Choreographer and dancer Anne-Mareike Hess accepted La Glaneuse’s Carte blanche to take us into the intimacy of her work, focused on the “emotional body”. She reports about her second period of residency in the cultural center Neimënster in Luxembourg, in the post-lockdown context.
27.07 – 17.08 2020 : After the lockdown
Back I am ! Same place, same building, same spectacular scenery around…oh but so many things have changed since my last residency here in February 2020 ! Now it’s august and it’s very hot.
“Hot town, Summer in the city; Back of my neck getting dirty and gritty; Been down isn’t it a pity; Doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city; All around people looking half-dead; Walking on the sidewalk, hotter than a match head; But at night it’s a different world… well, I wish…”
This song from the 1966 by The Lovin’ Spoonful has crossed my mind several times in the past 3 weeks … The city is heavy from the heat and rather empty. Has it always been like this in summer ? I remember more liveliness, with open air concerts and activities. But instead it’s masks and distance everywhere.
That’s the new Now I guess.
When the unthinkable happened
The last months have been very challenging and emotionally difficult for many of us, me included. The unthinkable happened, borders were closed and traveling became impossible…work was canceled, everything just stopped… well, actually that’s not true. Work didn’t stop, but the fun and juicy part of it did : no rehearsing, no performing, no live meetings and exchange. The organizing and rescheduling, the thinking and planning continued. February was full of new beginnings and excitement, so promising. Now…well, I take it week by week and month by month and I work on being grateful for what there is and to appreciating all the support I have… it doesn’t work every day…
This crisis definitely brought me in touch with my feelings, my fears, questioning my priorities and making me rediscover many things… that’s what crises do, they refocus and bring out what has been covered and ignored for so long. It takes a lot of energy to keep it up, stay motivated, ready and flexible… and still be open, curious, receptive and sensitive…
Focus on “Dreamer”
5 months later, I feel very privileged to be able to be here at Neimënster in the residency and get this time to work in these great conditions. It perfectly makes sense to come back here several times a year over the period of 3 years. I feel it now. We grow together and it is beautiful to be able to experience this place over such an extended period in different temperatures and circumstances. This building has a long history, both dark and light. I discover and learn. It’s still standing, and I can lean into it. This time, it really gave me the calmness and energy to be creative again and build up my courage to go on and connect with my work.
I intentionally tried to do as less organizational and admin work as possible and concentrate much more on bringing my body and thoughts into movement and focus on my upcoming creation “Dreamer”. In the first week I had invited musician and energetic worker Jean-Luc Jossa to join me. We dived into the world of dreams and trance, doing intensive dynamic meditations, releasing tensions and emotions and exploring the physical and audible realm of the dream state. It was physically very intense and just so nice to share the space with him. It has been 12 years since we last worked together in the studio ! New beginnings ?
After that week, I felt a little left alone, although I do work very much alone in general. I mostly enjoy it and more and more know how to deal with it, but after such an intense week together, it did take me some days to adapt and find my discipline again to structure my days.
The 2nd week started with 2 days of being filmed and interviewed by Marie-Laure Rolland and Bohumil Kostohryz for a documentary film they want to do about my work. This was very exciting and strange at the same time. It felt bizarre to be followed by the camera and to talk about my work so much. I felt a lot of resistance and reservation in the beginning. The camera made me by moments very self-aware and uncomfortable and at other moments I felt inspired and could forget the unusualness of this situation. It was definitely a very new experience for me, and I am extremely curious on how it will turn out and what will happen.
Juggling between What, Why and How
After these two intense days I was glad to get back to the studio in the TROIS-CL (the Luxembourgish Centre for Contemporary Dance) and close the door behind me. Working alone can be very confronting and it’s easy to get stuck, but then things can also move suddenly very fast. It feels so rewarding when the dam breaks… until the next stuckness. Luckily, I had several great moments during the 2nd and 3rd week where I made big steps in my work, had some fun and crossed some borders : dancing like a fish, mermaids appearing and disappearing in the fog, experimenting with my voice, shaking and screaming. I had so many images and phantasies about the piece… and through all these hours of trying and doubting I came closer to understanding what I want to do with this piece and why ? This will feed again the “How ?” : always juggling between What, Why and How. It’s a circle.
In the evening I was sometimes sitting in the courtyard of Neimënster looking at the Bockfiels and wondering about this story of the Melusina…imagining her being trapped in the rock for centuries… what a strange story.
With all the intense work I didn’t have much time for anything else but was very happy to sometimes meet the other artists in residency in the corridors and over a glas of wine. Don’t lose touch. Furthermore, I could exchange with my dramaturg Thomas Schaupp and had also a very inspiring virtual meeting with Mélanie Planchard, who is collaborating with me for the costumes and set design of “Dreamer”. I am so much looking forward trying out materials and first ideas once we meet in September. Latex, mirrors and tulle and many more… oh it will be fun !
Now at the end of the residency I had my first encounter with a live audience since the beginning of the lockdown ! It felt great to share my process and take them with me on my journey, share my thoughts and movements. I am always very nervous with these openings, because I feel very vulnerable in the process and timid, but this warm encounter has reminded me again of how important and precious these moments are.
Now it’s the last days and I am so much looking forward to return in a few months when it is winter…
Many things will have changed again.