Pieces in the space of in-between

CocoonDance ‘Pieces of Me’ dissolves the fixed stage as well as linear narration. Concepts like these certainly attract my attention, nevertheless I am also aware that such an experiment might not necessarily lead to an immersing experience of now here, but eventually a no where situation. In the case of this piece it is hard to trace where it took the audience, but the experience can be recommended without regrets, while I will come back to the open question later in this text.

CocoonDance 'Pieces of me'
CocoonDance ‘Pieces of me’

Entering the room for ‘Pieces of Me’ the audience is told that there are no seating possibilities, except someone really needs it, and that it is appreciated when one would keep on moving around in space. Inside then, the dance area is marked by a white dance floor layer, which is framed by single words and short excerpts written on it towards the outer fringes. Words that relate to spatial concepts or meanings run next to expressions from Foucault to A. Warburg, clearly hinting to a conceptual understanding of space. Another marker of the flexibility of space is an angeled wall piece on wheels that will be later used and pushed around as a shifting wall.

CocoonDance 'Pieces  of me'
CocoonDance ‘Pieces of me’

The piece is announced as “an unusual performance, offering a specific conception of space to the audience, sensuous and thrilling impressions and strange perceptions. That is because Pieces of Me should be read as an invitation to the audience not to look at this performance from the outside, as spectator, but to step over the threshold, to step directly into this work, and to experience it from the inside. In this „in-between-space” (Bhabha, 1994), which audience (and performers) enter, everything starts to move („pratiques d’espace”, Certeau, 1990), and reality and fiction blend.

After all, ‘Pieces of Me’ is not really a piece — at least not in the customary sense. It is (but) one piece about a piece or, literally taken, several „pieces” of a piece that in reality does not exist, and that only becomes fantastic and real through the audience and by support of its paratext. Like all recent performances by the Bonn ensemble [CocoonDance], ‘Pieces of Me’ aims at further develop Dance as a narrative mode, and thus it is geared to „bonus material” of DVDs in structure and composition. These „accessories” (Genette, 1989) in additional and background information form the proper piece and at the same time provoke a meditation about how to produce and to receive Dance.”
So far the information sheet.

CocoonDance 'Pieces of me'
CocoonDance ‘Pieces of me’

In H. Babha’s interpretation the ‘in-between-space’, which has been developed in the context of postcolonial theory it is attempted to introduce a temporality of the ‘in-between’ through the performative, to set self-narration counter a fixed notion of representation (212) of the ‘Other’. Babha refers to “in-between” spaces as “terrain[s] for elaborating strategies of selfhood – singular or communal – that initiate new signs of identity, and innovative sites of collaboration, and contestation, in the act of defining the idea of society itself…. “ (2). In a very generalised reading, I can interpret this as a possible entry point for this piece in pieces that literally comes into effect through the marked center space of the ‘staging zone’.

The piece though describes itself further as “a meditation about how to produce and receive Dance” and references De Certeau’s ‘practices of space’. De Certeau described walking in ‘The Practice of Everyday Life’ as a movement in/through space as a form of uttering (‘walking as a space of uttering’) and thus defines spaces as determined by historical subjects, by the users of places, but also that spatial orders set up a body of possibilities.

CocoonDance 'Pieces of me'
CocoonDance ‘Pieces of me’
Certainly these points seem to deliver some basis for the experiment, if only there would not be another point listed in the leaflet, which is handed out, and informs the audience not to expect a consequent narrative but announces instead to allow for a sort of zapping, like through the surplus/making-of material of a DVD. Nevertheless the one menu option we, as the audience, have, is to change our point of view. Any fast forward or reverse, as well as the freeze positions, is done for by the dancers or the crew of music, set and light design.

As much as like all these ideas as single bits of inspiration, it seems programmatic for the piece and quite in accordance with its title, – it is pieces and parts we are confronted with. This generally not uninteresting idea though is hard to decipher as it is not woven together through the ‘interstitial spaces’ that are supposed to be opened up by the references made. This all said now, I want to emphasize that I certainly enjoyed watching ‘Pieces of me’. It is excellent dancing, in an unusual setting. It is a lot of shifting, where usually is none. Just don’t expect to have guidance how the pieces intersect. ‘Pieces of me’ might thus be closest interpreted to reflect our insulated state of selves of fragmented interaction.

This becomes eventual obvious at the point when members of the audience, that partly had settled on the floor, or was moving around, but hadn’t yet entered the dance area, were approached by single dancers and guided onto the dance area – the space. Arriving there, we stand still, waiting for the dancers, who now take a pause on the floor, to come back into motion. In the end, when leaving, I could overhear comments, that those among the audience with movement experience, which is not too unusual when a piece is performed at the Uferstudios Berlin, were tempted to move themselves, but did not dare.

CocoonDance 'Pieces of me'
CocoonDance ‘Pieces of me’

It is a cryptical piece that might depict our fragmented ‘me(s)’ in an I centered society. Also it is not clear why the blindfolded woman sits at one point in the center of the space and is shouting and crying for minutes in an increasingly tortured sounding voice nothing else than ‘I’. Is it the focus on self that torments her? Or is she a reference to Bhabha’s ‘Location of Culture’ as the self of the other, that attempts a performative narration of self and bounces against the representational prejudges of the predominantly white audience with her Asian look.

The answer is hidden in the pieces of the work – and thus giving reason to speculate as I did here. It seems indeed that the closest one can get – and here I cite again – is that “CocoonDance stages social topics as mind games of narration. Citing different genres like film, concert, literature, and internet, CocoonDance tries to differentiate the narrative form of dance, playing with different narrative strategies, transformations and forms of staging.” This they certainly do well.

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CocoonDance was founded by choreographer Rafaële Giovanola and dramaturge Rainald Endraß on the occasion of an invitation to the Festival Off Avignon in 2000. Swiss-born Giovanola was a soloist in Turin before being brought to the Frankfurt Ballett by William Forsythe for the duration of eight years. After this, she worked with Pavel Mikuláštik’s Choreographical Theatre, with Bonn as the last station. Since 2004, CocoonDance Company plays at and is also the artistic direction for dance at the Bonn theaterimballsaal.

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