Dominique Vleeshouwers. Photo: Roy Overdijk (detail) View full image

Dominique Vleeshouwers creates new performance concept

Percussionist Dominique Vleeshouwers’ gives the premiere of a new flexible performance concept on 13 March at Tivoli Vredenburg in Utrecht. A New Dawn is made up of three modules, each of which can change duration and content according to the size of the venue and the artists involved. Vleeshouwers is collaborating with dancer Redo and percussionist–producer Binkbeats, with music commissioned by Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Deantoni Park and Hanna Benn.

The project originates in Vleeshouwers’ experience of lockdown and the existential questions it raised. He says: ‘The performance explores the idea of what each day brings you and how you can take the initiative in your own life – or decide not to. Many people live on autopilot, especially when they have kids and a daily schedule, but in lockdown we were living in a very different environment to what we were used. In a situation like that, how do you open a new perspective? That was the inspiration for the show.’

The philosophical exploration is structured in three sections: Individuality, Connection and Collectivity. Vleeshouwers explains: ‘For the first module, you will mostly see people performing alone or dancing with a musician. In the second, people start to connect and things begin to blur together. Musicians combine their sound worlds and the dancers start to connect in the moment, improvising. For the third module, all the dancers are on stage and there are games with rules. For example, there is a circle projected on the floor, within which they must stay, but then suddenly that circle becomes four circles. What do they do in that moment? These rules lead them into what they have to do, but they can still decide on how to do it.’

The structure allows a variety of possibilities and this extreme flexibility is central to the concept. He says: ‘We can have different artists, durations, types of venue and the show will be different at each location, depending on the venue itself. For example, in Zurich we will be without dancers and for Dutch Dance Days, there will probably be more dancers. This goes back to the philosophical point: if we have an open attitude to our lives, how do we react if we are in a different place or environment? How can we be receptive, rather than thinking, “This is what I do, and you just have to go with it?”’

The format also offers the opportunity to discover and collaborate with different artists: ‘It may be that in one place there’s a specific artist we want to work with who can be involved in the show – it’s very easy for us to collaborate with local artists.’

What is the artistic aim of the project? Vleeshouwers says, ‘We don’t want to teach or dictate what people get out of it. We want the audience to see us as artists on stage, dealing with a particular situation created in each specific space. Maybe they can be inspired by that. Sometimes they won’t know what’s about to happen and sometimes they will. Sometimes the visuals lead and sometimes the performers lead. I hope it will feel very exciting and impressive, with new music and beautiful dance.’

Whatever the format turns out to be, he is clear that the show must still makes sense as an artistic unity. He says: ‘Part of the research we did was to find out whether when we create a modular show and bring in different people, we can still have a clear line. Will the art of the show still survive? We think it does. The challenge is to have a structure to the programme, but to dare to let go and leave it open. Rather than having a tightly planned show, why not leave it open to the moment and to the energy of the hall? For me, that’s exactly what this is all about.’

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