Meg Stuart’s pieces get under your skin. The American choreographer and dancer, who lives in Berlin and Brussels, confronts her audiences with physical and psychological states of emergency. In her work, she demonstrates an almost seismographic sensibility, teasing out societal issues that concern us today.
Her first full-length piece, which premiered in 1991, led to her immediate breakthrough: “Disfigure Study” exhibits a radically new aesthetic. Here, the body is displaced, deformed, and deconstructed. It tells a story of alienation, isolation, and loss. Fragmentation and hard cuts also play a crucial role in “No Longer Readymade” from 1993. In this piece, Benoît Lachambre shakes his head so vigorously that the contours of his face are blurred – his movements thus create an image reminiscent of a painting by Francis Bacon. In 1994, Stuart founds the Brussels-based company Damaged Goods, which she designs as an open, flexible structure. Up to today, Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods have realized more than 30 productions, ranging from solo and group pieces to local performances and installations. In addition, Stuart regularly initiates improvisation projects. She cooperates with artists from various disciplines in order to ensure that each piece develops its own language. Residencies at institutions like Schauspielhaus Zurich (2000–2004) and Berlin’s Volksbühne (2005–2010) led to collaborations with renowned theatre directors like Stefan Pucher, Christoph Marthaler, and Frank Castorf. In 2010, Meg Stuart/Damaged Goods realized a joint project at Munich’s Kammerspiele.
“Violet” (2011) became a turning point in Meg Stuart’s work and marked the end of her theatrical phase: in this abstract dance piece, she returned to her roots. Hands and arms take on a disconcerting life of their own. The dancers’ bodies appear possessed by nervous ticks and spasms that control them so fully that they finally collapse. Energetic patterns culminate in a feverish, almost unbearable intensity. The booming live soundtrack that composer Brendan Dougherty created for the piece becomes an additional strain on the audience’s nerves. In “Build to Last” (2012), Stuart explores a new musical-monumental dimension. Five dancers are confronted with overwhelming works of classical and contemporary music, including compositions by Sergej Rachmaninoff, Ludwig van Beethoven, Iannis Xennakis, Meredith Monk, and Arnold Schönberg.
Her solo piece “Hunter” (2014) emanates from her personal and artistic biography. She considers the body an archive that stores private and cultural memories. This piece is based on the principle of collage: she cuts up biographical material and arranges it in new ways, thus allowing for the emergence of previously hidden connections. In “Until Our Hearts Stop” (2015), which revolves around the illusion of and the desire for intimacy, a Jazz trio accompanies the performance of six dancers.
Meg Stuart traces our hidden desires – and does not shy away from presenting our greatest failures. She is not only one of the pioneering choreographers of the contemporary dance scene, but has also introduced her German audience to wholly new styles of dance.
Written by Sandra Luzina