Human beings are in constrant struggle with each other, with ourselves as individuals, with transitoriness. As Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher, creators of the dance performance Maybe Forever recommend, fortunately there are songs that can make things easier for us. Belgian musician Niko Hafkenscheid performs live onstage the love-theme music for the piece.
A story about the transitoriness of objects and relationships hides beneath the sentimental, sweet melancholia that envelops the performance. The two dancers and choreographers, both in peak form, explore their own "embryonic" states and the possibilities of coming together. That is at its core an impossible task, Meg Stuart believes, and for that reason the performance takes on an atmosphere of "inevitable loss."
However conditional the possibilities may be that can bring two human beings together, the fusion of two artistic worlds in Maybe Forever yields extremely fertile results. American Meg Stuart has lived for twenty years in Belgium, where she founded the troupe "Damaged Goods". After completing his education in London, Austrian Philipp Gehmacher took up residence in Vienna, where he formed the troupe "Mumbling Fish." The two artists met in 1996, but their collaboration began only in 2005 when they made the piece Maybe Forever.
Artists of very different sensibilities, Meg Stuart and Philipp Gehmacher build their performances on the contrasting elements in their individual styles. Hers is expressive, imaginative, linear, while his is blunt, circular, minimalist. Critics say of her that she creates a spectrum of atmospheres, baroquely encapturing epic dance, harmony and vulnerability. Critics say of him that he builds an entirely specific choreographic vocabulary that is on the edge of the robotic, full of tension, spasms, locked in the body. They say that the counterpoint is extremely provocative, and that the result is touching. See for yourself!
You will notice that both our histories will merge. That is the way in which we create a situation that we both don't recognise anymore. The usual, the everyday suddenly becomes very uncomfortable and strange because we can't rely on our habits any more. But that's also why the piece is full of discoveries that we never would have made on our own.
One’s work can look very different, but still have a deep connection. Our cooperation is a typical example of that. Meg starts off with the physical and mental state somebody is in. This creates movement images. Her choreography is built with that kind of images. My starting point is more the idea of dance as a language of signs, that can be used to communicate, even if that process is very laborious. But we find each other on the underlying level. We share the same ideas about corporality and the source of movement. And there is a certain affection, we also affect each other.
(...) We don't try to stick together two kinds of dance. We are looking for new aesthetics, something that goes beyond the sensitivities of the two separate bodies of work.
Meg Stuart moved to New York in 1983 to attend the New York University where she received a BFA in dance and continued her training following classes in release technique and contact improvisation at Movement Research. She was a member of the Randy Warshaw Dance Company from 1986 to 1992, where she was also assistant to the choreographer.
At the invitation of Klapstuk 91, she made her first full-length production Disfigure Study (1991). It was the start to an impressive series of productions the choreographer made with her company Damaged Goods, which has been based in Brussels since 1994: No Longer Readymade (1993); No One is Watching (1995); Insert Skin #1 – They Live in Our Breath (1996) with visual artist Lawrence Malstaf; Splayed Mind Out (1997; presented at documenta X in Kassel) with video artist Gary Hill; ppetite (1998) with visual artist Ann Hamilton; ALIBI (2001) and Visitors Only (2003), both in co-operation with scenographer Anna Viebrock, video artist Chris Kondek and composer Paul Lemp; FORGERIES, LOVE AND OTHER MATTERS (2004), with choreographer/dancer Benoît Lachambre and composer Hahn Rowe; REPLACEMENT (2006); It’s not funny (2006 at Salzburger Festpiele) and recently BLESSED (2007), a solo with the Portuguese dancer and choreographer Francisco Camacho. On June 7 2007 the new work MAYBE FOREVER, a duet with the Austrian dancer and choreographer Philipp Gehmacher, opened at Kaaitheater, Brussels.
Meg Stuart also created Swallow My Yellow Smile (1994), commissioned by the ballet company of the Deutsche Oper Berlin and, in association with graphic designer Bruce Mau, Remote (1997) for Mikhail Baryshnikov’s White Oak Dance Project. She also made choreographies for actors: for Comeback (1999), Snapshots (1999) and Henry IV (2002), all directed by German director Stephan Pucher; for Das goldene Zeitalter (2003), a joined project created by Meg Stuart, Stefan Pucher, Christoph Marthaler and Anna Viebrock for Schauspielhaus Zürich; and for Der Marterpfahl (2005), directed by Frank Castorf at Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin. In 2004 Somewhere in between was made, a film by the French filmmaker Pierre Coulibeuf, adapted from a special creation by Meg Stuart.
A recurrent feature in the work of Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods is the search for new forms of co-operation, presentation contexts and the ‘crossbreeding’ of theatre, architecture and visual art, heralded in the dance installation for the exhibition This is the Show and the Show is Many Things by curator Bart De Baere at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst [Museum of contemporary art, now SMAK] in Ghent (1994). Together with Christine De Smedt and David Hernandez, between 1996 and 1999 Meg Stuart was also involved in Crash Landing, an improvisation project for dancers, musicians, video and sound artists and designers. Crash Landing ran into five editions: Leuven, Vienna, Paris, Lisbon and Moscow. Between March 2000 and March 2001 Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods created Highway 101, in close collaboration with theatre director Stefan Pucher and video artist Jorge Leon. In conjunction with a partly varying artistic team, movement, sound and video material was developed with a view to a number of specifically chosen places. Highway 101 thus gradually evolved into a continuous self-commemorative and redefining project, focussing on memory, the relationship with the audience and the use of space. In March 2000 Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods presented a first series of showings of Highway 101 at the Kaaitheaterstudio’s in Brussels. Then it was the turn of Vienna (Emballagen-hallen), Paris (Centre Georges Pompidou), Brussels again (La Raffinerie du Plan K), Rotterdam (TENT.) and Zurich (Schauspielhaus im Schiffbau). The installation sand table and the solos soft wear, private room and I’m all yours were originally part of Highway 101, but went on to lead a life of their own and since 2001 have often been presented in a programme shared with writer, director and performer Tim Etchells (Forced Entertainment).
In 2005 Meg Stuart initiated Auf den Tisch!, a new improvisation project for which she invites artists, dancers and musicians for performances and improvisations.
From 1997 Meg Stuart / Damaged Goods was one of the artists-in-residence at the Kaaitheater in Brussels. From 2001 until 2004 the company took up residence at the Schauspielhaus Zürich at the invitation of Christoph Marthaler. Since the 2002–03 season Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods also collaborate with the Volksbühne am Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz in Berlin.
Along with her choreography, Meg Stuart has also been teaching workshops in composition and improvisation at organisations such as Forum Dança in Lisbon, Movement Research in New York, PARTS in Brussels and ImPulsTanz in Vienna.
In 2000 Meg Stuart and Damaged Goods received the Culture Prize K.U.Leuven. In 2006 Meg Stuart received the Deutsche Theaterpreis DER FAUST for her choreography of REPLACEMENT.
Philipp Gehmacher was born in Salzburg in 1975 where he spent his childhood. His adolescent years were spent in Vienna. He went to the London Contemporary Dance School in 1993, and received his BA in Contemporary Dance three years later. After initial pieces of choreography and work as a performer he enrolled for an MA Dance Studies at Laban Centre London, which he was awarded in 1999. After ten years in London he returned to Vienna in 2003.
During his last years in London he choreographed the pieces in the absence, Holes and Bodies and embroyder. For the opening of Tanzquartier Wien in 2001 he created the duet good enough, which after a period of international touring was reworked with the choreographer Raimund Hoghe in 2004 and last shown at Österreich Tanzt 06. With mountains are mountains he presented his first evening length group piece co-produced by Springdance Utrecht, Tanzquartier Wien, Podewil Berlin and Vooruit Gent in 2003.
During the season 2004/05 he realised the project incubator, which was created during four residencies in Vienna, Berlin, Brussels and Lyon. The co-producing partners Tanzquartier Wien, Hebbel am Ufer Berlin, Kaaitheater Brussel and Les Subsistances Lyon were each presented a unique piece and version. In spring 2006 the solo das überkreuzen beyder hände with the pianist Alexander Lonquich, initiated by Mozarteum Salzburg, Szene Salzburg and ImPulsTanz Wien, premiered at the Dialoge Festival at the Mozarteum Salzburg. Upon an invitation of Montpellier Danse Festival 06 Philipp Gehmacher created in the frame of Le Vif de Sujet the solo between now and then for the French dancer Frédéric Schranckenmuller.
Over the past years Philipp Gehmacher’s choreographic works have been shown at numerous festivals and theatres like Podewil Berlin, Vooruit Gent, Beursschouwburg Brussel, The Place Theatre London, Nottdance Nottingham, ImpulsTanz Wien, Springdance Utrecht, dietheater Wien, Szene Salzburg, Kultur Kongresshaus Luzern, Dans in Kortrijk, Desviaciones Madrid, Fourdays Prague, Panacea Stockholm, Mousonturm Frankfurt, CC Maasmechelen, Tramway Glasgow etc.
2001 Philipp Gehmacher was the Austrian participant of the EU-project, apap initiated by Szene Salzburg with residencies in Kortrijk, Berlin and Lisbon. 2002 he was touring with the dance roads network organised by dietheater Wien to Montréal, Cardiff, Luxembourg, Berlin, Lucerne, Vienna and Istre. Philipp Gehmacher’s choreographies have been shown at the Austrian Dance Edition 2002, 2004 and 2006.
2000 he received the Bonnie Bird New Choreography Award and 2002 a prestigious Jerwood Choreography Award. He was Artist in Residence at dietheater Wien in 2002 and at Tanzquartier Wien during the season 2003/04.
2006 the book incubator, edited by Philipp Gehmacher, Angela Glechner and Peter Stamer was published and launched by Passagen Verlag Wien.