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Recording: 2016-11-05 , Tanzfabrik Berlin / Uferstudios (Video © Walter Bickmann)

Jess Curtis, Claire Cunningham


Open Spaces # 3-2016 | Tanzfabrik Berlin / Wedding

Production Details / Press Releases

How do we look at each other? How do we allow ourselves to be seen? How do our bodies shape the ways we perceive the world around us? Can we change how we see others? “The Way You Look (at me) Tonight” is a social sculpture—a sensory journey, for two performers and audience. Dancing, singing, telling stories and asking questions, leading UK disabled artist Claire Cunningham and international choreographer and performer Jess Curtis, combine performance, music, and video to wrestle (sometimes literally) with important questions about our habits and practices of perceiving each other and the world. In collaboration with noted author and philosopher of perception Dr. Alva Noë, video artist Yoann Trellu, composer Matthias Herrmann, and dramaturge Luke Pell, they perform an evening-length duet that excavates their own ways of seeing each other—as a man and a woman of different ages, bodies and backgrounds. In 2005 Curtis was the choreographer who first introduced Cunningham to movement, leading to her career as a choreographer in her own right. Now a decade later they return to work together to co-create “The Way You Look (at me) Tonight”.

JESS CURTIS is an award-winning choreographer and performance artist committed to an art-making practice informed by experimentation, innovation, critical discourse and social relevance at the intersections of fine art and popular culture. Curtis created and performed multidisciplinary dance theater throughout the U.S., Europe and the former Soviet Union with the seminal group Contraband under the direction of Sara Shelton Mann in the 80s and 90s. From 1991 to 1998 he co-directed the ground-breaking San Francisco performance venue 848 Community Space with Keith Hennessy and Michael Whitson. He co-founded the radical performance collective CORE in SF in 1994 and then in 1998 ‘ran away’ to France to join the Circus company Cahin-Caha, Cirque Batard under the direction of Gulko. In 2000, after 15 years of making dance in the Bay Area as an independent choreographer, Curtis founded his own trans-continental performance company, Jess Curtis/Gravity, in Berlin and San Francisco. In 2011 he was presented the prestigious Alpert Award in the Arts for choreography, Curtis’s other honors include six Isadora Duncan Dance awards, a Homer Avila award for leadership in the field of physically diverse performance, a Fringe First Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, two SF Weekly Black Box Awards and a Stolichnaya award for performance art. Curtis is active as a writer, advocate and community organizer in the fields of contemporary dance and performance, and teaches Dance, Contact Improvisation and Interdisciplinary Performance for individuals of all abilities throughout the US and Europe. He has been a visiting professor at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of the Arts in Berlin. He holds an MFA in Choreography and a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from the University of California at Davis.

CLAIRE CUNNINGHAM is a performer and creator of multi-disciplinary performance based in Glasgow, Scotland. One of the UK’s most acclaimed and internationally renowned disabled artists, Cunningham’s work is often rooted in the study and use/misuse of her crutches and the exploration of the potential of her own specific physicality with a conscious rejection of traditional dance techniques (developed for non-disabled bodies) or the attempt to move with the pretence of a body or aesthetic other than her own. A self-identifying disabled artist, Cunningham’s work combines multiple artforms and ranges from the intimate solo show ME (Mobile/Evolution) (2009), to the large ensemble work “12” made for Candoco Dance Company. In 2014 she created a new solo: Give Me a Reason to Live, inspired by the work of Dutch medieval painter Hieronymus Bosch and the role of beggars/cripples in his work, and the full length show Guide Gods, looking at the perspectives of the major Faith traditions towards the issue of disability. She is a former Artist-in–Residence at the Women of the World Festival at the Southbank, London and of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens. In 2016 she is the Artist in Residence with Perth International Arts Festival, Australia and Associate Artist at Tramway, Glasgow.

ALVA NOË is a writer and a philosopher living in Berkeley and New York. He works on the nature of mind and human experience. He is the author of Action in Perception (MIT Press, 2004); Out of Our Heads (Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2009); and Varieties of Presence (Harvard University Press, 2012). The central idea of these books is that consciousness is not something that happens inside us, or to us. It is something we do. Alva’s new book on art and human nature, Strange Tools, was released by Farrar, Straus and Giroux on September 22, 2015. Alva received his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1995 and is a professor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, where he is also a member of the Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the Center for New Media. He previously was a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. He has been philosopher-in-residence with The Forsythe Company and has also collaborated with dance artists Deborah Hay, Nicole Peisl, Jess Curtis, Claire Cunningham, Katye Coe, and Charlie Morrissey. Alva is a 2012 recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a former fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin. He is a weekly contributor to National Public Radio’s science blog 13.7: Cosmos and Culture.

LUKE PELL is an artist living in Scotland. He is fascinated by detail, nuances of time, texture, memory and landscape. As a maker and curator he collaborates with other artists and organisations imagining alternative contexts for performance, participation and discourse that might reveal wisdoms for living. His artistic projects take form as intimate encounters; poetic objects, installations and designed environments – choreographies – for physical and virtual spaces. He is Associate Artist with Candoco Dance Company, Janice Parker Projects and Fevered Sleep. Luke’s work has been presented throughout the UK and internationally including Not Simply Dancing, Greenwich Dance; Unlimited Festival, Southbank Centre, London; In Between Time, Bristol; E- Motional, Romania, Anti-Festival, Finland and Room of Requirement, Berlin. His recent collaborative work Take Me To Bed with Jo Verrent won the prize for ‘Best Overall Work’ at the inaugural Light Moves Festival of Screen Dance, Ireland, 2014 and will presented at Dance Live, Aberdeen; Dance International Glasgow, Tramway and Dansens Hus, Stockholm.

MATTHIAS HERRMANN studied cello with Rudolf Mandalka at the Robert Schumann Hochschule, Düsseldorf, and is a graduate sound engineer. He has created numerous scores for the productions of international dance theater companies including Do Theater (St. Petersburg), Fabrik Company (Potsdam), Howard Katz (Berlin/New York), Claire Cunningham (Glasgow), Jess Curtis/Gravity (San Francisco/Berlin). He also created soundscapes for video-installations, music for short film and documentaries. He was working as a composer and musical director for Staatsschauspiel Dresden, Schauspielhaus Bochum, Deutsches Theater Berlin, National Theatre of Scotland and others. In 2008 he was priced with the Isadora Duncan Award for the best soundtrack for ‚Under the Radar’ for Jess Curtis/Gravity. In June 2014 his opera ‚Didi und Stulle’ premiered at Neukoellner Oper Berlin.

YOANN TRELLU is a French video artist based in Berlin since 2003. He started working with live projections in Nantes, France, in 1999, first using photography and slide projections, but quickly moved to computer, video projection and real time media software such as Max/Msp/Jitter. He creates video content and develop custom video applications for performance and theater. Since 10 years he worked on more than 40 productions in Germany, France and USA: Post-Theater (Berlin, New York, Tokyo), Konzert theater Bern (Switzerland), Landestheater Coburg (Germany), Jess Curtis-Gravity (Berlin, San-Francisco), Tatraum Projekte Schmidt (Germany), Ten Pen Chii (Berlin), Shang Chi Sun (Berlin, Taiwan), Junge Staatsoper (Berlin), Theater Strahl (Berlin).

MICHIEL KEUPER graduated in fashion design from ArtEz the Institute of the Arts in Arnhem (NL). With his fashion label Keupr/van Bentm he presented his collections during Paris Fashion Week for several years and his work was covered internationally in numerous publications. His autonomous fashion work has been included in museum collections and has been exhibited in the USA, UK, Japan, Italy and France. Alongside working as a freelance designer, he has been teaching fashion design at BA and MA courses in the Netherlands and Germany. Lately he has extended his work to fine arts, performance and art direction. Recently he has worked with Hana Lee Erdman, Jeremy Wade, Miguel Gutierrez, Antonija Livingstone, Peter Pleyer, Sheena McGrandles, Martin Nachbar, Lea Moro, Jess Curtis and Claire Cunningham.

Cast & Credits

Concept and performance by Jess Curtis, Claire Cunningham
Philosophical advisor: Dr. Alva Noë
Dramaturgy: Luke Pell
Composition: Matthias Herrmann
Video: Yoann Trellu
Stage: Michiel Keuper
Set assistant: Saskia Schoenmaker
Light design: Chris Copland
Production: Nadja Dias, Julia Danila, Alec White
Internship Production: Alina Saggerer
PR: Paulina Papenfuß
Coproduction: Jess Curtis / Gravity, Claire Cunningham and Tramway Glasgow
Thanks to: Judith Smith, Axis Dance, Dena Beard, Sally Clay, Mickel Smithen, Jenny Sealey, Chloe Phillips, Maria Oshodi, Helen Hall, EJ Raymond, Jeni Draper, Caroline Bowditch, Laura Hook, Marc Brew, Alice Sheppard, Kenny Fries , Julia Watts Belser, Bill Shannon, John Link, Sophia Green, Martin Seidler, Clara Giraud and Jo Verrent of Unlimited, Sarah Schwarz and the team of the Tanzfabrik Berlin
The Way You Look (at me) Tonight was made possible by the following sponsors and organizations: Fund Performing Arts, Cofinancing Fund of the Mayor of Berlin – Senatskanzlei Cultural Affairs, The New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Kenneth Rainin Foundation, The San Francisco Arts Commission, The Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco.
Unlimited, co-commissioned by Tramway Glasgow and funded by The London Place, Norfolk & Norwich Festival and British Council.

Open Spaces # 3-2016
Artistic director: Ludger Orlok
Production management: Juan Gabriel Harcha
Organization: Vincenz Kokot
Communication: Mara Nedelcu
Press, editorial: Nora Gores
Internship Festival Management: Nora Spiekermann
Technical management: Martin Pilz
Tanzfabrik Berlin is funded by the Senate Chancellery for Cultural Affairs at the Governing Mayor of Berlin.

Tanzfabrik Berlin / Wedding

Uferstr. 23
13357 Berlin

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)

Jess Curtis / Trailers and Video Documentations

Claire Cunningham / Trailers and Video Documentations

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