QL2 Dance, Belconnen Arts Centre, Cocoon Dance, Trauma Bar und Kino, and Theaterhaus Mitte.


Sophienstraße 18
10178 Berlin

Tickets: (030) 283 52 66

Video Documentation

The video documentation is produced on behalf of the Senate Department for Culture and Social Cohesion. The purpose of this contract is to document productions in the field of contemporary dance in Berlin. The master recordings are archived by the University Library of the Berlin University of Arts. Copies of the recordings on DVD are available for viewing exclusively in the reference collections of the following archives (at media desks in these institutions):

University Library of the Berlin University of Arts
Mediathek für Tanz und Theater des Internationalen Theaterinstituts / Mime Centrum Berlin
Inter-University Centre for Dance Berlin (HZT)

James Batchelor & Collaborators / Trailers and Video Documentations

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