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Isabelle Schad

Isabelle Schad is a pioneer:  she has proven that it is possible to integrate somatic practices into the work of a choreographer. Instead of establishing a fixed repertoire of recurring figures, Schad lets the process through which form becomes tangible in and through dance appear before our eyes. She does not consider the body a closed entity, but instead understands it as continuously undergoing new metamorphoses.

From 1981 to 1990, Schad studied classical dance in her hometown Stuttgart. After having been a member of both classical and contemporary ensembles, she started to initiate her own projects and became an independent choreographer in 1999. As soon as she began to choreograph, Schad became aware of what she was looking for – and what she was sorely missing. One the one hand, she needed a set of philosophical tools. On the other hand, she longed for new and different practices. This is why Schad became determined to develop her own approach, with the aim of creating a different sort of aesthetic. When describing her method, Schad points out that her “work emanates from the body, from its materiality, its processual quality and experiential dimension: the body as a place, as both space and process.” Her holistic understanding of the body derives from a variety of sources: among the influences that shaped her work were body-mind-centering practices as well as Asian techniques like aikido, Qi Gong, and shiatsu.

A major influence has also been the ongoing cooperation with visual artist Laurent Goldring, which began in 2008 with their first joint work “Unturtled.” Their work sessions are an inspiring interplay that aims to produce a visual image of movement and of appearance itself. Laurent Goldring thus plays a crucial role in Schad’s successful attempt to unite the body’s vitality with a strict pursuit of its formal conception.

What emerges from their cooperation is, above all, the concept of “amplification,” which highlights and visualizes the body’s internal and external movements. The amplifying element varies from one piece to another, ranging from an oversized costume, as in the “Unturtled” series, to panels of fabric, as could be seen in “Der Bau” (2012). It is, essentially, an extra layer that does, however, not conceal but instead reveals something. To fold and unfold, to wrap and unwrap – the dancers always discover new ways of relating their bodies to the fabric and space surrounding them. This is why “Der Bau” can essentially be described as a process of permanent reconstruction.

An amplifier can also be embodied be a group, as was the case in “Collective Jumps” (2014), where the limbs of 16 dancers are woven into ever new patterns - so that single persons are absorbed by a collective, constantly changing  body. While each body is intimately integrated in this collective structure, each individual’s unique features also stand for themselves. In this way,  “Collective Jumps” never runs the risk of looking like the mass ornamentation used in totalitarian regimes.

By rejecting pure representation, Isabelle Schad explores new spaces in and for dance. For her, it is important that her work methods are in line with her political views. In order to remain active and alert, she puts particular emphasis on the mutual exchange with other artists and amateurs, trading her knowledge and practice with theirs.

Written by Sandra Luzina
Photo: Dieter Hartwig