Set in the context of contemporary dance this thesis investigates how improvisation practice and performance making participate in a critical rethinking of age(ing). Advancing the notion of an age critical dance practice, the research draws on the theoretical frameworks of age studies – a multidisciplinary field of critical inquiry informed by, largely speaking, feminist and poststructuralist theories. The age critical dance practice developed in this thesis, in turn, enters into conversation with the discourses established in age studies and dance studies as a way to incorporate age critique into dance.
The thesis is a Practice as Research project consisting of a written thesis, two solo performances (The Fountain of Youth, premiered 2013, and The Fountain of Age, premiered 2015), and employs immersive dance based research methods such as the development of a Solo Partnering practice (as documented on DVD). The research also remodels the method of qualitative interviewing into a performative method that allows the participating expert practitioners to tap into their unique improvisation and performance expertise when addressing their particular understanding of age(ing).
Through the development and analysis of improvised practice and performance making, alongside in-depth performative interviews, the findings of this research point to ways in which improvisation and performance embody age critical potential. The long-term, open-ended and agentic artistic processes that improvisation experts develop all share a range of characteristics that serve to challenge the established youth-orientation in dance and constitute an implicitly critical position to dominant understandings of age(ing) in dance. Consequently, the thesis argues that improvisation practices ‘do’ age(ing) in ways less prone to dualistic stereotyping and reiterations of (self-) discriminatory age(ing)-as-decline narratives that dominate our culture as a whole. The research also suggests strategies in performance making that enable representations of age(ing) in ways that collide with, resist, or complicate normative expectations on age(ing). The dance works presented in this thesis allow the dancer to articulate shifting perspectives and experiences, creating ambiguous meanings and disjunctive narratives of age(ing), and thereby making explicit a critical position towards the grand narratives of age(ing).
In conclusion, this research argues that specific approaches to a long-term, open-ended dance practice, alongside critical images and new imaginations of age(ing) in performance, allow dance to evolve as an age critical arts practice.
Premiere: July 7, 2016, at festival Improvisation Xchange Berlin – berlin arts united at Dock 11, Berlin
Duration: 60 min
An interdisciplinary dialogue between two artistic research projects, one based in dance, the other in voice/live electronics
(spoken language English)
In this three-part performance Susanne Martin and Alex Nowitz each share, explain, and perform aspects of their respective research for the other and for the audience. Susanne’s research “Dancing Age(ing)” rethinks age(ing) critically in and through improvisation practice and performance. With “The Multi-Vocal Voice” Alex traces the potentialities for the contemporary performance voice without and with technological means, i.e. live electronic instruments. Finally they enter into a duet improvisation in which they allow their ideas and modes of performing to merge, interact and possibly inspire each other.
An improvisation event by Peter Pleyer and Michiel Keuper
Guests: Zen Jefferson, Andrea Keiz, Susanne Martin
Dock 11, Berlin 11. – 13. March 2016
Inspired by the history of interventions by artists and designers in the field of choreography and vice versa, dancer/choreographer Peter Pleyer and visual composer/designer Michiel Keuper use this series of performances to improvise new space and dance compositions based on their long-term collaboration. On Friday and Saturday they will be joined by video artist Andrea Keiz and dancer/choreographer Susanne Martin. With a focus on process, the audience is invited to witness the creation of a landscape of objects, costumes, dances, books, stories and images.
A Solo / Dance / Piece / Lecture / Performance
Premiere: 18 June 2015, Ravensfield Theatre MIddlesex University London
Duration: 40 min
Supported by: Middlesex University London, Tanzfabrik Berlin
Photos William Gillingham Sutton
The Fountain of Agetells an ambiguous and ironic tale of age(ing). Through a collage of scenes in which dance, text, costume, mask work, and music interrelate, the piece aims to counteract any simple ascertainment of youth and age.
Ambiguity is emphasised in this performance to see what can be learned when we complicate and question our ideas, expectations, and judgements around age(ing). What happens if we linger in the multitude of sensual, imaginative details of bodily doing, experiencing and showing, and in the multiple possible meanings of age(ing)? How can dance introduce less stereotypical and more complex perceptions of age(ing) and moving through time?
This solo performance constitutes one of two artistic outcomes I present as part of my PhD dissertation Dancing Age(ing) at the School of Media and Performing Arts.
‘TIN Pieces’ is a playful evening of improvised performance by members of the TransDisciplinary Improvisation Network (TIN) based at Middlesex University and their guests.
Exploring processes of instant composition, within and across dance, music and theatre the event promises to be a lively celebration of all things spontaneous. The evening is shaped through a chain like structure in which ‘scored’ improvisation pieces are linked by open ‘riffing’ spaces alongside interactions with the audience, who will have opportunities to shape the emerging improvisations.
Including world class performers in Music (Ben Dwyer, Garth Knox, Jonathan Impett and Simon Limbrick), Dance (Susanne Martin, Jovair Longo, Helen Kindred) and Performance (anthologyofames collective), TIN pieces emerge from shared interests in improvisatory processes and play, feedback loops, fear and vulnerability, touch and embodied knowing.
With: Mariana Camilotti, Antonio de la Fe, Ben Dwyer, Peter Gomes, Jonathan Impett, Helen Kindred, Garth Knox, Simon Limbrick, Jovair Longo, Susanne Martin, Vida Midgelow, Maga Radlowska, Petra Söör, Robert Vesty,
The Performance is part of The Cultural Capital Exchange, Inside Out Festival, and ‘What’s in a Name?: Improvisation Symposium (Oct 23rd & 24th, Middlesex University)
Duet with Gabriele Reuter
Solo (work in progress for The Fountain of Age)
Group improvisation with all performers
Ein Abend mit kurzen Tanzstücken, Improvisationen und Live Musik, kuratiert von Gabriele Reuter. Diesmal mit Solos von Susanne Martin, Maria Colusi, Lutz Streun (Saxophon) und Previews der neuen Stücke von Philip Amann und Gabriele Reuter/Mattef Kuhlmey. Danach tanzbare Musik von Montage.
Korsobad: on stage : short dance performances, live music, drinks and DJ, curated by Gabriele Reuter
With: Lutz Streun, Gabriele Reuter, Zaratina Randrianantenaina, Susanne Martin, Annapaola Leso, Todd Ford, Maria Marta Colusi, DJ Montage
21. November 2013: Werkstattgespräch kulturelle Generationenarbeit, Berlin
Titel: 18800 Bewegungen und 1000 Worte, an deren Ende wir alle 30 Minuten älter sein werden – Ein getanzter Vortrag
12. October 2013: Symposium of Society for Dance Research at Middlesex University. London ‚New Visions on Dance‘
Titel: Dancing Age(ing): An improvisation-based performance of 18800 movements and 1000 words during which we grow 30 minutes older
12.-14. September 2013: 4. Werkstattgesprächs des Interdisziplinären Arbeitskreises Ambivalenz
„Ambivalenz und soziale Praxis“ Inter- und intrapersonale Potenziale ambivalenter Erfahrungen
Institut für Soziologie, Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster
Titel: Performing the Ambiguity of Age(ing) – Ein getanzter Vortrag
6. – 9. June 2013: ‚Tanzkongress‘ im Tanzhaus Düsseldorf
Titel: Dance in a Critical Discourse on Ageing / Tanz im kritischen Diskurs über das Altern
Respondent: Katherine Mezur
1. June 2013: ‚Contact Samstag‘ – One festival day with CI classes, outstanding CI teachers, evening jam, organic food, chill out, lecture, discussions
Titel: The Fountain of Youth: Dance in a Critical Discourse on Ageing
The AREAL_Artistic Research Lab Berlin is a network initiative of dancers, choreographers and dance reseachers, supported by Tanzfabrik Berlin. AREAL runs monthly labs for its members as well as regular Open Studios to share and discuss diverse artistic research practices in dance with the public.
Das AREAL_Artistic Research Lab Berlin ist eine 2011 mit Unterstützung der Tanzfabrik gegründete Netzwerk-Initiative von Künstler_innen mit transdisziplinären, forschungsorientierten Arbeitsansätzen im Bereich Tanz und Performance. Beim Open Studio gibt ein Teil der Gruppe Einblicke in die laufenden Arbeitsprozesse. Mit Geöffnetschafft ein Teil der bei AREAL mitarbeitenden Künstler_innen einen Raum für parallele Arbeitspräsentationen mit kurzen Phasen der Hervorhebung einzelner Ansätze. Während einerdurchgehenden Installation wird der Ausstellungsraum zirka halbstündlich mit kurzen Einführungen, Experimenten und Performances bespielt.
Folgende Künstler_innen des Netzwerks Geöffnetgeben dabei einen Einblick in laufende Arbeitsprozesse: Joa Hug, Andrea Keiz, Paula Kramer, Susanne Martin, Crosby McCloy, Katja Münker
My PhD research engages with the premise that Western artistic dance can be seen as holding an interesting multi-layered position in relation to age(ing). On one hand, it most often focuses on youthful physicality and therefore takes part in an unquestioned marginalisation of ageing bodies, which, according to critical age studies (Woodward 1999, Gullette 2004, Lipscomb/ Marshall 2010), pervades Western culture as a whole. On the other hand, it is a potential site of experiencing and presenting human bodies in new and unexpected ways. Therefore dance may also enable ways of appreciating our bodily being beyond a narrow focus on athleticism and an attractiveness, which is commonly assured by youthfulness.
My research focuses on improvisation-based dance making. My main argument is, that improvisation-based dance forms and their specific working methods may offer ways of practicing and performing dance that have the potential to challenge previously unquestioned understandings of age(ing) in the field of dance and possibly beyond.
The research unfolds from the hypothesis that it needs an in-depth engagement with the practice of improvisation-based dance and the working conditions negotiated in the practice to reveal if and how such an age-critical potential might be realised. My research approach, therefore, uses artistic practice as the primary mode of enquiry, interacting with and framed by an analysis of other artists’ approaches and the theoretical insights of critical age studies, which challenge dominant representations of the ageing body, a stereotypical understanding of the life course, and a gendered bias in regard to the social impact and consequences of getting older.
So far my research, approached as an evolving embodied Practice as Research mode of enquiry in dance, is realised by actively intertwining three distinct but interdependent modes of research engagement.
1. Modes of Artistic Enquiry
I have developed ‘Solo Partnering’ as a long-term improvisational studio practice and ‘Performing Age(ing)’ as a specific choreographic process. Both practices grapple with the theme of age(ing) creatively whilst further offering propositions for re-thinking working methods/ structures for mid-life dance artists.
2. Modes of Documentation
Through a detailed written practice logbook and video documentation of my working processes and performances I have implemented documentation methods that trace the practice and allow me to reconstruct and reflect the steps taken in my practical enquiry of Solo Partnering and Performing Age(ing) in the written part of the thesis.
3. Modes of Contextual and Theoretical Reflection
The development of a critical, reflective position towards my research subject allows me to articulate the presumptions, creative strategies and age critical potential inherent in/ developed by my artistic practice. This critical position is gained through examining critical age studies, other artists’ approaches, relevant literature on dance, as well as through interviews with acclaimed older dance makers, participant observations and the on-going drafting of ideas and questions arising throughout the research process.
more than 20 years of making pieces
10 years of working with the theatre group M21
Pieces I participated in
……. …….. ……..
VHS tapes that faded away
….. …. ….. Die Puppenfee 1978, first and last time wearing a tutu.
2001 to 2010 I participated as actress/performer in 9 productions of Theater M21 under the direction of Joachim von Burchard. Here some pictures.
The Shadow and The Fountain of Youth – Two Dances on Staying Alive
As a new step in their long-term collaboration Bronja Novak Lindblad (Göteborg) & Susanne Martin (Berlin) have created each a solo on the same subject: the facts of getting older and sustaining in the world of dance. ”The Shadow” by Novak and ”The Fountain of Youth” by Martin are two creative and quirky responses to the exciting challenge of moving forward in time.
Premiere: 19 April 2013, Atalante, Gothenburg, www.atalante.org Additional performances: Dance and Theatre Festival Gothenburg, Sweden, 2014. Venue: 3e våningen Sound: Anna Gustavsson
Light: Thomas Dotzler
Production: Big Wind/ Sofia Åhrman, www.bigwind.se
Supported by: Swedish Arts Council, City of Gothenburg, Tanzfabrik Berlin
The Fountain of Youth
Photos Lars Åsling
A solo/ dance/ piece/ lecture/ performance by Susanne Martin
Duration: 45 min Additional performances: Grove Theatre, Middlesex University London, November 2014
The Fountain of Youth
Is a dance on forever-youngness and on being old enough to tell the story differently
The Fountain of Youth
Is an untrustworthy lecture on trusting an ever-changing body
The Fountain of Youth
Is also a core part of my doctoral research in dance, dedicated to exploring and questioning dominant views on ageing dancing bodies through my own improvisation-based dance practice and performance making
An improvisational performance project by
Katarina Eriksson (San Francisco)
Susanne Martin (Berlin)
Bronja Novak Lindblad (Gothenburg)
Coaching: Andrew Morrish
Production: Big Wind
Supported by: the city of Gothenburg and Statens Kulturråd
The studio version:
Sept. 2008, Konstepidemin Gothenburg
The stage version:
Premiered 23.5.2009, Atalante, Gothenburg
Performance time: 75 min
Light: Victor Wendin Touring: Stockholm, Malmö, Berlin
The site specific version:
June 2012 in Gothenburg
At the intersection of folkdance culture and contemporary improvisation culture this international trio indulges in made up and experienced cultural roots, traditions they never had and dances they never learned.
Connecting home is: the practice of improvisation and contact improvisation.
The shared questions are: how much improvisation can a thematically set piece take without bursting? And how much individuality can an improvised trio take without falling apart?
Dressed in Bavarian Dirndl’s, armed with irony, supported by newest improvisation technologies the three dancers dig into our projections and clichés of country living and the traditional. They are odd and familiar in their pride of and will for a self-made nature idyll and in their passionate attempt to include every soul in the room into the warmth of their temporary village.
Press: “Hoppalappa is a performance you want to experience rather than observe“ “Hoppalappa, an hour long display of exhilaration, strings of associations, of well trained collaboration and of joyful courage towards the unknown. The safety net is called humour.“ “It was a joy to look into the minds of these crazy performers and to be embraced by their warm madness when it’s so damn cold outside.”
Die Körper der letzten Tage – Ein Abtakt 15.04.2012 at Tanzfabrik Berlin Salon Guests: Vincent Bozek und Sophie Jahnke
Photos AnnA Stein
A second evening on transforming body and shifting dance practices. This time Susi and Gabi throw themselves and their own current practice of improvisation on the stage working on recipes from two weeks workshops, rehearsals, lectures and personal encounters. The Closing-Salon is a subjective, improvised, unsustainable response to the festival, and is therefore itself a transformational practice. How far-reaching it will be seen … as always. Supported by Tanzfabrik Berlin
Ein zweiter Abend zum Thema transformatorische Körper und sich verändernde Tanzpraxen. Diesmal werfen sich Susi und Gabi mit ihrer eigenen, aktuellen Improvisationspraxis auf die Bühne und verarbeiten so die Inspirationen und Rezepte aus zwei Wochen Workshops, Proben, Lectures und persönlichen Begegnungen während Tanz Hoch Zwei. Salon-Gäste werden sie aus dem Pool der Künstler und Dozenten des Festivals einladen. Der Abtakt-Salon ist eine subjektive, improvisierte, unhaltbare Reaktion auf die letzten zwei Wochen und damit selbst eine transformatorische Praxis. Wie weitreichend wird man sehen … wie immer. Der Salon findet statt mit Unterstützung der Tanzfabrik Berlin.
„Die Körper des Tages – Ein Auftakt“ 31.03.2012 at Tanzfabrik Berlin Salon Gäste: Dieter Baumann, Shannon Cooney, Christa Flaig, Marion Glöggler, Kirstin Heinrich, Jutta Hell, Sophie Jahnke, Gisela Müller, Ludger Orlok, Britta Pudelko, AnnA Stein
Photos AnnA Stein
This salon invites teachers of this year‘s workshop program and the Tanzfabrik team to devote their improvisations to the topic of the body in transformation. In short performances and featured exercises current practices and future dance shows are compared, adopted, celebrated, and perhaps transformed instantly. A meeting between imprography, choreosation, never asked stupid questions and impressive specialization. Susi & Gabi‘s Salon is the prelude to two weeks of further trial and error, questions and watching of physical exercises during the festival.
Der achte Susi & Gabi Salon ist ein Auftakt zum diesjährigen Tanzfabrikfestival Tanz Hoch Zwei. Dafür sind Lehrende des diesjährigen Workshop- und Performanceprogramms und das Tanzfabrikteam sebst eingeladen sich dem Festivalthema transformatorischer Prozesse zu widmen. In kurzen Performances und vorgestellten Körperübungen werden verworfene, aktuelle und zukünftige Tanzpraxen gezeigt, verglichen, verabschiedet,gefeiert und vielleicht vor Ort transformiert. Für Gabriele Reuter und Susanne Martin ist der Salon Auftakt zu zwei Wochen Weiterprobieren, Weiterfragen, Weiterbeobachten von Körperpraxen während des Festivals. Die Verarbeitung der Ergebnisse zeigen sie am 15.04. um 18.00 in den Uferhallen in “Susi & Gabis Salon # 9”: Die Körper der letzten Tage – Ein Abtakt Der Salon findet statt mit Unterstützung der Tanzfabrik Berlin.